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Dancing Madly Backwards: Discovering Captain Beyond

March 9, 2013

A year ago this past January, I came upon various obituaries written for Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt on the classic rock-themed websites I visit religiously.  I’d never heard of him but was intrigued to read he was a one-time member of Iron Butterfly who later went on to cofound a psychedelic/progressive rock band in the 70s with original Deep Purple singer Rod Evans, whose vocals on the early Purple records I really like.  I learned the band was called Captain Beyond and they had put out three albums (two with Evans) over the course of five years before splitting up.  Always game to check out new old hard rock that I missed the first time around, I quickly got ahold of the albums, which turned out to be one of the few indisputably good decisions I made in 2012.

     

Captain Beyond’s music rocks, but not too hard, settling into cool, almost ethereal, passages in between frequent riff-laden heavier phases.  The time signature changes and tempo shifts within songs and throughout album sequences remind me of the haughty progressiveness of the band Yes, but with the self-importance significantly toned down.  In fact, while the tight musicianship rivals the most pretentious groups of the 70s, Captain Beyond shows no qualms about firmly anchoring even their most woozy explorations on strong groove-based foundations.  Song lyrics are generally accessible, avoiding the opaque conceptualism of many progressive bands of the era, but still boasting a theatrical, spaceship earth “let’s all love each other” kind of theme.

Sealing the deal for me is the fact that Rhino’s lead guitar turns out to be wonderfully conspicuous in the least egotistical way.  His playing is concurrently dominant and unselfish, never overwhelming the broader journey even when deservedly screaming for singular attention.

Upon his death, I’d guess Rhino could probably boast a million living people who either were currently or had been previously aware of his existence over the course of his 63 years.  Of those, maybe 100,000 had any continuing sense of Rhino’s specific contribution to humanity after 1978 or so.  Rhino does not appear to have died rich; although neither did he go out face down in a drug-addled gutter.  I like to think he lived a contented life.  I imagine him fully relishing his accomplishments, while harboring no internal tension or doubt occasioned by the fact that his broadest reach was 35 years behind him at the time of his passing.  I’m vicariously happy for him in that, even though he is now gone, his legacy has been newly discovered and brings real joy to a brand-new friend, something it should continue to do for many years to come.  I reckon that, as long as I keep enjoying his fruits, Rhino lives on.

And so it turns out a post-death presentation does not necessarily reduce the pleasure in making the acquaintance.  My late but gratifying introduction to Rhino has me thinking:  When I’m gone, will a new friend ever be pleased to meet me?  Will discovery of my contribution ever brighten some future inquirer’s day?  Is it healthy to care?  Answering such questions sounds like a job for Captain Beyond

From → Music

4 Comments
  1. b.a. permalink

    Thanks…more of your natural insight into the “world.”

  2. Anonymous permalink

    We are so lucky to live in a time and place where we have the time and technology to access and appreciate the past this way.

  3. I think you did a great job of describing the hard-to-define sound of this band. I think Rod Evans was an underrated singer. Clearly you can’t fault Purple for making the change they did in light of its success. But I’ll tell you, the first time I heard “old” Purple it was on Kentucky Woman, and I thought it was great. I loved the vocal. Evans was per(pur?)fect for that role. Visually too.

    You’re making me want to revisit my Captain Beyond now. Perhaps I should.

    When I interviewed Brent Doerner from Helix a few years ago, he cited Captain Beyond in particular as an influence on his songwriting.

    • Thanks for the kind words, and yes, you definitely should revisit your Captain Beyond. Interesting about Doerner’s comment: time for me to exercise those “nuanced listening” muscles and see if I can find the influence.

      I agree wholeheartedly, as you know, with Evans being the “right” voice for Deep Purple Mk 1. As you say, he fit that early, excellent sound purfectly(!), but they moved away from his strengths as they evolved. And what an evolution!

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