Pork Chop Blue Around The Rind
(Cuneiform 224)

The debut CD from Fast 'N' Bulbous just out from Cuneiform Records

All music by Don Van Vliet
All music arranged by Phillip Johnston,
except (4) arranged by Gary Lucas and (7) arranged by Jesse Krakow.
All guitar parts arranged by Gary Lucas.

Fast 'N' Bulbous:

Gary Lucas: guitar
Jesse Krakow: bass
Richard Dworkin: drums
Rob Henke: trumpet
Phillip Johnston: alto saxophone
Joe Fiedler: trombone
Dave Sewelson: baritone saxophone

Recorded at Loho Studios, NY, Aug 10 & 11, 2004
Engineer: Jason Candler
Assistant Engineer: Tom Gloady
Mastered at Guarsh Media by Jason Candler
Additional Editing by Jon Rosenberg
Produced by Phillip Johnston & Gary Lucas

To Purchase, go to your local quality record store, or:
Cuneiform Records


"Don Van Vliet--the titanic voice and blues-dada composer also known as Captain Beefheart--surrendered to the cruelties of the music business after his 1982 LP Ice Cream for Crow, dissolving the last of his Magic Bands and retiring to the full-time peace of painting. Rock is a lesser thrill without him. But Fast 'N' Bulbous are no next best thing: They are the big brass band he never had. With bellowing horns arranged by saxophonist Phillip Johnston and pinpoint swordplay by ex-Magic Band guitarist Gary Lucas, Fast 'N' Bulbous ignite the R&B gunpowder inside the tangled surrealism of "Suction Prints" and "Pachuco Cadaver." The group attacks Van Vliet's songs with the same idiosyncratic precision that he drilled into his own musicians. Fast 'N' Bulbous also reveal a vital truth about this music: You can dance to it.

     - David Fricke, The Rolling Stone.

"NYC-based Beefheart septet has Magic Band guitarist Gary Lucas on board. Few groups do justice to the music of Captain Beefheart, not least because it's so damn difficult to play, but this is something else. Fast 'N' Bulbous is the brainchild of Gary Lucas and saxophonist arranger of its blazing four-piece brass section, Phillip Johnston. The rhythm section get right inside the structure of these tunes, Lucas synthesises two guitars'  lines into one, while the brass take care of the main themes, teasing out unexpected melodies. The band rip into tracks from Trout Mask Replica with glee, transforming Pachuco Cadaver and Sugar 'N Spikes into raucous freewheeling celebrations of Beefheart's feral genius. An elongated When It Blows Its Stacks, on which the soloists take it in turns to cut loose, is dark and sonically massive. It's quite a blast, and of course, an invitation to the mother of all karaoke sessions.

     - Mike Barnes, MOJO

"Guitarist Gry Lucas was once a member of Captain Beefheart's Magic Band. And with saxophonist Phillip Johnston's horn arrangements, incisively paralleling Beefheart's multioctave vocal range, this studio date signifies a celebration of an innovator who opted out of the music biz in 1984.

During this jovially orchestrated session, the Fast 'N' Bulbous septet reworks a portion of Beefheart's songbook, expounding upon key elements, such as his avant approach to blues, rock and free-rock. The ensemble's flamboyant exultations are spawned by roaring horns layered atop lithely flowing rhythmic foundations. Lucas injects a bluesy component into the grand scheme of things via his lightly amplified, electric slide guitar lines. The septet's wily interpretations of Beefheart's musical abstractions contain loosey-goosey slants on modern jazz. On " Pachuco Cadaver," the ensemble pursues odd-metered structures amid Lucas' rapid chord voicings."

     - Glen Astarita, Downbeat.

"Guitarist Gary Lucas, who worked with Captain Beefheart during his early 80s Ice Cream For Crow period, is the centre of attraction for this Beefheart covers project. Bass, drums, and four piece brass section set up a muscular, R&B-inflected context for his grinding and swerving bottleneck excursions... Fast 'N' Bulbous are full-blooded and sound like they are having fun."

     - Clive Bell, The Wire.

"...Fast ’N’ Bulbous’s debut is an unqualified success. Lucas’s hard-edged guitar sound is an obvious link to Beefheart discs like Trout Mask, Lick My Decals Off Baby, and The Spotlight Kid, but his fierce fingerpicking is now set in a matrix of intricate, interlocking horn lines that are far more modern jazz than rock. Even for listeners who’ve never heard Captain Beefheart, Pork Chop will come across as a great New York City record: Fast ’N’ Bulbous is smart yet brutal, harsh yet sweet, virtuosic yet gritty.

And for those of us who, like Johnston and Lucas, spent their formative years under the Captain’s spell, it’s deliriously gratifying to hear these new takes on tunes like “Dali’s Car”, “Kandy Korn”, and “Suction Prints”—and to know that our teenage ears did not do us wrong."

read entire review

     - Alexander Varty, The Georgia Straight.

"The tunes, mostly brief, have a consistency and matter of fact-ness to their execution that is spot on in their delivery. There is no filler on this album, no fat on this pork chop. All the participants get a chance in the limelight and no one overstays their welcome. Naturally Lucas and Johnston get the lion's share of the spotlight, as it is their project, still one can't help but be bowled over by Lucas' endlessly inventive guitar stylings. Backed by a horn section that at times invokes an Appalachian marching band, Lucas's lysergic slide guitar excursions blend with the ensemble to create an unholy amalgam of American music. There is a surprisingly rootsy character to many of these arrangements, as "Veteran's Day Poppy" and "Kandy Korn" both embody a folksy sensibility one wouldn't immediately identify with Beefheart's music.

Hearing Beefheart's signature, counterpoint-laden, psychedelic Blues tunes arranged for an instrumental jazz band reveals the intricacies of Beefheart's writing. The polyrhythmic shuffles and crazed counterpoint provide the perfect structural platform for a group of seasoned improvising musicians to launch from. At once joyous and challenging, Pork Chop Blue Around The Rind is that rare tribute album that reaches beyond its source material to create something new and perhaps even greater than the sum of its parts."

     - Troy Collins, Junkmedia.

"The arrangements are very inventive while at the same time being extremely accurate (I had the pleasure of spending a whole weekend making A/B comparisons between the new versions and the originals). Though charts were obviously used, there's nothing stiff and mechanical in these performances - it sure sounds like the group got some road work under their belt before going into the studio. The recorded sound is quite clear, which is obviously a plus for music of such a contrapunctal nature.

Quite often there's a "fanfare feel" that's highly appropriate (check Sugar 'N Spikes, When Big Joan Sets Up), Kandy Korn maybe being the most contagious moment here. The Ensemble always works like a charm (just listen to opening track Suction Prints), and though this is not exactly music for soloists there are nice solo moments aplenty: the trumpet solo in Abba Zaba; the slide and the baritone solos in When I See Mommy I Feel Like A Mummy; the trombone (with plunger), baritone, alto, trombone (again) solos in When It Blows Its Stacks. Also noteworthy are the shifts between sections - and the slide solo - in Veteran's Day Poppy; and the trombone and alto solo on the closing track, the uptempo Tropical Hot Dog Night (drummer Richard Dworkin is excellent throughout, but as a quick point of reference check his high hat under the trombone solo and his toms under the alto solo on this track). On bass, Jesse Krakow is perfect for the job - just make sure to listen carefully."

     - Beppe Colli, Clouds & Clocks.

read entire review, and a very good interview with Phillip & Gary at CloudsandClocks.net

"What you get on . . .Pork Chop Blue Around The Rind, is a raucous band music of sorts, featuring Johnston's horn arrangements of thirteen Beefheart originals. Stuttering and highly disciplined at the same time in true Beefheartian spirit, you might see it as a marching band made up of volunteers for the Spanish Civil War rather than the war in Iraq. The secret weapon is bassist Jesse Krakow, who excels at a rigorous punch with controlled technique.

To successfully resurrect Beefheart's music is a major feat in itself, and on top of that Pork Chop is a very joyous and highly entertaining record. Although not every piece is equally riveting (the melancholic comedy/drama of “Abba Zaba” does not quite transcend), you do get almost an hour worth of fun, good vibes, inventive charts and great slideplaying. ... Highly recommended for both the converted and the curious, and may it win some fresh Beefheart fans."

     - Jochem van Dijk, All About Jazz.

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