Vinyl Confessions: Captain (Way) Beyond

512cNn+vEzL[W]hen I heard Deep Purple was finally being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, my first thought was, “I really hope Rod Evans shows up.”

The band’s true die-hard fans will understand what I mean. Most Purple fanatics tend to think the group’s success stems entirely from frontman Ian Gillan’s time with the band (i.e. their “Highway Star,” “Smoke on The Water,” “Woman from Tokyo” heyday). But really it all began with Evans, who sang lead on the group’s first Top 5 U.S. hit, “Hush,” as well as their first three albums.

Evans’ tenure with the band didn’t last long, but he would continue making music – this time with a new American/British psychedelic, proggy collective called Captain Beyond. Sadly, he would serve as lead vocalist for only two albums but those two albums (Captain Beyond (1972) and Sufficiently Breathless (1973)) are some of music’s greatest unknowns.

I discovered the band by accident years back. I had ordered a Weather Report live album and the company sent me Captain Beyond instead by mistake. The album cover alone of a celestial being atop a star was enough for me to hang on to it instead of sending it back. I waited a while and then gave it a listen. Out there? Oh yes. But still, this is 35 minutes of pure innovative rock.

Directly on par with other fantastic “spacey” groups like Hawkwind and Nektar, Captain Beyond features Evans’ bluesy baritone backed by the atmospheric guitars of Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt and pounding drums of Bobby Caldwell (no, not the guy who sang “What You Won’t Do For Love” back in ‘78). Song titles like “Dancing Madly Backwards (On a Sea of Air),” “Raging River of Fear,” “Everything’s a Circle” and “Bright Blue Tango” sound commonplace now but we’re talking ’72-‘73 here – years the Carpenters all but dominated the musical landscape.

Despite a lack of mainstream success, both albums can now be found and purchased for roughly five bucks apiece. And I recommend they be purchased.

Evans seemingly disappeared from music entirely after recording these two albums, leaving fans to wonder what he’s up to these days. Some have questioned whether he’s even still alive. Bandmates have concurred that yes he’s still here; he just prefers to remain as private as possible.

So, going back to my initial thought – no, Evans didn’t show up at the RRHOF ceremony.


-Ira Kantor


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