Captain Beyond Credit: Courtesy of Artist

As much as I love the music of eras past, I’m pretty skeptical of band reunions—especially when the number of founding or classic-era members begins to dwindle. Case in point: 1970s cosmic rockers Captain Beyond are still touring, but drummer Bobby Caldwell is the only original member aboard. Caldwell played on the first and last of the band’s three proper LPs, leaving after their 1972 self-titled debut to join hard rocker Rick Derringer (of “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” fame) on 1973’s All American Boy and then returning to Captain Beyond for the disappointing 1977 LP Dawn Explosion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about Caldwell as a drummer: he also started proto-metal outfit Armageddon with former Yardbird Keith Relf, played in Johnny Winter’s band during its seminal era, and jammed with the likes of Duane Allman, Eric Clapton, John Lennon, and Ringo Starr. Caldwell formed Captain Beyond in Los Angeles in 1971 with recently fired Deep Purple vocalist Rod Evans, former Iron Butterfly members Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt (guitar) and Lee Dorman (bass), and keyboardist Lewie Gold. The band played a dizzying mix of styles, loading their catchy tunes with extended jams that wrapped Latin rhythms, jazz, and more in a heady space-rock sheen—and their famous cosmic-pirate album covers let listeners know to expect a strange trip (it’s a hologram on the first LP, dude!). Their self-titled debut hit number 134 on the Billboard charts, no small feat for a challenging collection of largely interconnected proggy suites by a stoney “supergroup” of mostly unknown sidemen. Their second, more streamlined LP, 1973’s Sufficiently Breathless, cracked Billboard’s top 100, but by then Captain Beyond were a mess—infighting had caused several lineup changes, and their label, Capricorn, increasingly pressured them to be more “southern” (like their biggest signees, the Allman Brothers), leading to a breakup later that year. (In 1976 the band re-formed without Evans, but that version likewise lasted only a couple years.) Evans left the music biz long ago to work in respiratory therapy, and Dorman and Reinhardt both died in 2012 (after taking part in many Captain Beyond reunions). So Captain Beyond 2019 is Caldwell and some hired guns—most of whom have only been with him for a few years. Recent YouTube footage shows the current lineup sounding blues-based, earthbound, and pedestrian—not unlike Cactus, which Caldwell joined for a sec in the early 70s (replacing Carmine Appice). Seemingly gone are the spacey synths, odd time signatures, and raging guitar tones—and definitely gone are all the other musicians who originally made the band great. Friday’s show is sold out, though, so I guess the hard-core fans don’t much care. This longtime Captain Beyond enthusiast will probably just crank the first LP on headphones at home instead.   v

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