CAPTAIN BEYOND: DAWN EXPLOSION (1977)
1) Do Or Die; 2) Icarus; 3) Sweet Dreams; 4) Fantasy; 5) Breath Of Fire: A Speck Within A Sphere; 6) Breath Of Fire: Alone In The Cosmos; 7) If You Please; 8) Midnight Memories; 9) Space Interlude; 10) Oblivion; 11) Space Reprise.
They should probably have retitled the band «Beyond Captain» for this one. Apparently, by 1976 most of the original members found themselves with nothing to do, and decided to have another shot — all except Rod Evans, who went into respiratory therapy instead (giving a whole new meaning to the words "Hush! Hush!"). So Caldwell, Dorman, and Reinhardt had to find themselves a new vocalist. His name was Willy Daffern, he came from nowhere in particular (I think he worked for The Standells a bit in the late 1960s), and he sucked.
Well, maybe not «sucked», precisely, but he belonged to the same cohort of loud-mouthed, textbookishly «soulful», pompous (white) vocalists that also included David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Lou Gramm, miriads of them — at least Rod Evans never pretended to operatic qualities, and he had a somewhat somber and humble tone that worked well with the band's loud music, whereas this guy has no subtlety whatsoever, even if in terms of range and technique he might have been slightly better qualified than Evans.
Most of the complaints about Dawn Explosion, however, are usually targeted not against the vocalist, but against the music — this is just hard rock without any progressive ambitions, the fans complain, and the record's intelligence quotient falls way below acceptable standards. I find these accusations a bit too far-fetched: for sure, there's a lot of hard rock riffage here, but it's not as if they turned into Thin Lizzy or AC/DC overnight. There are multi-part suites here, too, and soulful ballads, and psychedelic interludes, and even a jazz-fusion instrumental. And even the hard rock numbers are not aggressive, but rather celebratory, just as they used to be. There's no attempt here to reorient the band in another direction — there is an attempt to make it somewhat adapt to the times, with «arena-rock» overtones, but the basic combination of heaviness, psychedelia, and pop instincts remains intact.
The main problem remains the same — the songs are just not good enough to warrant an autonomous existence in some personalized VIP cell inside your brain; and coupled with the issue of a new and annoying vocalist, and especially if placed in the context of 1977 with its major changes of musical aesthetics, Dawn Explosion cannot help being somewhat disappointing. I like the riffs — ʽFantasyʼ kicks ass through all of its six minutes (although they probably shouldn't have been ripping off Deep Purple's ʽBloodsuckerʼ), and the opening riff of the ʽBreath Of Fireʼ suite is like a respectable gentleman's take on Aerosmith's ʽWalk This Wayʼ, and ʽIf You Pleaseʼ sounds as if it were inspired by the Beatles circa 1965 — but I do not find them sufficiently inspired or original to last a long time beyond basic operative memory.
Overall, if you do not mind the vocals, the entire record is perfectly listenable, and Reinhardt's soloing on ʽFantasyʼ, the power ballad ʽMidnight Memoriesʼ, and the second part of the ʽBreath Of Fireʼ suite is genuinely ecstatic-emotional. (ʽOblivionʼ, curiously enough, sounds very close to the jazz-hard-rock of Gary Moore's G-Force, which Daffern would be briefly joining a couple years from then). As far as «old school rock» from the first years of New Wave is concerned, Dawn Explosion is nowhere near the fat bottom of the list. But it is doubtful that a record like this could drag even a single young fan away from New Wave's fresh appeal. Naturally, it sold very little, and the band found itself falling apart once again in 1978.