Captain Beefheart is rightfully thought of as a true original, and something of an iconoclast, but the fact is that he did not spring from whole cloth without any influences. To that end, Gimme Dat Harp Boy: Roots of the Captain is a great idea; a collection that sheds light on the music that informed a young Don Van Vliet, putting the musical pieces in place for the character of Captain Beefheart. The trouble is that the selections here don't necessarily tell the story as well as they could. Beefheart was deeply informed by the blues, no doubt about that, but the vast majority of material contained here is prewar country blues which isn't really what impacted the Captain's music the way more modern performers, particularly Howlin' Wolf, did (although the inclusion of Blind Blake's "Diddie Wa Diddie" was a clever move). In fact, although Beefheart sounds uncannily like Howlin' Wolf at times, both vocally and the way the band's instruments fit together, the only spot the Wolf appears on this collection is being mentioned in a 7-second spoken excerpt from Beefheart! Certainly R&B and electric blues also played a large part, but those styles are terribly under-represented here. The slack-key cut seems a bit of a stretch at first, but the rich slide guitar tones make more sense once one hears them. It's unclear how the Dixieland material manifests itself in Beefheart's music, or how the vocal harmonizing of the Dixon Brothers fits in, either. The Boss Tones' "Mope-Itty Mope", a doo wop tune that sounds like it's sung by Clarence "Frogman" Henry, is a great track, but doo wop was really more a part of Frank Zappa's musical universe than Beefheart's. There are a handful of semi-rare Beefheart items included as well, probably just enough so that a hardcore fan will need to have this collection, but the other material probably could have been chosen more wisely.
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AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard