Review Summary: A fifty-two minute avant-garde blues jam that may not be diverse, but is still incredibly consistent.
After the release of 1967’s Safe as Milk on the Buddah record label, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band decided that their next project was going to be a double album entitled It Comes to You in a Plain Brown Wrapper. For an unknown reason, the project was abandoned and the material Beefheart considered as the better half was re-recorded and put onto Strictly Personal, which was released on the label Blue Thumb in 1968. However, after releasing two more albums on Straight, Buddah decided in 1971 that they would release four of the outtakes from the project as though it were a studio album. This disguised outtakes collection was given the title Mirror Man and is widely considered The Magic Band’s fifth studio album, despite its release not being approved by them.
Despite Mirror Man being another sad case of behind-the-back distribution, it’s actually a pretty great album. All four songs are long bluesy jams that slowly progress like a well oiled machines, without a dull moment at any point. The opener, the nineteen minute epic “Tarotplane,” borrows lyrics from Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon, and other famous blues legends and infuses them together throughout the song. All along the way, a playful harmonica and jamming guitar and drums support the vocals. Two of the songs, “Kandy Korn” and “Mirror Man,” are alternate and longer versions of two of the songs on Strictly Personal, yet they have more interesting compositions than their shorter counterparts. Overall, Strictly Personal pales in comparison to Mirror Man, despite Mirror Man technically being an outtake album.
If there's any negatives to be said, they might derive from how similar the moods are throughout, or perhaps how dense the tracks are - though this is acceptable, as the album is essentially a massive jam session. Despite being fifty-two minutes in length, there isn’t much more to say about it due to its simple jam-based nature. Anyone who likes avant-garde blues, long solos, or even music with a dense consistency, should easily enjoy Mirror Man. If anything, it’s one of The Magic Band’s most commercial sounding records to date.