Mirror Man is the fifth studio album by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band. It contains material which was recorded in 1967 for Buddah Records, and which was originally intended for release as part of an abandoned project entitled It Comes to You in a Plain Brown Wrapper. The tapes from the original sessions, however, remained under the care of Buddah, who took four of the man in the mirror book pdf unissued tunes and released them as Mirror Man in 1971. The record sleeve features an erroneous claim that it had been “recorded one night in Los Angeles in 1965”.
The album is dominated by three long, blues-rooted jams featuring uncharacteristically sparse lyrical accompaniment from Beefheart. A fourth tune, the eight-minute “Kandy Korn”, is an earlier version of a track that appears on Strictly Personal. In 1999, Buddha Records issued an expanded version of the album entitled The Mirror Man Sessions, which features five additional tracks taken from the abandoned tapes.
When the band went into the studio in late 1967 to record the follow-up to their debut album Safe as Milk, which had been released earlier that year, it was with the intention of producing a double album, provisionally entitled It Comes to You in a Plain Brown Wrapper. These were intended to fill one of the set’s two LPs. These songs were characterized by their polyrhythmic structures and psychedelic themes, which marked a progression from the band’s previous blues-rooted work on Safe as Milk.
The Brown Wrapper concept, however, was at some point abandoned, and many of the tracks from the sessions were left unfinished and without any vocals. The reason for this remains unclear, though Beefheart biographer Mike Barnes suggests it was probably because the band’s record label, Buddah, simply lost interest. A number of the abandoned tracks were re-recorded in 1968, and released as Strictly Personal, through producer Bob Krasnow’s own record label, Blue Thumb.
The album’s original pressing was put together somewhat carelessly, with the cover art featured a shot of the band’s 1970 line-up. The opening track, “Tarotplane”, takes its title after the Robert Johnson song “Terraplane Blues”, which was about a popular 1930s car. Throughout “Tarotplane”‘s nineteen minutes, Van Vliet quotes lines from Johnson’s song as well as from various other blues tunes including Blind Willie Johnson’s “You’re Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond”, Son House’s “Grinning in Your Face”, and Willie Dixon’s “Wang Dang Doodle”.