Trout Mask Replica is the third album by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, released in June 1969. Produced by Beefheart's friend and former schoolmate Frank Zappa, it was originally released as a double album on Zappa'sStraight Records label. Combining elements of blues, avant-garde, free jazz and other genres of American music, the album is regarded as an important work of experimental music.
Most of Trout Mask Replica was recorded in March 1969 at Whitney Studios in Los Angeles, California. The lineup of the Magic Band at this time consisted of Bill Harkleroad and Jeff Cotton on guitar, Mark Boston on bass guitar, Victor Hayden on bass clarinet, and John French on drums and percussion. Beefheart played several brass and woodwind instruments (including saxophone, musette, and hunting horn) and contributed most of the vocal parts, while Zappa and members of the band provided occasional vocals and narration. The well-rehearsed Magic Band recorded all instrumental tracks for Trout Mask Replica in a single six-hour recording session; Van Vliet's vocal and horn tracks were laid down over the next few days. Upon release in the US, Trout Mask Replica sold poorly and failed to chart. It was more successful in the UK, where it spent a week at #21.
Today, Trout Mask Replica is widely regarded as the masterpiece of Van Vliet's musical career, as well as one of the most influential rock albums ever recorded. The album's highly unconventional musical style, which includes polyrhythm, multi-octave vocals, and atonality, continues to polarize audiences, and has contributed to its reputation as one of the most challenging recordings in the 20th century musical canon. It ranked #60 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list (2012), and appears on many similar lists. Allmusic's Steve Huey wrote that "its inspiring reimagining of what was possible in a rock context laid the groundwork for countless future experiments in rock surrealism, especially during the punk/new wave era."