Captain Beefheart is a hard-to-cover musician. It’s obvious why: his voice is so distinct and, um, grating, and his sound is often aggressively weird and difficult. Even though he wrote and sang plenty of (reasonably) catchy melodies throughout his career, so many of them are mixed in with Magic Band’s avant-blues cacophony that people don’t hear them.
That’s less true on some of his albums, and 1972’s Clear Spot is one of those – an attempt to make something with broader appeal than the infamous Trout Mask Replica. It’s still Beefheart, and it’s still pretty hard to get into if you don’t know what he sounds like, but it’s much more accessible. (If you’re looking for the easiest way into Beefheart other than his collaborations with Zappa, it’s 1967’s Safe as Milk.) It likely also helps that “Her Eyes are A Blue Million Miles” has actually been covered about as much as nearly any Beefheart song. So there are avenues to go down other than “Howlin’ Wolf speak-singing over mathy blues noise.”
On her version of “Her Eyes are A Blue Million Miles,” Irish folk singer Niamh Regan has found a way to make Beefheart sound pretty. For one thing, the trademark Magic Band cacophony is gone, replaced by a droning keyboard and Regan’s much prettier voice. Those are soon joined by other instruments, including percussion, backing vocals and, eventually, guitar. Though the arrangement is quite dense and it isn’t the most commercial sound, Regan’s voice and delivery still make the song much prettier. And it becomes clear Beefheart did write the odd (reasonably) catchy pop tune.