my toledo poetry-rock pal dan mcguire opines that "some of [trout mask replica] is good, a lot of it is crap...i like the later stuff better." i have to admit that from the evidence of youtube vids (particularly the french ones from 1980) and a lifetime of listening to audience recordings, i think don's bands got better as he went (with the exception of the '74 "tragic band" when alex st. claire led a mutiny and the captain was forced to tour with under-rehearsed hacks). then again, the original magic band boyzzz were blazing a trail, while those latter aggros (including the denny walley-moris tepper-eric feldman-robert williams lineup i saw twice in '77) were learning a method.
(was telling t. horn on our peregrinations of my 'hood yesterday that i recently realized the two musos who most represented "freedom" to me as a snotnose -- beefheart and ornette -- weren't really improvisers. _all_ of don's music was through-composed, of course, and while ornette improvises, his major achievement since shedding the constraints of bebop harmony has been devising new settings to frame his unique song.)