Posts Tagged ‘Frank Zappa’

frank1970

(Pic is actually from Bath Music Festival later that summer)

1970/03/07 Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA  71.44   AUD, B+/A-

Set List:
01 Intro ~ Tune Up [4.45]  02 Sharleena [9.21]   03 Preamble To Twinkle Tits [1.28]
04 Twinkle Tits [7.17]  05 Interlude [2.28]  06 Preamble To Directly From My Heart To You [1.36]
07 Directly From My Heart To You [5.34]  08 Preamble To Chunga’s Revenge [1.22]
09 Chunga’s Revenge [23.22] 10 Preamble To Willie The Pimp [2.33] 11 Willie The Pimp [11.59]

This time, it’s the spring 1970 Hot Rats band, consisting of FZ(guitar), Max Bennett(bass), Aynsley Dunbar(drums), Sugarcane Harris(electric violin), Ian Underwood(keyboards, alto saxophone) tearing the roof down with material from Hot Rats and (the at the time, still unreleased) Chunga’s Revenge. This band was given a distinct identity and feel among Zappa geeks by the addition of Sugarcane’s electric violin. He is showcased on this night with a great setlist, perfect for his improv style. This night is also preserved with a great(especially for it’s time) recording that has been lovingly restored by the folks at Zappateers.com. What a night this must’ve been.

After the tune up, the band launches into an early, psychadelic-bluesy(compared to it’s later reggae incarnation) version of Sharleena. The first Frank solo is great, but then Sugarcane ratchets it up a notch on his solo, hosing the crowd with a rainbow assault of slithering notes that wash over the crowd, leaving them in a daze. This daze doesn’t have time to last, as Frank steps it up again on his second solo and destroys the room…he can do this at will. Finally, as if sensing the crowd needs to be rescued, Sugarcane comes back and simply plays beautiful variations on the Sharleena theme and puts out the fires before wrapping the song up and giving the crowd a breather. That’s how Frank opens a show!

Next up is Twinkle Tits, which is an amazing journey that fuses jazz and baroque together into a hyper ballet of notes, tones and time signatures that all battle for balance. At times it feels like it might all fall apart but that’s the thing about Franks bands…they held it together. I don’t know how, but they did. Around the 5:40 mark the band drops out, leaving just drums and bass to hold the groove for a few seconds(the musical equivalent of taking a deep breath before jumping off a cliff into unknown waters). Then Franks comes in and takes the song into a war zone for about a minute and a half, until the recording is unfortunately cut and comes back into the “interlude”, which is in itself, amazing…I just can’t help but wonder what the hell must have happened on that stage during the minutes the tape was cut. Maybe it got so crazy the tape recorder couldn’t handle it and just shut itself off? Ha, maybe not, but it’s just a thought.

Following the madness of the opening numbers, Frank gives the crowd a chance to recover with a fairly straightforward blues, Directly From My Heart To You. There is a great Sugarcane solo here, but this serves mainly as a rest for the beast that was to be unleashed next…

Chunga’s Revenge would prove in years to be a staple in Frank’s repertoire, opening many shows and serving as a band intro vehicle, but on this night it was something much, much more. First, the song had yet to be released on an album yet, so the crowd was probably hearing it for the first time on that night. Second, it was played with such ferocity that even the band must’ve been a little scared. Finally, it was a juggernaut, lasting over 20 minutes, going in a hundred different directions. Sometimes the band would lock in on a groove and ride it together for a bit and then someone would jump out of the gate and try and pull it in a different direction. It was true collaboration and improvisation, only touching down here and there to return to the safety of it’s great bass line theme… and then, Boom! the band is off again, shredding the building to pieces. There are too many amazing moments to mention(FZ taking delicate control around the 10:07 mark only to abuse his Gibson shortly after is one), so included below are two youtube clips containing the entire trip. Enjoy.

The whole thing winds down with Willie The Pimp…well it doesn’t wind down as much as it comes to an end…there is no letting up here, more like closure. It, like the rest of this amazing performance, is not to be missed.

Frank and the boys were on fucking fire this night. I am so glad to have finally heard this incendiary performance captured in such fine quality. Thanks again to Zappateers.com. If you haven’t heard this show yet, download it and prepare to have your mind blown. If you HAVE heard this recording before…well, listen again and PREPARE TO HAVE YOUR MIND BLOWN…AGAIN.

Sharleena

Chunga’s Revenge (pt. 1)

Chunga’s Revenge (pt. 2)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMtd60Ox1z4

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FZ 13-ii-79.

“We Are Bringing The Finest In American Stupidity To You Tonight” – FZ

1979/03/31 (Late Show) @ Rudi-Sedlmayer Sporthalle, München, Germany

Flac files of the show (and many other FZ shows) courtesy of Zappateers.com, the best online community out there!

FZ, Ike Willis, Denny Walley, Warren Cucurullo, Arthur Barrow, Vinnie Colaiuta, Ed Mann, Tommy Mars, Peter Wolf.

The Deathless Horsie(Band Intros) > Dead Girls Of London > I Ain’t Got No Heart > Brown Shoes Don’t Make It, Cosmik Debris, Tryin’ To Grow A Chin, City Of Tiny Lights->Outside Now ->City Of Tiny Lights > A Pound For A Brown, Bamboozled By Love, Andy, Inca Roads (q: Thirteen), Titties ‘n Beer, The Black Page, Yellow Snow Suite, Bobby Brown, Conehead, Building A Girl

Now that the show/recording info is out of the way, on with the review…Frank was in the middle of an amazing period of creativity and production(even by FZ standards); the year leading up to the tour produced what was meant to be the epic 8 sided Läther album(Warner refused to put out such a beast and Frank was forced to break it up into 3 separate studio albums-Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt & Orchestral Favorites– and a double live lp Zappa in New York) while 1979 would produce the classic double lp Sheik Yerbouti and epic triple lp concept album, Joe’s garage Acts I, II & III. That’s 20 sides of incredible music in about 20 months…and that’s while touring. Find me another artist that can do that and I’ll…well, it doesn’t matter…there is no other artist that can do that.

I will also say that I love this tour’s line-up(they are all great, though) and the songs that made up this tour’s skeleton that serves as each nights springboard to amazing virtuosity. It is a great mix of song-y songs to start things off and then some bigger, more elaborate pieces the band can flex their muscle on. The show opens up with one of the usual opening songs, The Deathless Horsie, a 10 minute instrumental exercise that lets Frank wake the crowd up with his incredibly composed and constructed solo improvs. I know composed imporv seems like an oxy-moron, but that is just how fast Franks mind works. He operated on a different level, hearing things that others couldn’t. This tune also serves as band intros, which can sometimes be quite funny to Frank fans who know the band. It’s where the title of this review comes from as well as the drummer ball-bust: “Vinnie Colaiuta on Doing-pretty-good-considering-he’s-not-feeling-to-well-tonight-even-though-he-got-his-endorsement”. Hilarious! Later the band fires back. I will get to that in a bit.

After the intros comes the standard for this tour- Dead Girls Of London > I Ain’t Got No Heart > Brown Shoes Don’t Make It, Cosmik Debris, Tryin’ To Grow A Chin, City Of Tiny Lights. All are well executed and played with great verve and energy. Brown Shoes in particular has a swagger on top of the usual musical and lyrical craziness that makes it particular fun tonight. Then the show switches gears during City of Tiny Lights because at this late stage in the tour the band has been sandwiching Outside Now(off the yet to be released, Joe’s Garage) in the middle of the song. They had just started sandwiching Catholic Girls(also on Joe’s Garage) in the middle of Easy Meat, so we can see the band chomping at the bit to get the new material out there.

fz79aThe City>Outside Now>of Tiny Lights sandwich was just an appetizer for what comes out of it…the war horse, A Pound For Brown: 20 mins of incredible musical gymnastics that has been blowing Zappa fan’s minds since an early incarnation appeared way back on the Uncle Meat album. Great vibraphone work on this one and the usual shape-shifting time signature wars lead to an (as usual)amazing and beautifully melodic guitar solo. The 35 mins or so that make up this sequence is absolute musical Valhalla.

Andy is it’s usual fun and complex self. Here even the vocals are dancing around in unconventional, percussive time signatures. Up next is Inca Roads, another favorite of mine. Tonight the interplay between the percussion and vibraphones with the guitars throughout the whole song is exquisite. Clearly the band is on tonight, the benefits of being in the hardest rehearsed band on the planet, at the end of a tour. They are also having fun in a non musical way, messing with Frank during the next track, the always popular…Titties & Beer. During the breakdown where Frank tries to make a deal with the Devil for his soul, the devil starts to deviate from the script and asks Frank “where’d you get those bruises on your left arm?”…then Franks is caught off guard and the Devil goes back to the script to let Frank off the hook “sooo…you say you like Titties and Beer, Huh?” Frank hops on board…”Hey, I can’t help it if somebody goes out of fucking control in the middle of the night…you stick a nice girl in some stupid hotel room in some place in Germany, next thing you know part of your body’s is mutilated, ya know?” It goes on a bit more, I will leave it for you to hear.

This slams into The Black Page(so named because after frank composed the piece to sheet music, there were so many notes on the page, well, it was black…get it?) which is always a treat, especially late in a gig. This is no exception. Then, as if the night wasn’t already amazing enough, the band drops the Yellow Snow Suite on our heads! This is another prime example of what makes Frank’s compositions so amazing: everything but the kitchen sink. There are so many things happening here all at once. There is the hilarious story/lyrics sung in a sometimes blues/ sometimes doo wop/ sometimes country/ sometimes polka / sometimes swing style. Then there’s the music…tonight the Vinnie plays the first part of Don’t eat the Yellow Snow(until the Strictly Commercial part) drum part in an almost punk style. Then shifting back into the usual style, which is all over the place, leading to Nanook Rubs It. But first…”Enforced Audience Participation…Bavarian Style…Stand Up…Now We’re ALL gonna do something really stupid together, bearing in mind that Stupidity is the only true international language…We Are Bringing The Finest In American Stupidity To You Tonight” Anyway, into Nanook Rubs It’ eventually leading into St. Alphonzo’s Pancake Breakfast’s incredible Percussion/Vibraphone/Guitar high-wire act. This band will not let up.

The show finishes up in typical fine form with the always fun Bobby Brown/Conehead combo winding up with Building A Girl. This show is an incredible treat for me to hear finally. I have a lot of shows from this tour, including the early show from this night, but this one has everything that makes a Frank show so amazing, and it has it in spades. The recording is a very good quality audience capture(especially for it’s time) and although there are many good (and some better auds/sbds) recordings from thins tour with similar-ish setlists like the incredible February Manchester Apollo show, this one is essential listening. Thanks to the great people at Zappateers, who make it possible to hear all of these amazing Frank shows for FREE. Check them out. zappateers1The best resource to find everything on Frank and his amazing bands.    http://www.zappateers.com/bb/index.php

Here is a sample of some live Frank from this tour(not this show, I couldn’t find a youtube clip from this show, but this performance of Inca Roads is similar…

002

Burnt Weeny Sandwich – The Mothers Of Invention   1970 Bizarre (blue label)

Disclaimer: There is nothing I’d rather listen to on vinyl thank Frank Zappa albums. They are always recorded, mixed and mastered impeccably, written and played with meticulous attention to detail, wildly creative and packaged with great artwork(most of the time). If I am lucky enough to track down a mint pressing, there is no better treat for my turntable than Frank’s bizarre offerings. Now, on with the review…

2_Originals_Of_The_Mothers_Of_InventionThese two albums, Burnt Weeny Sandwich and Weasels Ripped My Flesh, are like the two sides of a coin. They were recorded together before Frank dissolved the Mothers between 1967 and 1969 and were even released together on vinyl as 2 Originals of the Mothers of Invention for a time. This is why I thought I would talk about them together. That and the fact that even before I knew about them being released or recorded together, I used to listen to the together(along with 200 Motels, but that’s for a different review…once I find a mint press on vinyl).

004Here goes…Burnt Weeny Sandwich: First, I love how diverse this record is, even for Frank. Kicking off and wrapping up with Doo Wop covers(WPLJ and Valerie respectively) really sets the table for a bizarre meal. Side one has the two love letters to Stravinsky, Igor’s Boogie Phase 1 and Igor’s Boogie Phase 2. These snippets are brilliant abstracts that gives one the feel of being at the rehearsal of some martian marching band rehearsal(a good thing, to be sure). These tracks sandwich both Overture to a Holiday in Berlin(Another incredible march, this time having the feel of a late 60’s Italian crime film that had the courage  NOT to get Morricone to do the score…and I love Morricone, but you get the point) and Theme from Burnt Weeny Sandwich(with it’s great fuzz/wah driven guitar solo). The more I describe this side, I realize it really has the feel of 200 Motels…anyway…Then come my favorite part of the side…Holiday in Berlin, Full Blown. I love the feel and the time signature shifts in this one. I especially love the shift into the almost scumbaggy gigolo horn section. So good.

005

009010Before I flip the record to side two, I have to point out the album art and packaging. Frank almost always(except for the albums that should’ve made up the Lather album:Sleep Dirt, Studio Tan and Orchestral Favs covers were all weak in my opinion…Zappa in New York is the exception there) had great album art. Here is no exception. Even the sleeve is interesting. Just click the thumbnails and check it out.

012

Side 2 is all about the epic The Little House I Used to Live in. This is an absolutely amazing journey that is punctuated by Don “Sugarcane” Harris’ violin solo. The track is also a puzzle of time signatures being overlaid on each other while never losing momentum. It is truly incredible to listen a nice pressing of this. The recording and mastering are both so good, the separation of instruments basically places you in Frank’s rehearsal space with each part of the song cascading over you, leaving you enveloped in the bizarre majesty that was the Mothers. Here is the whole record, as I could not find good versions of individual tracks. Still, buy Frank’s albums. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBRUcElxhJU

Now on to Weasels Ripped My Flesh…

031Weasels Ripped My Flesh – The Mothers Of Invention   1970  Bizarre Records (Blue Label)

032Weasels is definitely the more song-y of the two albums and is made up of a mix of both studio and live recordings from 1967-1969.  It does start out abstract like Burnt Weeny with the track Didja Get Any Onya? This gives way to an electric violin driven, almost psychedelic, blues cover of Little Richard’s Directly from My Heart to You. Up next is the insanity of Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask. I don’t know why I think of this album as the song-y one…Maybe compared to Burnt Weeny. Still, to me it’s all about side two. Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue is a favorite of mine. I love Frank tracks that have a heavy vibes/marimba feel and this one has a great vibraphone intro that gives way to some nice interplay between percussionist and guitarist before building to a cacophony in the middle of the song. True Mothers stuff here.  Then there is the trio of My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Momma, Oh No and Orange County Lumber Truck. I will let the tracks do the talking…

ManAgainstWeaselmanI will not go into much more depth on the rest of the music here, as I feel dissecting these pieces take away from the whole. I will mention the packaging though. Again, the artwork has it’s own little story too. Frank brought an issue of Man’s Life to his artist because the cover story interested him. He told artist Neon Park to come up with something worse than that and Neon combined the Weasels attacking idea with an ad for an electric shaver. Frank loved it and, legal problems with Shick aside, the iconic cover was born. You should see the German cover…Google that one for a laugh.

The pair of albums can be looked at as either separate, distinct projects or as companion pieces to each other. Either way has it’s merits. I like to experience them together, as I like Frank’s larger works that seem to loom in scope. Though these two albums don’t have a cohesive narrative theme like Joe’s Garage or Thing-Fish, that doesn’t mean they don’t complete each other in some ways. So do yourself a favor, track down some nice presses of these two records, sit down in front of a nice stereo(or make friends with someone if you can’t find one on your own) and surrender to the insanity. Don’t worry if it makes sense beyond the music. Like Frank said, “Information is not knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom; Wisdom is not truth; Truth is not beauty; Beauty is not love; Love is not music; Music is the best.

081

Waka/Jawaka  –  Frank Zappa   1972  Bizaare Records(Blue Label)

Disclaimer: There is nothing I’d rather listen to on vinyl thank Frank Zappa albums. They are always recorded, mixed and mastered impeccably, written and played with meticulous attention to detail, wildly creative and packaged with great artwork(most of the time). If I am lucky enough to track down a mint pressing, there is no better treat for my turntable than Frank’s bizarre offerings. Now, on with the review…

082Waka/Jawaka comes from the peak of Frank’s early to mid seventies “Jazz-Fusion” period. He would take to the studio(and even the road) with huge orchestras to play incredibly complex and original works that sounded like nothing else. This record has two epic tracks that push the musicians while remaining tuneful and fun. The title track has an almost lounge scumbag feel but upon closer listening, one is struck but the interweaving of instruments that form chords. For example,  when someone holds a chord on a guitar, there is a very limited depth to the note, a limited tone color. However, when a composer like Frank writes for an orchestra, he can have 5 instruments play separate notes at the same time to build one chord, giving it a huge body. The results are amazing. Taking that into consideration, it makes the interplay between the musicians that much more impressive. They have to be so exact and so in synch. It’s mind-blowing.

085My Favorite here is Big Swifty, an epic that opens in a fast 7/8 riff, then continues to alternate between 7/8 and 6/8 times, and eventually making it’s way to a 4/4 swing time signature. The song is manipulated even more live(but that is for another review). Sitting and listening to this on a good turntable with a solid amp/pre-amp and quality speakers is like being in the orchestra pit. This is due to Frank’s incredible recording style (he is know to take days getting mic placement right for the orchestra). The pressing I have is great as well, so I was in, well not heaven(even if it did exist, doesn’t seem like a place I’d enjoy too much), but I was transported to a place in my mind that was very nice, warm and fuzzy. Frank is a God. Simple.

Big Swifty (In Two Parts)

Waka/Jawaka