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Frank Zappa - You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 2 CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



4.53 | 199 ratings

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5 stars A few years before his death, Frank Zappa went into the vaults and examined the massive stockpile of live recordings to find the best ones and started putting out compilation live albums entitled You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore. A total of six two-disc volumes were released. Of these six albums, five were made up of songs from various concerts with various lineups, with the exception of this album. For Vol. 2, Frank chose two or three concerts in Helsinki, Finland that took place over two days in September of 1974. The fact that he would devote two whole CDs to a single event should be an indicator as to the value Frank attributes to these shows.

Now, many reviews say that the lineup here is one of Zappa's best and most cohesive. While that's certainly true, this line of praise always seems unnecessary when talking about Frank Zappa. I mean, he meticulously auditioned musicians and those who passed rehearsed for months before they ever shared a stage with the man. Thus, pretty much every lineup that Zappa has played with is immensely talented and feeds of one another rather well. However, the truly impressive thing about this lineup is how few people are playing, especially when you listen to the sounds they get. In addition to Frank, we get George Duke on keyboards, Napoleon Murphy Brock on sax/flute and vocals, Ruth Underwood on percussion, Tom Fowler on bass, and Chester Thompson on drums. At times, this sextet sounds like a big band considering how many rhythms they can squeeze into one section.

The show opens with Tush, Tush, Tush, a prototype of A Token of My Extreme with vastly different lyrics. This leads into Stinkfoot, an admirable rendition of one of Frank's more well-known tunes complete with a good solo. I can't determine whether I like the studio version or this one more, but which one is superior really isn't important. However, there is no question that the next song, Inca Roads, is vastly superior to the studio version that is actually derived from a cut of this recording. Here, in its uncut glory, it's a sprawling guitar showcase that is as tasteful as it is mindblowing. RDNZL is another then-unreleased tune, this one much rawer than its eventual studio counterpart. The rest of disc one is fairly straightforward, with some rousing R&B in Village of the Sun and a mini-showcase for the band in Echidna's Arf (On You). Brock is the star of the last bit of disc one, with some great vocals on Room Service and The Idiot Bastard Son; the latter in particular gets a great boost from his input.

Disc Two is where the magic really is. Approximate is a great rendition of Frank's Grand Wazoo-era material, but nothing can compare to the monolith that follows it. Dupree's Paradise is a sprawling epic that goes off in all sorts of directions, but is so taut that I'm not sure if I could call it a jam. Echinda's Arf hinted to the prowess of these players, but over the course of the 24 minutes of Dupree we are indeed shown paradise. Fowler not only keeps the rhythm while Ruth and Chester create dizzyingly complex percussion, he also has a hell of a bass solo. Brock has been showing off his saxophone skills throughout, but his flute solo blows it away. Duke's keyboard fills and Moog flashes and Frank's masterful guitar are the icing on the cake. After this intense display, the band plays some Finnish tunes and some shorter stuff like Dog Breath Variations and Uncle Meat. These are performed perfectly as well, but the second best treat (behind Dupree's Paradise) is the strange rendition of Montana. After an audience member requests Frank to do his cover of the Allman Brothers Band's classic Whipping Post, Frank launches into Montana before suddenly mixing it with the aforementioned Whipping Post, while poor backing singers George and Murphy have to scramble to keep up with Frank's spontaneous re-writing of the lyrics. Not only that, but Frank starts playing so fast that Ruth and George stumble with the percussion. As funny as all that is, the band astonishingly adapts quickly and gives us a killer performance complete with a killer guitar solo and a funk jam at the end, which leads into Big Swifty. Big Swifty is fairly straightforward and brings the show to a close.

Overall, I prefer Zappa in New York because I've listened to it more, but this is the superior live album. There really isn't a dull moment on the album, and it is often transcendent. Despite its dense songs, this is one of the better places for newcomers to start, as it does a superb job of showing what Zappa was capable of, with its liberal dash of humor and its amazing musicianship. You really can't be a Zappa fan and not own this album.

Grade: A

1800iareyay | 5/5 |


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