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Frank Zappa - Roxy & Elsewhere CD (album) cover

ROXY & ELSEWHERE

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.36 | 342 ratings

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UMUR
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "Roxy & Elsewhere" is a live album release (originally a double vinyl release) by US, California based experimental rock artist Frank Zappa (released under the Zappa/Mothers monicker). The album was released through DiscReet Records in September 1974. The material featured on the album were recorded during the American part of the 1973-1974 world tour. The recordings mainly took place during three nights (December 10, 11 and 12, 1973) playing at The Roxy Theatre in Hollywood, California but there is material featured from a few other concerts later on the tour too. Opening track "Penguin in Bondage" for example features parts from both the band´s performance at The Roxy Theatre and from a later performance in Chicago.

All basic tracks are recorded live but there are quite a few studio overdubs on the album which are explained in the liner notes by Frank Zappa himself. If you´re interested in what is probably a more true representation of what the 1973-1974 band sounded like on the stage you should take a listen to "You Can´t Do That On Stage Anymore vol. 2 (1988)" where there´s a full concert with this particular version of the band from Finland without overdubs. "Roxy & Elsewhere" is still a pretty raw, sweaty, and very "live" sounding album though, and personally I prefer this higher sound quality release.

Zappa´s band at the time are one of his most celebrated and loved lineups with musicians such as Ruth Underwood on percussion, George Duke on keyboards and vocals, Napoleon Murphy Brock on vocals, flute and saxophone, Ralph Humphrey (on the tracks recorded at The Roxy Theatre) and Chester Thomson (on the tracks recorded at other venues) on drums, Bruce, Tom and Walt Fowler on trombone, bass and trumpet respectively, Jeff Simmons on guitar and vocals and Don Preston on synthesizer.

The music on the album ranges from blues based rock songs and jazz/fusion influenced rock songs, instrumental jazz/fusion soloing, and some cleverly arranged instrumentals. There´s quite a lot of talking between the tracks by especially Zappa which is really great and very humourous at times. The introductions to tracks like "Penguin in Bondage", "Cheepnis", and "Be-Bop Tango (Of the Old Jazzmen's Church)" are legendary and the "Dummy Up" routine which was partially improvised at the different shows on the tour is also quite funny with great word interplay between Zappa and Brock.

The rhythm section predominantly play in a jazz/fusion influenced style but the music is for the most part not really jazz, although there are many jazz elements on tracks like "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?" and "Be-Bop Tango (Of the Old Jazzmen's Church)". The latter is with its 16:41 minutes playing time the longest track on the album and features a greatly entertaining audience participation part. The audience is invited on stage to dance to some fast-played keyboard notes played by George Duke. Zappa´s commentaries throughout this song are delivered with an outstanding timing and I find myself smiling and laughing every time I listen to it. Tt´s noteworthy that George Duke plays a tiny snippet from "Stink-Foot" (from "Apostrophe´(1974)"), when Zappa´s manager at the time, Herb Cohen enters the stage around the 11 minutes mark to dance to those funny little fast notes. It´s probably not a coincidence and it´s just another example of how many details and reoccuring themes Zappa´s music generally feature.

The enourmous talent and impressive playing skills of the 1973-1974 band are showcased to the full on tracks like "Echidna's Arf (Of You)" and "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?". Both are very challenging instrumental tracks featuring loads of fast runs, impossible to play parts and difficult time signature changes. Zappa always loved to show what his musicians were capable of and we´re witnesses to just that on those two tracks. The rest of the tracks are of course extremely well played too. Most of the tracks on the album appear on album for the first time on "Roxy & Elsewhere" but "Son of Orange County" and "More Trouble Every Day" are re-arranged Mothers of Invention tracks. Both tracks feature great guitar solos by Zappa but his solo on "Penguin in Bondage" takes the prize here.

The sound quality is excellent but as I mentioned above there are quite a few overdubs on the album which help make this a very listenable live album. People who crave authentical live recordings without overdubs might be put off a bit but personally I haven´t got the slightest problem when "Roxy & Elsewhere" sounds as great as it does. To my ears this is more or less a perfect sounding production job for a live release. Upon conclusion "Roxy & Elsewhere" is one of the most important releases in Zappa´s discography, and certainly one of the greatest live albums in said discography. A 5 star (100%) rating is fully deserved.

UMUR | 5/5 |

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