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Frank Zappa - Roxy & Elsewhere CD (album) cover

ROXY & ELSEWHERE

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.40 | 230 ratings

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LiquidEternity
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Unlike the rest of Zappa's live releases, this one is specifically aimed at being released--Frank says as much during the course of the show. So the crudities are toned down, the language softer, and gracious overdubs abound. Being a beautiful showcase for the critically-acclaimed '74 Mothers of Invention, Roxy & Elsewhere exists as the perfect companion to One Size Fits All.

Truthfully, if Frank had decided to remove the between-song dialog and the audience participation portions of Be-Bop Tango, this would be unrecognizable as a live release, riding the lines like so many of Zappa's 70s releases would do. But what is presented here to the listener is what really matters, and this is it: a flawless series of performances, some humorous, but for the most part very jazzy and incredibly played. Much of the material here also appears in You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 2, but on Roxy & Elsewhere, they are much more polished, careful, and composed sounding, rather than the faster and slightly sloppier approach of the later release.

Penguin in Bondage is the opener, not a particularly inspiring song on that many accounts, but it features a fast-paced, clever guitar solo and some heartfelt background vocals by George Duke. It then segues into a very uptempo Pygmy Twylyte. On this track, Ruth Underwood's percussion can first be heard and admired, though you will have plenty of other opportunities on this album to admire the way she plays that marimba or whatever instrument it is exactly. Dummy Up is the weak spot of the album, the only point making it difficult for me to decide whether to rate Roxy & Elsewhere as a masterpiece or just as a really good release. The humor simply falls a little flat throughout this piece, though the music in the background is a good Zappa vamp.

Side Two of the LP then kicks off with the classic Village of the Sun, in a slower and less exotic version than on You Can't Do That... Vol. 2. Either way, it is a sparkling performance by Napoleon Murphy Brock, both vocally and instrumentally. Echidna's Arf (of You) is the highlight of the album, being an ultracomplicated and nearly shredding instrumental piece. All the musicians shine on this track. It turns seamlessly into Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?, a somewhat meandering yet still powerful percussion extravaganza.

Side Three of the original LP (though all sides are together on one CD for the current release) begins with the charming Cheepnis, the rare non-sexual humor piece from Zappa. Instead, if focuses on bad monster movies. The overdubs are very clear here, especially at the conclusion. Nevertheless, it make for a very fun and upbeat track. Son of Orange County is a bit less impressive, perhaps because it is riding the wild coattails of the previous four tracks. The brass really gets a chance to shine during this one, however, in a manner that Zappa improved upon with his '88 bands and releases like Make a Jazz Noise Here. More Trouble Every Day is another modified early Mothers tune, highlighted by a lengthy and technically impressive guitar solo.

The final side and track is Be-Bop Tango (of the Old Jazzmen's Church), kicking off with perhaps the most complex and difficult instrumental passage of the entire CD. The brass pour out several solos (I can't tell who or which instruments, sorry) in rapid succession, all very fluid and impressive. After a bit more jamming, it settles into a vamp, over which Frank and the band coordinate some embarrassing dance contests for fans. After a while of this, the band returns to a short song form, admittedly a bit unfortunately short given the wait through the ridiculous antics of the band. But nevertheless it finishes quite strong.

This release is absolutely essential Zappa, which makes it absolutely essential prog. The performances are gold, the songs snappy and well composed, the jamming tasteful and creative, and the sound quality crystal clear. Completely recommended, and a splendid place to begin with Zappa if you feel absolutely lost looking at his massive discography.

LiquidEternity | 5/5 |

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