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Frank Zappa - Tinsel Town Rebellion CD (album) cover

TINSEL TOWN REBELLION

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.05 | 122 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Wow, what a totally underwhelming live album. Live Zappa recordings have their ups and downs, of course, but this is the first live album of his to not have any tracks that I would consider essential (even Fillmore East had "Happy Together"). The main significant "advancement" of this album is that the horn section has been reduced to a solitary trumpet player, and in its place are really dated, really prominent synthesizers. There are many guitarists, but there's depressingly little guitar (I mean, there are a good number of solos, but there's no thick, satisfying guitar sound that you'd expect from the lineup), and large stretches of the album consist of lightweight synth-based noodling and Frank trying to do a weirdly ad libbed "croon" sound.

There are a few oldies lying around, and they're ok, but they don't go much beyond that. "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" and "Peaches III" (a weirdly metallic interpretation of "Peaches en Regalia") are passable, but they're far below the standards set by the originals. "Love of My Life" (one of the lesser Ruben and the Jets tracks) and "I Ain't Got No Heart" give a nod to the doo wop parodies of yore (I guess they're intended to add some measure of diversity to the recording), and "Tell Me You Love Me" at least has some drive and an effective mix of metallic guitar and electric piano. Now, I'm not somebody who demands that live versions of tracks sound just like the originals, but I do prefer that they have some characteristic that would convince me to listen to them instead of the studio versions. These tracks just don't appeal to me on that level, with the exception of "Tell Me You Love Me" and (slightly) "I Ain't Got No Heart."

More disappointing is that the "new" tracks don't come close to boasting a single classic among them. There are a couple of tracks near the end that are pretty good ("Pick Me I'm Clean" is a moderately fun number that appears to be about a guy bragging about his lack of VD, and "Bamboozled by Love" is a decent bluesy rocker), but I kinda suspect that their apparent quality level is amplified by all that which comes before. A couple of tracks are a pure waste of space; "Panty Rap" is Frank telling the audience for four minutes about how he wants them to pass him bras and panties, while "Dance Contest" (where Frank invites people on stage to dance) is basically a lengthy spoken introduction to "The Blue Light," which has some nice moments but features a whole lot of the aforementioned vegas- based ad libbed crooning. "Easy Meat" is an absolute bore for its nine minutes, filled with overloud bad synths (with a synth-based jam in the middle) and lyrics that do indeed sound like a reject from the Joe's Garage sessions. "Now You See It - Now You Don't" is a rambling guitar solo that at least provides a nice refresher from the rest of the album, "Tinseltown Rebellion" goes from a decent rocker to more atonal half-singing from Frank, and For the Young Sophisticate completely eludes me in this context.

Part of me thinks I'm giving this too high of a grade, to be honest. Then again, the supporting band is (once again) rather tight, and there are a good number of moments where the sound comes together enough for me to forget the flaws, so I guess I'll leave the grade where it is. It also helps that the album starts off with a studio track, "Fine Girl," which is no great shakes but at least sounds like one of the average-quality tracks on the brilliant You Are What You Is.

tarkus1980 | 2/5 |

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