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Frank Zappa - Tinsel Town Rebellion CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.07 | 150 ratings

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Symphonic Team
2 stars From the word go in this live concert the crude lyrics permeate the music. Zappa's concerts were infamous and this album is proof positive why Zappa became a number one entertainer. It starts off shakily with a dull studio cut, until we get to the huge wild and zany live performance of Easy Meat. There are some insane moments, the improv jazz sweeps of Easy Meat's instrumental are astonishingly off kilter and sounding random, the way only Zappa can do it. The repetitive phrase 'easy meat' grates a bit but this is still a highlight thanks to the freak out mid section that spirals all over the place.

For The Young Sophisticates is the nonsense that turns the average fan off Zappa; weird, 50s style blues and quirky. The xylophone is a great touch though, but those psychotic harmonies are just plain silly. The crowd roars, and we hear Love Of My life, the 50s "Grease" style doo wop does nothing for me, and it's a throwaway for my ears. Perhaps Sha Na Na fans will love it.

In some inspired lunacy Zappa says to the crowd, "we are collecting small articles of feminine underclothing, we are making a quilt, really trust me"; so we have the likeable nonsense of Panty Rap, one way of getting them thrown on to the stage I guess. This is quite a humorous piece and the audience love it of course. I don't mind this type of Zappa as it brings a smile to the dial, and refuses to take itself seriously. "The highest yield of female underclothes" is Chicago, according to Zappa. The thing is improvised according to how the audience responds and they of course do respond. Zappa intros the band, Steve Vai gets introduced as with light blue hair. More 'contestants' offer their pants and Zappa reads a message, 'hi Frank, how about 'wereing' my hat onstage?' Frank makes fun of the spelling error, and continues to intro the band. A fun interlude leading to the raucous weird piano frenzy of Tell Me You Love Me.

The rocking sound is welcome here, and the track pretty much is just a 'let yourself go' kick A blaster. There are mad screams and lead guitar chaos. It is repetitive with some intriguing little riffs and a great lead motif. It segues into Now You Don't that continues the lead guitar prowess, and is quite bluesy, but the dominant guitars are excellent on this.

Dance Contest is the impromptu audience participation thing that Zappa does and he gets 'the dynamic Butch' to dance with 'Lena'. Couple number one and then he proceeds to somehow get more audience members to dance. A great idea in theory and after one listen you may want to skip to the next track, but it is infectious humour that really sets up the party atmosphere. 'Ugliness' he chants, the cute people in the world get a razz up, and then the couples proceed with this absurd contest.

The Blue Light is next and we assume the contest is continuing here with this crazy music blaring out. Lots of improvised stuff here as Zappa raps about American fast food, panties, piddle, hanging out with the others, a body of water and even oil in patches all over Atlantis, and Donovan! I guess this acid tripped stuff is similar to the improv patter that Robert Wyatt churned out with Soft Machine. It is fun, and I never tire of the humour here.

Pick Me I'm Clean is Ok thanks to a psyched up lead break with some amazing jazz playing. The bassline is inspirational keeping a sporadic rhythm and the percussion is all over the place. This is how I like Zappa. The Rock In Opposition is unmistakeable when all the instruments are competing against each other.

Bamboozled By Love has a cool funkadelic rhythm that grabs you immediately, the singing is well executed here and this stands out as a definitive highlight. The lyrics are bawdy as always, and at times sardonic and sadistic; "If she don't change those evil ways I'm gonna make her bleed, if she don't give me what I want she gonna have no head at all". Okay this is Zappa and he injects this content into his lyrics constantly, not that I like this but that's Zappa and there is no escaping it. My favourite moments of Zappa is when he lets loose with these jazz improv delightful bursts of sound, rather than his twisted humour. It is not possible to have one without the other and at times he crosses a line that jars my sense of moral fibre. The toilet humour may have its place but as far as prog goes I steer clear of it, so this album is not one I return to often as with all other Zappa's, apart from the incredible instrumental genius of "Hot Rats"

Brown Shoes Don't Make It has a great little proggish time sig change, but is strange enough to defy description. The Magma like harmonies, high falsetto shrieks, are unnerving, and this one is perhaps the strangest on the set list, with some absolutely warped musicianship. The bursts of xylophone, brass, and glorified tempo changes on percussion are excellent. It never settles on one particular style, there are blues, jazz, 50s style, psych funk, straight rock and even touches of avante garde excesses, and the lyrics are quirky and theatrically sung. So once again a highlight for all these reasons.

The album ends with Peaches III that is virtually a sequel to the infamous Peaches In Regalia. Immediately the melody is recognizable as the original instrumental tune, but there are variations to give it a fresh sound. It is a great way to end and I soon realised I was enjoying the second half of the album way more than the shaky first half. So my 2 1/2 star rating was boosted from one star thanks to some inspirational music on the second half. Tread carefully with this if you are new to Zappa, others will simply know what to expect and it delivers with no holds barred indulgence.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 2/5 |


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