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Frank Zappa - You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 5 CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.65 | 81 ratings

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3 stars Frank Zappa could sometimes be a real bastard. For all of the work he'd done afterwards, he knew very well that his fanbase liked the original Mothers of Invention material more than anything else from him, and that the most desired material for the YCDTOSA series would come from that era. So naturally, when he finally released an entire disc of that material, he paired it with a disc of material from an era (the 80's) of which few people wanted to hear more stuff. Yes, the second disc is from the 1982 band, which hadn't gotten as much coverage as the 1981 or the 1984 band, but still, not many people were clamoring for that material.

The first disc is generally a hoot, though I certainly wouldn't go overboard and say that it's a crucial missing piece of the legacy of the Mothers. It's a good mix of "regular" live performances, on-stage skits and skits that seem like they were recorded in-studio (I'm not 100% sure), and they're every bit the mix of weird and interesting that the 60's albums were. It's nothing spectacular, but it's decent enough. A couple of things stand out about the "real" music bits: the first is that these performances remind me just how much, for all of the band's eccentricities, the Mothers were rooted in "regular" 60's blues rock. They threw in a heavy dose of modal jazz, modern classical and various avant-garde aspects, and they were certainly well ahead of their time, but they still had a basic common language with other bands of the day (and I'd say it was that commonality that made them all the more subversive). The second is that it's neat to get a reminder of Zappa's practice of taking bits performed live, transcribing them note for note and then having the band redo them in the studio. There's a track here that contains a section from "Little House I Used to Live in," largely note for note, and I'm pretty sure there are other similar bits on this album that ended up on studio albums. This is more interesting as a glance into Zappa's artistic style than as actual music, I suppose, but it's still worthwhile.

The skits are generally fun, too. The two best tracks are the one where the band does an impromptu ballet while a Mozart piano sonata is played (obviously this loses a lot without an accompanying visual element, but the written description of it makes it sound hilarious), and one near the end where the band is stopped by a German customs agent who gives them a hassle but becomes more friendly when he finds the "real German" style lyrics to "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama," which immediately follows. There are some others, and they're somewhat hit and miss, but overall they give a nice sense of levity to the disc that wouldn't have been accomplished with just music.

The second disc, then, isn't something people would have been lusting after, but it's decent as far as 80's Zappa goes. There isn't much need for yet another endlessly noodly version of "Pound for a Brown" or "The Black Page," and I'm not thrilled to hear "RDNZL" again, but the rest is basically ok. I still don't like "Easy Meat" that much, but the synths are much less obnoxious here than in the Tinseltown Rebellion version, so that helps a lot. "What's New in Baltimore?" is interesting in that, unlike the Mothers of Prevention version, it's got a vocal part, and it lasts the whole second half. The new tracks ("Dead Girls of London," "Shall We Take Ourselves Seriously?") are fun and relatively short, and the remaining familiar tracks are all done in rousing and enjoyable ways (and I can't help but be happy to hear "Dancing Fool" and "Doreen" in new versions), so why shouldn't I enjoy this disc? Plus, it has a hilariously pissy ending, with Frank getting angry about all of the stuff getting thrown on stage and ending the concert early.

So overall, why I can easily get the idea of a Zappa fan going ga-ga for the first disc and giving a big fat "meh" to the second, I really feel the two discs aren't extremely far apart in quality, and that quality is "really solidly decently good." The first disc may have more value in the grand scheme of things, but it's hardly the only reason for a Zappa fan to buy this.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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