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Frank Zappa


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3 stars I'm ALLWAYS happy to hear a new FZ release, and this album is no exception.

This live album contains a nice mix of styles that fans of FZ can appreciate, although as far as the styles covered by Zappa over the years go, the songs manage to tread a sort of middle ground, omitting his extreme excursions into orchestral weirdness, Jazz dissonance, or Doo-Wop ditties on the other end of the spectrum.

As I only received an unlabeled copy of this I can't really say anything about the musicians involved.

These recordings seem to date from different periods and although this site lists George Duke as co- musician, at this point I find that it unlikely that this applies to all tracks, as some of the material seems (to my ears) stem from a time that he wasn't involved with Zappa anymore. I could be wrong though.

Tracks 2 to 4 are one continuous piece of music.

1) Bathtub Man Blues - improvised-sounding Vocals by Zappa + Duke Standard blues with slightly distorted electric piano solo followed by an electric guitar solo (incredibly fast and very melodic for Zappa)

2) Space Boogers (instrumental) Short 'chattery' electric guitar / keyboard piece with percussion, reminiscent of certain 'uncle Meat' effects and merging into:

3) Hermitage (instrumental) Practically continuing 'Space Boogers' but mainly on percussion, leading into staccato orchestral passages and continuing into:

4) Trudgin' Across The Tundra (instrumental) A vehicle for either trombone or synthesised trombone over a sort of pedestrian beat.

5) Occam's Razor (instrumental) Another electric guitar solo as found on 'Shut up and play yer Guitar', 'Guitar' and 'Trans-Fusion' over the usual (for these excursions) discreet band backbeat. Towards the last 30 seconds or so the song goes into one of Zappa's well known tunes, the title escapes me at the moment though. Not quite 'Sofa' but very near it in style. Damn, I just can't place it at the moment.

6) Heidelberg A nice soft dialogue between Zappa's guitar and tinkling keyboards, gathering some drive towards the second half of the song, becoming a bit of a foot-stomper.

7) The Illinois Enema Bandit Just another version with the unmistakable voice of Ray White, although the vocal part quite abbreviated. Massively long guitar solo from FZ, followed by vocals by Frank himself, although deviating substantially from the previously released versions.

8) Australian Yellow Snow A substantially speeded up version compared to 'Apostrophe' for the first minute or so, but the rendition then (mainly) moving quite close to the original for quite a time, apart from audience banter and spoken improvisation. I especially enjoy this, as I've never heard this played live before. It contains a lot of the complete 'suite' such as Saint Alfonso's etc. and then Zappa goes into one of his audience talks which merges seamlessly into:

9) Rollo One of Zappa's 'nicer' orchestral excursions along the line of tracks found during his 'Studio Tan' and 'Sleep Dirt' period.

The sound on this release is crystal clear, I have nothing to moan about, it's perfect. These tracks must surely have been taken from recordings intended for live release.

I can't find a single thing to complain about here, it's everything I could wish for from one of FZ's posthumous releases, much better than some of the other recent Vault offerings.

I have to rate this three stars. Of course it's not a Zappa masterpiece (how could it be?), but it's a solid offering, and I hope this is an indication of similar things to come. I'd like to have given it four stars, but that would be sentimental, compared to the albums he released while he was till with us.

Report this review (#178462)
Posted Wednesday, July 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Occam's Razor is a guitar solo from Inca Roads, this one appears to be the one Frank used to construct Toad O Line, a guitar instrumental fron Joe's Garage Act I. It's a piece constructed using XENOCRONY, a method that Frank develloped, wich consists in put toghether different tracks from different ocations (thus, the interactions between different instruments have been never occured). Those tracks are not at the same tempo, so the whole thing sounds in a way that can't be reached by playing or recording in another of the common ways.

Zappa explains all this in the booklets of Sheik Yerbouty and The Guitar World According to Frank ZAppa.

I recomend this album to all those who are looking to learn what Zappa did and how he did it. For me, it's a two stars, but it still blows away a lot of four star albums. It's anthropological.

I have to apologize for mi very poor English. Greetings from Argentina. SIETE

Report this review (#204095)
Posted Monday, February 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Oh, the wonders that must exist in the Zappa vault. Fifteen years after Frank's untimely demise, his wife Gail. and vaultmeister Joe Travers released this collection of live tracks and solos recorded at various times in the seventies.

The album begins with Bathtub Man, a straight blues number, with Napoleon Murphy Brock on vocals, and fine soloing by Zappa and George Duke. Space Boogers is a weird and cool percussive sounding experimental piece, with Zappa and Duke making noises over Chester Thompthe Abnuceals son's drumming. This blends into Hermitage with Zappa conducting the Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra in some more spacy weirdness. This melds seamlessly into Trudgin' Across the Tundra which features some of the players from the previous track (and others) with some great horn solos.

The next two tracks are guitar solos lifted out of context (like the "Shut Up" series). Occam's Razor should be familiar as the solo Zappa used for On The Bus on "Joe's Garage". Heidelberg was from a recording of Yo Mama. The rest of the album is more familiar. There's a fun version of The Illinois Enema Bandit, followed by an even more fun version of Yellow Snow, showing how Zappa could vary the arrangements of the favorites.

The album ends with the Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra again, playing Rollo.

This album is probably more for those familiar with Zappa's music, but it contains some great material.

Report this review (#424099)
Posted Monday, March 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
Man With Hat
Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
3 stars Get it while it's hot.

Even though Zappa may be dead, he will never stop releasing albums. There are countless posthumous albums, and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. (Which is hardly a surprise if anyone has ever seen a picture of the Zappa vault.) Unfortunately, these albums are very hit or miss, some of them being brilliant, others not being worth the price. This one falls right in middle. This album starts fairly strong, but also contains some average material. Overall though, I would put this firmly into the 'good' camp, and something that is certainly worth owning.

The album begins with Bathtub Man, a silly blues song with a nice keyboard solo. Then, the magic happens. Both Space Boogers and Hermitage are experimental pieces, emphasizing percussive sounds, guitar/keyboard noises, and sparse atmospheres. Trudgin' Across The Tundra is a wonderful jazzy piece with some wonderful horn solos. This piece almost seems out of place in Zappa's catalogue as it conveys such beauty and spacyiness that is a quality not often emphasized in Zappa's recordings. I do wish this section of the CD was longer, as it is the best stuff on the record. After this, we get some famous Zappa guitar solos, first from Inca Roads with Occam's Razor and then from Yo Mama with Heildelberg. Occam's Razor is pretty lovely (even though there are many Inca Roads solos out there) but Heildelberg feels fairly incomplete, as it starts to get interesting but then it just ends. The Illinois Enema Bandit is a fair version of the song, but not really offering anything all too different with other versions out there. Australian Yellow Snow contains the first two parts of the 'Yellow Snow' saga from Apostrophe, including a very fun opening section and some typical Zappa humor at the end. Rollo is a continuation of that suite, and ends the album on a majestic note.

All in all, this is a middle of the road type of album. Material like Space Boogers and Trudgin' Across The Tundra make this worth while for Zappa fans. However, some of the material feels incomplete (Heildelberg) or excessive (The Illinois Enema Bandit). Also, it doesn't feel like this brought much to the table. This is by no means a complete concert, or contains material by an unheard lineup. Perhaps if this contained a bit more material, the average stuff could be a bit more overlooked. However, for what it is I think 3 stars if a fair rating. Zappa fanatics probably already have this, but if you are and don't, I would. But I wouldn't recommend this for the Zappa newcomer. 3 stars.

Report this review (#569615)
Posted Thursday, November 17, 2011 | Review Permalink

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