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Frank Zappa - The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa


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4 stars Very little new stuff here but the re-arranged versions of old faves are brilliant. It's worth buying just for the hillarious piss-takes of "Ring of Fire" "Purple Haze", "Sunshine of Your Love" and especially an amazing arrangement of "Stairway to Heaven". This version of The Mothers were exceptional, and having been lucky enough to see them at the beginning of their tour, in New York, I can tell you they were totally there from the beginning. The brass section were just something else -Jimmy Page's solo in "Stairway" is played by them - better than the original :-)
Report this review (#29983)
Posted Tuesday, April 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is one of the best live recordings ever, from any genre of musique! Frank's band is extraordinary on this one. They are sooooo incredibly tight!!! Steve Vai is not on this, but that doesn't seem to affect the wonder of the band's performance. This album is a good one for non-Frank hardcore fans to listen to, as it contains several cover tunes, plus tons of humor!!! It's a good one for boys and girls of all ages!!! and mentalities!
Report this review (#29985)
Posted Tuesday, August 31, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Absolutely jaw droppingly brilliant! This is by far the tightest, best recorded live performances I have ever heard. And as an earlier reviewer noted, the tracks from "One Size Fits All" are the stand outs - all are superior in performance and sound quality to the originals, particularly Inca Roads (the sax solo really makes it) and the "Sofa" instrumental - wow! Be warned, however, that a recent reissue of this title on CD in the last few years (at least here in Australia) omits a terrific version of Ravel's "Bolero" which used to follow on from the electrifying version of "Zomby Wolf" (also far better than the original). I was shocked and disapponted a year or so back to find this missing from a version I picked up to replace the earlier version (which I had actually sold - shock, horror - not sure what I was thinking), and had to get it again on a Japanese import.

A last thought: One can only hope, but the only thing better than owning this title on CD would be to have it on SACD... I would think that, if FZ were alive today, he would certainly want this to be available on the best sounding format available, given his unique commitment to the highest possible production values. Not sure of what the barriers are, but if enough people clamour loudly enough, surely we could look forward to the release of the whole FZ oeuvre on SACD sometime in the near future. I for one would be first in line to re-acquire the entire corpus - a small cost, for what must surely be amongst the greatest music composed in the latter half of the twentieth century.

Report this review (#29987)
Posted Sunday, February 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is one of the very best of his live discs. The musicianship by this particular band, who didn't exist any longer than 8 months and never played in a large part of America - hence the title -, is nothing short of magnificent. Over the course of 2 hours there's no dud in sight, it's all equally impressive, and the humour displayed on here is top-notch. They make fun of the prostitute-visiting televangelist Jimmy Swaggart in a hilarious take on 200 Motel's Lonesome Cowboy Burt and play excellent piss-takes on classics like Ring Of Fire and Purple Haze. Much of the songs are taken from the Zoot Allures and One Size Fits All albums in their best renditions and it features a LOT of previously unissued material. People in Europe shouldn't go to the stores to buy this one and instead head to Ebay, where I managed to win a bid on the American version of this album, which has their excellent, reggaefied rendition of Ravel's Bolero. It doesn't appear in Europe on the last issued version (1995) because of problems with the copyrights over there, which is in hands of Ravel's estate, who weren't amused with the 'blasphemy done to the song'. I think that's really pathetic, I could only dream of an artist doing such a rendition of one of my songs, if I ever wrote some. It's definitely worth the effort to get after any non- European rendition.
Report this review (#29988)
Posted Friday, March 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Siply just a great album. Most is said in the other reviews, but I would like to draw attention to the way out guitarsolo on the opening track (Heavy Duty Judy). It's one of my all time favourite solos! So what more is there to say? The band is great, the humor is hilarious and som e of the classic FZ-songs is presented as they've never been played before. These shows ranks on the top of my "My God I Wish I Could Have Seen This"-list.
Report this review (#29989)
Posted Friday, April 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Frank's last tour, and I missed it! DAMN! It would've been great to see it, but oh well. He really pulls it together on this one. Almost on par with the Helsinki lineup. Too bad the whole thing collapsed under it's own weight in the end. Well at least I can be thankfull Frank had the tapes rolling during this. Definitely one of his best live takes.
Report this review (#29990)
Posted Sunday, April 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
Man With Hat
Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
5 stars Wow!!! Simply amazing! One of the best live albums of all time. The sound is incredibly crisp and you can hear everything that is going on. The musicians are extremely talented. This band was very good, and i wish they lasted longer. Now for the music: Fantastic! Some excellen renditions of old favorties. I must agree with Rich W. and say that the One Size Fits All songs are magnificent. I think that they are the best on the album. Other notable songs include: Heavy Duty Judy, Zomby Woof, The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue, and Mr. Green Genes. The cover versions of songs are also incrediably done. The best are Ring Of Fire, Bonanza Theme, and Stairway To Heaven. My only conplaint is the number of non-original material here. It doesn't take anything away from the album, but i would have like to hear more Zappa songs. But dont let this keep you from getting this terrific album. A deffinate must for Zappa fans, music lovers, and any prog collection. Recommended forever.
Report this review (#36874)
Posted Saturday, June 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A very enjoyable live album from Frank Zappa. Featuring new songs, live covers, and old favorites, it contains songs from almost every era of Zappa's career. The band plays the old material as well as the new material, and the sound is crisp and fresh. This live album contains most of the same lineup of 'Broadway the Hard Way' and they continue the trend from that album of playing cohesively and very tight. Stand out tracks are Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire, the twist with this one is it has been molded into a reggae song (as with Stairway to Heaven), Who Needs the Peace Corps?, Zomby Woof, Zoot Allures, and the Torture Never Stops pts. 1 and 2. Overall, this is among the best Zappa live albums, his entire career is essentially covered (minus a few albums). For Zappa fans, this is a must own, for the rest of you, 4/5.
Report this review (#47004)
Posted Saturday, September 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I read FZ interviewed that this release was a companion of "Make a Jazz Noise Here" with this one having the more accessible material and MAJNH with the more challenging music. Both are superb but this is the one with the definitive versions of classic material.

The other release from this tour, "Broadway the Hard Way," is a terrific single disc of new material from that last tour.

The other blurbs I've read here rightly mention the perfect performances of the whole string from "Zomby Woof" through "Sofa #1" but I missed any praise of the dazzling, two-part version of "The Torture Never Stops." The first part features gymnastic arrangements of the vocal portion with a Spike Jones flavor (including the Torture lyrics sung to the tune of the "I Love Lucy" theme). Then, after a diversion or two, he returns to play a ten-minute, forty-seven-second guitar solo that is, for my money, his best single solo in all of his recordings.

I recommend both this set and "Make a Jazz Noise Here" for different takes on this amazing band. (As well as "Broadway the Hard Way.") But, for performance and recording excellence of some of his most popular songs, this is the one to get.

Report this review (#66122)
Posted Sunday, January 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Frank Zappa's best live album and also one of his best overall. Songs were recorded during the 1988 tour. The title of the album is very appropriate because the 12 piece band featured here really is absolutely amazing and the line-up fell apart only after four months.

Song selection is almost prefect, representing different periods of Zappa's music. All songs are rearranged to include the horns, which works really well in this case. I cannot say which songs are my favorites as they are all great. Special attention must be given to (incredibly) amusing covers of old rock classics and themes from movies and TV shows. This covers are among the best I ever heard from anyone. Hendrix' Purple Haze, Cream's Sunshine of Your Love, a reggae version of Led Zeppeiln's Stairway to Heaven in which the horn section puts Jimmy Page to shame as they play the guitar solo as good as he does (or even better ;), hilarious Ring of Fire from Johnny Cash are included.

I also have to mention that some lyrics are rewritten to refer to the sex scandal of Jimmy Swaggart, a Fundamentalist Christian TV preacher. This gives to the album some deeper meaning as the lyrics deal (= making fun of) with a serious subject that is still actual.

All in all "The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life" is a fantastic album that every progressive rock fan must own. Considering it's quality and it's duration (over 130 minutes long) it won't be a waste of money. Highly recommended!!!

Report this review (#102246)
Posted Saturday, December 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars This is a fun live album, and absolutely fantastic in some parts, but it also suffers from a problem that plagued many of Zappa's later concerts. During this tour, Jimmy Swaggart, the televangelist, was caught in a hotel room with a prostitute. Zappa found this hilaious, and doctored many of his songs to be about the incident. In the short term it may have been funny. But now, decades later, it ruins the effect of the songs. But Frank was like that. He would often pick up on something he found funny, usually a word or a phrase, and drop it throughout the concert.

Despite that, there are some great versions of some Zappa favorites here. "Zombie Woof", Inca Roads", "Florentine Pogen", and even "The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbeque" are all worth buying this CD set for. And there are more cover songs here than on any Zappa CD I know of. "Ring of Fire", with Mike Keneally filling in for Johnny Cash (who was supposed to join the band on stage, but cancelled due to his wife's illness) is fun. "Purple Haze" and "Sunshine of Your Love" are downright weird, but good. "Stairway To Heaven", mostly played reggae style, is wonderful. But the best cover, and possibly the best song on the album, is Ravel's Bolero, played almost completely straight (save for a "My Sharona" reference).

If you can ignore Frank's quirks, this is a very good album.

Report this review (#230605)
Posted Saturday, August 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Lots of fun! This is the second album depicting performances from Frank's 1988 tour, and unlike Hard Way (or the later Make a Jazz Noise Here) it's structured to resemble a "normal" concert. Whereas Broadway the Hard Way focused excessively on Frank's political commentary, this album strikes a terrific balance between Frank's tweaked sense of humor (which is still largely based in political and social matters) and a bunch of really great performances.

One thing that really stands out about this album is just how retro it feels in a lot of ways. The setlist basically pretends the 80's never happened; I don't know if Frank decided he didn't really like that material anymore, or if he had a major bite of the nostalgia bug, or if he felt that all of the political stuff in the Hard Way set should be balanced by more familiar material, but the setlist on here could have easily come from a late 70's show. The first disc ends with four tracks from One Size Fits All ("Florentine Pogen," "Andy," "Inca Roads," "Sofa 1"), all of which sound great here, and there are several other tracks that dip way back into the band's past. They even go so far as to revive "Who Needs the Peace Corp?" (immediately following it with a quick blurb of "I Left My Heart in San Francisco"), complete with the infamous monologue, and it sounds freaking great. Other blasts into the past include: "Heavy Duty Judy" (one of the instrumentals from Shut Up and Play Yer Guitar); "Cosmik Debris" (from Apostrophe); "Find Her Finer;" "Zomby Woof;" "Zoot Allures;" "Mr. Green Genes;" "The Torture Never Stops;" "Lonesome Cowboy Burt" (from 200 Motels !!); "More Trouble Every Day;" "Penguin in Bondage;" and even "The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue" (which bores me a little still, but I still think it's neat that it's included). Holy crap what a setlist!

Just as important as the setlist is the sound, or rather the makeup of the touring band. The biggest coup of this tour was the return of a full-fledged horn section, an aspect of Zappa's 70's touring bands that made those so enjoyable (and the relative absence of which was a major detriment to the mid-80's bands). Yes, there are still lots of clearly synthesized noises coming out of the keyboards and guitars, but they just don't seem as ominpresent as in recordings from a few years earlier. The horns are used with gusto and with great frequency, often appearing in largely unexpected ways (more later), and they definitely strongly contribute to the album getting such a high rating.

Of course, the high rating also comes strongly from the amusement factor. The humor on this album can be pretty neatly split into political humor and music humor, and both kinds are a riot. Apparently, during the tour Zappa would routinely alter the lyrics to various songs to give amusing commentary on various scandals and amusing events, and the topic of choice for these recordings was the Jimmy Swaggart sex scandal. As on Broadway, the focus on this specific scandal dates the album to a specific period, but at the same time the abuse and mockery foisted upon Swaggart is so intense that it becomes really hilarious. I'm not a big fan of the four minute monologue in the middle of the second disc, but other than that, hearing the group rip the ever loving piss out of him is just an awful lot of fun.

The musical gags are even better, though. There are a lot of short interludes in which the band plays snippets of 20th century music history, from the theme to "Bonanza" to the aforementioned "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," and they only contribute to the goofy vibe of the whole. The main fascination lies in the full-fledged covers, though. In addition to a fine 6-minute rendition of Ravel's "Bolero," the first disc features a hilarious reggae version of "Ring of Fire," which was supposedly going to be sung by Johnny Cash himself until his wife got sick and he had to back out. The second disc kicks off with really strange covers of "Purple Haze" and "Sunshine of Your Love," voiced by Ike Willis in his Thing Fish voice and filled with effects like kissing sounds when Ike sings "'Scuse me while I kiss this guy." Some might consider them blasphemous, but I find them great. And, of course, the honor of best track goes to the closing reggaish cover of "Stairway to Heaven," filled with yet more strange noises and instrumental effects, and culminating in the horn section doing an almost note-for-note rendition of the guitar solo. Led Zeppelin purists would probably find it appalling, but I love it.

In short, this is almost certainly Frank's best live album since Roxy, and a pretty essential part of any Zappa collection. Plus, as it's a document of Frank's final tour, I'm glad it shows that his shows were able to go out on a pretty high note.

Report this review (#435144)
Posted Monday, April 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars 4.5 stars. Zappa released some amazing live albums over the years and this one has to be right near the top.This was from the1988 tour as was the "Make A Jazz Noise Here" double live album I hope to review next week. Anyway both are so incredible.They combine that wacky humour with some of the most complex and outstanding instrumental music you will ever hear.This particular recording features big-band arrangements for the most part, so lots of horns.There are no over-dubs of any kind on this double disc live set.

"Heavy Duty Judy" opens with lots of horns then the guitar comes in before 2 minutes. Frank then says "Hello" before 4 1/2 minutes as he talks about meeting Johnny Cash for the first time and how he invited him to perform with them that night and he agreed, but then Johnny's wife got sick so he had to cancel.That is what inspires their cover of "Ring Of Fire" which is a reggae version and freaking hilarious. "Ow, ow, ow".

"Cosmik Debris" is classic Zappa and they bring the "Ring Of Fire" theme into this as well. "Find Her Finer" is catchy with horns.

"Who Needs The Peace Corps?" is going way back and I love the lyrics. It blends into a brief "I Left My Heart In Sanfrancisco" instrumental before another classic in "Zomby Woof" kicks in. I was telling Man With Hat (Phil) about a lady coming into the store when this was on and asking who it was. I could tell when I said Frank Zappa that she had no clue who he was.She continued to listen and upon leaving commented on the complex lines they were playing.Yeah it made me proud. I don't know if she was a musician or music teacher but she seemed to know music.

"Bolero" has a reggae rhythm at first then lots of horns. "Zoot Allures" is such a great sounding instrumental.The guitar solos for the last 3 minutes or so. "Mr. Green Genes" is horns,vocals and a good rhythm.

"Florentine Pogen" has vocals after a minute and a nice guitar solo after 6 minutes. So good. "Andy" is all about the lyrics and fast paced instrumental breaks.

"Inca Roads" continues with the Zappa classics. Lots of vibes and a brief "Stayin' Alive" section. It closes in style with "Sofa #1".

Disc Two is where Jimmy Swaggert gets his ass kicked over and over (haha). It opens with two covers including "Purple Haze" and "Sunshine Of Your Love". Both are electronic versions I guess you could say and the second one is hilarious.

"Let's Move To Cleveland" is complex with lots of horns and the guitar comes in at 2 1/2 minutes. We then get a couple of short instrumental covers in "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" and "Godfather Part II Theme".

Next is the funny political monologue called "A Few Moments With Brother A. West". "The Torture never Stops" parts one and later part two are killer and two definite highlights.

We get another instrumental cover in "Theme From Bananza" then "Lonesome Cowboy Burt" which starts a string of songs aimed at Swaggert's ass, including "More Trouble Every Day", "Penguin In Bondage" and "The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbeque". Funny stuff. A cover of "Stairway To Heaven" ends it in style with funny effects.

I honestly wasn't expecting this to be so good or to hear so many older Zappa classics. Lots of guitar in this too.

Report this review (#519040)
Posted Saturday, September 10, 2011 | Review Permalink

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