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4 stars I remember seeing the Dub Room Special when it came out in the 80s. Is it possible it's only released as a DVD now? This review is based on a fading memory...If I recall, it was a combination of the live show Halloween 1981 that was also broadcast live on MTV (I think the 1st live show they ever broadcast?). Great band with Steve Vai and Chad Wackerman. Then there were live in the studio segments before an audience with the 74 band, from the session that was in the 1974 European TV show, A Token of my Extreme. This I found on a DVD bootleg in Stockholm. This material is magic, for many Zappa's best band ever, and Napoleon Murphy Brock is a hilarious and charismatic frontman, who has a fantastic singer/comedy partner in George Duke, one of the best 70s keyboardists. I'm pretty sure that the version they perform here of "Florentine Pogen" is the recording used on One Size Fits All", which is mostly a studio album, which means the performance is flawless and perfect in every way. "Inca Roads" is one of the great masterpieces of 70s jazz-rock neo-classical fusion. And the live studio material was intercut with the brilliant clay animation of Bruce Bickford, which I believe also featured in the Dub Room Special. Token of my Extreme had a bit too much 70s video color effects on it, something they didn't overdo on the Dubroom version. Plus long interviews Frank makes with various studio cronies to show his work environment. A highly entertaining and virtuosic slice of FZs life, one that is dearly missed in the American music scene of today, to say nothing of his always spot on political commentaries. But I'm still waiting for the Roxy & Elsewhere DVD, promised as a preview on the Baby Snakes DVD I got several years ago...that will be an event, as the voluminous film material was never edited!!! 4 stars, only because 200 Motels and Baby Snakes are more perfect and rounded films as a whole, but this still should not be missed.
Report this review (#55625)
Posted Wednesday, November 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The late Frank Zappa's latest dvd release is a re-release of a classic video that was touted by Zappa himself as an extremely low budget project, and he could not be more right. It has a terribly home video quality that makes it feel a little more earthy and real. Taking place at a video studio in the greater LA area, Zappa tries to make use of the studio to make a video for his devoted fans. Sprinkled in between these short segments is footage from two different concerts in two different eras of Zappa's career. One set of concert footage is from performances at KCET studios in August of 1974. The line-up for that concert was FZ (guitar, vocals), Ruth Underwood (percussion), George Duke (keyboards, vocals), Tom Fowler (bass), Chester Thompson (drums), and Napoleon Murphy Brock (flute, tenor saxophone, vocals). The second show is from a video for Zappa's Halloween 1981 concert. The line-up for that show was FZ (guitar, vocals), Ray White (guitar, vocals), Tommy Mars (keyboards, vocals), Ed Mann (percussion, vocals), Steve Vai (guitar, vocals), Scott Thunes (bass, vocals), Bobby Martin (keyboards, tenor sax, vocals), Chad Wackerman (drums).

The KCET footage shows the humorous side of Zappa very well, with a great rendition of Room Service. The comic interplay between Napoleon Murphy Brock and Zappa is hilarious, with them using ridiculously oversized phones to have a conversation about ordering room service. Expect from this set great renditions of Cosmik Debriz, which has a great extended solo section in which everyone gets a turn in the spotlight (same goes with Florentine Pogen), Stink Foot, which has always been a great live song, and Inca Roads, which has some great vocals from Brock and Duke. Of the 1981 footage, Stevie's Spanking is a fun song to watch mainly because of Steve Vai's stupendous guitar solo. If you notice as well, Tommy Mars looks like he gained a significant amount of weight since the Baby Snakes footage from 1977. Flakes is also a fun watch because of Ed Mann's great Bob Dylan impersonation (originally done by Adrian Belew on the Sheik Yerbouti album). But that's not all, there is also some nice Bruce Bickford claymation sequences, but they aren't nearly as good as the Baby Snakes sequences. And interspersed between all of that is footage from the Italian Riots in which Zappa gets into a wonderful conversation with Massimo Bassoli. And on top of that, there is the low budget Dub Room footage that shows Zappa at his zaniest.

Overall, this is an interesting dvd that has alot of things going for it. There's a nice array of special features, including a nice documentary about Moon Zappa and Valley Girl. Other than that, I can't really say there's much more to this collection. It's a great watch, and there are some really great performances, and some hilarious moments as well. Recommended for the Zappa fan, but I'm not sure everyone will find this set enjoyable. Not as good as Baby Snakes, and loads better than Does Humor Belong in Music?, I rate this in the middle of those two, a solid 4/5.

Report this review (#84113)
Posted Tuesday, July 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Excellent DVD!

If you like Zappa, this is a must have. But then, most of those people already have it :-)

In any case, some killer performances on here. This was apparently available on VHS years ago, but I wasn't much interested in Zappa back then. Anway, the real appeal of this for me is concert footage from two different eras of Zappa's career. For me, the 74 footage is the most impressive, with a fairly lean lineup (only 6 musicans, including Zappa himself) doing some incredible renditions of some of Zappa's best material. Inca Roads alone makes this package worth having. The 81 footage is no less interesting though, as we get to see a very young Steve Vai perform a typically over the top solo, as well as cutting some of his hair off on stage. It's interesting to me how Vai's solo is far more technically proficient than Franks, yet Franks just blows it away by fitting the song much better.

The low budget studio footage is pretty hilarious, though of course such things don't have high replay value. The Italian segment is pretty entertaining though, in a disgusting Zappa sort of way :-)

In all, a good DVD to have for any Zappa fan and even for someone like myself who is pretty particular in the Zappa that he likes (I generally prefer the more instrumental stuff, though not exclusively, and am not crazy about a lot of the pastiches of various musical genres......the doo wop stuff really gets on my nerves, for instance). So for myself, 4 stars, though if you are not a big Zappa fan you could subtract a star....or add one if you are a hardcore Zappa freak (though you probably bought it the day it was released anyway :-)

Report this review (#168921)
Posted Monday, April 28, 2008 | Review Permalink

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