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Frank Zappa Swiss Cheese / Fire! album cover
3.62 | 17 ratings | 2 reviews | 18% 5 stars

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Live, released in 1992

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Intro (14:21)
2. Peaches En Regalia (3:27)
3. Tears Began To Fall/She Painted Up Her Face/Half-A-Dozen Provocative Squats (5:59)
4. Call Any Vegetable (9:55)
5. Anyway The Wind Blows (3:44)

Total Time 37:26

1. Magdalena/Dog Breath (9:49)
2. Sofa (18:06)
3. A Pound For A Brown (On The Bus) (7:07)
4. Wonderful Wino/Sharleena/Cruisin' For Burgers (12:37)
5. King Kong (1:24)
6. Fire! (1:55)

Total Time 50:56

Line-up / Musicians

- FZ / guitar, vocals
- Mark Volman / vocals
- Howard Kaylan / vocals
- Jim Pons / bass, vocals
- Don Preston / keyboards
- Ian Underwood / keyboards
- Aynsley Dunbar / drums

Releases information

Rhino/Foo-Eee R2 71021
Originally released as part of "Beat The Boots II" now available individually or as downloads.
Recorded at Casino, Montreaux, Switzerland - December 4, 1971

Thanks to Evolver for the addition
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Buy FRANK ZAPPA Swiss Cheese / Fire! Music

FRANK ZAPPA Swiss Cheese / Fire! ratings distribution

(17 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(18%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(59%)
Good, but non-essential (18%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

FRANK ZAPPA Swiss Cheese / Fire! reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars We all came out to Montreux On the Lake Geneva shoreline To make records with a mobile We didn't have much time

Frank Zappa and the Mothers Were at the best place around But some stupid with a flare gun Burned the place to the ground

Yes. This is the concert Deep Purple was singing about.

This certainly wasn't the greatest performance by the Flo & Eddie lineup of The Mothers of Invention, but as noted above, it was significant for historic reasons.

The recording quality is at best fair. Some tracks cut in after they've started, and some fade out before the end, but the songs seem to be mostly complete.

The concert began with a long, uncharacteristically boring jam by the band. Some comments are heard about technical difficulties. That's probably why the jam was so long, and so uninspired. The band then gets into gear with a nice performance of Peaches En Regalia, followed by a relatively short medley containing some "200 Motels" songs. Call Any Vegetable follows, not all that different (aside from a few spoken parts) from the "Just Another Band From L.A." version. Anyway The Wind Blows closes the first disk. This song has an ending that I haven't heard on other recordings. It's nothing special, just different.

The second disk is much longer, and has better material. i opens with a great version of Magdalena, which segues into Dog Breath, just like on JABFLA. The next track is listed as Sofa, although your media player will show it as Give Me Some Floor Covering Under This Fat, Floating Sofa. As far as I know, this is the only official Zappa release containing the full version of this funny piece, which contains Sofa, Stick It Out and a routing that has God watching a short girl have sex with a pig on his couch. This rarity is the true gem on the album.

A few songs later, Don Preston is just beginning a weird synth solo, when the band stops. Volman or Kaylen (I forget which is which) says "Fire! Arthur Brown, in person!" and Zappa calmly directs the audience to leave the building.

Once again, it wasn't a great concert, but worth owning for the history. And the short girl.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Everyone pretty much knows the song "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple and about the incident that happened on December 4, 1971 that is referred to in those lyrics right? Well, for those that don't, that was when the Casino de Montreux in Geneva, Switzerland caught fire during a Frank Zappa concert. This incident was immortalized in the lyrics for the afore mentioned Deep Purple song. So, with all of the recorded Zappa shows that are available, why isn't there a recording of this concert. Well, there is! It was recorded by a bootlegger and was called "Swiss Cheese/Fire!"

So, the next question is, how do I get a copy of this bootleg? Well, that might be a little tough, however, Frank Zappa decided that the only way to get back at the bootleggers that were making money off of his show while he wasn't seeing a penny of it, was to do some mass releasings of these bootlegged shows. So, he officially released them so that the public wouldn't demand the bootlegged albums. This is how the "Beat the Boots" collections were formed. The bootlegged shows were made available in different box sets. The thing that makes this album harder to acquire is that "Swiss Cheese/Fire!" was part of the "Beat the Boots, Volume 2" collection, and the albums in that collection were not sold as individual albums like the ones included in Volume 1. Frank released these bootlegs "warts and all". They were not enhanced or cleaned up, rather they were released with their original terrible sound, so, in most cases, they were not very appealing to listen to and mostly only recommended for hardcore fans and collectors.

"Swiss Cheese/Fire!" is probably the most important and sought after of the bootlegs, mostly because of the historical value. The actual sound is awful, but the fact that this album documents the infamous fire makes it quite an important collector's item. Originally, the bootleg was released as 2 different albums even though they were different segments from the same show, hence the reason for the title as the first was called simply "Swiss Cheese" and featured Zappa on the cover clad in nothing but a red scarf and leopard skin skivvies. The second was called "Fire!" and had pretty much the same cover except Zappa is wearing a white suit and hat. These two bootlegs were brought together for the purpose of the officially released bootleg. Just to make things even more confusing, there are copies of the bootleg that do have both albums together and it was re-issued as "Smoke on the Water".

The band line up for this album was Zappa, Mark Volman, Howard Kaylan, Jim Pons, Don Preston, Ian Underwood and Aynsley Dunbar. Since I am not a big fan of the years when Mark and Howard were in the band (they were otherwise known in the Mothers as Flo and Eddie and were originally from the band "The Turtles" in case you didn't already know), I find the album a bit obnoxious, but there are many who love their hijinx.

So, the first half of the album, "Swiss Cheese", begins with a 14 minute introductory track simply called "Intro". This track features a long sustained synth drone and a lot of strange noises, feedback and effects. Finally around the 6 minute mark, you start to hear drums come in with a bit more melody in the synths and some crowd noise. After 8 minutes, Flo and Eddie come in and try to mimic vocally some of the strange instrumental effects and then there is some faux French speaking or something. After this strange and overly long warm up, we finally get to hear Zappa's guitar after 11 minutes and things begin to finally get interesting. This leads into "Peaches en Regalia", one of Zappa's most famous jazz fusion instrumental songs, this performance ruined by Flo and Eddie's wordless vocals singing the melody. The real vocals start in the next track, which is a medley from "200 Motels": "Tears Begin to Fall/She Painted Up Her Face/Half-a-Dozen Provocative Squats". These are examples of Zappa's "Teenage Rock Music".

"Call Any Vegetable" comes next originally from "Absolutely Free". This is a silly song about eating your vegetables. One of the earliest Mothers songs, this one is actually quite funny, but again, Flo and Eddie do some extended goofing around expanding this track to nearly 10 minutes. The studio version is better. Besides, this is a bootleg and sounds quite awful and uneven. For those interested in the "eyebrows" of this album, there is a comedy exchange between Frank, Howard and Mark that comes after a Zappa guitar solo, and then some penis and fondue fun thrown in and it ends with a story from Howard that features cheese (hence the name of the first half of this album). This section of the album ends with the song "Anyway the Wind Blows" originally from "Freak Out!" This is a slower version of the song, but other than that, it is relatively straightforward with no special incidents occurring.

The "Fire!" portion of the album begins with the medley "Magdalena/Dog Breath". The Magdalena portion of the track is about the sexual exploits of a politician from Montreal and his daughter. Of course, there are several "eyebrows" here provided in the usual obnoxious way of Flo and Eddie. The "Dog Breath" portion is based on the track originally from "Uncle Meat" and it includes a great FZ guitar solo towards the end. Next is the 18 minute version of "Sofa" which would later be released on "One Size Fits All" in a shorter studio version. This version includes other songs that were often done in concert, but not necessarily released on studio albums: "Once Upon a Time", "Sofa No. 1", "Magic Pig", "Stick it Out", and "Divan". For those looking for those "eyebrows", this is where this album is replete with them, plus there are a lot more German lyrics in this version too plus a section where they sing the English translation. The long track is pretty much all made up of silliness and singing, no instrumental sections if that's what you are looking for.

Finally, after that long track, the always interesting instrumental "A Pound for a Brown (On the Bus)". This is bookended with the usual short theme and then goes into a long guitar solo. After the 7 minute instrumental, there is another medley of favorites, namely "Wonderful Wino", "Sharleena" and "Cruisin' for Burgers". This starts with Flo and Eddie singing "Bringing in the Sheaves" (or maybe its "Cheese") before going into "Wino". After this track, the band starts to settle into a long improvisation of "King Kong" but don't get very far into it before either Flo or Eddie exclaims "Fire! Arthur Brown, in person" and then you hear Zappa as he directs the audience to go calmly to the exit. People start to exit when they see that he is serious. You hear some conversations in German which prove that even the roadies thought it was a joke. Fortunately there were no deaths in the fire, but there were some injuries. The place did burn down however, and the bands equipment was all destroyed.

There have been various stories about what happened. Of course, "Smoke on the Water" claims it was a flare gun which Ritchie Blackmore, guitarist from Deep Purple, also claimed in an interview with Guitar magazine in 1999. However, others claimed it was someone with sparklers or fireworks and others say it was faulty wiring. Also, Blackmore claims that Zappa threw down his guitar and dove out a window because he wanted to be the first one out. Blackmore was in the audience, but he was probably drunk as he was known to take a drink a lot, where many in Zappa's band did not. Many other eyewitnesses said that the band took an amplifier and busted out the window and then Frank helped people reach safety by directing them through the window. So there are a lot of conflicting stories, as can be expected with the chaos that was going on.

Anyway, this album is mostly important to collectors for its historical value. The sound quality is not very good, as it is a bootleg, but at the same time, it isn't exactly impossible to listen to. The performances are pretty decent and there are a lot of "asides" and "eyebrows" to keep the fans happy. However, there are much better live recordings out there that have better versions of the songs, so this is definitely not one that is recommended for Zappa beginners. It is more for the curious and for those that are interested in the historical importance of the show. Mostly because of that, it can get a 3 star rating, which is actually better than most of the "Beat the Boots" albums which are mostly lacking because of their sound quality.

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