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THE BEST BAND YOU NEVER HEARD IN YOUR LIFE

Frank Zappa

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4.36 | 187 ratings | 14 reviews | 51% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
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Live, released in 1991

Songs / Tracks Listing

Disc one (64:31)
1. Heavy Duty Judy (6:04)
2. Ring Of Fire (2:00)
3. Cosmik Debris (4:32)
4. Find Her Finer (2:42)
5. Who Needs The Peace Corps? (2:40)
6. I Left My Heart In San Francisco (0:36)
7. Zomby Woof (5:41)
8. Bolero (5:19)
9. Zoot Allures (7:07)
10. Mr. Green Genes (3:40)
11. Florentine Pogen (7:11)
12. Andy (5:51)
13. Inca Roads (8:19)
14. Sofa # 1 (2:49)

Disc two (66:42)
1. Purple Haze (2:27)
2. Sunshine Of Your Love (2:30)
3. Let's Move To Cleveland (5:51)
4. When Irish Eyes Are Smiling (0:46)
5. "God Father Part II" Theme (0:30)
6. A Few Moments With Brother A.West (4:00)
7. The Torture Never Stops (Part One) (5:19)
8. Theme From "Bonanza" (0:28)
9. Lonesome Cowboy Burt (Swaggart version) (4:54)
10. The Torture Never Stops (Part Two) (10:47)
11. More Trouble Everyday (Swaggart Version) (5:28)
12. Penguin In Bondage (Swaggart Version) (5:05)
13. The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbeque (9:18)
14. Stairway To Heaven (9:19)

Total Time: 131:13

Line-up / Musicians

- Frank Zappa / lead guitar, computer-synth, vocal
- Ike Willis / rhythm guitar, synth, vocal
- Mike Keneally / rhythm guitar, synth, vocal
- Bobby Martin / keyboards, vocal
- Ed Mann / vibes, marimba, electronic percussion
- Walt Fowler / trumpet, flugel horn, synth
- Bruce Fowler / trombone
- Paul Carman / alto sax, soprano saxophone, baritone saxophone
- Albert Wing / tenor sax
- Kurt McGettrick / baritone sax, bass saxophone, contrabass clarinet
- Scott Thunes / electric bass, mini-moog
- Chat Wackerman / drums, electronic percussion

Releases information

Rykodisc #10553/54

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Joren for the last updates
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The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life [2 CD]The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life [2 CD]
Zappa Records 2012
$9.38
$10.12 (used)
Best Band You Never Heard in Your LifeBest Band You Never Heard in Your Life
Barking Pumpkin Records 1991
$7.50
$4.08 (used)
The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life by Frank Zappa (1996-04-01)The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life by Frank Zappa (1996-04-01)
Rykodisc (1996-04-01)
$113.31
$126.10 (used)

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FRANK ZAPPA The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life ratings distribution


4.36
(187 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(51%)
51%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(36%)
36%
Good, but non-essential (11%)
11%
Collectors/fans only (1%)
1%
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)
2%

FRANK ZAPPA The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR 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.
Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.
Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
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.

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
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.

Review by TCat
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars "The Best Band You've Never Heard in Your Life" is one of three live albums that was released documenting the band during the 1988 world tour. Each of the 3 live albums emphasized different musical aspects. The other two were "Make a Jazz Noise Here" which emphasized classic Zappa tunes, "Broadway the Hard Way" emphasized new tunes. But this album emphasized covers and also had some old Mothers of Invention songs. There are also several songs mostly on the 2nd disc that made fun of Jimmy Swaggart as this was during the time when he made his confession on the air and some of Zappa's classics had their lyrics changed to reflect that incident.

The album starts out with "Heavy Duty Judy" which is a guitar solo from "Shut Up 'n' Play Yer Guitar". At the end of the track, FZ gives an example of how he would arrive at a secret word for each concert that was given at the time. That secret word would pop up several times throughout a specific concert. For this particular concert, the word is "Ring of Fire" which appears after this track and FZ tells a story of him meeting Johnny Cash that same day. It starts out with the full band playing the melody in a big band style. Most of this is recorded at Wurzberg, Germany (April 22) with a small section (from :50 ? 1:43) recorded at Rotterdam, Netherlands (May 3). The solo itself appears after 1:43 and is quite a rousing performance to open the album.

After FZ's story about JC, the band plays a reggae inspired version of "Ring of Fire". I'm not sure who is singing this, but it's a hilarious impression of Johnny Cash, but they only knew one verse which they sing over again. This goes directly into a performance of "Cosmik Debris" where they once again bring in the ring of fire theme again in an interesting way. Apparently Anusol, which is a hemmeroid medicine planned on using the song Ring of Fire for a commercial, but of course Cash's family wouldn't allow it. But FZ uses it to his advantage to get some laughs. Another nice guitar solo comes along during the instrumental break.

From Wurzberg, we move to Munich, Germany for a performance of "Find Her Finer" from "Zoot Allures" performed on May 9 where they incorporate their classic bit about the mud shark into the performance. After that, and a short introduction to "Who Needs the Peace Corps?" we go back to Wurzberg for the rest of that early Mothers track. In the "Cowboy Burt" accent, they somehow start making fun of San Francisco, which leads them into their next cover "I Left My Heart in San Francisco", or at least 36 seconds of it in a real lounge style fiasco.

We segue into "Zombie Woof" where we switch from Munich to Allentown Pennsylvania somewhere in the first section for a performance on March 19. This is quite a complex and jazzy version of the track and actually better than the original that was on "Over-nite Sensation". Another great guitar solo is embedded in this performance. Then we go back to Rotterdam for an amazing reggae-infused-jazz performance of Ravel's "Bolero". This cover is extremely excellent and even has a little snippet of "My Sharona" by "The Knack" hidden in there. After this cover, the remainder of disc 1 is all classic Zappa material.

The next track is the classic Zappa instrumental "Zoot Allures" as performed in Brighton, UK on April 16. This is a fine performance of the classic with another great guitar solo by Zappa set against another reggae inspired foundation. FZ seemed to be obsessed with reggae beats during this concert tour. Next we go to Strasbourg, France for another Mothers classic "Mr. Green Genes" performed by this updated (at the time) line up. It does actually modernize the song to a jazzier orchestra. Staying in France, we do another classic "Florentine Pogen". We only leave France for the guitar solo during this track which was recorded in Florence, Italy on June 6. "Andy" done in a slow blues style continues with the FZ classics with another ripping guitar solo from Stadthalle, Germany on May 26 and then this follows into one of my all time favs "Inca Roads" where we stay until the blistering sax solo which we finally go back to Wurzburg. The first CD ends with the short instrumental "Sofa #1" also recorded in Germany on May 24.

It is amazing, that with all this jumping around to different concert venues to put together the best bits of this concert tour, that things are as clean as they are and that things flow so seamlessly on this album. But it is very difficult on this well produced album to tell where the splices are. This is the most amazing thing about the album and is the reason why this is one of the best live documents of a FZ tour out there.

The 2nd CD starts out with two covers recorded in Sporthalle, Austria on May 28. The two covers are Jimi Hendirx's "Purple Haze" and Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love". Both of these covers take a sarcastical jazz fusion/psychedelic twist on the originals. The lyrics are spoken in a rhythmic poetic manner like they are being read, but the guitar solo is over the top on "Purple Haze". The vocals are also similar to the "Thing-fish" album vocals and the Cowboy Burt accent on the latter cover. These two covers are quite silly and, they definitely show no respect to either of them, the band is just goofing around, but the crazy thing is how the entire ensemble stays cohesive throughout the covers. This flows into a FZ classic ensemble instrumental "Let's Move to Cleveland" The first few minutes are recorded in Modena, Italy on June 5 and the second half where the guitar solo starts in Montpelier, France on May 18. After this, there are two very quick instrumental covers recorded in Binghamton, NY on March 17, the appropriate "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" and "The Theme from Godfather Part II".

At this point, we enter the Jimmy Swaggart section of the album. We go to Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, for a spoken word comedy section called "A Few Minutes with Brother A West" lampooning a religious leader. "The Torture Never Stops Part One" is recorded in both London, England on April 19 and back in Wurzburg. This part contains the first few verses done as usual, but then suddenly it changes to "Chatanooga Choo-Choo" and the bridge is sung to "My Three Sons", and this craziness works. Then we get a harmonica and a bad Bob Dylan impression with snatches of "The Addams Family" theme and so on before it returns to the chorus, and then moves to the next track "Theme from Bonanza" recorded in London. Then we move to Pittsburgh for the Swaggart version of "Lonesome Cowboy Burt" where they change the lyrics to tell the hilarious story of Jimmy Swaggart. Then we finish off the last 10 minutes of "The Torture Never Stops Part 2" in Teaneck, New Jersey, with the amazing guitar solo before the last verse.

In this version, Scott Thunes (bassist) explains that in the past, FZ always wanted the background for his guitar solo section of "Torture?" to only play the note "A" without changing except for octaves and that's it was always played. In this instance and throughout this tour, Thunes forgot and changed notes, but FZ never complained or said anything about it, he just played right along. It actually gives some variation to the track that we almost always hear on any of FZ's live albums.

Next we head to Poughkeepsie, New York for more Swaggart fun and a new arrangement of "More Trouble Every Day". Then we remain in place for more Swaggart hijinks with a changed up version of "Penguin in Bondage", each of these with great ensemble playing and guitar soloing. A nine minute version of "Eric Dolphy's Barbeque" comes next, recorded in 3 venues. The first minute is in Royal Oak, Michigan on Feb 28, then from 1 minute to just over 7 minutes is recorded in Syracuse, New York on March 21, and then the remainder is in Vienna, Autsria on May 8. This is a great avant-prog showcase piece for the ensemble and also has some strange processed vocal sounds throughout. It features a trumpet solo, then a sax solo. The band also inserts a part of "The Blue Danube Waltz" at the end.

The last track is the bands cover of "Stairway to Heaven", the song that was considered "sacred", and FZ knew this as he did with his Bob Dylan stints. He said that he has respect for those songs and those artists, and he even claimed that The Beatles were able to laugh at his antics involving them, but he couldn't figure out why the fans were always so serious about it and considered it "holy ground". FZ said that fans would consider parodies of these things as blasphemous, but wanted people to know that nothing is too sacred for satire. Again, for this performance, he returns to the reggae rhythm and uses not just the regular rock instruments, but involves the entire ensemble. Besides, the crowd goes wild anyway. The first 2 minutes of this track was recorded in Vienna, Austria on May 8, from 2 to 8 minutes was recorded in Florence, Italy on June 6 and the last section in London on April 18. The vocals seem respectful enough, as do the regular instruments, but there are plenty of strange processed sounds throughout that lets us know that it isn't taken that seriously. Mike Kennealy (rhythm guitar and keyboards) and Paul Carman (saxophones) surprised Frank in this performance by playing the familiar guitar solo done by Jimmy Page in the original. Usually Frank would play an improvised guitar solo here, but he was so pleased to hear this version, that he let them do it. I find this cover very fun and carefree, yet still well done and a great variation. I don't consider it disrespectful at all, just a lot of fun.

This is one of the best live recordings out there of Frank Zappa and his line-up at the time. The album is well done, and with all the editing of the venues, it flows rather seamlessly and smoothly. I highly recommend this one to those interested in FZ's live performances. There are a lot of great guitar solos, some jazz ensemble playing and plenty of humor, so it is a good mix. The songs featured may have a lot of strange and funny covers, but there are also plenty of FZ classics here too, even a taste of some of his avant-garde music.

Latest members reviews

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 almo ... (read more)

Report this review (#102246) | Posted by blazno | Saturday, December 9, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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 to ... (read more)

Report this review (#66122) | Posted by | Sunday, January 22, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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 rol ... (read more)

Report this review (#29990) | Posted by marktheshark | Sunday, April 10, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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 class ... (read more)

Report this review (#29989) | Posted by | Friday, April 8, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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 equ ... (read more)

Report this review (#29988) | Posted by Kaztor | Friday, March 25, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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 Inc ... (read more)

Report this review (#29987) | Posted by | Sunday, February 20, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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 har ... (read more)

Report this review (#29985) | Posted by | Tuesday, August 31, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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 exceptiona ... (read more)

Report this review (#29983) | Posted by | Tuesday, April 20, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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