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Frank Zappa - Just Another Band From L.A. CD (album) cover

JUST ANOTHER BAND FROM L.A.

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.19 | 152 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars While the first lineup of THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION focused mostly on studio albums which took them from the amazingly brilliant debut 'Freak Out' to the 1970 albums 'Burnt Weeny Sandwich' and 'Weasels Ripped My Flesh.' In the same year band leader FRANK ZAPPA decided to completely dissolve the band and start anew therefore the classic band members of the first phase such as Jimmy Carl Black (drums), Roy Estrada (bass), Bunk Gardner (tenor sax), Lowell George (guitar), Don Harris (violin), Don Preston (piano), Buzz Gardner (trumpet), Motorhead Sherwood (baritone sax), Art Tripp (drums) and Ian Underwood (alto sax) were out of the band and in was a whole new wily cast of characters with the primary lineup of Ian Underwood (organ, guitar, sax, piano), Aynsley Dunbar (drums), George Duke (keyboards), Jeff Simmons (bass, guitar) and three members of the sunshine pop band The Turtles. All of a sudden bassist Jim Pons and the singers Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan better known as Flo & Eddie were a part of the new reality of THE MOTHERS.

The new formation would perform on ZAPPA's solo album 'Chunga's Revenge' and then commence to release a couple live albums before ZAPPA's infamous accident at Montreaux, Switzerland and the subject matter of the classic rock song 'Smoke On The Water' by Deep Purple. The first of the live albums 'Fillmore East - June 1971' was released followed by this second offering JUST ANOTHER BAND FROM L.A. which came out the following year in 72. This album was recorded live on August 7th, 1971 in the Pauley Pavilion on the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles, CA and was the last performance before the ZAPPA's serious injuries resulting from the incident at the Casino de Montreaux. The album was originally intended to be a double LP that included solos from 'Studebaker Hoch' and 'The Subcutaneous Peril' which were to take up the majority of the second LP as well as additional parts to 'Bill The Mountain' but nothing seemed to flow smoothly in the world of FRANK ZAPPA and he was forced to land on his feet like an improvisational jazz cat.

JUST ANOTHER BAND FROM L.A. found the short-lived second coming of THE MOTHERS at its peak and in the end contained only five tracks. The massive sprawling parody of rock operas, 'Billy The Mountain' which swallowed up an entire side of the original vinyl release as well as four additional tracks on side B. This included reworkings of "Call Any Vegetable' from 'Absolutely Free' and "Dog Breath' from the many variations on 'Uncle Meat.' Two more tracks "Eddie, Are You Kidding?' and 'Magdalena' were new renditions of earlier ZAPPA ideas channeled into the current lineup's focus on the humorous antics of Flo & Eddie. In a way JUST ANOTHER BAND FROM L.A. returned the band focus to humor, parody and social critique of earlier albums like 'Freak Out' only with time specific references to the greater Los Angeles area as well as show biz personalities, politicians and various commercial enterprises. Gone were the sizzling jazz-fusion and focus on instrumental passages (for the most part) and in were hilariously constructed improvised storylines that offered variations from show to show therefore this album is just one mere glimpse of the myriad possibilities that the band performed.

'Billy The Mountain' is the focal point of the entire album experience and one of my personal favorite tracks of the entire ZAPPA universe. While the song was originally designed to be an entire hour and a half musical experience that was reinventing the notion of what a rock opera should be in response to its popularity of the era, the track was whittled down to a mere 25 minutes in order to fit on the record. For years this was only album to host this wacky and often silly parody that played out like 'Peter and the Wolf' but alternate versions would finally emerge on 1992's 'Playground Psychotics' and 2011's 'Carnegie Hall.' The track is ingenious in how it juxtaposes disparate musical passages that included the theme for Johnny Carson's 'Tonight Show' and Stephen Stills' 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,' 'The Star Spangled Banner,' 'Over The Rainbow' and more! The story of a talking mountain named Billy and his wife Ethel who is a tree growing on his shoulder was the ultimate satire which showcased the shallowness of American culture and material society in general. Flo & Eddie in particular add a whole new level of silliness and although many hate this period of THE MOTHERS, i have always had an affinity for their clownish behavior as well as being a Turtles fan.

While side A was the clear attention getter on JUST ANOTHER BAND FROM L.A., the rest of the album is excellent as well. The remade versions of 'Call Any Vegetable' and the new chapters of the ongoing 'Dog Breath' series are performed more in a rock band fashion focusing more on singing rather than the mostly narrated storylines of 'Billy The Mountain.' Same goes for the new tracks 'Eddie, Are You Kidding?' and 'Magdalena' which take the band into progressive rock territory with challenging musical time signature changes and intricate compositional fortitude. Like many ZAPPA offerings, all of these offer a plethora of musical styles that range from vaudeville styled outlandishness to heavy rock, country, doowop and pop with extra segments that offer humors conversations between Flo & Eddie while ZAPPA provides background vocals. The entire album takes potshots at the local L.A. scene with a whopping middle finger to the material consumer culture. 'Where can i get MYYYYY poodle clipped in Downey?' LOL

When it comes to the wealth of live albums that ZAPPA released with THE MOTHERS, this one has always been one of my first go to experiences when i'm less interested in lengthy jam based instrumental workouts and just want a heavy injection of the most ridiculously biting humor that has been released on record. The album was notorious as being badly recorded and produced but newer remastered versions have corrected all that. JUST ANOTHER BAND FROM L.A. displays ZAPPA and his band at the height of the silliest version of his entire career and although his 80s solo albums would revisit the humor and comedic parodies, nothing ever matched the magnificence and brilliance of tracks like 'Billy The Mountain' which has to be experienced to be believed. No words can do it justice! For some reason this live release doesn't get as much respect as some of the others. While many claim Flo & Eddie didn't integrate into the band very well, i'd have to disagree. I think they were a perfect match for Zappa's most whimsical and laughable moments. Not only did they nail the most absurd lyrical contents without losing composure but their vocal styles added an even more hilarious element to the process. Personally i love this album!

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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