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Frank Zappa - You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 1 CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



4.04 | 129 ratings

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4 stars I think it's pretty clear that, at this point, Zappa had no interest in doing any more regular studio albums. From now on, anything new from him was either (a) recorded in concert with his touring band or (b) classical music, done by an orchestra or programmed into a Synclavier. To help keep up his insane release schedule, though, Zappa began digging through archives of his live performances, and thus commenced one of the most ambitious projects in rock music up to that point. The You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore series ultimately produced 12 discs of previously unavailable live material, ranging from live samplers to complete shows, and it ended up touching nearly every point in Zappa's history. Combine this with the Beat the Boots series, and it seems that Zappa was going to leave no stone unturned on his live history (especially if it meant that he could further put off going back into the studio).

This entry in the series seemingly has at least a couple of tracks from every incarnation of Zappa's live bands through the years (and the various eras are mixed up, to good effect). The downside to this, of course, is that this means that we get some more material from the Flo and Eddie years. The first track isn't a performance at all; it's just a really gross conversation about one of them throwing up on stage, and I have to wonder if Zappa put that on there just to mess with people who bought the set. Of more interest from this era is an early performance of "Sofa #2" (here called "Sofa #1," which makes me wonder if Zappa had indeed originally intended to put the version with the German vocals first on that album), later found on One Size, and proceeded here by a little skit (this is also the show where Frank got attacked, leading to the end of this era and Frank's brief turn towards jazz fusion). This era also features another rendition of "The Groupie Routine," originally featured on Fillmore '71, but very different in spots here than from there.

From the original Mothers of Invention, we have a performance of "Plastic People" (where the similarities to "Louie Louie" are purposefully emphasized) and a performance of the instrumental medley of "Let's Make the Water Turn Black," "Harry You're a Beast" and "The Orange County Lumber Truck." We don't get the bridge into "Oh No" (which gets stuck onto the second disc) and "The Orange County Lumber Truck Part 2," like on Ahead of Their Time, but this is still a nice snippet. Moving past the 1971 band, the mid-70's feature 1973 performances of "I'm the Slime" and an abbreviated "Big Swifty." The late 70's are highlighted by a 1977 rendition of "The Torture Never Stops" (well over 15 minutes, but that's ok because this is a track that seems to grow in power as it gets longer), and a 1979 suite of the first half of Apostrophe, here called "Don't You Eat the Yellow Snow." I think this gets a little excessively silly in the audience participation parts, but it never gets quite as irritating as "Beebop Tango," and while this half of Apostrophe has never especially impressed me, I find this track entertaining enough.

The bulk of the rest of the album comes from various 80's performances. The big highlights for me come from 1981 performances of "Dumb All Over," "Heavenly Bank Account" and "Suicide Chump" (done live on MTV, ha!), but I'm also rather impressed by "The Mammy Anthem," a neat instrumental of "The Mammy Nuns" (from Thing Fish). The 1984 performances ("The Deathless Horsie," "Be in My Video," "The Dangerous Kitchen") aren't really great, but the 1982 material is very good. Plus, I just find it really neat that the album ends with a 1982 rendition of "Sofa #1" (here called "Sofa #2"); if that's not an effective use of conceptual continuity, I don't know what is.

Overall, the quality of this set is a little uneven, but there's enough great material here to bring it up to a low ****. It has enough material to satisfy both casual and hardcore fans, and the decision to intersperse the different eras gives the album a somewhat playful feel that works in its favor. I definitely recommend it.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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