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Frank Zappa - Make A Jazz Noise Here CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



4.41 | 147 ratings

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3 stars Not many (if any) performers could release three live albums from the same tour and not have any of them be redundant (or, if you will, have no overlapping material), but Frank Zappa wasn't most performers. Whereas Broadway focused on the political theater aspects of Zappa's 1988 shows, and Best Band gave the sense of a "real" concert, this release mostly features the more instrumental-driven material of that tour. Predictably, I don't love this one as much as I did Best Band, and to be honest, I'm not even necessarily sure that longtime fans of Zappa's instrumental stuff would go ga-ga for this. A lot of the keyboard effects that were used sparsely and to good effect on Best Band are used to create some incredibly ugly passages on this one, and they definitely worsen my feelings towards this. There are also a few other tracks that hadn't appeared on albums before, and they don't really do much to make an impression amongst the more familiar material. I mean, I don't hate "Fire and Chains," or "Star Wars Won't Work," or "Sinister Footwear 2nd mvt." (which was on Them or Us, but seems awfully close in spirit to those other two tracks, so I'm lumping it in with them), but they hardly give me reason to listen to them again.

Still, there's a lot of good material on here. One thing this album is good about is interspersing faithful renditions of old favorites with bizarre reinventions of, uh, other old favorites. In the more familiar territory, there's a great medley of "Let's Make the Water Turn Black," "Harry You're a Beast," "The Orange County Lumber Truck" and "Oh No," with an immediate segue into the main theme from Lumpy Gravy. The first four tracks in that list aren't done very differently from how they were on Ahead of Our Time (remember that one?), but then again that archive release wasn't yet available, so it would have been a major treat to have a rendition of these. Staying in familiar territory, the first disc also contains decent enough renditions of "Stinkfoot" (including the only serious political material of the album, in more references to the Jimmy Swaggart sex scandal), a shortened "Eat That Question" and "Black Napkins" (never really liked this, but it's ok here).

"Big Swifty" and "King Kong" round out the first disc (aside from some of the new pieces mentioned earlier), and they're anything but conventional. They have the same main themes as their original versions, yes, but their midsections veer all over the place, touching on all sorts of well-known and obscure jazz, classical and other melodies from the past. In other hands, things like the quote from "The 1812 Overture" would seem cliche and stupid, but this is Frank Zappa we're talking about; he'd earned plenty of right to do something like by this point. These versions would never replace the originals (and I say that as somebody who doesn't love them, though I like them more now than I did in my initial reviews), but they're nice supplements, and that's really what live albums are for.

The second disc, for all of its busy instrumental excitedness, falls a bit into background noise for me, but I basically like it. I only sorta like this version of "The Black Page," and the Stravinsky and Bartok quotes are too brief to satisfy me (and besides, the third piano concerto was the weakest), but the rest is nice. Without mentioning every other track, I'd say that "Dupree's Paradise" is much more satisfying here than in the 24-minute version on YCDTOSA Vol 2; the metallic power of "Stevie's Spanking" is a terrific change of pace from the jazzy aspects of the rest of the album; "Advance Romance" is just as great of a weird blues piece as ever, and "Strictly Genteel" is the perfect regal way to end the album.

For all the praises, though, there's a tedium to the album that didn't exist on Best Band, and except for a couple of stretches, there isn't a lot of fun on this album. Still, there's no good reason to own the first two releases of the tour but not this one.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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