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Frank Zappa - The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life CD (album) cover

THE BEST BAND YOU NEVER HEARD IN YOUR LIFE

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.36 | 193 ratings

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TCat
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.

TCat | 5/5 |

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