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Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars The first thing that strikes me about this, the most recent of the Frank Zappa releases, is that this album is long. With almost three hours of music, this must have been one fine concert. The second thing is how good the sound is. Frank announces at the beginning that this was being recorded for a radio braodcast, so that would explain the pristine audio quality.

The song selection focuses mostly on the poppy, more commercial titles from Zappa's catalog, and mostly covers the late seventies albums, from "Zoot Allures" through the not yet released at the time "Shiek Yerbouti" and "Joe's Garage". While it's nice to hear some well played, but raw versions of these songs, they are not the highlights.

The highlights are: on disk one, a twenty minute version of A Pound For A Brown On The Bus played as a fusion masterpiece, featuring spectacular solos by keyboardists Tommy Mars and Peter Wolf. Disk two has an extremely funny, and longer than I've ever heard before, explanation of the song I Have Been In You, and another Tommy Mars extravaganza, The Little House I Used To Live In, which focuses mostly on Ian Underwood's original piano intro (now played on Mars' synths, with vocals), and does not contain the most recognizable melodies from that piece. Still, it's a great piece. The third CD features a rare, full band version of Envelopes, and a hot rendition of King Kong.

My thanks go out to the Zappa Family Trust for releasing this gem.

Report this review (#449770)
Posted Thursday, May 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars There are some Zappa live albums that are just okay, some that are not so great, and then there are those that are excellent and highly recommended. This one falls in the latter category and should be one that every Zappa fan owns and one that the curious listeners that want to explore Zappa should get if they run across it.

This is a collection of highlights from a four or five night concert at the Hammersmith Odeon recorded during the last days of January 1978. The band line-up was one of the best and included Adrian Belew, Tommy Mars, Terry Bozzio, Patrick O'Hearn, Ed Mann, and Peter Wolf. This was probably one of the best rock band line-ups that toured with Frank. One of the big pluses for these live performances is Bozzio's amazing drum work which give each track so much more new life.

Most of the excellent album "Shiek Yerbouti" was recorded during these live performances, even though that album is considered more of a studio album because of the addition of so many overdubs on top of the live sessions, and for most of the songs on that album, the audience noise is very minimal. This album includes all of the crowd noise and uses different performances than what was used on Shiek Yerbouti, so you get the concert performances pretty much as they happened during this period of time.

This album also contains 3 discs of over 3 hours of music. Even though a lot of the tracks come from the album "Shiek Yerbouti", there are also other great tracks, some of them well known and oft used and others rare and seldom heard. The 1st disc has the usual "The Torture Never Stops" but with Bozzio's drums, the song takes on a life of it's own and it keeps moving quickly. Bozzio enhances Frank's improvisations like no one else and keeps them from dragging like they sometimes do. There is also a 20 minute version of "Pound for a Brown" which turns into a jazz fusion piece with plenty of keyboard soloing between Tommy and Peter.

The 2nd disc is more centered around Frank's lewd humor and there is a lot more audience participation here. The first 13 minutes is devoted to "I Have Been in You" which is lampooning Peter Framptons "I'm in You" and has a long explanation of the purpose of the song. Just like on "Shiek Yerbouti", this track follows into an excellent version of "Flakes" and then "Broken Hearts are for Assholes". We then get away from SY and get the hijinx of "Punky's Whips" and "Titties and Beer" and a lot of audience participation to show you just how crazy FZ's concerts could be. "Black Page #2" in this case is done with synthesizers and drums instead of the slightly better version which previous to this concert had been done with the jazz band lineup. Even though I like the jazz version better, this one is still good and you can hear why it's so difficult for a jazz band to play. "The Little House I Used to Live In" is another great fusion piece that ends this disc.

Finally, the 3rd disc has some great rare material like "Dong Work for Yuda", "Envelopes", and an original drum solo "Terry Firma". "Bobby Brown" comes with another explanation about the inspiration for that hilarious song, "Disco Boy" is an interesting very rock-ish version that gets extended treatment that goes into a very avant-garde percussion solo, "King Kong" turns into a guitar improv piece for FZ (Usually this is an extended jazz fusion piece, but FZ uses it to jam on the guitar this time). After the band blasts quickly through some kind of lame versions of "Dinah Moe Humm" and "Camarillo Brillo" (this is the weakest part of the album because they hurry through them so fast, but then add in some "eyebrows" to keep it interesting) they go directly into one of the best versions of "Muffin Man" ever. If this wasn't enough, the band comes back for a double encore with another amazing version of a classic, this time "Black Napkins" which is also one of the best versions of that, then a very rockabilly version of a fairly rare old track called "San Ber'dino".

This collection ranks up there with some of Frank's best recordings, especially live recordings. It was released posthumously by the Zappa Family Trust in 2010 and is a definite essential album since it is one of the best live albums in Zappa's discography and has some of the best sound on any of his live albums. At times, you swear you are listening to new studio versions, even in some case, improved versions of songs. This album also carries a lot of the excitement from the concert. This one should not be missed and is a great representation of that time in Zappa history. 5 stars.....essential for anyone wanting to explore Zappa or already loves Zappa.

Report this review (#1406018)
Posted Tuesday, April 28, 2015 | Review Permalink

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