What does it sound like?:
After a European tour that ended in September 1973, ever-moving Frank Zappa decided to liven up the band with a few new musicians. These included George Duke, Chester Thompson, and the rest of the chaps who became the “Roxy and Elsewhere” team. The band took a jazzier, funkier direction, with rather less skronk and snorks, and a a looser, more musical feel. Halloween, Zappa’s favourite holiday was an excuse for him to do some special gigs where audience participation, on-stage shenanigans, and long sets were favoured, and he always seemed to be in a good mood, which makes for a warmer feel to his music, staggeringly intricate and intelligent though it us (behind the pervert songs and irreverence). On Halloween 1973 these shows were performed in Chicago, and they were really quite something.
This CD set comprises two gigs, the second marginally longer and with some different tracks (and of course different solos and stage banter), and a disc of the rehearsals (where you can hear them trying to nail the new tracks without the anxiety of the performance or the unpredictability of the fans and equipment (at the gig Ruth Underwood’s marimba lost the E note, which will have ruined some people’s night)); also available is a best of both nights single disc available for the cheap skates. Said cheapskates miss the “cheepnis” which is the packaging (not with the download) of the “Frankenzappa” mask with nasty green monster hands. There is also am extensive booklet to read. So plenty for your money. The Frankenzappa mask and gloves will certainly liven up a night of love, though I doubt many of the WAGS of Frank Zappa fans will appreciate the gesture.
Some of the material here is new for the band, though of course highly familiar to the Zapparians amongst us. This means the pace is marginally slower at points, but that makes it all the better to hear what is going on. A number of pieces have codas and bits that were eventually lost, and generally add additional musicality and show the swing this band had, as well as the lovely melodies of his instrumental work. RDNZL, “Tmershi Duween” and “Big Swifty” allow plenty of jamming. Zappa’s stage comments about groupies in the rehearsal of “Magic Fingers” will give woker listeners a frisson of disapproval, so play the rehearsal disc more quietly and not upset the neighbours (unless this is your intention).
Some older material is performed also, sometimes in melodies that must have kept the band on their toes (e.g., “Son of Mr Green Genes/ King Kong/ Chunga’s Revenge”). “Dupree’s Paradise”, “Uncle Meat”; and “The Dog Breath Variations” race along, and must have left the audience breathless. Plus “Inca Roads”, “I am the Slime”, “Father O’Blivion”, “Penguin in Bondage”, “Cheepnis” (the Halloween anthem), and many more favourites from that era. After 3 years Zappa moved on, and the smuttier, more guitar oriented “Zoot Allures” emerged, and by 78 he sometimes had 3 guitarists. I prefer this earlier phase, myself.
What does it all *mean*?
Frank Zappa’s bands were the tightest musical education both the musicians and the audience could imagine, and this was functioning in a rock idiom. What the more addled audiences made of the breakneck instrumentals or bizarre digressions, one can only imagine. You really “don’t get that kind of thing on stage anymore”. Are teenage boys (and their bored girlfriends) going to a relatively mainstream rock concert and getting this kind of thing opening up their ears to a broader ranges of sounds, rhythms, and styles now? I worry they do not.
Goes well with…
Typing and reviewing student work, eating cheap Haribos left over from Halloween, Tea and carrot cake.
out now, fun seekers
Might suit people who like…
Frank Zappa, Parliament, flashy musical ensemble playing, jazz-rock, being outraged