Archive for December, 2009

Frank Zappa – Philly ’76 (2009 ZFT Release)

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

I received this new dual-CD concert release in the mail today. It is nicely packaged in the “mini LP” format with some nice artwork/photos. There’s also a letter from Bianca Odin describing her experience with Frank. The ZFT (Gail) has thrown in some graphics pertaining to endangered animal and vegetable species, as well as the excerpt from the Declaration of Independence outlining the grievances against King George. There’s also some rant-y pseudo FZ lingo thrown in as well, where someone who is not FZ tries to write/speak like FZ. I can do without this stuff. But it’s Gail’s ball, she gets to play it as she sees fit, or, I’m presuming, she’ll take the ball home.

Since the ZFT couldn’t be arsed to include the track listing on their site (nice move guys!), here it is in all its glory. My commentary on the “highlights” follows.

CD1:
1. The Purple Lagoon
2. Stink-Foot
3. The Poodle Lecture
4. Dirty Love
5. Wind Up Workin’ in a Gas Station
6. Tryin’ to Grow a Chin
7. The Torture Never Stops
8. City of Tiny Lights
9. You Didn’t Try to Call Me
10. Manx Needs Women
11. Chrissy Puked Twice

CD2:
1. Black Napkins
2. Advance Romance
3. Honey, Don’t You Want a Man Like Me?
4. Rudy Want to Buy Yez a Drink
5. Would You Go All the Way?
6. Daddy, Daddy, Daddy
7. What Kind of Girl Do You Think We Are?
8. Dinah-Moe Humm
9. Stranded in the Jungle
10. Find Her Finer
11. Camarillo Brillo
12. Muffin Man

I don’t know the details of this show. Some nerd who’s heavier than I am will have to correct me. It sounds like this tour had Flo & Eddie, but their guitar player got killed in Utah three days before the show, so they weren’t on it. It sounds to me like Bianca Odin is standing in to fill that gap. I could be wrong about that though. This tour was in promotion of Zoot Allures, and was recorded the day after Zappa’s performance of Black Napkins on the Mike Douglas (which I’m pretty sure is the one where he played the Pignose amp, IIRC — which was totally freakin’ AWESOME, by the way!).

Overall the mix is very good, everything is very clear. Frank’s guitar (which in this era, and on this recording, is scorching!) sounds great. The tone is very full.

Purple Lagoon is only a part of what you hear on the brilliant version from Live in NY. It’s much slower too. Unfortunately it’s not complete, as I was pretty psyched to listen to a version that was slow enough to catch some of time sig changes as they pass by. I could listen to this track all day, so it was kind of a bummer it was so short.  They did wind up closing the set (pre-encore and post-encore) with a bit more of the Purple Lagoon though, so he must have really been burning it in to get tight performances. Bonus for some very cheezy sci-fi movie special effects from Eddie Jobson (actually forgot he played with FZ).

This version of Torture is familiar. I can’t recall offhand if I’ve heard it on other releases (You Can’t Do That On Stage volumes perhaps?). Could just be deja vu because Torture appears on so many Zappa records. I love Patrick’s playing on this track. Zappa’s guitar solo is not familiar at all. It’s very cool. It starts out with kind of a Pink Napkins feel to it.

“Manx Needs Women”, which Frank introduces as “Mars Needs Women” is pretty cool. Like Purple Lagoon on this recording, it’s a lot slower than the one on “Live in NY”. It morphs into Titties ‘N Beer with some modified lyrics and renamed “Chrissy Puked Twice” with assistance from Bianca Odin.

A couple of band members take solos on Black Napkins. Bianca Odin does some nice singing on the track (singing double stops/diads in one part, it sounds like. (!) ) Eddie Jobson on violin, and a rare guitar solo from Ray White. Frank’s playing is also fairly incendiary on this track.

Daddy, Daddy, Daddy is a pretty interesting track since the only other version I know of is the one on 200 Motels (one of the first FZ albums I really got into).

Fans of smoking blues guitar intros should check out Frank’s intro to What Kind of Girl Do You Think We Are? Uncharecteristically bluesy riffs from Frank, IMO. This is a nice track on this CD. The interaction between Frank adn Bianca is nice, and she has a great voice for this role.

Stranded in the Jungle is a track I’ve never heard. Fun little song. Cover?

Find Her Finer is pretty cool here, I like it with the greasier/funkier guitar that didn’t make it on the CD version (or is buried deeply in the mix). It’s a sparse track on the CD, but it’s got a nice, sparse feel to it here too.

General impression: It’s great to hear Patrick O’Hearn’s fretless throughout this recording. I liked hearing more of Ray White’s guitar. And it’s a unique recording in that Eddie Jobson and Bianca are on it, which isn’t that well-documented elsewhere. The show was pretty good, but I get a subtle impression the performance/show was kinda’ low energy  Frank’s guitar playing starts off really fiery, and sounds amazing, but it doesn’t seem to really open up on any of the tracks. It’s also a bit of a disappointment that they didn’t cover more of the “hard” stuff in Frank’s catalog, esp. given some really great players in the band.  This latter point seems to be the M.O. for the ZFT releases though. (Has the ZFT released a single thing that doesn’t have Dinah-Moe Humm on it? I know they have, I’m just saying, they do tend to focus on the commercial/accessible stuff. Do they not “get” the other stuff? What’s the deal?).

But these are minor gripes. It is indeed good to have a new full length Zappa concert to listen to, with a good, non-bootleg sounding, mix. This recording is a must for a diehard Zappa fan, but if you aren’t the biggest Zappa fan and you don’t already have “Live in N.Y.” or “You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol II”, or (god forbid!) “Roxy and Elsewhere”, then you simply need to run out and buy those first.

Happy holidays!