BAND MEMBERS- FZ, George Duke (keyboards, vocals), Napoleon Murphy Brock (vocals, sax, flute), Bruce Fowler (trombone), Ralph Humphrey (drums, small feet), Chester Thompson (drums, gorilla), Ruth Underwood (percussion, goddess worship), Tom Fowler (bass), Jeff Simmons (guitar, vocals, harmonica?)
DATES- February 15th through March 23rd
COUNTRIES- 2 (U.S. and Canada)
# OF DIFFERENT SONGS PLAYED- 23
AVERAGE SHOW LENGTH- 115 minutes
AVERAGE # OF FZ SOLOS PER SHOW- 8
SONGS FZ WOULD SOLO IN- Andy, Approximate, Cosmik Debris, Chunga's Revenge, Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?, Dupree's Paradise, Florentine Pogen, Inca Roads, Montana, Penguin in Bondage, Pygmy Twylyte, RDNZL, Village of the Sun (very short)
COMMENTS ON FZ SOLOS- Really not much of a tour as far as guitar playing goes. Frank is not bad, he is just not all that great either. The only real spot he had during the show where he stepped up and created something that mattered was during "Dupree's Paradise". "Andy", "RDNZL", "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?", and "Village of the Sun" were typically too short to really get much going. "Cosmik Debris" and "Montana" were short and energetic, but not revolutionary. "Penguin in Bondage" and "Inca Roads" were lengthier excursions, but still, not all that great. Sadly, nothing from this tour is a must hear.
SONGS THAT FZ USUALLY SOLOED IN BUT DID NOT ON THIS TOUR- King Kong
NEW SONGS ON TOUR (1st time performed live)- Andy, Florentine Pogen
MONSTER SONGS- Dupree's Paradise. While not the mindblowing extravaganzas of the Fall '74 tour, these "Dupree's Paradise" showcases still manage to impress. Duke gets his by-now standard opening keyboard spotlight, each band member gets a chance to strut his stuff during the actual tune, and Frank closes the ceremonies with his consistently best solo of the tour. The real treat of this tour, however, is the "Carolina Hard-core Ecstasy" opening bassline that is used as the vamp for Frank's solo. It limits the solo somewhat, but is still a treat to hear.
OVERVIEW- This should have been a great tour. Looking at the ingredients that went into this outing, you would expect a colossal treat. A top-notch band, complete with the three drummers/percussionists, two horn players, one heck of a funky keyboard player, a highly underrated bass player, and the mighty return of Jeff Simmons. Essentially, we have the near perfect Fall '74 band, with the addition of a better drummer, a rhythm guitar player, and the best trombone player this side of anywhere. The setlists are similar to those of the Fall tour also, with more emphasis put on certain songs, yes, but not with any major changes. But for some reason, even with these factors, this is not a great tour. In fact, I would say that this is one of Frank's most disappointing tours that he ever embarked on.
THE SETLISTS- While the setlists do contain many songs that would later become classics- highlights of any given show- they all appear here in early and/or different versions. "Andy", "Florentine Pogen", "Inca Roads", "Cheepnis", "RDNZL", and "Village of the Sun" all are performed differently than they are on any official releases. They are interesting versions, simply because they are different, but this time around, interesting does not mean good. "Andy" sounds like a poorly constructed jigsaw puzzle, "Florenine Pogen" is ridiculously fast, "RDNZL" is still missing Ruth's percussion opening and Frank's epic-length solo, and "Inca Roads" has a first half that is simply boring. All these songs would reappear later in the year in much more powerful versions, and thus serve only as disappointments this time round. The remainder of the setlists consist of typically good Frank Zappa material, but nothing that makes a tour essential. "Cosmik Debris", "Montana", "Penguin in Bondage", "Echidna's-> Don't You Ever"- material that is enjoyable to hear, but not anything that we cannot find somewhere else. The one highlight of the tour, and possibly the biggest reason for collecting tapes of this tour, is the "Dupree's Paradise" endeavors. They appear here as your typical solo-fest, climaxing with a Frank guitar solo over the "Carolina Hard-core Ecstasy" opening bassline. A very nice surprise.
THE BAND- Absolutely no complaints about the band, except for the fact that they are highly underused on this tour. Yes, they perform this difficult material flawlessly, and yes, they all get a chance to solo, but they never seem to really FREAK. With a band of this caliber, one would expect an endless series of mindblowing musical experiences (as we would get on the Fall '74 tour, no?), but this does not happen. Instead, we get the same routine setlists each night, the same patterned solo sections, the same rather low level of energy and excitement. For some reason, things never seem to ignite and burn the place down. It has been brought to my attention that there are no really good sounding tapes from this tour, and that this may have a negative influence on one's opinion of the tour. While I have to agree with this, I must also say that given the quality of this band, compared with the quality of the setlists and quality of the performances that I have heard, there is still a big discrepancy between what we get and what we SHOULD get, and no excellent sounding tape can make up for an unpassionate performance.
Thus, I would rank this as one of Frank's most disappointing and most inconsequential tours. As far as tape collecting goes, it is probably worth tracking down one tape from this tour simply to hear the different versions of several of the songs, and to hear one of the "Dupree's Paradise" performances. Apart from that, however, I feel that the mateial from this tour is performed better on other tours, and that you are better off going to those tours to find satisfying music.
ANDY- As performed on this tour, the as-yet-untitled "Andy" (frequently referred to as "Something/Anything?") has essentially the same structure as the later OSFA version. But the devil is in the details, and it is the little things that really define this version as being different. The opening segment is slower and more dramatic (quite majestic, to these ears) and includes a repeating keyboard riff that is not present in the later version. The opening lyrics are a lot more staccato, with an awkward stop-and-go action occurring between the phrases, and the first verse is more of a bluesy affair, with Frank playing along with the melody line. The aforementioned keyboard riff pops up again, as does some random soloing by Frank. During the somewhat calm middle section, someone blows a very out-of-place harmonica, and Frank delivers a nice, feedback laden guitar solo. The post solo vocal section is "Andy"-less, with the lyrics appearing as "Have I lied with a thong rind?, Wasting my time on a stoned (?) mind?" Finally, there is no climatic "Andy!" to bring the song to its appropriate conclusion, just Brock wailing over the drum beat, followed by a short Zappa guitar rave-up similar to the one found on OSFA. Brock feels the need to try to accompany Zappa during his solo (by screaming, of course), and this definitely has an effect on the song (no comment). On the whole, an interesting but ultimately inferior version. While the song starts off on the right foot, the slower speed of the song and the staccato verses inhibit the flow of the song. Worth hearing, but not essential.
APPROXIMATE- Reappears after an 18 month absence, and seemingly full of amphetamines. The head of the tune is essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume II, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and at a much greater speed. Once the head is played, we get an assortment of solos, before a brief return to the song. A triumphant, one-time only for this tour return.
BABETTE- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume I, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in the somewhat improvised lyrics. A one time only on this tour engagement.
CAROLINA HARD-CORE ECSTASY- This song was not performed as such. Instead, during Frank's "Dupree's Paradise" guitar solo, the opening bass riff to "Carolina" was used as the solo vamp. Upon completion of the solo, the band would then segue back into the closing theme of "Dupree's Paradise".
CHEEPNIS- This tour's version sounds like a mutant hybrid of the "Roxy and Elsewhere" and YCDTOSA Volume II releases. Things start off as always, with Brock going to the movies, describing the movie, and Narrator Frank alerting us to the presence of a large poodle dog. After the "Nuclear Force" line, we get the "Harry Thing" section- as on YCDTOSA Volume II- but without the improvised breakfast lyrics found on that latter performance. Instead, we get the extended "Harry Thing" funk jam, in which Brock essentially wails and screams while the band grooves along behind him. This leads into the "run for shelter" bit, the short percussion display by Ruth, and then, as on the Roxy release, we get the full blown ending. This means Little Miss Muffet reappears, followed by the Horrible Eye (yes, the Horrible Eye), and finally the concluding lyrics as found on both releases. I personally prefer the YCDTOSA version, as I have never been fond of that Horrible Eye, and I really enjoy Brock's spiel about opening up the bartender in his room. This version includes the Horrible Eye, and excludes the bartender rap, and thus for me, it is inferior to the latter version. I do enjoy it much better than the Roxy release, though, as the overproduction on that tune has always annoyed me. Thus, I would say that this is a worthy version of an unfortunately short-lived song.
CHESTER'S GORILLA- An early title for "Florentine Pogen".
CHUNGA'S REVENGE- Played as part of the "King Kong-> Chunga's Revenge-> Mr. Green Genes" medley. As far as the main theme goes, all we get is the abrupt guitar intro as it appears on the album, followed by a Frank Zappa guitar solo played over the "Chunga's" bassline. Upon completion of his solo, Frank would segue into the melody of "Mr Green Genes", at which point the band would follow suit and ease into the medley closing tune.
COSMIK DEBRIS- Essentially performed as on "Apostrophe (')", with the standard deviation coming in the assortment of solos. Typically, we get a Brock horn solo, a keyboard solo, occasionally a harmonica solo, and the standard FZ workout. The "price-of-meat" section is the basic '74 funk version- heavy on the keyboards, light on the guitar, and punctuated by bursts from the horn section.
DOG BREATH/UNCLE MEAT- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume II, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the possible deviation coming in speed.
DON'T YOU EVER WASH THAT THING?- Essentially performed as on "Roxy and Elsewhere", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in the short but funky solos. Also, Ruth is again the victim of Frank's wit, being pointed out and drawn attention to during each performance, much to her dismay as I have read.
DUMMY UP- While this "song" appears as a separate track on the "Roxy and Elsewhere" album, it appears on this tour as the middle section of "Pygmy Twylyte" (Frank usually announced the setlists at each show, and always referred to "Pygmy Twylyte" but never mentioned "Dummy Up"). For each performance, this "song" is essentially a full band funk jam similar to the one on the Roxy album, but without the full-blown comedy routine. While the band funked away, Brock would make up some typically indiscernible lyrics and Frank would randomly solo. Then, at some cue, Brock would sing "Dummy Up, Dummy Up"- which essentially served as the chorus- there would be short musical bridge, Brock would sing the chorus again, and then the band would return to "Pygmy Twylyte" proper.
DUPREE'S PARADISE- This is the Monster Song of the tour, and while it does not quite live up to the beasts of the Fall '74 outing, it never fails to satisfy. The festivities start off with your standard Duke-led funk jam, heavy on the keyboards, sprinkled liberally with random Frank orchestrations. As with almost all 70's "Dupree's" openings, almost anything can happen during this part, and thus, it does. Frank leads the band through random noises, jams, and meltdowns, and either coerces the audience to join along, or lectures them on the value of short people (3/9- my favorite DP from this tour.) After Frank has had enough of this, he leads us into the main theme, and then drops us off in the Solo Section. Brock goes first (flute or sax), then Fowler the bass player- mixed with some quite funky and impressive Simmons- followed by Duke, Fowler the trombone player, and, of course, Frank. The real treat of these "Dupree's" is the "Carolina Hard-core Ecstasy" opening bassline which is used as the vamp for Frank's solos. While it somewhat limits Frank in the direction he can go, it still manages to inspire and produce some worthy guitar outings. When Frank finishes his solo, the band somehow manages to find its way back into the main theme, before ending the song coldly. Another impressive, but not quite great, tour for the Dupree's Paradise Lounge Act.
ECHIDNA'S ARF (OF YOU)- Essentially performed as on "Roxy and Elsewhere", acounting for the obvious differences in instrumentation.
FLORENTINE POGEN- Essentially played as on OSFA, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and A LOT faster. Ridiculously faster. "Is this even the same song?" faster. All the parts are here (minus Perellis and the crab cakes), but they are played at such a pace that if you blink, you will miss them. Duke has a short solo spot in the middle of the tune this time round, as does Frank in the early performances on the tour. In fact, this rare and tasty middle-of-the-song solo is one of the guitar treats of the tour. The conclusion of the tune is also quite a bit different. There's a new set of lyrics after the traditional closing lyrics (which include "Put them all together and they smell... to you?"), which drops us off squarely in the lap of "Kung Fu". Another interesting early version of a later classic, worth hearing, especially the early, guitar solo versions, but not essential. [Pat buzby writes in and notifies me that this version is precisely twice the tempo of the familiar version]
IDIOT BASTARD SON- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume II, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation. This tour's performances seem to be taken at a slightly brisker pace than the Fall '74 "Idiots", though it may just be my imagination. On at least one occasion (2/16), we get the highly topical "Arrogant Dick Nixon" lyrics, which, obviously, pay homage to the USA's fallen president. (Anyone want to transcribe these and send them this way? I'll post 'em.)
INCA ROADS- To make things easier, I will divide this song into two parts- the first part, up through the guitar solo, and the second part, from the end of the guitar solo on. The second part of the song is essentially performed as on OSFA, which apart from differences in the solo section, is how it has appeared since the previous year. We get the standard Duke solo this time out. The first part of the song has the same basic structure as the OSFA version, but with one major, and quite unfortunate, difference. The tune starts off with the same percussion and drum riff as on the official release, and is essentially the same through the vocals and into Frank's guitar solo. But whereas the percussion aspects of the song are underplayed and eventually disappear on the later version, they remain and play a prominent role for the entire first half of this version. All throughout George's vocal parts, and even for the duration of Frank's solo, the same repeating lick is played by Ruth and the drummers, giving the song a very repititive and confined feel. Even Duke's "spacey" keyboards cannot salvage this opening section. The greatest problem with this is the inhibiting effect it has on Frank's solo, thus preventing him from producing one of the epic solos that he would so frequently create on the Fall '74 outing. For me, this is the most disappointing version of the several early takes that we get on this tour. But again, it is possibly worth hearing, but in no way essential.
IS THERE ANYTHING GOOD INSIDE OF YOU?- An early title for "Andy", before "Andy" even had the word Andy in it.
KING KONG- Performed as part of the "King Kong-> Chunga's Revenge-> Mr. Green Genes" medley. It appears here in its fast version (similar to the "Uncle Meat" take, but without the opening vamp, and also as performed on the Spring '78 tour), and simply consists of the main theme followed by a short Duke solo. A far cry from the Monster "King Kong" of other tours.
KUNG FU- Essentially performed as on "The Lost Episodes".
MONTANA- Essentially performed as on "Overnite Sensation", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. These solos were typically quite short this time out, but seemed to always contain quite a bit of energy and high spirits.
MR. GREEN GENES- Performed as part of the "King Kong-> Chunga's Revenge-> Mr. Green Genes" medley. Upon completion of his guitar solo during "Chunga's Revenge", Frank would play the melody to "Mr Green Genes", leading the band into a short instrumental version of this tune, similar to the latter half of the song as it appears on TBBYNHIYL. On previous tours, this song also serves as the opening portion of this particular medley, but sadly we get the truncated version this time out.
PENGUIN IN BONDAGE- Essentially performed as on TBBYNHIYL (the "Roxy" version is edited), allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo.
PYGMY TWYLYTE- Essentially performed as on "Roxy and Elsewhere", with Ruth sounding a lot more prominent (yeah!) on the several performances I have heard. In its entirety, this song actually contains "Dummy Up". While there is a fade-out on the Roxy album, in the actual live context, the band returns to "Pygmy Twylyte" once they have finished with their "Dummy Up" run-through. Upon returning to the tune, they essentially perform the latter half of the song- with vocals- before heading into the always enjoyable "Idiot Bastard Son". The transition into "Idiot Bastard Son" is essentially the same as the transition found on YCDTOSA Volume II.
RDNZL- From the post-solo written section on, this songs essentially appears as it would later be performed on YCDTOSA Volume II. The first half of the tune is quite a bit different, however, though in many ways similar to the "Lost Episodes" release. The short, quick opening section is present at this point, but Ruth's brilliant display of percussion technique is not yet available. Instead, we cut straight to a short Fowler trombone solo (instead of a Ponty solo as on the LE release), followed by a short Frank guitar solo. At this point, we then receive the typical post-solo RDNZL action. While roughly only half the tune is different, this still manages to give the entire song quite a different feel. Without Ruth's mesmerizing solo, and Frank's own full-length, sweeping display of talent, the tune loses a lot of its power. Again, an interesting early version, worth hearing but not necessary.
SOMETHING/ANYTHING- Another early title given to "Andy", before "Andy" even had the word Andy in it.
T'MERSHI DUWEEN- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume II, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
VILLAGE OF THE SUN- This version has two major differences, both of which are found in the strictly instrumental portions of the song. The opening segment sounds altogether different, though it is essentially a rearranged version of the Fall '74 opening segment. It starts off with some random band yelling, before a slow buildup of drums and horns. FZ then steps in, tearing off some licks, with the band solidifying into a brief Disney-esque funk groove. Once the groove is established, the band segues into the main theme as heard on YCDTOSA II. This drops us into the vocal section, which is the same as the Fall '74 version, just not as hectic. Once we get to the solo section, things get weird once again. Brock yells "Mary", there are several seconds of arranged confusion, and a new funk vamp is established. Either Duke or FZ take a very short solo, the two of them trade licks, the band plays a mutated version of the opening theme, and we then return to the closing vocal section. The conclusion of the song is then essentially the same as on the Helsinki show, except for an abruptly performed ending. An interesting version, but inferior to all other "Village" renditions.
I see your points. And yes, I must admit that the adjective I would choose to describe these shows would be "interesting" rather than "brilliant". I think this is the tour I listen to the most, in relation to how many shows I have, but this probably has more to do with their uniqueness and the different versions than the way they're performed. Though I probably like the final versions of Florentine Pogen and Andy (and the earlier version of Village of the Sun) better, I've heard them so many times, that these working versions feel refreshing. Let's not forget the fact that there are no really good sounding tapes from this tour. Maybe a real crisp soundboard that did the band justice would affect our opinions. To never hear what the band really was supposed to sound like might cause us to judge the band too hard. My respect for the fall '80 band increased a lot when I got my hands on the excellent Ft Collins SBD, for instance.