BAND MEMBERS- FZ, Ray White (guitar, vocals), Patrick O'Hearn (bass, vocals), Terry Bozzio (drums, vocals, devil), Eddie Jobson (violin, keyboards), Bianca Odin (amazing vocals, keyboards, vanishing act midway through tour)
SPECIAL GUESTS- Flo and Eddie (vocals, memories), Ralphe Armstrong (bass), Don Brewer (drums)
DATES- October 16th to November 25th
COUNTRIES- 2 (US and Canada)
# OF DIFFERENT SONGS PLAYED- 29
AVERAGE SHOW LENGTH- 105 minutes
AVERAGE # OF FZ SOLOS PER SHOW- 6
SONGS THAT FZ WOULD SOLO IN- Advance Romance, Black Napkins, City of Tiny Lights, Cruisin' for Burgers, Dirty Love, My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama, Muffin Man, Pound for a Brown (on the Bus), Stinkfoot, Titties 'n' Beer, Torture Never Stops, Wonderful Wino, You Didn't Try to Call Me (solo during ending "jam")
COMMENTS ON FZ SOLOS- While this is not a truly great tour as far as Zappa guitar playing goes, it is not all that bad either. Frank is neither particularly inventive nor particularly impassioned this time out, but his solos are consistently well played, are usually quite lengthy, and are given some excellent support by the Bozzio/O'Hearn rhythm section. For your typical Fall '76 show, Frank would solo in "Stinkfoot", "Dirty Love", "The Torture Never stops", and "Black Napkins". The "Stinkfoot" solos are some of the best that this song ever saw, having an edge to them that is not present on other tours. "Dirty Love" contains a short yet worthy workout, and the "Torture" spots, while not yet the epic creations that would appear several tours later, have an offhandness about them that would not be out of place on a Grateful Dead album. "The "Black Napkins" solos are "Yo Mama" type monsters, starting nice and slow, quietly yet surely building to a typically ferocious ending. The occasional "Pound for a Brown's" contain some subtle Frank noodling, "Muffin Man" is your typical show closing barnstormer, and the unfortunately short lived "Advance Romance" finds Frank at his most comfortable.
SONGS THAT FZ USUALLY SOLOED IN BUT DID NOT ON THIS TOUR- None
NEW SONGS ON TOUR (played live for 1st time)- Any Kind of Pain (lyrics only), Bamboozled By Love (lyrics only), City of Tiny Lites, I'm So Cute, Manx Needs Women, The Purple Lagoon, Stranded in the Jungle, Titties 'n' Beer
MONSTER SONGS- In the truest sense of the term, there are no Monster Songs this time out. "Pound for a Brown", the standard Monster staple, is a guitar solo vehicle only this time out, and thus does not qualify. "Black Napkins" appears in its most involved, and solo-filled version, but each performance essentially follows the same solo rotation, and there is no deviation from this pattern. The closest thing we get is the "Advance Romance" performances from the Bianca era, which usually contain some musical fooling around and some spur-of-the-moment intrusions, but nothing that warrants true Monster status
OVERVIEW- This is a pretty good tour. Not great, mind you- as it is lacking in several areas- but good enough to warrant a close listen, and well worth acquiring several tapes, for you tape collectors. Even though there are some negative aspects to this tour, there are a couple aspects that are unique to this tour that overcome any of the negatives. Like the majority of the late '70's tours, the setlists are essentially the same nightly. Thus, if you are not fond of the tunes, you will suffer. Frank does mix-up the latter portion of each show, however, juggling several songs nightly, but considering that only 28 songs are played throughout the entire tour, there is not much juggling he can do. Even though many of the songs have grown or would grow rather tired, here they appear with some new twist that revitalizes and renews the interest in them. "Stinkfoot" contains some rather exotic guitar playing, "Dirty Love" and "Advance Romance" contain Bianca's excellent singing (for a short duration), and "Black Napkins" finds Eddie's violin replacing Brock's saxophone, and thus giving a new twist to the whole affair. Frank's guitar playing is not as intense and focused as it would be several tours later, but it is more than competent, with the rhythm section managing to push his soloing to much higher levels. But more than anything, there is one aspect of this tour that infects it with a highly contagious and energetic attitude. This aspect is the presence of Bianca. On the two aforementioned tunes ("Advance Romance" and "Dirty Love"), plus on the revisited Flo 'n' Eddie material, and especially on the vocal tour-de-force "You Didn't Try to Call Me", Bianca is simply a force to be reckoned with. As good as Ray is, he simply does not do what Bianca does to a song. Frank even respects her talent enough to give her a vocal solo in "Black Napkins", letting her start the improvisational festivities with her voice. Her energetic manner and dynamic presence affects the entire show, revitalising old songs, giving Frank something new to talk about, and opening up an entire new aspect to the FZ concert experience. Unfortunately, she would depart halfway through the tour, and the shows do suffer as a result. Interestingly enough, once this unexpected departure occurs, Frank starts shaking up the setlists, and in the handful of shows after Bianca's flight, 2 songs are dropped and 3 are added to the rotation. Apart from Bianca's presence (and or absence), this is still a worthwhile tour. While the songs are obviously well-rehearsed and well-played, there is a relaxed feel to this tour, and one always gets the sense that Frank and the band are enjoying themselves. They joke around, they all get a chance to solo, they do a little bit of everything. Not a great band, not great setlists- but good enough, and fun enough, to take some time and listen to.
ADVANCE ROMANCE- This may be the tour for this song, though it sadly only sticks around for a couple of weeks. Essentially played as it is always played, with Bianca on vocals. For the solo section, things start off oddly enough with an O'Hearn solo, which actually is quite good. Frank eventually joins in, starting nice and slow before building to a typically frenzied ending. The drummer then gets a little, before we head back into the song proper. This tune has a very loose feel to it this time out, and thus we get "In-a-gadda-da-poodle", "Any Kind of Pain", "Punky Whips", and various tomfoolery during its short, two week residency in the repertoire. If I may digress, it is during the frenzied build-up in Frank's solo that I came to the realisation that Bozzio/O'Hearn may be the best rhythm team that Frank ever had. They complement each other very well.
ANY KIND OF PAIN- Not played as such, but during a 10/24 performance of "Advance Romance", Frank and Bianca sing a simplified version of the chorus, while O'Hearn plays the supporting bass part.
BAMBOOZLED BY LOVE- Not played as such, but several of the lyrics are recited by Frank at the end of a 10/24 "City of Tiny Lites".
BLACK NAPKINS- A solo tour-de-force. Things start off nice and calm, with the short opening vamp followed by Frank playing a simple, understated version of the main theme. Bianca, during her short stint, would open the improv festivities with some smooth and low jazz singing. Next up, and first in the Bianca-less days, Jobson shows us how to satisfy on the violin, and proves that not all violin solos have to sound the same (yeah, Ponty). Finally, we get Frank. Coming hot-on-the-heels of Jobson's typically incendiary workouts, Frank manages to impress without Freaking Out, bringing the energy level back down before slowly raising it up once again.
CAMARILLO BRILLO- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume VI, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the typically fast first half, and the arena rock slow second half.
CITY OF TINY LITES- Essentially performed as on "Conceptual Continuity" from Beat the Boots Volume II, with the standard deviation coming in Ray's solos, and in Frank's occasional solos during the waning days of the tour. In typical Ray style, his solo includes some vocal accompianment, with Ray doing some excellent scat singing over his somewhat lengthy and accomplished solos. While the post-solo vocals do not contain the musical flourishes that the early '80's versions do, these closing vocals are markedly different than other '70's versions, thanks to Ray's typically soaring vocal performance.
CRUISIN' FOR BURGERS- Essentially performed as on ZINY, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. The instrumental version, and did this tune ever rock harder.
DADDY DADDY DADDY- Essentially played as on "200 Motels", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation. Flo and Eddie appear during the 11/19 show, reclaiming the role they made their own, and performing this tune among others. Note that this tune was not only played on 11/19, but is also a part of the normal touring repertoire.
DINAH-MO HUMM- Essentially played as on "Overnite Sensation", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
DIRTY LOVE- Essentially performed as on "Conceptual Continuity" from Beat the Boots Volume II, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's short solo. Bianca's voice graced this tune for her short stint, with Frank returning to the vocal job in her absence.
FIND HER FINER- Essentially performed as on "Zoot Allures", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation. After the wonderful reworking of this tune for the '88 tour, all other versions of this song are simply way too lethargic and laid back for my taste. This tour's version (which is actually the only other version, right?) makes me want to run to my CD player and pop on "The Best Band", just to hear that wonderfully bouncy and energetic "Find Her Finer" that the '88 band saw fit to resurrect. [Having given this tune a second listen, it is not that bad. A little sparser than the "Zoot Allures" version, taken at a very casual pace, it definitely does not compare to the '88 version, but better than the overproduced studio version.]
HONEY DON'T YOU WANT A MAN LIKE ME?- Essentially performed as on "Lather", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
I'M SO CUTE- A beast of an altogether different nature. Sounds like "Frank Zappa plays the music of The Rolling Stones". The tune starts off with a typical Charlie Watts 4/4 drum beat, with Frank and Ray setting up the tune with some distorted chords. Bozzio sings the same lyrics, but in an entirely different style (sounds like a Stones song, I tell you). The lines "Everybody, see his hair..." essentially serve as the chorus, with Bianca singing along beautifully in the back. We return to the "verses", Bozzio yells "Die, you ugly fuckers", and then we get a short but intense Jobson violin solo. The immediate post-solo vocals sound as if Bozzio is just improvising, before he leads us into the "Ugly is bad..." rant. After this, the song then gets really weird. In what could be called "Music that sounds like Hell", Jobson and Bozzio create a very slow, intense atmosphere, at which point Frank repeats the "Ugly is bad" mantra, and starts chanting "Hot burning fire". This part is hauntingly eerie, and manages to recreate what the soundtrack of Hell would probably sound like. Finally, this quickly dissolves into a Mystery Word section reminiscent of "White Person" from YCDTOSA Volume VI. On the whole, a very interesting and possible superior "I'm So Cute" experience.
MANX NEEDS WOMEN- Essentially performed as on ZINY, and referred to on this tour as "Mars Needs Women", or even "Mars Needs Yo Mama".
MY GUITAR WANTS TO KILL YOUR MAMA- Jon Naurin sends us this late-breaking news- "Just a short piece of information: I got a fabulous tape of the early Halloween '76 show yesterday, and among many goodies it included "My Guitar wants to kill your Mama". Quite similar to the spring '77 arrangement, but Bianca's voice adds flavour to the vocal harmonies of course. Great guitar solo!"
MUFFIN MAN- Essentially performed as on "Bongo Fury", from the live portion on, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo.
POODLE RAP- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume VI, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's lecture. Frank seems to have more fun on this tour with this lecture than he does on other tours, more frequently deviating from the written script. He frequently indulges his muse, and thus over the course of the tour, we get talks about Poodle racing, travelling with band, hair-dressing, and, of course, the irreplaceable John Smothers.
POUND FOR A BROWN (ON THE BUS)-Essentially performed as on ZINY, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. This does not appear as its normal Monster self this time out, but only serves as a Frank guitar solo vehicle. It does a good job at this, however, with Frank producing some interesting solos in the handful of performances that we get.
PURPLE LAGOON, THE- This song is used as the opening number of each show, which Frank would use as the background music to the band introductions. It also frequently found itself as the closing tune of each set, and as the closing tune of the encores. Obviously, this is not the full-blown extravaganza that we have on ZINY, but just a short run-through of the main theme.
RUDY WANTS TO BUY YEZ A DRINK- Essentially performed as on "Chunga's Revenge", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation. Flo and Eddie appear during the 11/19 show, and relive their glorious past through this and other songs. During the rest of the tour, however, Frank does a more than adequate job of singing in place of Flo 'n' Eddie.
STINKFOOT- Essentially performed as on "Conceptual Continuity" from Beat the Boots Volume II. This version has a heavier guitar sound than most, with an extended "Bring me the slippers" section, and that rather annoying and worthless Poodle Rap. Frank's guitar playing, however, seems to be especially wicked for this tour's "Stinkfoot", and thus manages to barely redeem all of this versions excesses. But just barely.
STRANDED IN THE JUNGLE- Simply one of the better cover tunes that Frank ever did, in this reporter's humble opinion. Pure 50's pop, complete with Tarzan yells and those weird spoken interludes of which 50's pop is so fond. A silly tale of a man looking for Lover's Lane who gets stranded in the jungle, it is well sung by Frank and includes some hilarious interjections by Ray and Bianca. One of those "Why wasn't this on the Stage series?" candidates.
TITTIES 'N' BEER- Essentially performed as on ZINY, with the standard deviation coming in Frank and Terry Ted's middle-of-the-song bargaining session. AND, on at least one occasion (10/29), Frank performs a short yet somewhat violent song-ending solo that shades the entire song a whole new color of evil, and redeems having to listen to the entire song yet again. Frank frequently calls the song "Chrissy Puked Twice", referring to a different, never released verse which describes the abuse of drugs and a vomitting girlfriend. Bianca, during her stint, plays Chrissy, and thus sings the appropriate lines.
TORTURE NEVER STOPS, THE- Essentially performed as on "Conceptual Continuity" from Beat the Boots Volume II, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. The '76 "Torture's" are taken at a very relaxed pace, and thus Frank's solos have quite a different flavor to them. Being a Grateful Dead fan, I have always found these solos to be very reminiscent of the Dead, having that particularly laid-back "hippy" quality. Bozzio and O'Hearn typically manage to infuse the latter portion of each solo with a climatic surge, but on the whole, these "Torture's" maintain a rather subdued quality.
TRYIN' TO GROW A CHIN- Essentially performed as on "Lather".
WHAT KIND OF GIRL DO YOU THINK WE ARE?- Essentially performed as on "Fillmore East, June 1971", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation. Flo and Eddie appear during the 11/19 show, and reclaim the roles that they made famous. But other than this show, this tune is amazingly enough a staple of the tour, with Frank and Bianca doing the role-playing- Bianca obviously playing the part of the groupie.
WIND UP WORKING IN A GAS STATION- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume VI, with adjustments made in the vocal department upon the departure of Bianca. As the YCDTOSA version of his tune shows, Bianca has a wonderful effect on Frank's music. Compare this tour's version of this song to the Spring '76 performances (which are Bianca-less)- it's like comparing the Three Tenors to a kindergarten choral group.
WONDERFUL WINO- This tune only rears its head several times on this tour, and while it is nice to hear, it makes us long for the more energetic Flo 'n' Eddie performances (say it isn't so). It is essentially performed as on "Zoot Allures", though at a slightly more upbeat tempo, and with the standard deviation coming in the song-ending guitar solo. Frank's vocals are weak, his "I-can't-play-and-sing-at-the-same-time" limitations lend the song an unwanted staccato effect, and Bianca's backing vocals only serve to remind you of what a real singer sounds like. Again, it is a welcome treat amidst the otherwise limited setlists, but sadly, not as successful as it could have been.. [Jon Naurin has this to say- "FZ delivers the guitar riff very powerfully, which is more than can be said about the vocals. Now that we've become spoilt by Lancelotti's treatment, FZ's sounds rather lame. For the chorus, Bianca adds some flavour, making you wish that the song would be about a Wino Girl instead. A short and not too exciting solo concludes the song."]
WOULD YOU GO ALL THE WAY?- Essentially performed as on "Chunga's Revenge", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation. Though this is amazingly enough a frequently played number on this tour, it also appears during the legendary "Flo and Eddie returns" 11/19 show, and thus is performed as it was always meant to be performed (though where is George's trombone when we need it?).
YOU DIDN'T TRY TO CALL ME?- THE reason to track down a tape from the Bianca portion of this tour- this is a Bianca tour-de-force. This ultimate version of this song starts off nice and simple, with Bianca singing her lungs out before even finishing the first "You." She just wails, producing some of the most beautiful vocal gymnastics that any Frank vocalist ever attempted, let alone succeeded at. Once the song proper starts, it's just her and keyboards, before the remainder of the band slowly enters, here some drums, here some guitar. Ray joins in at one point, creating a spine-tingling duet, before Frank decides to completely ruin the mood. What is this- ska? We're into the fast version of this tune now, with Bianca still doing a great job, but the sultry mood completely ruined. Wait, now its the arena rock version, nice and slow but a little too dramatic. Wait, we're turning again, this time into reggae. Please no, not reggae. All seems lost, though Bianca's ad-libbing and Frank's soloing help salvage some dignity. Then, before Frank can do anymore damage, the tune ends. What we have here is possibly the greatest half of singing that a Frank tune ever saw witness to (amen!), followed by a horrible example of what an overactive imagination can do. Still, despite the ugly spectre of FZ reggae rearing its head, we have a "must hear" performance. Hear that Gail.
Actually, my feelings for these tours are pretty similar to yours - a certain kind of ambivalence. I think you summed up this ambivalence pretty well by writing "this is not a great band", while still praising Bianca and Ray (probably my fave singing combo), the rhythm section (great - I agree), and gives Jobson credit as well. I like this band a lot, probably better than you (than you like it, that is!), and the major reason might be Jobson - I love his efforts on both the violin and keyboards. Both of his moog solos on ZINY are among my favourite non-Zappa solos, and his "Black Napkins" solos are among the most magical moments in my tape collection. Still, I must admit that there's something lacking (sounds like the 1974 #1, doesn't it?), and it has surely to do with the lack of onstage personality as you pointed out - especially after Bianca's departure. But I also think they suffered from the lack of different instruments, the same way the 1975/76 and spring '80 bands did. No horns, no percussion - just the underused violin (guess a 2nd keyboardist wouldn't have hurt). Still, I must say these bands sounds interesting compared to FZ's other smaller touring combos, much because of Bianca while she was in, and Jobson's different keyboard sounds. I love his use of clavinet on "City of Tiny Lites", for example. How great this band could've sounded is proved in the Dec. shows, with horn and percussion sections. The ZINY-band is probably my overall favourite line-up, though I don't count it as a tour on its own (I do understand why you wanted to divide it this way, though).