BAND MEMBERS- FZ, Steve Vai (stunt guitar, sitar, spankings), Ray White (vocals, guitar), Scott Thunes (bass), Chad Wackerman (drums), Ed Mann (percussion, vocals, Mystery Words, Dylan), Tommy Mars (keyboards), Bobby Martin (keyboards, sax)
SPECIAL GUESTS- Al Dimeola (guitar, Italianness), Ahmet Zappa (reptilian inspiration), Nicolas Slonimsky (piano), Lisa Popeil (occasional vocals, autobiography)
DATES- September 27th- December 13th
COUNTRIES- 2 (US and Canada)
# OF DIFFERENT SONGS PLAYED- 71
AVERAGE SHOW LENGTH- 120 minutes
AVERAGE # OF FZ SOLOS PER SHOW- 8
SONGS FZ WOULD SOLO IN- Alien Orifice, Bamboozled By Love, Black Napkins, The Black Page # 2, City of Tiny Lites, Chunga's Revenge, Cosmik Debris, The Deathless Horsie, Drowning Witch, Dumb All Over, Easy Meat, Illinois Enema Bandit, King Kong, Nig Biz, Pound for a Brown (on the Bus), Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, Sharleena, Sinister Footwear II, Stevie's Spanking, Suicide Chump, The Torture Never Stops, Treacherous Cretins, Watermelon in Easter Hay, What's New in Baltimore?, Whippin' Post, Yo Mama, Zoot Allures
COMMENTS ON FZ SOLOS- This tour stands out for one simple reason- the "Drowning Witch-> What's New in Baltimore?" combo. These two songs- both '81 virgins- contain some of Frank's most mangled and poignant guitar solos ever, respectively. The "Drowning Witch" solos are frequently quite nasty, with Frank forcing his guitar to make noises that no self-respecting guitar should ever make. "What's New in Baltimore?", following hot-on-the-heels of the blasphemous "Drowning Witch" excursions, is Frank at his most stately, producing the ultimate manifesto on the condition of the US government (without using a single word, of course). Every show containing this combination is worth tracking down just for this 15 minutes of music alone. Seriously. Apart from these songs, Frank consistently produces many other brilliant pieces of guitar work. "Easy Meat", "Sinister Footwear", "Sharleena", and "The Black Page #2" represent Frank at his grittiest, displaying a new sense of experimentation that would only get crazier on the following tour. Several classics are present- "Black Napkins", "The Torture Never Stops", "Treacherous Cretins", "Watermelon in Easter Hay"- inspiring Frank as always, along with several new tunes- "Alien Orifice", "Sexual Harassment in the Workplace", "Whippin Post"- which prove to be just as essential as the oldies. The only real disappointments- and they are only slight at that- are Frank's "Yo Mama" attempts. These performances are a treat to hear, but Frank never manages to create the show-stopping crescendos that he did in the Spring '78 "Yo Mama's". A very minor complaint for a very major, guitar playing tour.
SONGS THAT FZ USUALLY SOLOED IN BUT DID NOT ON THIS TOUR- Montana (no solo since '77)
NEW SONGS ON TOUR (performed live for 1st time)- Alien Orifice, Clownz on Velvet, Cocaine Decisions, Fine Girl, Frogs With Dirty Little Lips, Lisa's Life Story, Nig Biz, Ride Like the Wind, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, Sinister Footwear II, Stevie's Spanking, Teenage Prostitute, What's New in Baltimore?
MONSTER SONGS- King Kong, Pound for a Brown (on the Bus); Performed as all Monster songs should be performed- with percussion solos, keyboard solos, scat and random vocal madness, special guests, and the obligatory yet fulfilling Frank "wrapping-it-up" guitar solo.
OVERVIEW- The first punch of a deadly combination, and unfortunately, the last indisputable knockout of Frank's career. This tour- combined with the '82 outing- saw witness to some of Frank's most emotional, experimental, and downright ferocious music. To begin with, the band is simply fantastic. Several seasoned veterans, bringing their years of experience to the forefront; a new rhythm section, immediately clicking together as a solid yet flexible unit, and performing at their peak; and Steve Vai, probably the most inspirational sideman that Frank had hired in years. Listen to any show from the Summer '80 tour, and check out the attitude, the guitar playing, and the general feel of the "You Are What You Is" compositions. Jump ahead one year, and check out this band. Vai has permeated every aspect of Frank's show, forcing the head Mother to up the ante and demand much more of both his band and himself. (Unfortunately, when Vai leaves for browner pastures, there remains a great hole that is never truly filled). Secondly, set lists are consistently excellent. While we do tend to get a little too much "You Are What You Is", at least we get these tunes performed with confidence and energy. Also, they tend to inhabit the earlier portion of each show, allowing the show to really heat up once the obligatory album cuts are performed. Epic guitar solos, classic songs, long forgotten oldies, Monster songs- Frank throws it all into the soup, and boy does it taste good. Last, but definitely not least, Frank is at his guitar playing peak. For the duration of this and the following tour, Frank is playing guitar like he's never played before, making sounds he has never made before, going places he has never gone before. We get a picture of a man in complete control of his instrument, doing the things that he probably always dreamed of doing. What more could you ask for.
ALIEN ORIFICE- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume VI, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo.
BAMBOOZLED BY LOVE- Essentially played as on "Tinseltown Rebellion", accounting for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Bobby handled the vocal chores on this one.
BEAUTY KNOWS NO PAIN- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III. Always played as part three of that particular four song, YAWYI suite. Frank's "Hi'ya girls" line was subject to change at the whim of Frank.
BLACK NAPKINS- Essentially performed as on "As An Am" from Beat the Boots volume one, with the standard deviation coming in the Frank's guitar solo. For this tune, the band would play the opening vamp for approximately thirty seconds- sort-of a little warm-up- before playing the main theme. Frank would solo after the theme, and the band would return back to the theme once Frank's solo was complete.
BLACK PAGE #2, THE- A guitar monster. Until sometime between November 1st and the 13th (anyone know the exact date?), the solo vamp was the same as the one used on the "As An Am" version of this song. A pretty straightforward vamp, producing a nice segue out of the actual tune itself. Then, from sometime in that period through the rest of the tour, we get the "Them or Us" vamp that was used on the YCDTOSA Volume V version. As far as the solos go, they were all consistently excellent throughout the tour, though with the change of vamp they become a little more experimental and "out there". They never reached the frenetic peaks that the '82 solos frequently did, but they were chaotic excursions, nonetheless.
BLUE LIGHT, THE- Essentially played as on "Tinseltown Rebellion", accounting for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's middle-of-the-song tirade. Like "Billy the Mountain" years earlier, Frank incorporated knowledge of local areas and daily band happenings into his vocal parts, giving each performance its own unique flavor despite the similarities in music and structure.
BOBBY BROWN GOES DOWN- Yes, the same version we have all grown to know and love. No changes, but with a story as perfect as this, why should there be?
BROKEN HEARTS ARE FOR ASSHOLES- The basic structure of this song is the same as on "Sheik Yerbouti". Unfortunately, however, there are some minor changes that really affect the mood of the tune. Things start off as normal, with the aggressive guitar riff. But almost immediately, things start to look bad as Terry Ted's aggressive "Hey! Do you know what you are?" taunt becomes a keyboard driven, whiny little tease. Same lyrics, just a completely different attitude. The verses follow-performed as always- but with a differently arranged chorus. Again, same lyrics, but this time accompanied by an overplayed, metal-tinged swing groove, which, by the way, works. Back to the annoying whine, and then the normal verse. The middle spoken section is also performed as normal (but lacks O'Hearn's frequently hilarious remarks), with an added disco vamp following the "work the wall with Michael" line. Finally, the conclusion of the song also takes us through familiar territory. Overall, the satirically played swing vamp in the chorus works, but the wimpy pre-verse yell and the absence of O'Hearn cause this version to suffer. Definitely worth hearing, as it is stylistically quite different from the majority of the material, but not as strong as the '70's version.
CAMARILLO BRILLO- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume VI, accounting for obvious differences in instrumentation, with the normal first half/ arena- rock-slow second half. ["Muffin Man" was probably scheduled to be performed, but the performance of "Camarillo Brillo" (and the entire concert) is cut short when someone throws a nickel onto the stage.]
CHARLIE'S ENORMOUS MOUTH- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume III. This song was always played as part four of that particular YAWYI four part suite
CHUNGA'S REVENGE- Essentially performed as a show opening, guitar solo vehicle. The song begins rather calmly, with the bass-prominent main theme and no abrupt guitar intro as on the studio release. Once the main theme is played through, then we get the aforementioned guitar part, which drops us off into Frank's solo. Upon the conclusion of the solo, the bass theme is then used as the vamp for the band introductions.
CITY OF TINY LITES- A monster version of this tune, essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume V, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo, and in the conducted-by-Frank theatrics of the post-solo section. Throughout the tour, there were standard vamps and musical dramatics that the band would perform in the post solo section, but the order, length, and arrangement of these parts were not the same nightly. Frank reconstructed the song at each performance, maintaining a slight regularity, but not simply repeating the same dramatics in each performance. For this tour, this post-solo section is not as overdone as on the following tour, as the rhythm section seems oblivious to what the rest of the band is doing. Despite the madness that is going all around them, Thunes and Wackerman keep a steady beat going throughout. The guitar solo in this version contains the "Carlos Santana Secret Chord Progression" solo vamp.
CLOSER YOU ARE, THE- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume IV, accounting for obvious differences in instrumentation.
CLOWNZ ON VELVET- Essentially performed as an instrumental version of the "Thingfish" track, with the inclusion of another great Italian guitar solo, by none other then Al Dimeola. The entire song is played once through (with not as much emphasis on Ed's percussion as on the studio track), before Al steps up and takes a quite lengthy solo over an active vamp and rhythm section. Upon the conclusion of his solo, the song is played once again, and then it ends. An excellent version of an oft overlooked song, and another "why wasn't this on the Stage series" candidate.
COCAINE DECISIONS- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume III, minus the gas bombs and pleas for calm.
COSMIK DEBRIS- Essentially played as always, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's guitar solo. Unfortunately, we get the reggae-tinged "price of meat" section, made so unpopular by the '84 band.
DANCING FOOL- Yes, it's the same version we all have come to know and love. A rare guest on this tour, apparently rearing its disco head on Halloween only, and then in the middle of the set on the final date of the tour. A trick, or a treat?
DANGEROUS KITCHEN, THE- Essentially performed as on "Man from Utopia", with the standard deviation coming with the nature of a "sprechstimme" production.
DEATHLESS HORSIE, THE- Essentially performed as on SUNPYG, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo.
DINAH-MO HUMM- Thanks to some fools in the audience, Frank decided to play this time-honored classic one time only this tour- on 11/19. Essentially performed as always (and probably just as funny), accounting for obvious differences in instrumentation.
DONG WORK FOR YUDA- Essentially performed as on "Joe's Garage", acounting for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with deviation in the order of the end-of-song utterances. Frank takes over Terry Ted's Bald Headed John role, and in all honesty, he just does not do quite as good a job. Still, a nice treat, apparently only played once- at 11/15.
DOREEN- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume V.
DROWNING WITCH- Essentially performed as on SATLTSADW, with the standard deviation coming in both of Frank's solos; and since Frank claims that no live band ever performed this classic correctly, we also get the standard deviation in the errors that were inevitably made. Making its first full- blown appearance on this tour (it was played once on the Fall '80 tour), this song comes out of the gates a true barnstormer. The written portion of the tune sounds great (at least to my ears), and the solos are fantastic. Frank typically starts off both solos slow, giving you the impression that he is playing his guitar, when in actuality he is killing it. Before long, you realize that the guitar is being strangled, with the most obscene yet beautiful notes emanating from its neck. This guitar abuse goes on for awhile before Frank finally lets up, allowing the guitar to gasp desperately for some much needed breaths of air. Simply exhilarating guitar playing..
DUMB ALL OVER- Essentially performed as on "Have I Offended Someone?", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Towards the end of tour, Frank got lazy and dropped the solo from the song, and thus we got an immediate segue into "Heavenly Bank Account". This is one of the reasons why tape collecting was so essential for the Frank Freak- in order to hear one of Frank's typically kickin' DAO solos. Why he chose to edit these solos out of both the YCDTOSA and YAWYI CD versions, we may never know. But thankfully, Ryko has saw fit to see to it that we get our DAO solo, and now everybody is happy.
EASY MEAT- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume V, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. The Vai/Mars combination on the pre-solo "classical" part is deadly, and Frank's solos are simply all over the place. Another of those instances where Frank sounds as if he is torturing his guitar, with cries of pain and pleas for help escaping from the guitar's neck.
ENVELOPES- Essentially performed as on SATLTSADW. For the first couple weeks of the tour, however, Chad played along in a majestic waltz style, and later switched to the inevitable reggae accompaniment (as on SATLTSADW) that we all know and love. [Thanks to Pat Buzby, who likes the reggae rhythm better, for this info].
FINE GIRL- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume I, with Bobby's beautiful falsetto floating through the latter half of the proceedings.
FLAKES- During most of this tour, this song occurs roughly an hour into the set, after a long series of YAWYI tunes and other very recently released or unreleased material. Because of this particular placement, "Flakes" continually receives an enthusiastic and hearty response from the crowd. "Hey, we know this song!" they collectively cry, upping the energy directed towards the band and giving a much needed boost to morale. As a result, these are some of the strongest and most impressive performances of the tour. Nothing particulary outrageous happens, but it is obvious that the band feeds off the audience's enthusiasm, and as a result, each "Flakes" comes across strong and dangerous. It is essentially performed as on "Sheik Yerbouti", accounting for obvious differences in instrumentation. Ed Mann does the Dylan routine instead of the long departed Belew.
FROGS WITH DIRTY LITTLE LIPS- Essentially performed as on "Them or Us", including various pond sound effects. Performed three times in the last four shows, and only as the closing encore. Ahmet does some interpretive dancing during one performance.
GOBLIN GIRL- Essentially performed as on YAWYI- the first half only, unfortunately. Precisely at the point where the song would segue into the transcendent multi-vocal section, Frank would conclude this tour's version of this piece and head straight into the transcendent multi-rhythm section of the show known as "The Black Page #2".
HARDER THAN YOUR HUSBAND- Essentially performed as on YAWYI, with Frank handling the lead vocal chores instead of Jimmy Carl Black.
HEAVENLY BANK ACCOUNT- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume I.
ILLINOIS ENEMA BANDIT- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume VI, accounting for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solos. The vocals were not as tweaked as on the aforementioned version, as this band was not as inclined towards Secret Word usage as the '84 band. Also, the guitar solo section typically consisted of two separate vamps. The first vamp was the standard "Illinois" vamp, smoothly flowing out of the vocal section. During the course of the solo, the band would then segue into the second vamp, which consisted of a keyboard heavy rhythm reminiscent of the "Marqueson's Chicken" vamp.
I'M A BEAUTIFUL GUY- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III. This song was always played as part two of that particular YAWYI four song suite.
I'M THE SLIME- First of all, there is no guitar solo. Negative point number one. Two, there is a cheesy, overplayed swing vamp about a third of the way through, which abruptly halts the flow of the song and thus, is negative point number two. There is a short, noisy avant-garde section after the "That's right, folks" line (this is a positive point), but being that this version lacks the opening guitar rave-up, that point is cancelled out. So, what do we get overall? Not much. [Patrick Buzby describes the 11/1 performance- the first of the 80's-" "I'm The Slime" is radically rearranged in places, and not very effectively - the audience sounds confused and barely applauds when it's done."]
JOE'S GARAGE- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III, accounting for obvious differences in instrumentation.
JOHNNY DARLING- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume IV, accounting for obvious differences in instrumentation.
JUMBO GO AWAY- Essentially performed as on YAWYI.
KING KONG- A true monster, containing a little bit of everything. The main theme was essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III- the slow, reggae version. Ed Mann was typically first in line for solos, and seemed to be the leader in the occasional Mystery Word section (obviously conducted by Frank, though). The keyboardists were next- with both Bobby and Tommy exercising their vocal and scat skills when possible. Occasionally, Scott and Chad would get a chance to duel it out; and, of course, Papa Frank concluded the festivities with an always ferocious guitar solo over the tried-and-true King Kong vamp.
LISA'S LIFE STORY- This performance took place during a "Pound for a Brown" at the 12/11 late show. The version that we have on YCDTOSA Volume VI is an edited take on this one time only performance, with roughly two minutes of the "song" edited from various parts.
LOVE OF MY LIFE- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume IV, accounting for obvious differences in instrumentation. The perfect example of YCDTOSA Criterion # 7- a song that provides contrast and relief. In a concert chock full of odd time signatures, in-yer-face guitar solos, and offbeat and irreverent humor, this two-minute ditty of love and romance- with a beautiful falsetto floating through the second half- is quite a healthy breath of sincerity (almost).
MAN FROM UTOPIA, THE- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume IV.
MARY LOU- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume IV.
MEEK SHALL INHERIT NOTHING, THE- Essentially played as on YAWYI, and like I have said before, Denny Walley's slide is sorely missed.
MOGGIO- Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume V, and always followed "What's New In Baltimore?". [Note the similarities between the 2 songs- they actually contain the same, short musical theme. Prior to the '81 tour, the '80's bands frequently rehearsed a tune known as "The Mystery Studio Song". "Moggio" and "WNIB?" are the two offspring of this creation.]
MONTANA- Imagine this song- performed as it was in 1974- performed again in 1981, when Frank Zappa is in top guitar playing form. Imagine the guitar extravaganzas- the spellbinding excursions of fretboard majestry- that would erupt during the course of this song. Eardrums would bleed, eyeballs would bulge, frontal lobes would shrink from over stimulation. But wait- Montana was performed! In '81!! When Frank was at his guitar playing peak!!! The solos- imagine the solos!!!! Wait- there are no solos? None? At all? Are you kidding? What kind of cruel joke is this? Aaaaaaaah!!!!
MUDD CLUB- Essentially performed as on YAWYI, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's middle of the song tirade.
NIG BIZ- Can Ray White sing, or what? Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III, with the standard deviations coming in the somewhat standard solos. For me, this short, rotating solo format- which Frank also used in the '80's "Suicide Chumps"- simply does not work. As we know from the Monster Songs, Frank's band members are capable of soloing at length while maintaining a high interest level, and thus there is no reason to limit their solos. By the time the soloists get any momentum built up, the plug is pulled and we're on to the next person. I believe that this song would have been better served by one lengthier, more intense solo (be it guitar, keyboards, sax), or a more elaborately written vocal part. Other than that, I love this tune.
POUND FOR A BROWN (ON THE BUS)- Once a Monster, always a Monster- at least as far as this song goes. Essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume V, with the standard deviations coming in the solos. Ray White usually got his chance to shine in this tune, displaying both his guitar and scat skills. Ed Mann did his percussion thing, which was usually more interesting for the band accompaniment than for the actual solo itself (is this why Ruth hated to solo?). The keyboardists occasionally got a stab at the gold, and, of course, Frank brought the party to a hearty climax with a typically smokin' solo. Like all good Monsters, this tune has an anything goes feel to it, and thus, during the course of the tour, we get Lisa's Life Story, the revered Nicholas Slonimsky whipping it out (for an unforgivably short duration), and "Zappa the Pimp", where Frank attempts to make a Love Connection between a crew member and a girl from the audience.
RIDE LIKE THE WIND- A one time only performance of a Christopher Cross song- from the monster 11/17 show. Having just finished the world premiere of "Clownz on Velvet", Frank also decides to premiere this tune, in order to practice for the upcoming Santa Monica show in which Mr. Cross was scheduled to appear with the band (Chris was a childhood friend of Arthur Barrow, and, when Arthur played this song for Frank, Frank proceeded to write- in a matter of minutes- "Teenage Wind," as a response to the inanity of Chris's hit. Sadly, Chris never performed at the Santa Monica show.) Brian the roadie manages to secure the role of singing the tune, and does a better than average job. The tune is essentially performed as in the original, with one striking difference. Al Dimeola is still on guitar- having stuck around after playing on "Clownz on Velvet"- and his extremely fast and highly pyrotechnic soloing provides quite a contrast to this middle-of-the-road, contemporary tune. Very entertaining.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE- Essentially performed as on "Guitar", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. This guitar solo vehicle was only performed twice- at the late show of the last two concert dates for this tour.
SHARLEENA- Essentially performed as "As An Am" from Beat the Boots volume one. One of Frank's great "let's-bring-this-tune-back" decisions. Not having seen the light of day since the Flo 'n' Eddie days, this revamped with guitar solo "Sharleena" is one of the guitar highlights of the eighties. Unfortunately, this tour's, along with the '82 tour's, versions have an edge to them that is lost on subsequent tours. While I enjoy the '84 performances and solos, the '81 and '82 "Sharleena's" have a rough quality that really adds to the flavor of the song. Even though this band is obviously well-rehearsed and very professional, they still manage to maintain quite a bit of passion and fury. This tune greatly benefits from this emotional charge.
SINISTER FOOTWEAR II- Essentially performed as on "Them or Us" with the standard deviation coming in Frank's always incendiary guitar solo. There is one major difference, however. At some point between the 10/31 and 11/17 shows, the guitar solo switches locations in the song. For the first portion of the tour, the solo takes place after the keyboard-only vamp that precedes the solo on the aforementioned release. Hence, the song is performed as normal until the keyboard part, at which point we get a guitar solo. When the solo is finished, the song then jumps to the written portion that normally follows the solo. At some point between the above dates, the second vamp is added, the guitar solo is relocated, and we get the "Sinister Footwear" that we know and love. Whether we get the first or the second version, however, we always receive some very well played and quite sinister sounding solos. Not as tweaked as on the following tour, but noteworthy nonetheless.
SOCIETY PAGES- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume III. This song was always performed as part one of this particular YAWYI four song suite.
STEVIE'S SPANKING- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume IV, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's and Stevie's solos. While these performances are not as lengthy and chaotic as the '82 performances, Frank and Steve still frequently go head-to-head in an all out heavy metal battle.
STRICTLY GENTEEL- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume VI.
SUICIDE CHUMP- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume I, with the standard deviation coming in the various solos.
TEENAGE PROSTITUTE- Essentially performed as on SATLTSADW, with Bobby performing the vocal chores when Lisa was not available (i.e. most of the tour).
TEENAGE WIND- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume IV.
THIS IS MY STORY- A harmless, little 50's tune, performed a handful of times throughout the tour.
TINSELTOWN REBELLION- For the most part, this song was essentially performed as on "Tinseltown Rebellion".
TORTURE NEVER STOPS- Essentially performed as on "As An Am" from Beat the Boots volume one, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. This was the "sprechstimme" version, with the second verse rearranged and given that "Dangerous Kitchen" sort-of feel. While I don't particularly like the Zappa "sprechstimme" phase, there is something else about this version of "Torture" that bothers me. It does not seem to have any energy. While it is performed in the same slow-type style as YCDTOSA volume I, it does not have the calm power of that version, nor the hazy jam feel of the '76 version. Instead, it is just slow. The "sprechstimme" verse throws a little flavor into the mix, but not enough to salvage the remainder of the song. The solos are lengthy, but not particularly powerful. Essentially, this version is just not quite up to "Torture" standards.
TREACHEROUS CRETINS- Essentially performed as on SUAPYG, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Steve Vai plays the sitar as he performs the repeated arpeggio.
TRYIN' TO GROW A CHIN- Essentially performed as on "Sheik Yerbouti", accounting for obvious differences in instrumentation. Scott Thunes does an excellent job of handling the vocals, and in the tradition of all great "Tryin' to Grow" singers, even manages to screw up the lyrics a time or two. Also, instead of the closing "one for time for the world" guitar meltdown, we get a smooth segue into "Strictly Genteel".
WATERMELON IN EASTER HAY- Essentially performed as on "Joe's Garage", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. A song simply too beautiful for words.
WE'RE TURNING AGAIN- Essentially performed as on FZMTMOP.
WHAT'S NEW IN BALTIMORE?- Essentially performed as on FZMTMOP, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. In my opinion, this is the highlight of the tour, and the definitive version of this song. Without the annoying distraction of vocals, Zappa cuts right to the chase, digging into the guitar solo almost immediately. With no message delivered by the lyrics, Frank must rely on his guitar to get the message across. The message of bitterness and frustration, underlined with a resilient sense of hope. Frank's view of America is capsulated in this solo- his sense of disappointment and despair in a system gone wrong, balanced by his pride in a country that is America, where he can do the things that he does. Both depressing and uplifting- an almost perfect song.
WHIPPIN' POST- The reggae version of this song- done completely in reggae- with some hilarious "jamaican mon" vocals from Bobby. Obviously, the song stills retains the reggae solo vamp found on the "Them or Us" version, but being that the whole song is done in this style, the transition is not as jarring. Again, we get the standard deviation in Frank's solo.
WHY DOES IT HURT WHEN I PEE?- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume III, accounting for obvious differences in instrumentation.
YO MAMA- Essentially played as on "Sheik Yerbouti", accounting for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Sadly, this is one song that never really relived its heyday after its initial tour. The Spring '78 tour saw an overwhelming number of simply orgasmic "Yo Mama's". Unfortunately, the song seemed spent after that tour, as each subsequent performance never reaches the climatic heights of a Spring '78 Mama. The performances from this tour are no exception. They are not bad- I am not saying that- but they are not the show stopping tour-de-force's that we frequently heard three-and-a-half years earlier.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU IS- Essentially performed as on YAWYI.
ZOOT ALLURES- Essentially performed as on "The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life", accounting for obvious differences in instrumentation (Vai on sitar), and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. "Chalk Pie" from "Guitar" is a "Zoot Allures" extract. [Patrick Buzby describes the 11/1 performance- the first of the 80's- " This version of "Zoot" has FZ soloing (rather awkwardly) over the headsection. Then, at the point where the solo arrives, the band stays in A-Flat rather than moving up to A, and Scott and Chad stay in a rock groove rather than a reggae one. As a result, the solo sounds similar to the "Mammy Anthem" solo (though in major rather than minor). Very interesting. I see "Zoot Allures" as being a very significant song on this tour. IMO, the shows from November on are on a different level compared to the earlier ones, and this song (premiered on 11/1) demonstrated this better than any other (aside from "Drowning Witch")."]
I like this tour a lot too, but I'm deadly tired of the two YAWYI suites and many of the other songs. For me, listening to a 1981 tape most often goes like: listening to the opening solo, fast forward to the Drowning Witch suite, fast forward to Pound for a Brown or whatever, etc. Songs like"Mudd Clubb" and "The Meek" just make me sleepy, though I agree they're performed with much more energy than on the 1980 tours. But of course, the fine moments are worth waiting for. My favourite is "Sinister Footwear", which always spawned magnificent solos. You point out Steve Vai as being the main reason why this band's performances sound so much more energetic than the spring 1980 band. To me, the drummer makes more difference - I get the feeling David Logeman inhibited the whole band, whereas Wackerman doesn't have any such limitations (to my ears, Chad's limitations are in the groove area). Of course, Vai's presence means a lot to- and let's not forget Ed Mann! Personally, I think the 1981 band is superior to the fall 1980 band, and I guess Ed Mann is the big difference. Wonder if that's what FZ meant by "Eddie should get back" in "Pick me I'm Clean"?
This is my favorite tour to listen to on tape partly because it's evident how much the band grew over the course of it. In the first month or so, it sounds like Scott Thunes and Chad Wackerman are only beginning to find their role as a rhythm section, and the band seems a bit hesitant on the"difficult" material. But by the last month of the tour (roughly from the Ritz show on), the band has evolved into a frighteningly precise and attitude-heavy ensemble, with Scott and Chad easily meeting the challenge of filling Barrow and Colaiuta's shoes. FZ's noble but doomed effort to promote YAWYI dominates much of the tour, but, as usual, there is much more going on. Aside from presenting another two albums's worth of great new material (a set of material which only emerged in a fragmented way - why don't we have the Drowning Witch/Baltimore/Moggio sequence on any official release?), this band was the first to get heavily involved with reggae - a development that took a sour turn later, but was fresh and vital on this tour, as the new arrangement of "Zoot Allures" attests.