From the Montreal Star, 10/28/72:
By JUAN RODRIGUEZ
It would not be accurate to say that Curtis Mayfield stole the show from Frank Zappa and his new Mothers of Invention last night at the Forum.
This was a solidly partisan Zappa crowd who were forced to sit through two opening acts, Tim Buckley and Mayfield, before getting down to brass tacks with Zappa and Co. But, whether it was appreciated or not, Mayfield's music was far superior to the others on the bill.
Mayfield's recent achievement, the score of the film Super Fly, has rocketed him to the top of the charts. The soundtrack album is the best selling record in America and the film is a sensation, thanks in large measure to Mayfield's unusually evocative music.
After being the guiding light for the fine harmony group, The Impressions, Mayfield branched out on his own, and the results of his constant evolution were on display last night.
His was a small band, comprising five musicians, and they worked beautifully together. Their tight graceful rhythms flowed through the cavernous Forum in fine style.
Mayfield is a perfectionist. He is one of the most articulate and refined musicians working today. His group, keynoted by some marvellous conga work and firm instrumentation, had a special resiliency that is so seldom heard inside the Forum. Mayfield and group were undoubtedly the most impressive musicians to play the arena in a long while.
Mayfield's mellow high voice is an unforgettable treat in itself. As one of the most creative popular musicians around, he deserves a more receptive audience than he faced last night.
Zappa, when he got on stage about 10:45 p.m., presented a new band playing practically entirely new material. For Zappa fans, it was a night of exploration.
The music he presented was, as usual, complex and full of vicissitudes--too many for my taste. Zappa is a brilliant and serious musician and composer of very ponderous quasi-rock-classical music.
As Zappa proudly asserts, his band bears little resemblance to any previous form of rock-and-roll band.
"There are twenty musicians in it and they mostly sit down and read music from an array of charming little fibre-board stands. Nobody sings. Nobody dances. They just play music.
That's as good a description as any of the new Mothers' Hot Rats Grand Wazoo. It was a full-scale electronic orchestra and the music they made may well be interesting, but it was hardly memorable.
Zappa is a furious mind, but I confess that I failed to sympathize with his outpourings.
Tim Buckley was a gigantic bore, straining away with painfully rambling songs and stretched-out rock musical cliches. He's been around since the mid-sixties, when he was hailed as one of those meaningful singer-songwriters, and although he's gone through his share of changes he has not improved.
From the Montreal Gazette, 10/31/72:
By BILL MANN
of The Gazette
Yes, Frank Zappa really does stay in Holiday Inns.
Last year Zappa made a movie about America's Most Accommodating People, a tale of life in a succession of motels. It was called, appropriately, 200 Motels.
"I stayed in the Holiday Inn here last year too," said Zappa, smiling, yesterday morning as he prepared himself for his Forum concert (Friday night). "They're not so bad once you get used to them."
200 Motels was the usual Zappa surrealism that included the likes of a gypsy mutant industrial vacuum cleaner running around with Ringo Starr (who was dressed up as Zappa) and other such brain capers. All "off the wall" stuff, as they say.
The film was unique--it was made with a videotape process that produced an incredibly crystal-clear picture.
"Videotape," said Zappa softly, "is much more expensive than film. We rented a huge amount of videotape equipment, and it was so expensive we had only seven days to film."
"That's pretty extraordinary, and also the reason it probably won't be used much again. We did everything in seven days. The music was scored live."
Zappa toured the continent last year with a 20-piece version of The Mothers of Invention. Friday night, it was a 10-piece group of Mothers. Zappa was busy studying his sheet music "I hope this goes off all right,"he said in his usual barely audible tones. "This is our first time trying it, this concert here."
Zappa was wearing a purple velvetine shirt. He walked over to pour himself some coffee, and he limped painfully.
Nine months ago, a crazed fan, claiming Zappa was "stealing his girl," jumped onto the stage in London's Rainbow Theatre and thrust Zappa into the orchestra pit, giving the musician lacerations on his face and breaking his right shin. The injury hasn't healed properly.
"I was in the hospital in L.A. for two months," Zappa says. "I wrote two albums in there."
"For four months, this thing just did nothing. I was in a wheelchair, then I had to use a cane."
"You should have seen me recording the album, with my foot out on a chair. I had a cast all the way up my leg."
"It took me two months just to get walking again out in L.A."
Zappa had to wear an orthopaedic brace at all times to walk until two weeks ago. He wore the brace on stage last night. "You just can't stand up that long without it. It hurts too much."
Does he look for nuts in the audience now? "Well, something like that had never happened to me before. Bang, all of a sudden I'm in the orchestra pit. (They gave the assailant a year in jail.)
"I'm so busy conducting and watching my music and band that I generally don't have a chance to pay attention to what's going on out there. I communicate directly with the audience mainly between numbers."
Zappa, a shy, quiet, articulate person, says of the injury "I think it's starting to heal again."
Zappa is a 45 freak. "I stopped collecting singles in 1960," he says. "I worked in this record store, and they used to pay me in singles. I have about 700 now, but none are more recent than 1960. That's when rhythm and blues died--when strings came in.
"I haven't listened to much radio since then."
Zappa, who went through a "meat" period (with albums named Uncle Meat, Hot Rats, and Burnt Weenie Sandwich), closed off the interview with a revelation for his followers.
My next album is a sequel to Uncle Meat, wherein we learn his first name. It's Stew Meat."
Frank Zappa was back in town, all right.
From Pop Jeunesse (Montréal), 11/11/72:
Le spectacle de vendredi dernier ne s'est pas vu accorder le même vif intérêt qui anime habituellement le manifestations de ce genre. Seulement 8,000 personnes s'agitaient à l'intérieur du Forum dont la majorité se composait d'anglophones. Ca vous place déjà un peu dans le contexte (et comment!). Pas que d'ordinaire les anglophones m'agacent à ce point lors d'un spectacle mais là c'était vraiment le comble. Je n'ai pas entendu un mot français de la soirée sauf un "salut" clamé à ma satisfaction par Zappa même (c'est à se demander si nous sommes dans la bonne province). J'ai donc été contraint à endurer l'humour canadien-anglais qui manque vraiment de saveur humoristique et ainsi en supportant leurs conneries il ne me fut pas difficile de constater qu'ils ne sont guère plus ouverts musicalement que bien des nôtres. Enfin!...
Le tout débuts comme prévu avec Tim Buckley. Ce dernier chevaux coupés et son guitariste avaient l'air "straight" mais il ne faut tout de même pas se laisser intimider par nos préjugés. Les congas, la basse, la batterie, les guitares "lead" et d'accompagnement, la voix de Buckley entonnent "Gypsy Woman". Dans une deuxième tentative, le guitariste effectue un solo spatial à la Gilmour mais rien de bien emballant jusqu'ici, le bassiste donnant, même l'impression de se pratiquer. La voix de Buckley parfois étonnante finit par nous agacer avec ses exclamations sorties de la jungle. Sa vocalise rend langoureux une pièce folk soutenue par une section rythmique plus ou moins cohérente surtout du aux excursions mélodiques du lead. Tim sera encore plus décevant lorsqu'il chantera uniquement pardessus un solo de batterie. Il y a bien quelques moments heureux mais ce sont ceux qui cadrent le plus dans le style bucklien passablement étouffé dans ces pièces. Je ne comprends plus ce qui se passe (c'est comme les élections) et pourquoi Buckley se prostitue-t-il de la sorte avec de pitres accompagnateurs? Lorsqu'ils terminent la réaction du public sera passablement partagée entre des huées et des rappels demandés.
Les noirs je les adore pour ce qu'ils font dans le jazz mais quant au R&B et au "soul", il en est autrement. Donc, pas étonnant que Curtis Mayfield m'ait amèrement dégoûté malgré l'approbation des anglais présents. Le même genre de formation compose l'ensemble des musiciens qui soutiennent Mayfield. Ils sont déjà sur place et entament le "set" puis Curtis arrive avec sa voix qui m'a toujours fait penser à Marvin Gaye mais combien plus forcée. Mayfield se plait à jouer à la "super star" dans un "show" monstrueux (vive l'Halloween, les mongols et le reste...). On dirait que lorsqu'un noir réussit à percer les gérants s'amusent a établir un mythe autour d'eux (pauvres guignols). On entend "Give Me A Love", "Stone Chicken", "Superfly". En passant, je ne connaissais aucun titre de ses chansons mais les paroles sont si répétitives qu'il est en est facile de deviner les titres. Le bassiste se balance la tête et se contorsionne comme un danseur de Like Young tandis que la main guenilleuse de Curtis gratte un instrument dont à sa place je ne me vanterais pas de maîtriser: la guitare. Sur cette musique de "boogaloo", Curtis quitte la scène en arborant des signes de "peace" (wow! wow! wow!). Un vrai nez creux. Tout est calculé: les musiciens demeurent sur place, le bassiste effectue quelques pas de danse (donnes-y la claque! ... euh! ... ah! ... ouf! ... ) puis Curtis ne se fait pas prier et revient peu après ne laissant guère le temps au publie de jubiler (!?). Finalement il s'en va pour de bon mais le bassiste fait toujours du "show-off "en s'amusant avec son instrument et en lui donnant des coups de pieds. Le monde sont tous fous. Quand je pense que des groupes québécois crèvent de faim...
Bande de caves!!! Que fallait-il de plus pour espérer Zappa (soupirs, glapissements, énervement du fessier)? En attendant les gens mangent des hot-dogs pis de la crème glacée. Je tonne, je gronde, je pète comme le monstre ce la Main de Vos Voisins.
Les réflecteurs illuminent dès lors des pupitres affichant un grand M sur le devant. Chaque musicien (au nombre de dix) prend place à son pupitre approprié et y dépose sa partition. Nous sentons que nous allons être témoins d'un grand concert avec tout le faste que cela comporte en apercevant cette mulitude d'instruments qui emplisent la scène: saxophone, trombone à coulisse, trompettes, clarinette, hautbois, tuba en plus des guitares, de la basse et de la batterie traditionnelles. Zappa arrive pour demander au publie de s'asseoir, d'être confortable et bien disposé donc plus à travers ce personnage l'excentricité, cette fois supplantée par l'esprit des grandeurs, et cet humour acerbe typiquement zappien. Il réclame le silence, chacun introduit par le maître essaie son instrument et quelle n'est pas notre surprise de percevoir le nom de Jim Gordon (ex-Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Derek & The Dominoes, Traffic) pour la batterie! Wow! Seuls les titres des pièces gardent un caractère Mothers. Frank s'improvise chef d'orchestre en balançant des bras pour situer le rythme, la cadence. Les cuivres partent pour se laisser dominer ensuite par la section rythmique. Un solo de "drums" montre à quel point Gordon est un batteur hors pair et que son style correspond bien avec la musique de l'ensemble. Il fait preuve d'une aisance alors que tout au long des pièces il scrute les alentours nonchalamment sans se soucier de sa batterie tiraillée par ses coups effectifs. Il y a alternance avec les cuivres et à mon avis c'est cette répartition des rôles qui enrichit le tout. L'orchestre, Zappa et ses mouvements secs poursuivent avec un blues intitule "Pacific Degree" ["Cosmik Debris"]. Zappa chante et monologue à la fois pour clamer a une fille "ne gaspille pas ton temps avec moi". En tout cas, lui. il est loin de nous le gaspiller. "Father Obleviamb" ["Farther Oblivion"] dans laquelle le tuba prédomine, "Mayorie Diseases" ["Imaginary Diseases"], "Little Box" ["Little Dots"], un morceau de rock 'n' roll, "Montana Soon" ["Montana"] sont toutes des nouvelles pieces qui figurent au programme et qu'il a écrites durant sa convalescence à Hawaii après le fâcheux incident subi en Angleterre. Zappa veut qu'on le prenne désormais au sérieux et c'est bien l'allure qu'il dégage durant le spectacle. Il présente les pieces en prenant soin de préciser quels instruments y prendront place et la progression qui s'ensuivra. Cette musique n'est pas étiquetable. elle possède moins du Zappa personnel mais est très raffinée en sonorités ingénieuses. C'est tantôt classique, tantôt jazzée, tantôt mauresque, rock, blues, etc... et toujours imprégné d'un son orchestré. Par moment. les passages lourds donnent du charme, de la pesanteur au tout. Une percussion distrayante, une basse qui se dandine, une batterie cardiaque qui crache ses pulsations, la guitare de Zappa qui chatouille notre ouie, ce dernier pogné vibre avec sa musique et nous la communique intensément. Il y a un noir sur le côté qui se trouve là depuis l'ouverture du concert et je devine en lui le visage de Don Preston qui n'aurait peut-être pas pu jouer de l'orgue et du synthétiseur puisqu'ils ne se seraient pas rendus à destination (dommage!) Les pièces sont longues mais guère plates pour autant que chacun la revigore par un solo quelconque et bien placé. Pour la prochaine le public va servir de choeur et battera le rythme en tapant du pied, en claquant des mains, en chantant sur une note pour précèder et s'introduire capricieusement dans le flot sonore saccadé dans la marche mortuaire de l'orchestre. Zappa joue avec pureté de la guitare, il se penche de côté, de face, branle de la tête, anime le spectacle. L'esprit de captivation s'amplifie, je suis pénétré par cette musique. On a droit à un rappel, les Englishmen sont plutôt amorphes et pourtant "ça" c'est de la musique! Bref, on nous a abruti durant les deux premières parties pour entendre un Zappa inusité que l'on pouvait toutefois prévoir sans "Waka Jawaka". Il semble ne pas avoir plu à tout le monde. bien sur si l'on s'attendait à du "Mothers" de l'an dernier ou à un peu de "Hot Rats". Zappa est juste tombé sur ce que j'attendais de lui. Délaissant son aspect sociologique. Zappa prouve à la face du monde qu'il est avant tout un MUSICIEN...
From the Syracuse Herald-Journal, 10/30/72:
By ANDREW RESCHKE
It's said that when you go to a Frank Zappa concert, expect the unexpected. A crowd of more than 5,000 people showed up for one at the War Memorial Saturday night and what they heard could never have been expected. One of the pioneers of hard rock, this musician is now performing a form of progressive rock, and the audience loved every minute of it.
Leading off the night's bill was Tim Buckley, a musician who also has changed his style in recent months. His music was a definitely blues-oriented rock that was highlighted by the amazing vocal range of the singer. He had such control of his voice that he was able to change from a high to low pitch note within the same measure of a song, an extraordinary accomplishment.
His set included music from his latest album, such as "Get on Top of Me," and some numbers from his past, like "Coming Home to Stay" and "Gypsy Woman." Although annoyed by the sometimes rude audience, he proved himself to be a performer of rare talent.
Frank Zappa and his expanded Mothers of Invention have gone to the big band style. The group now numbers nine and consists of trumpets, trombones, a sax and even an oboe and tuba. The sound that they and their maestro produced was heavily influenced by jazz.
Most of this new music was performed in a hard-driving style of dynamic vibrations that were emotion-filled and easily ca[u]ght up the listener within their musical scope.
They began their set with two more recognizable numbers, "I'm Not Satisfied" and "Duke Of Prunes." The remainder of the concert was built totally around new material that was written specifically for their new style. Such works as "Imaginary Dreams" ["Imaginary Diseases"] and "Little Dots," as they were performed Saturday night, can do nothing but enhance the reputation of these musicians.
Of course, the "funny" songs, as Zappa called them, were included within their set. These included "Cosmic Debris" and "Montana" and both were of the light, but cynical, variety of songs that Zappa is famous for.
He has a rapport with the audience that is unlike what any musician is usually able to achieve. He joked constantly throughout the performance, particularly in his introductions of each number, and a close feeling of friendship just seemed to come naturally between this musical genius and his fans.
Surrounded by musicians who went about their business professionally, Frank Zappa branched out from the hard rock doldrums into the relatively virgin field of progressive jazz Saturday night. With so much going for him, that concert couldn't have been anything but the triumph that it was.
From the Oswego County Times, 11/2-3/72:
Tim Buckley and an excellent back-up group were on first. Tim has great cont[r]ol [of] his voice. He was able to slide from jazz leads to gutt[u]ral sexual [rhythms]. His [rhythm] guitar was funkier than usual. They played for about an hour with some new material and old stuff including "Gypsy Woman" and "Buzzin' Fly". There were excellent lead performances by the lead guitarist and the percussionist (congas). They were unfortunately not well received (It was primarily a Mothers crowd) and they gave no encore.
Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention came on stage like a compact symphony orchestra. Zappa, as conductor, took the center of the stage where he plugged in his guitar and directed the players. All the musicians had their music stands loaded up with the various Zappa compositions to be played that night.
"Good evening boys and girls", Frank calmly intoned, and the crowd yelled back "Hi Frank!" and "What's happening, Frank?" Zappa then went on to explain that tonight[']s show would consist primarily of new, mind-expanding, spaced out compositions plus, for those nostalgia addicts, some golden oldies.
The band[']s first number was an updated version of "I'm [N]ot Satisfied" from their album "Freak-Out". The fire [marshals] began urging people not to dance in the [a]isles for safety reasons. Then a brilliant instrumental rendition of an old favorite, "Duke of Prunes". Next, a new bluesy number titled "Cosmi[k] Debris" in which Frank la[i]d down some sarcastically [cutting] lyrics.
The new Mothers of Invention group consists of a variety of top rate serious musicians with all types of backgrounds. There's Zappa on lead guitar. Two trumpet players, and higher notes I have never heard. Two trombone players who bring the instrument back as a prominent jazz interpreter. The alto sax player, Tommy the Tuba, played both fine sax and a tub[a] with the touch of a stoned trumpeter. The oboeist amazed everyone with his baritone sax, one of the largest woodwinds. The drummer I am sort of non commital about. The bass player had a few featured solos but offered nothing spectacular. The slide guitar player, who was superb, is also the leader of a new band with an old name, "Rub[e]n and the Jets".
Zappa kept his conversation and the group[']s overall appearance at such a calm, low-keyed level that the audience just sat back and relaxed[.] It was easy easy to relax with the burning leaves all around you. In general the compositions were contemporary [but] serious. A number that particularly excited me was "Little Dots". It was jazz improvisation to a rock format without precedent. In between playing guitar and the constant lighting of cigarettes, Zappa would conduct the woodwind and brass sections as you would imagine any orchestra conductor would. And when he brought them all back to earth the drummer, bass, and slide guitar would come back in with tight, rocking performances of their own. "Little Dots" is some of the cream off the top of Zappa's recent works[,] fresh and impressive as anything he's done in the past. They did some other tunes also[.] "Montana" is a song about a prospective dental-floss tycoon. "Imaginary Diseases" is another innovative number of "Little Dots" genre. "Chunga's Revenge", another oldie, featured a ribald oboe and a snazzy tuba solo.
After their last number, which was "Chunga's Revenge"[,] the audience brought the boys back c'mon back out Frank' and, after a brief discussion with the band, Frank introduced the first live performance anywhere of the title song of his (their) latest album "Waka[/J]awaka". Needless to say, it was excellent. This album is now out on the Bizarre label.
If you ever get a chance to see these people in action go and do it. Natural Zap.
From the Auburn Citizen-Advertiser, 11/3/72:
By Susan Walters
The Onondaga County War Memorial in Syracuse was the scene of a concert Saturday night, Oct. 28 as Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention performed.
Frank Zappa, known for his strange musical compositions, performed his songs for a near capacity crowd.
The Mothers of Invention include: Frank Zappa, guitar and lead vocals; Tony "[Ruben] and the Jets" Duran, rhythm guitar; Dave [P]arlato, bass guitar; Jim Gordon, drums; Tom "Tommy the Tuba" Malo[ne], tuba, horns; Gary Barone, trumpet; Malcolm M[cNab], horns; Earl Du[mle]r, horns; Glen[n] F[err]is, horns; Bruce Fowler, horns; and Paul [Hof], head road assistant.
The Syracuse audience appeared delighted as Zappa performed some old material as well as new, yet to be recorded songs. Original compositions included in Zappa's performance were: "The Duke of Prunes", "Imaginary Diseases", and "Chunga's Revenge". When the Mothers of Invention were summoned back to the stage for an encore, Zappa chose to perform the title song of his latest album, "Waka-Jawaka".
Frank Zappa has been described as a master showman as well as an inventive musician. Born in Baltimore, Maryland and raised on the West coast, Zappa began composing serious music at the age of 14. He founded the Mothers of Invention about seven years ago in New York City. The Mothers of Invention were soon recognized as being perhaps the first pop group to blend rock 'n' roll with such class music as that of Stravinsky and other composers. The Mothers have gone through many changes since then and now Frank is the only original member. In January, 1972, Zappa was thrown from the stage at a concert in London, England and severely broke his leg. The Mothers of Invention split for eight months while Frank was recuperating. The present Mothers of Invention was formed only two months ago.
Zappa is able to see beyond today's fads and tries to use the weapons of a disoriented and unhappy society against itself in his songs. His compositions deal with such subjects as rock cliches, the advertising business and politicians.
Frank Zappa has written, directed, and starred in his own movie, "200 Motels" and has two current albums, "Just Another Band From L.A." and "Waka-Jawaka". In addition, Frank Zappa has become president of the first underground rock conglomerate, Bizarre, Incorporated. It produces two record labels--Bizarre and Straight.
After their short stay in Syracuse, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention planned to leave for Harp[u]r College in B[ingham]ton, New [York]. They are also planning shows for Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, District of Columbia and Rhode Island during the month of November.
From The Free Aquarian (Hackensack, NJ), 11/72:
by greg carannante
Spending the night of Halloween at the Capitol Theatre with Frank "Chester" Zappa, the same old completely different Mothers of Invention, Tim Buckley, Zacherle and hundreds of dayglo painted and outrageously costumed freaks was not entirely all that it sounds like it was, only because Zappa, though in good spirits, did not really rise to the occasion.
His band and music, precociously perceived to be a spoof of big band jazz (instead of rock and roll), consisted of a bounty of brass and a rock and roll rhythm section, all conducted by the maniacal maestro himself, and was yet another step in the evolution of Zappa genius.
However, he apparently was taking it all [too] visibly serious, with which there is nothing wrong of course, except that it did not contribute much to what could have been one hell of a crazy concert.
On the other hand, the [presence] of Zach (at the first show only) judging the assembled assortment of freakiest costume contestants ghostly gathered on stage turned a concert into a special occasion. Mr. Jiggs, the smoking monkey, added to the absurdity of it all.
The costumes, especially at the first show, were truly psychedelic and changed the Capitol into a Betty Boop cartoon. Those that bothered to dress for the occasion should know that they made the show.
The mood of the Capitol is mysteriously becoming more relaxed, and gradually people seem to become more aware that the possibility exists there more than anywhere else around for some sort of community feeling or spirit to sprout, and maybe even grow.
Indeed, I almost [felt] like I was once more at the Fillmore as I watched the [...] people inequitably boo Tim Buckley right off the stage.
From the Richmond News Leader, 11/4/72:
Terms like "jazz rock" or "symphonic rock" mean very little until they are applied to the music of Frank Zappa.
While many rock groups have tried to integrate the sounds of jazz or classical music into their work, Zappa is the only person we've heard thus far who manages to do it with complete success. He usually incorporates both of these traditionally disparate elements simultaneously into his songs, and he does it with considerable style.
Zappa and the Mothers of Invention performed at two shows last night at the Mosque, drawing about 1,600 persons to the second one.
The show opened with a set by Tim Buckley, which was merely a time filler. Buckley began singing and playing country music, moved to and through folk music and now is attempting rock and roll.
To be as kind as possible, perhaps he should attempt something else.
Zappa, on the other hand, seems to know exactly what he is doing and to be aware that he is doing it beautifully.
While he is not a showman in the jumping, screaming, flashing manner, his stage presence is remarkable, the more so because it is so relaxed.
He writes almost all of the material he performs and orchestrates it with a great deal of care and a natural feeling for surprising effect. His group had music stands and sheet music before them, which they obviously followed, and when Zappa wasn't playing lead guitar up front, he led his band through the complicated orchestrations.
In his ability to combine jazz and symphonic elements, he strongly suggests works by composers whose reputations are more elevated--Darius Milhaud's "La Creation du Monde" and Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story," to name two.
This is pretty strong company in which to place a rock music composer, but Zappa belongs there.
His lyrics are often delightfully insane and absurd, such as in "Rollo"--ostensibly about a dog, and "Montana"--about moving to Montana and raising dental floss, and range from mild parody to bitter satire to outright nonsense.
His music, however, is serious business. It flows smoothly and constantly, whether or not it happens to be changing mood or tempo. Individual pieces are long and rambling, but always with a logical structure. they have a beginning, middle and end and are punctuated with sounds from unexpected instruments, like steel drums or an oboe.
On an improvised piece, which Zappa dubbed "Why Do They Fry Everything in Richmond?", musicians on drums, guitars, brass and reeds took turns playing in interweaving lines. They created an audial dream sequence of suspended relaxation.
In spite of 11 record albums and acknowledged influence over other rock musicians over the last eight years, Zappa still remains something of an underground figure. He has never had a Top 40 hit song and probably never will.
He may or may not be a genius--that's a point that is debated among rock music advocates.
But he is brilliant, which is the next best thing.
From the Virginia Commonwealth University Commonwealth Times, 11/9/72:
by Buddy Webster
Folio Music Writer
One word to Tim Buckley, if you're listening: Don't
Why he thought he had to do what he did (whatever it was) I'll never know. But was this the Tim Buckley that I remember from that magic year, 1967? No.
And was this the man who created such works of art as "Goodbye, Hello" and "Star Sailor"? A thousand times, I say thee nay.
Only in his second number did any of the Old Tim shine through. here, the lead guitarist (who looked like he was about 40) did beautiful things with a steel guitar and hypnotized the crowd. And when Buckley started singing, I was right back in my old room, burning the [incense] and listening to Tim wail, "I never asked to be your mountain."
Unfortunately, that seemed to be the extent of his performance. Just whooping and wailing. I saw him right after the set walking through the hall and he didn't look particularly happy about the whole thing. Maybe he already knows.
Frank Zappa is tired. He's weary of being forced to play four-letter rock. He's sick of his audience coming in stoned and expecting to be grossed out by "B'wanna Dik" and its many variations.
Frank Zappa is tired of playing music for everyone else, and wants to play for himself. And it's about time.
He walked out onto the stage of the Mosque limping from a leg injury sustained at another concert and spoke the words that have become his trademark, "Hello, boys and girls." Very simply, eyes down, with a slight inflection that was belied by the gaunt, lanky body that never really seemed to belong to his voice.
It is practically impossible to describe the music that began to happen after that. All I can say is that the audience stayed in a perpetual state of throughout. [sic]
After running down a chart about a strange dog called, "Rollo", he decided to "put one together" and since any [song] performed or recorded professionally must by law be titled, he christened it "Why Is Everything Fried In Richmond (Especially at the Hotel)."
A basic theme was laid down by the percussionist on amped steel drums and was followed by the reed man on baritone oboe. From there on, it was every man for himself and some of the best jazz (rock; jazz-rock) I've ever heard materialized. Sure, they read from the charts through most of the night. Quite a few of the big bands and jazz-rock groups do. But this was improv[is]ed from start to finish.
One observation: Frank Zappa plays guitar like the only bend in his body is one in his hips.
After another vocal called "Montana" (about a man who wants to become a dental-floss tycoon), he asked how many people wanted to he[a]r "Louie Louie". The response was about half and half, so he said, "We're gonna do it, but let's pervert it." So for the next fifteen or twenty minutes we heard that great old standard intermingled with the words to "Plastic People", which brought back memories.
At this time, he walked off, leaving both his sidemen hanging around onstage beside their white little bandstands. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that he'd be back for an encore.
So he came back and led the band through "Further Into Oblivion" [Farther Oblivion] and ended with another byword, "Thank you for coming to our concert. Goodnight."
All in all, no one can make music like Zappa and his men. He chooses his instrumentalists carefully and with strict attention to their ability to read and [execute] rough scores and time changes.
I came to the concert expecting to have to sit through "Magelena" ["Magdalena"] and [some] of the other crap he foisted on us in order to go on eating. I was pleasantly surprised when he actually did good music. I say surprised because ever since the now famous statement about his audiences and their knowledge of music (or lack of), he's been producing stuff that rivals "Superstar" for inanity. The only difference is that Zappa's stuff was fourletter inanity.
Oh yeah. One last thing. You know those stories about the infamous "Gross Out concert"? Zappa says, "Never happened, nor any variation thereof." So there.
An eye-witness account of the Columbia show, 11/5/72, from William J. Dean:
In September 1972, I started the 12th grade at Eau Claire high school in Columbia, South Carolina. There was a local underground newspaper called Osceola at the time, and the September issue featured a full-page ad for the concert (which was indeed on Sunday, November 5th); quite a striking ad with a large picture of Frank's face with concentric circles beginning at his eyeball and spreading out to cover the page. I believe that the billing was for Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention.
Rock concerts in Columbia at Township Auditorium were always on Sunday night for some reason, and usually began around 6PM. My friend Robbie and I dutifully loaded up on psychedelics and made our way to the show; his brother Mark and friend Tony met us there. As I said before, Wild Turkey was the opening act; I was a big Glenn Cornick and Jethro Tull fan and Wild Turkey played Columbia three times that year. Next was Tim Buckley, who has now gained iconic status, but I remember him being awful and he was roundly booed by the audience. Finally it was time for Zappa.
It was definitely not your typical rock and roll staging. The members of the band had big-band style music stands to hold their sheet music, not something I'd ever seen before at a rock concert. I don't really recall how we found out about the before-show busts (at the time we heard that it was only the drummer who had been busted), but the news passed through the audience pretty quickly, and when the band began we knew that Zappa had deputized a drummer from one of the support bands. Needless to say, Frank was not in the best of moods that night and spent most of his time conducting the band through complicated instrumentals. I felt sorry for the drummer; that was quite a gig to fill in for! The only vocal song they played (that I can recall) was "Cozmik Debris"; I really enjoyed that one and was delighted to hear it two years later on "Apostrophe".
As Mark and Tony were leaving the show, they were pulled over by the Columbia City Police and busted for possession. The cops bragged to them about busting the band members, whom Mark and Tony got to meet at the jail, because all the prisoners are held together in one large room until they are placed in cells for the night (I spent some time in that room myself a few months later). I don't recall specifically anything Mark and Tony said about the encounter, and haven't seen those guys myself for over twenty-five years.
An eye-witness account of the Columbia show, 11/5/72, from Sheik_Oyura_Beeg_1:
My first was a Nov. 1972 show in Columbia SC while I was in Army Basic Training at Ft. Jackson... I stayed out past curfew on a Sunday night and had to sneak back on the base. The venue was packed and was almost entirely instrumental music. He had played a concert in Charlotte the night before, and someone in the crowd yelled "How was Charlotte?" and Frank replied, "Well I guess everybody had a good time... there were a lot of wine bottles on the floor after the show."
An eye-witness account of the Long Island show, 11/7/72, from Jeff:
I was lucky enough to attend two shows in 72--the larger orchestra at the Felt Forum, NYC, and the streamlined orchestra in some ice skating rink in Long Island. I think it was called Commack Arena. The incredible Tim Buckley opened both shows. At the Commack show, Zappa opened with "I'm Not Satisfied" and, halfway through the tune, was hit in the face with an egg from a member of the festival-seating audience. Zappa signaled the band to stop, cleaned his face, and announced, "If you're looking for that sort of entertainment, you won't find it here," then gestured with a hand signal to finish the song. The sound was awful but I felt that the performance was inspired. After the show, as my friends and I walked along the skating rink to the parking lot, we heard Zappa almost yelling to band members about their performance, in the dressing room.
Another review of the Long Island show can be found at zappa.com.
From the Washington Post, 11/13/72:
When Frank Zappa hobbled on stage for the second of two performances at Constitution Hall Saturday night, someone in the audience called out: "Play some rock 'n' roll!"
His response was a prophetic understatement.
"We're not going to play any rock 'n' roll tonight," Zappa said: "But it'll be close enough to rock 'n' roll so you'll be able to like it."
He then proceeded to launch into 90 minutes of music that certainly owed more to the Big Band Era, the jazz of Miles Davis and the New Music of Stockhausen, Ligeti and Varese than to Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones, or the Grateful Dead.
In fact, there is no question that what Zappa did on Saturday night was a first look at one of the possible, probable and most promising directions capable of making rock as viable five years from now as it seemed to be five years ago.
Zappa's music has undergone numerous transitions in the past seven years. The last edition of the Mothers of Invention, broken up after Zappa was attacked and seriously injured while performing last December in London (he still walks with a limp), was popular mostly because of the bizzaro on-stage antics of singers Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan.
Last month a new band--The Grand Wazoo, a 20-piece orchestra utilizing six brass players, six reeds, a bassoon, an electric cello, two concert percussionists and a rhythm section--toured Europe and a few American cities. Now there is a new version of the Mothers: six players together wielding oboe, trumpets, tuba, saxophones, trombones, plus a drummer, a bass player, a slide guitarist and, of course, Zappa himself on guitar and conducting.
It is obviously in that last capacity, though, that the leader now finds pleasure. One suspects that Zappa secretly wishes to be a transistorized Benny Goodman. What the King of Swing did to jazz by introducing Charlie Christian on electric guitar, Zappa will go one better, leading a band utilizing electric cellos, bassoons and Moog synthesizers. It's merely a matter of advanced technology and musical trends.
Consequently his music now is very challenging, something to be respected because, among other reasons, it does not pander to the restricted musical background of most rock fans. Anyone willing to have six hornmen weaving intricate walls of tonalities completely unrelated to anything else done in rock today is a welcome relief from the plethora of groups merely interested in re-creating in concert what they've already done on record.
In addition to several instrumental re-arrangements of old vocal numbers like "The Duke of Prunes" and "America Drinks & Goes Home," the two concerts Saturday contained a high percentage of new material. Much of this was written for the new group and therefore leaned heavily on complex rhythms, arresting horn sonorities (and sometimes dissonances), occasional vocals by Zappa and extended solos by members of the band. While these were often exciting (particularly one tuba solo) it was here that the group began to sound repetitive, particularly on some of Zappa's overly long guitar breaks.
But this was a minor flaw indeed at a time when many are complaining that rock has reached a state of advanced atrophy. During the early show, for an example of new directions, the band performed an improvisational number lasting almost 30 minutes, and it was fascinating to watch Zappa's spur-of-the-moment instructions.
Shouting "make the seventh an A flat," conducting the piece by pointing to various combinations of horns, waving frantically to get them to play exactly what he had in mind. In true Zappa fashion, as the band vampe in the background, he ended the number by letting the audience vote on what rhythm to use in closing. "Do you want a boogie? How about a polka? A ballad?"
The only element Zappa fans really missed was the outrageous humor of the old Mothers, something that has been largely eclipsed by the new musical seriousness of this band.
But even that gave way at one point. Someone in the audience called out for "'Caravan'--with a drum solo," a 1945 recording of the Duke Ellington band referred to in an obscure line of dialogue on one of the Mother's earliest recordings. And sure enough, Zappa turned to drummer Jim Gordon, told him to start it up, and the horns whipped through "Caravan," coming out of Gordon's solo with an up-tempo version of "...The Saints..."
Not bad, eh?
Another review of the same concert, from the Washington Star-News:
Many people feel it will probably be at least 1983 before the world realizes what a genius Zappa is, because by that time it will probably be too late for both us and for Zappa. It probably serves as little consolation that while most people love him for his apparent madness, musicians and critics have long loved him for his far sighted concepts and ambitions. Representatives of both camps came out in force Saturday night, to witness one of Zappa's infrequent East Coast concerts (at Constitution Hall). What they found was the master, the leader fronting one of the most dazzling, powerful and talented horn sections this reviewer has seen in a long time. They are mostly respected Los Angeles studio musicians, and their dexterity was not at all hampered by having at times to work closely with charts. When was the last time you saw a popular, ostensibly "rock" band working from charts? More than anything, Zappa's section reminds me of what's left of the big bands, with emphasis on a more energetic and creative kind of music. Much of the shows were taken up not by Zappa's zany songs, but by stinging ensemble work and masterful solo after masterful solo. Particularly impressive in solo sessions were Bruce Fowler with a simmering tuba solo (a true to life jazzy tuba solo) and Dave Parlatto with a driving bass that started off in virtual seclusion and ended up driving the band to a fabulous finish. Also worth noting was a drum solo by Jim Gordon that was both the funniest and most furious version of "Caravan" heard in some time. As for Zappa, he seemed much more laid back than usual. He is still very much in charge, leading the entire group, shaping its ultimate sound. His guitar breaks reflect the general attitude of his music--jams built around a concrete concept, the development of a statement as opposed to mere technique. Zappa is a firm guitarist, and his breaks much more in a jazz tradition than rock, obviously dictated by the shape and force of the band. While enough of his legendary zaniness came through, it was the excellence of the music that saturated the audience with joyful exhaustion. Zappa played long and well, and like a magician, left everyone filled, not with questions of how or why, but the knowledge of wonder.
An eye-witness account of the Wichita show, 11/30/72, from Dawayne Bailey:
I remember hanging out with Zappa and band after a [Petit] Wazoo show at Century II in Wichita, KS (Steely Dan was the opener) in late 1972. Frank was wearing red bell bottoms with his flannel shirt tail out.
We went to an all black club and FZ slow danced with this very tall chick. He was still doing kind of a limp after the Rainbow stage dive, so it was odd watching him slow dancing with a limp.
After that, we ended up at a club called Caesar's Palace and all the Wazoo guys were jamming. Tony Duran sounded great, as did the horn players. That's the night Frank first heard Craig Steward get up and jam on harmonica. FZ got up and sat on a stool and played guitar. I had just turned 18, so it was a thrill to be in a private club where you had to be 21. Especially with FZ & the Wazoo.
The next day, after I stayed the night at a trumpet player friend's house who knew Earle Dumler. Earle was also a Kansas native like the rest of us, from Russell, KS (home of Bob Dole). He also did tons of sessions in LA and was on the road with FZ.
So Earle and I got to hang out and he personally took me to K-Mart and bought a copy of Grand Wazoo and signed it and gave it to me. I still have it.
From Westport Trucker (Volume 3, Number 12):
BROOKES DESOTO & MOBY LEPPERT
Living legend Frank Zappa made a second appearance here last Saturday night[.] If you are a fan of truly original music, naturally you should have gone. Amidst tasteful white music podiums emblazoned with big red "M's", Zappa and his all-new band played extended versions of the man's unique visions. If any single thing can be said about ALL of Zappa's music, it is that it's honest. It's been a year since Zappa was knocked off the stage into the orchestra pit in England, and he still doesn't know what his assailant looks like. He was nearly killed, and carries a limp for memories. He can't be thought of as JUST a musician, or simply a songwriter, but as a total musical personality. He makes his own rules. A lot of people don't like him for that.
The band's first tune of the evening was a hitherto unheard song named "Rollo." Zappa's vocals left little to be desired, but of course, what can be desired in a song about a dog with a hollow leg? "Duke of Prunes," a revival and rejuvenation of a song from their second album, "Absolutely Free," was performed magnificently in the inimitable Zappa vein. My only complaint was the lack of vocals. "Montana," a lovely little ditty about the joys of owning a dental floss farm, combined the power and versatility of the Mother's new six piece horn section, and Zappa's maniacal guitar work. The next tune was "Little Dots", a formless, wigged-out jazz portion relying mainly on Jim Gordon's (of ["]Layla" fame) very capable percussive ability. "Cosmic Debris" was a rocked out blues progression, with changes and phrases only Zappa could have masterminded. The "official" final song was "Fa[r]ther Oblivion" the evening's low point for me, despite some very able horn work and solos. I was utterly aghast and very pleased when Zappa announced they were going to dispense with the universally used and time-worn walk-off-stage-have-a-smoke-let-the-crowd-scream-itself-hoarse-before-doing-an-encore, trick, and simply said THIS is the encore, and after this, that's it, and did "America Drinks"...was, without a doubt, the most amazing thing I have seen Zappa do since Motorhead Sherwood gave him a shoeshine onstage in Philadelphia.
The second set started with Zappa's entrance onstage to "The Tonight Show" theme and then warmed up to some "Minor Key Blues in the Key of A". Although much of this set was jamming, each piece was interwoven with the other, and formed, in this writer's opinion, the fullest-sounding 10 piece band ever to hit Kansas City. Next was THE amazing piece of this set, "Son of Mr. Green Genes". Beautifully melodic horn pieces and a very spiffy lead solo by Zappa himself made this song a wonderful first effort at playing this number before an audience. "Chunga's Revenge" was studio tone and style, only very long, "Rollo" again, and then into an unnamed free-form jazz jam. An excruciatingly long, boring "Cosmic Debris", and another instant encore, this time, "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?", dedicated to all people in all free clinics everywhere!
All in all, for only having been together six weeks, the band was amazingly tight, and a new experience for Zappa fans and initiates alike. The new Mothers have NOT sold out, but have just branched into new portions of the entire musical phenomenon.
Zappa as a guitarist has been terribly underrated, and the man boogied like nobody's business during both shows. He is doing what he likes to do again, doing it like no one else does, and that's all right with me. Things have changed a bit. As a retort to an asshole comment, "Shit onstage!" Zappa responded with, "No, you'll have to see Alice Cooper for that!"
An eye-witness account of the Lincoln show, 12/3/72, from Tim Dunlap:
As far as my personal experience, I remember it quite well. I ran with a band named Straight back then from Hastings where we went to college. We played jazz-rock and idolized FZ. We all went to the concert and stood at the front of the stage as they did sound check and stayed there through the end of the concert. We chatted at the roadies and members of his band also. We knew his material so well that we often yelled his lyrics at him before he'd sing them during the concert which caused him to smirk and look at us a couple times. His leg was in a cast at the time. His guitar solos were brilliant and crisp, and the band was tight as hell. After the concert a couple of our band, including me, hung around the stage and chatted as they broke down. I recall we were interested in a new instrument they used--real unusual--like a giant bassoon/sax. Anyway, the roadies asked us if we wanted to party with the band. We said hell yeah. So they invited us over to the Airport Inn. The other guys that hadn't heard the invite were doubters, but we went over to the hotel anyway. We went to the office and asked them how we found the band's wing of rooms. The hotel guy doubted our story so he made a call. We stood around a bit and out of an elevator walked FZ. He escorted us to the wing, where the band had opened cases of wine in the hallway. We sat down right there for the next 2 hours or so, chatting to FZ and the band, each of us interviewing the members we were most interested in because of what they played--drummer to drummer, etc. FZ sat with me for a bit and we talked about music theory (which I was taking), key and tempo changes, and the like, but he left early to crash. I remember that they had a tape of a drum solo that they kept playing over and over, teasing [Jim] Gordon about where he'd dropped his sticks and the solo was broken. All in all it was a really candid and enjoyable night for all of us... unforgettable, though exact texts of what was said is lost in my mind anyway... musta been the vino!!
From the Vancouver Sun, 12/9/72:
Frank Zappa came into the Agrodome last night in a calf-length overcoat and a winter scarf around his neck and shoulders. He took them off and opened up an hour-and-a-half-long American jazz-rock fusion that came as close in scope to symphony as popular art is ever likely to.
Zappa's band is sans keyboard, sans a legion of guitars. What it does have is horns--six of them--a very well disciplined drummer and bass guitarist, and Zappa's own searing lead guitar.
McLuhan says that in the world of electric circuitry invention is the mother of necessity. Zappa's sparse, incisive innovations in modern American music become immediate necessities for those lucky enough to hear them. Without Zappa, American rock would be minus the fine, mad edge of genius needed to clarify its sometimes blurry contours.
Zappa's compositions demonstrate better than anyone's how the spirit and rhythm of rock can embody the feeling of America. Some have argued that America never needed rock. But America needs Zappa! Jazz alone can't capture the contemporary pace of the modern, industrial mind zap, and the jazz masters know that.
Miles Davis, Larry Coryell, Jeff Beck, And, as before Frank Zappa. He opened with America Drinks, an operatic overture to 20th century living in America. It wrapped into one package the rhythmic elements of each of the lifestyles in the American panorama since F. Scott Fitzgerald's '20s. From whiz-bang to be-bop; up through lah-de-day to rat-a-tat-tat.
Zappa is the Harpo Marx of music; he even looks like Harpo, but his poetry is a whole lot more graceful. There was a time when Zappa's lyrics played a large part, even the greater part, in his music, but he's now largely dropped the literal images in favor of musical ones.
We still get the symbols in language--baroque magnolias, lonely dental floss, take your meditations and run them up your snout--but they're briefer, richer. His music now carries the body of his impact.
In Little Dots, Zappa sounded like some of the modern, American classical composers with their constant raucous allusions to industry and the clatter of machines. But with this mother of invention, the empha[s]is is clarified through the pace of rock.
A typical phrase, led by the brass, begins a riff of grandiloquent, pompous American kitsch which builds to a near crescendo always to collapse in a heap of electric disintegration. Like the American gesture itself, Zappa's symphonic lines invariably disperse in ragged, hard-edged confusion before they're finished. From dream to nightmare, clown to geek, sublime--then ridiculous. It brings to mind rodeos and Radio City, Chicago, the empire state, man on the moon.
Zappa managed to achieve a better, clearer sound in the Agrodome than I've ever heard from a band. He uses electricity well, to add dimension and strength to his composition, instead of mere mass.
Frank Zappa is the grand wazoo.
From the Georgia Straight, 12/14-21/72:
BOOGIE!... ROCK AND ROLL!" Vancouver's probably the Boogie center of the Universe, so I guess it's only natural that a few devotees (they always reveal themselves by chanting their Deity's various names full volume during any lull in the action) showed up at the glorious Agrodome last Friday night. Most of the near-capacity crowd came to hear something different, however. And hear something different they did.
Mostly, what they heard was Frank Zappa--a lot of Frank Zappa. Maybe they even heard all of Frank Zappa, at least all he thinks we can safely handle at our present level of consciousness. The compositions, the orchestration and arranging, the directing as well as a large portion of the solo playing was nothing but ol' Frank letting us commoners take a peek at the musical side of his psyche.
He looks more intense than ever now. His knotted bush of black hair is now merely "curly", but the same wicked moustache and near-goatee are there, so you can still tell it's Frank. For his appearance at the Agrodome he opted for the "semi-formal rock-star" image of faded blue T-shirt and jeans. But he did look good. He had the whole scene covered so to speak.
Now, we all know about the Mothers, don't we? We know there weren't really six or eight or ten freaky looking dudes playing a whole bunch of instruments. No, of course not--what was really happening was Frank was playing all those instruments all by himself. That's right, he was just pretending to be all those different guys so nobody would think it was strange. Well, you might think it was strange, but not that strange.
What Zappa has done this time is gather around himself nine other excellent players who can read music as well as solo, while also just sort of getting it on in general. Each musician has his charts right in front of him on a little stand, and Zappa, when he's not playing rhythm, lead, or singing, conducts his little orchestra. He doesn't use a baton, mind you (I guess it's kind of hard to play all those hot Zappa licks with a conductor's baton in your hand), but except for the moustache and T-shirt and all, you'd swear it was Lenny Bernstein up there.
You'd swear it until you listened to the music, that is. Bernstein never even comes close to making music like this. Compositions like "Rollo", which opens with a heavier brass sound than the "1812" overture (all Zappa's hornmen seem to be able to switch from brass to woodwind to percussion and back again without mis[s]ing half a beat) to lead into a long, floating oboe solo with Zappa comping away on rhythm guitar and the rest of "The Grand Wazoo["] (that's the band's name, by the way) playing Zappa's charts and managing to sound [a]t once painfully jagged and silky smooth.
Zappa's musical abilities have won him the reputation of being a sort of cantankerous genius--a composer continuing in Varese's tradition with the musical world-view of a John Cage and a bit of "under-assistant west-coast promo man" thrown in for good measure.
His skill as a lyricist has also served to convert a few non-believers to the league of Zappa fans. With deadly, heavy-handed accuracy songs like "Willie the Pimp" or even "Help! I'm a Rock" cut right through to the core and pierce our skulls with their outrageous, slightly perverse messages. He brings this skill to the Grand Wazoo most notably in a little number called "Cosmic Debris".
Before actually filling our waiting heads with bits and pieces of cosmic debris, however, Zappa saw fit to silence the boogie element in the crowd by letting them know "this is a new band and we play new music." "Cosmic Debris", as it turns out is a very nice tune--a funky blues guitar sound overlaid with all sorts of squeaking as only the inimitable Frank could conceive.
The song seems to be about a run-in Frank had with some heavy-duty mystic-guru type; probably down in L.A. or some such place. After a series of cosmik, Frank finally manages to hypnotize the guru-type and makes off with all his magick apparati, rightdown to the poor dude's crystal ball. I guess that all goes to show us we shouldn't try to play any mind games with Frank--he's probably got that scene covered too.
After "Farther Oblivion", which was "another long one", Frank said that, in order to save time the band would not go off-stage and come back on again, but would just sort of stand around a bit while we all tried to imagine that we were giving them such a tremendous standing ovation that they'd just have to come back and do an encore for us--which they did (I think).
The "encore" turned out to be "Mr. Green jeans", sounding just like we hoped it would, only with more trombones (so we'd know it was a new Band). The only thing left to cap off a perfect Zappa evening was for Frank to throw his long coat over his shoulders like a cape and stride triumphantly off stage. Just like Lenny Bernstein.
From the Portland Oregonian, 12/6/72:
By John Wendeborn of the Oregonian Staff
Frank Zappa has been zapping his audiences for several years now with his unique satire and parody of music. It's not a Sha Na Na trip, insofar as parody is concerned, because that group takes its original hits and injects them with just the right dose of exaggeration.
Zappa and his Mothers of Invention, however, write their own stuff, which more often than not causes quasi-permanent slapping of the knees, watering of the eyes (in laughter) and a brand new outlook on libidinous behavior. There's hardly a body function that hasn't been gloried in a rousing fashion by the music machine that is Zappa and his Mothers.
Besides all the fun and games visited upon by Zappa, his band is also musical. And Zappa is an outstanding guitarist. But one is always left with the question of whether anyone is taking himself seriously. This group played a concert once with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, under the direction of Zubin Mehta, and it reportedly had a freaking-out effect on the orchestra.
The last time the Mothers played Portland, at the Coliseum, they played about a two-hour-plus concert, with no front act and only a 10-minute intermission to wipe the seat away.
Zappa's group will appear this time in two shows, the first at 7 and the second at 11 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, in the Paramount Northwest Theater. There have been reports that Zappa has mellowed out his act in recent months. He was apparently pulled off a stage in Britain and suffered a broken leg in the ensuing fall (not by dissidents, but by overzealous followers). I doubt if he has become laid back enough to cause any distinct change in his high-energy concerts.
Zappa will not be alone this time around. Northwest Releasing has also added rock 'n rollers Ruben and the Jets to the concert bill.
From the Portland Oregonian, 12/10/72:
Frank Zappa has always had the musical connection to his work. With the Mothers of Invention for the past several years, Zappa has created weird sounds and goofy absurdities, as sort of a parody or satire, even ironic version of the rock scene.
If anyone in the music business has more of an imagination than Zappa, he has yet to surface through the layers of good and bad ideas. He's been the uncrowned king of fun, Zappa has, and listening to his stage rap always has to be done with tongue in cheek.
Zappa and nine musical cohorts played the Paramount Northwest Saturday night in an hour-long show of superproduced music more into jazz than into other recognizable musical pattern.
There was some flurry of rock activity from the band but for the most part, the concert was contemporary in concept and in execution.
And it was excellent. Zappa has not taken merely the styles of Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears and made an amalgamation of them, he has gone several steps further. What the band did Saturday was highly sophisticated modern music with improvisation filling in the spaces in the tight arrangements that would make many modern musicians run for cover.
Zappa's people were flawless, there wasn't a note or a beat missed by the six-man brass section and rhythm trio of guitar, bass and drums. Zappa also played guitar.
There was a definite feeling that humor had been diminished by this edition of the Mothers. Gone are the two singers who once toured with the band. Gone are most of the parody bits, although Zappa did inject just enough fun by opening with a tune about a Montana rancher who raises dental floss. He sang "Cosmic Debris" and did a talking story that originated Saturday afternoon sound check, called "Tycho Brahe," which may find its way into the repetoire; It was good but needs some polishing.
The rest of the music was without lyrics but loaded with bright ensemble playing and solos. The brass section included a tenor man who doubled on trombone, two trombonists, two trumpets, one of whom was Gary Barone, a recognized jazz player, and another reed man who played baritone sax, baritone oboe (that's right) and other reeds, all with perfection.
The music swung at all times and was kicked along by the energetic rhythm.
Zappa himself looked as if the stage act has become a drag, however, and seemed to take what a few rowdies in the crowd had to say too seriously. Most in the opening show crowd were on his side and really enjoying the musical side of the Mothers. About a dozen youths were unable to contain their desire to "boogie" (what were they doing there in the first place?) and this apparently bugged Zappa.
By responding to their cries, he was egging them on, causing more discomfort among the majority in the audience who were on hand to hear Frank Zappa.
The opening band was Ruben and the Jets and this eight-piece band played a group of old rock and roll tunes in a flashy, tight and talented manner. THAT was the boogie band.
Another review of the Portland show can be found at Stu Mark's site.
From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 12/11/72:
Two separate concerts at the Paramount Theater this weekend showed sharp contrasts in the reaches [of] American music.
Steve Miller's Saturday night set confirmed what has become a traditional expectation of deep-seeded blues from this steady performer.
Last night, Frank Zappa and his two-month-old edition of the Mothers of Inventions illustrated the in-roads jazz, classical, and atonal music forms have made upon Zappa's view of the present.
Miller is a fundamentalist. Zappa probes the infinite galaxies of creative expression. The former is safer, more pleasing to the ear. The latter jolts, aborts, shocks with musical subject matter, yet never escapes highly structured, intricately woven formal charts.
Miller returns time and again to Seattle from his base in San Francisco, each time bringing a commitment to early delta black men and their music, electrified and refined over the years.
His band's sole purpose is to support Miller. Miller is the only one taking solos. An added dimension to this concert was a short set of acoustic material at the concert's close which displayed MIller's vocal strength. He is less expressive lyrically.
The performer still gets good mileage from "Gangster of Love" and "Livin' in the USA." His gentle stage demeanor prompts enthusiastic audience response.
Zappa cautioned his audience last night to prepare themselves for new material. His charts are basically structured around an atonal opening theme, then jumping into hard rock, fast-paced rhythms, then returning later to the original theme.
Baroque interludes, wild showmanship, and the leader's taste for the sexually bizarre, never overshadow the fact that Zappa, more than anything else, is a serious musician.
He surrounds himself with young yet highly skilled Los Angeles musicians. Heavily brass oriented, the group features excellent harmonic progressions.
Zappa is concerned with rhythm, shifting from 4-4 to 2-3 time with will... then driving home for a five-minute rock interlude.
This man is a question of taste, or lack thereof. He will continue to appeal to the most avant garde segments of musical society. He will continue to appeal to those less sophisticated for whatever p[r]urient flavor he may still have.
Zappa is an explorer. He maps uncharted regions. Steve Miller stays at home, and with inflection and slight variation retains his early sound.
Music, all the arts, need both--creative approaches. Those who follow either the innovator or the sustainer do so out of their own ranges of experience.
From the Seattle Times, 12/11/72:
Frank Zappa and the Mothers of the Invention are one of the paradoxes of rock 'n' roll. They have always been the freakiest-looking band around and play some of the craziest, wildly satirical music to come along since Spike Jones.
But behind all the madness of the Mothers is one of the most tightly controlled, disciplined, well-rehearsed groups in music.
Last night in concert at Paramount Northwest the ten-member band worked behind band-stands and--unheard of for rock groups--actually played from charts. Even the drummer had written music for every number.
And the music they played--all songs composed by Zappa and most of them new material--was a brilliant jazz-rock mix with funny, pointed lyrics.
One tune, for instance, made fun of the current rash of romantic move-to-the-country songs. It's called "Montana" and tells of a city boy who wants to get back to nature and grow dental floss.
Another song, "Cosmic Debris," was dedicated to all the gods and gurus around these days and satirized True Believers who proselytize among the gullible young.
Zappa was playing excellent electric guitar last night and his band--virtually all new over the last two months--has a versatile and talented six-piece horn section, noted and experienced drummer Jim Gordon, a good bassist, and another excellent guitarist.
Zappa writes long, complicated, multi-leveled songs that might have several themes going at once. The beat changes abruptly and dissonance sometimes takes over. And it is all done with an engaging sense of style.
Together with Zappa's fun[n]y rapport with the audience, it made for a very entertaining show.
A review of the San Francisco show can be found on afka.net.
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Hunchentootin' by Charles Ulrich.