BAND MEMBERS- FZ, Jeff Simmons (guitar, vocals, harmonica), Tom Fowler (bass), Chester Thompson (drums), Napoleon Murphy Brock (sax, flute, vocals), George Duke (vocals, keyboards, funk), Bruce Fowler (trombone), Walt Fowler (horns), Don Preston (keyboards, moog, weirdness)
DATES- April 19th through May 14th
COUNTRIES- 1 (US)
# OF DIFFERENT SONGS PLAYED- 25
AVERAGE SHOW LENGTH- 115 mins.
AVERAGE # OF FZ SOLOS PER SHOW- 7
SONGS FZ WOULD SOLO IN- Andy, Camariilo Brillo (outro solo), Cosmik Debris, Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing?, Dupree’s Paradise, Hungry Freaks Daddy, Inca Roads, Montana, More Trouble Every Day, Oh No/Son of Orange County, Penguin in Bondage, RDNZL
COMMENTS ON FZ SOLOS- Frank’s guitar playing is excellent on this tour. Compared to his rather lackluster efforts on the previous tour, these solos are simply fantastic. “Montana”, “Penguin in Bondage” and “Cosmik Debris” are in top form, with Frank putting more energy into these songs than he ever would again. The “Inca Roads” solos suffer from a dull vamp, but Frank manages to spellbind us anyway. The “Dupree’s Paradise” solos scorch. And to top it all off, the “Oh No/More Trouble” solos are simply some of the best that Frank ever played. The vamp, the tones, the rhythmic support- these factors combined with Frank’s exploratory playing produce some of Frank’s most impressive and downright serious guitar solos.
SONGS FZ USUALLY SOLOED IN BUT NOT ON THIS TOUR- I’m Not Satisfied
NEW SONGS ON TOUR (1st time performed live)- Ain’t Got No Heart, Wowie Zowie, You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here
MONSTER SONGS- Dupree’s Paradise. This tune continues its reign of terror over this era of Frank’s tours. As we have come to expect, George starts these improvisational showcases with some funkified keyboard work, complete on this tour with some frequent yet random Frank philosophizing. During the solo section we get our usual display of mastery, with Brock, Tom and Bruce Fowler, and Frank all getting their chance to make the audiences eyebrows go up and down really fast. Another successful tour of duty for this Monster Song.
OVERVIEW- These shows are an incredible improvement over the rather lackluster and uninspired performances of the previous outing. The band is essentially the same, minus the dynamic Ruth, but with the addition of Walt Fowler and Don Preston, who both manage to increase the musical abilities of this band to insane levels. Many of the songs are the same as on the previous tour, yet for some reason these tunes seem to take on a new life this time round. Frank appears to be more relaxed, messing with the songs more frequently, indulging in some lyrical mutations, and exploring his guitar like he has not done in a while. More than anything, however, it is the addition of several new songs that really make the difference, and manage to push this outing to interesting heights.
As part of the Mothers’ Ten Year Celebration, Frank resurrects a handful of old Mothers’ tunes, injects them with a little extra energy, and turns them loose on the crowds. The results are excellent. The arrangements sound fresh yet still maintain the spirit of the originals, with Napoleon managing to remain somewhat restrained in the vocal department. The “Freak Out! Medley” comprises the bulk of these oldies, but it is the brilliantly paired “Oh No-> Son of Orange County-> More Trouble Every Day” medley which serves as the biggest treat of this tour. Brock does a wonderful job on the difficult “Oh No”, while Frank simply soars in both the solo spots provided in this medley. Zappa seems to have a newfound intensity in these solos, and has discovered a pair of vamps into which he can really sink his teeth.
The only major complaint regarding this tour, which I also made regarding the previous tour, concerns Frank’s use of his musicians, most notably Preston and the Fowler brothers. While there presence is definitely felt in the arrangements of the tunes, they do not get the chance to really freak out. They each get solos here and there, but the results are never anything as insane as the Improvisations of Spring '73, or the Monster Songs of '88. Having such a high calibre of musicianship in his band, Frank fails to fully exploit his resources, and there is the sense that this tour could have been much more.
On the whole, however, this tour succeeds at doing what it sets out to do, and manages to frequently exceed those expectations thanks to some quality playing and excellent song selection. As many of you know, I find the Fall '74 tour to be the pinnacle of Frank's touring career, and it is this tour which finally establishes the atmosphere and attitude that would make the following tour so successful. The musicianship is high, the song selection is excellent, and everyone, especially Frank, seems to be having a really good time. As good as this tour is in its own right, it is an important step in the evolution of the Zappa touring experience, and serves as a necessary precursor to the Fall '74 extravaganza. For that reason alone, this tour will always remain a favorite.
ADVANCED BE-BOP SESSION- I am assuming that this is from the end of a "Dupree's Paradise" workout, though from the two available sources it is hard to tell due to edits. Oh well. Wherever it is from, it is highly enjoyable. The event begins with some Duke-led funk, reminscent of "The Booger Man" forays from Fall '74, which leads into a Frank lecture on- what else- jazz. Frank jokes around with the band for awhile before getting to the meat of this little occurrence. At his command, four members of Frank's band each play an unrelated jazz standard, at the same time, "stomping on each other's dicks" while doing so. Bruce plays "Orinthology", Walt plays "Giant Steps", Brock plays "Little Coquette", and Preston plays "Sweet Leilani". The result is nothing more than musical chaos, but enjoyable nonetheless.
AIN'T GOT NO HEART- Essentially performed as on "Unmitigated Audacity" from Beat the Boots Volume I, with Brock on vocals. Compared to the "Freak Out" version, these performances are a lot more aggressive and guitar oriented, with an added guitar rave-up similar to the ending from "Tryin' to Grow A Chin".
ANDY- While this version does not yet have the confident swagger of the OSFA take, what we get here is essentially the same nonetheless. This arrangement sounds more similar to the '88 TBBYNHIYL version thanks to the presence of the horn players, yet contains the two guitar solos (the lengthier one in the middle, and the shorter, more frenzied one at the end) as heard on OSFA.
CAMARILLO BRILLO- Essentially performed as on "Unmitigated Audacity" from Beat the Boots Volume I. While this song would eventually become a by-the-numbers stroll with very little energy, on this tour, and up through Spring '75, "Camarillo Brillo" is a worthy and somewhat exciting number. Frank's guitar is heavy in the mix, the groove is solid, and the song typically climaxes in a short Duke and/or Frank solo.
CHEEPNIS- This tour's version sounds like a mutant hybrid of the "Roxy and Elsewhere" and YCDTOSA Volume II releases. Things start off as always, with Brock going to the movies, describing the movie, and Narrator Frank alerting us to the presence of a large poodle dog. After the "Nuclear Force" line, we get the "Harry Thing" section- as on YCDTOSA Volume II- but without the improvised breakfast lyrics found on that latter performance. Instead, we get the extended "Harry Thing" funk jam, in which Brock essentially wails and screams while the band grooves along behind him. This leads into the "run for shelter" bit, the short percussion display, and then, as on the Roxy release, we get the full blown ending. This means Little Miss Muffet reappears, followed by the Horrible Eye (yes, the Horrible Eye), and finally the concluding lyrics as found on both releases. I personally prefer the YCDTOSA version, as I have never been fond of that Horrible Eye, and I really enjoy Brock's spiel about opening up the bartender in his room. This version includes the Horrible Eye, and excludes the bartender rap, and thus for me, it is inferior to the latter version. I do enjoy it much better than the Roxy release, though, as the overproduction on that tune has always annoyed me. Thus, I would say that this is a worthy version of an unfortunately short-lived song.
COSMIK DEBRIS- Essentially performed as always, with the standard deviation coming in the parade of solos. This time around we get Brock, Duke, Simmons (harmonica), and Frank solos, and the horn-heavy funkified "price of meat" section.
DON'T YOU EVER WASH THAT THING?- Essentially performed as on "Roxy and Elsewhere", with the standard deviation coming in Bruce's show stopping solo, and Duke's "he ain't Bruce but he's good nonetheless" keyboard solo.
DUPREE'S PARADISE- The Monster of tour. As is standard procedure by this point, these performances start off with some funky George Duke keyboard jams, or as Frank chose to call it at one particular show, the "cheap version of 'Jungle Boogie'". Compared to both the '73 and Fall '74 performances, these jams are more straightforward, with less random conducting by Frank. Frank does, however, do quite a bit more talking in these funky intros, involving Simmons and Brock in improvised routines similar to "Dummy Up". After several minutes of this, we enter "Dupree's Paradise" proper, with the main theme followed by a series of solos. Brock goes first (on either sax or flute), followed by the Fowler brothers. Tom does his bass thing first, followed by Bruce proving his trombone godliness to the masses. Finally, Frank wraps things up in some of his most intense and metal tinged "Dupree's" solos. Frank's guitar playing is consistently excellent throughout this tour, but coming hot-on-the-heels of Bruce's trombone wizardry, Frank knows he has to really heat things up in order to compare. So he does, and the results are great.
HARRY YOU'RE A BEAST- Essentially performed as on "Unmitgated Audacity" from Beat the Boots Volume I. The "with vocals" version.
HOW COULD I BE SUCH A FOOL?- Essentially performed as on "Unmitigated Audacity" from Beat the Boots Volume I, with Brock on vocals. Compared to the "Freak Out" version, these performances are slightly faster, with an added guitar solo ending complete with additional improvised vocals.
HUNGRY FREAKS DADDY- Essentially performed as on "Unmitigated Audacity" from Beat the Boots Volume I, with Brock on vocals.
IDIOT BASTARD SON- Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume II, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation.
I'M NOT SATISFIED- Essentially performed as on "Unmitigated Audacity" from Beat the Boots Volume I, with Brock on vocals. Compared to the "Freak Out" version, these are vocal only performances, with no guitar solo.
INCA ROADS- Essentially performed as on "One Size Fits All", with one major difference. The tune starts off with the same percussion and drum riff as on the official release, and unfortunately maintains this groove throughout the vocals and into Frank's guitar solo. So whereas the percussion aspects of the song are underplayed and eventually disappear on the later version, they remain and play a prominent role for the entire first half of this version. All throughout George's vocal parts, and even for the duration of Frank's solo, the same repeating lick is played by Chester, giving the song a very repititive and confined feel. Even Duke's "spacey" keyboards cannot salvage this opening section. The greatest problem with this is the inhibiting effect it has on Frank's solo, thus preventing him from producing one of the epic solos that he would so frequently create on the Fall '74 outing. The remainder of the tune thankfully appears as it always has and will, with the added bonus of a Fowler trombone solo prior to Duke's keyboard solo. For me, this is a disappointing version of this classic tune simply because of the difference in the guitar solo rhythmic accompianment. Frank's solos are still excellent, but somewhat inhibited by the restrictive vamp.
IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE- Essentially performed as on "Unmitigated Audacity", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's slightly improvised vocals.
LET'S MAKE THE WATER TURN BLACK- Essentially performed as on "Unmitigated Audacity" from Beat the Boots Volume I.
LOUIE LOUIE- Exactly performed as on "Unmitigated Audacity" from Beat the Boots Volume I, with this performance being the only one from this tour.
MONTANA- Essentially performed as always, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo.
MORE TROUBLE EVERY DAY- Essentially performed as on "Roxy and Elsewhere", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. This is one of the continual treats of this tour, and never fails to produce some excellent Frank solos.
OH NO/SON OF ORANGE COUNTY- Essentially performed as on "Unmitigated Audacity", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo (it also appears on "Roxy and Elsewhere", but without the main portion of "Oh No"). The arrival of this tune, along with "More Trouble Every Day", is one of the great developments of this era in Frank's career. As the performances on this tour show, along with the even more insane performances from the following tour, these songs were a constant inspiration to the band, and always seemed to bring out the most intense performances from everyone involved. The rhythm section seem to be particularly fond of this tune, and of "More Trouble Every Day", locking into some serious grooves and pushing Frank's solos to continually great heights.
PENGUIN IN BONDAGE- Essentially performed as on TBBYNHIYL (the Roxy version is edited), allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo.
PYGMY TWYLYTE- Essentially performed as on "Roxy and Elsewhere", though at a somewhat slower pace (though not as slow as the YCDTOSA Volume II version). In its entirety, this song actually contains the "Dummy Up" funk jam. During this jam, Brock improvises the lyrics for several minutes while the band funks away behind him. When Frank gives the cue, Brock and the band segue into the chorus (which appears as the "Dummy Up" lines on Roxy), before returning to "Pygmy Twylyte" proper. Upon returning to the tune, they essentially perform the latter half of the song- with vocals- before frequently heading into the always enjoyable "Idiot Bastard Son". The transition into "Idiot Bastard Son" is essentially the same as the transition found on YCDTOSA Volume II.
RDNZL- From the post-solo written section on, this songs essentially appears as it would later be performed on YCDTOSA Volume II. The first half of the tune is quite a bit different, however, though in many ways similar to the "Lost Episodes" release. The short, quick opening section is present at this point, but Ruth's brilliant display of percussion technique is not yet available. Instead, we cut straight to a short Fowler trombone solo (instead of a Ponty solo as on the LE release), followed by a short Frank guitar solo. At this point, we then receive the typical post-solo RDNZL action. While roughly only half the tune is different, this still manages to give the entire song quite a different feel. Without Ruth's mesmerizing solo, and Frank's own full-length, sweeping display of talent, the tune loses a lot of its power. It's still good, though.
WOWIE ZOWIE- Essentially performed as on "Unmitigated Audacity" from Beat the Boots Volume I, with Brock on vocals.
YOU"RE PROBABLY WONDERING WHY I'M HERE- Essentially performed as on "Unmitigated Audacity" from Beat the Boots Volume I, with Brock on vocals. Compared to the "Freak Out" version, these performances are quite a bit more aggressive.