FRANK ZAPPA / MOTHERS – ” The Roxy Performances “

Posted: December 16, 2017 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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On February 2, 2018, Zappa Records/UMe will release

43 years ago in December 1973Frank Zappa played a series of legendary concerts at the famed Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. Considered a high-water mark of his career, owing to the incredible, virtuosic performances of himself and his stellar band The Mothers, the five shows – across three nights – included a private invite-only performance/soundcheck/film shoot followed by back-to-back doubleheaders. A few days later, continuing this incredibly prolific week, Frank Zappa brought his band and camera crew to Ike Turner’s Bolic Sound in Inglewood for a filmed recording session. In typical Zappa fashion, he recorded it all.

Zappa Records presents The Roxy Performances. A 7-Disc Box Set that contains the MOTHERLODE of all things Roxy. All 4 public shows from December 9th & 10th 1973, remixed in 2016 and presented in their entirety for the first time. Also included is the sound check from December 8th and bonus content that features rehearsal nuggets and unreleased tracks along with highlights from the recording session at Bolic Studios that took place in conjunction with the filming dates.  The box set that collects all four public shows from December 9th-10th, 1973, and the December 8th film shoot/soundcheck, each presented in their entirety for the first time, along with bonus content featuring rarities from a rehearsal, unreleased tracks and highlights from the Bolic Studios recording session. This complete collection, totaling nearly eight hours, documents the Roxy shows as they happened and presents brand new 2016 mixes by Craig Parker Adams from new 96K 24 Bit transfers of the multi-track masters. The set is rounded out with a 48-page booklet that includes photos from the performances, extensive liner notes by Vaultmeister Joe Travers, essays from Zappa family friend, Australian writer Jen Jewel Brown,and American singer/songwriter Dave Alvin, who give their firsthand recollections about the shows, and a selection of archival press reviews.

This is one of my favorite Frank Zappa line-ups ever. This box contains some of the best nights of music Los Angeles has ever seen with their ears at an historic venue,” says Ahmet Zappa, who co-produced the collection along with Travers, “Hold on to your hotdogs people. This box is the be-all-end-all. This is it. This is all of it. It’s time to get your rocks off for the Roxy.”

While portions of these concerts have been released in various formats over the years – first in 1974 on the album Roxy and Elsewhere, which mixed material from the shows with performances recorded in different locations months later, followed by 2014’s Roxy By Proxy, which featured Zappa’s 1987 digital mixes of tracks from various shows, and most recently the 2015 film Roxy The Movie and its accompanying soundtrack – the shows have never been released in their entirety until now.

The Roxy Performances capture Zappa and The Mothers in peak condition as they play to rowdy sold-out crowds in the intimate, just-opened venue in their hometown Los Angeles following the release of Over-Nite Sensation. The extraordinary band was one of Zappa’s best with keyboardist George Duke, bassist Tom Fowler, trombonist Bruce Fowler, tenor saxophonist and vocalist Napoleon Murphy Brock, percussionist Ruth Underwood and drummers Ralph Humphrey and Chester Thompson all flawlessly in lockstep as Zappa led them through his musically adventurous compositions filled with complicated time signatures and sudden tempo changes. As the Los Angeles Times remarked in their review, “The content of any show starring Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention is unpredictable. But the quality of the show is predictable. I have seen this satirical rock group many times and every show has been excellent. True to form, the group performed sensationally at the Roxy on Sunday night.” The (long-defunct) Los Angeles Herald-Examiner was equally impressed: “This time around Zappa, the counter-culture’s John Cage, has assembled a remarkable group of musicians. Tim Fowler on bass, his brother Bruce on trombone, Ralph Humphrey on drums, and George Duke, whose keyboard skills almost upstaged the leader himself. Percussionist Ruth Underwood kept up with the band’s frenetic pace without missing a single swat of the gong, and she was incredible.”

The material expertly performed across the five shows consisted mostly of songs from 1969 and beyond and included a dizzying array of stylistic diverse tracks from Uncle Meat, Hot Rats, Waka/Jawaka and Over-Nite Sensation. The shows also include a number of live favorites like “Village Of The Sun,” “Pygmy Twylyte,” “Cheepnis,” “Penguin In Bondage,” “Echidna’s Arf (Of You),” and “Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing.” Many of these ended up on Roxy & Elsewhere.

Jen Jewel Brown and Dave Alvin give a glimpse at what it was like to be at these historic shows in their richly detailed essays in the liner notes that accompany the recordings. Alvin reflects about meeting Zappa on the Isle of Capri in 1982 while on tour with his band The Blasters and how Zappa’s eyes lit up when he told him he saw him at the Roxy. “You were at a Roxy show?,” he beamed. He goes on to write, “The Roxy Mothers were a grand combination of high art, low art, masterful technique and razor sharp humor with a touch of wild abandon.” In Brown’s reflection, “This is a cultural record and there’s some prime Zappanalia here. Frank had put the crippling disasters of December ’71 behind him and was plunged headlong into some of the most beautiful music and zestful, open-hearted engagement with life imaginable.”

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