Posts Tagged ‘Don Preston’

Frank Zappa

The American composer and rock & roll provocateur, Frank Zappa, died at age 52 almost two decades ago, on December 4th, 1993. At the time of his passing, his official discography totaled 62 albums released under his own name and that of his landmark combo, the Mothers of Invention.

He is still putting records out, at a remarkable pace, under the vigilant aegis of his wife Gail and the Zappa Family Trust’s Vaultmeister, archivist Joe Travers. According to the fine print on the back, Carnegie Hall – a four-CD set of Zappa’s two shows at New York’s symphonic palace on October 11th, 1971

Zappa Records and UMe have repackaged this 2011 website-exclusive 4-CD set in more compact 3-CD fashion for general release.  “Carnegie Hall” chronicles Zappa and the Mothers of Invention’s October 11th, 1971 shows at the famed New York venue from the original mono tapes.  This version drops the opening set by The Persuasions but includes all of Zappa and the Mothers’ material from both shows.  The Mothers’ lineup includes three alumni of The Turtles – bassist Jim Pons and vocalists Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, a.k.a. Flo and Eddie – plus Ian Underwood, Don Preston, and Aynsley Dunbar.

According to New York promoter Ron Delsener’s Carnegie Hall liner note, Zappa and his ’71 Mothers keyboard players Don Preston and Ian Underwood (the latter also on alto sax), ex-John Mayall drummer Aynsley Dunbar and three former Turtles, bassist Jim Pons and singer-jesters Mark “Flo” Volman and Howard “Eddie” Kaylan –only got through the backstage door because Delsener told the venue’s booking manager that the boss Mother “was a very accomplished classical musician.” Which was true, although the only strings in this band were on Zappa’s guitar.

The complete 7:30 and 11 p.m. shows in this box were recorded by the leader in mono with a single microphone and concealed tape machine (probably to avoid union hassles). The fidelity is remarkably clear and full-bodied, even with the inevitable room echo. This is also a rare chance to hear the “Flo and Eddie” Mothers’ full range of operatic lunacy and underrated small-combo instrumental drive. An LP-sized dose, Fillmore East – June 1971, had been issued shortly before these concerts; another, 1972’s “Just Another Band from L.A.”, had just been taped.

But Carnegie Hall is all that fun at length – the bawdy rock-star mockery of “The Mud Shark,” reprised from Fillmore East; an even longer “Billy the Mountain” than the one on “Just Another Band” plus surprising excavations from Uncle Meat, a long new piece called “Divan” (about a sofa and a magic pig) and a weirdly funky rewiring of the paranoia in Freak Out! “Who Are the Brain Police?” A chunk of “King Kong” 30 minutes goes to an overlong drum solo, but such were the times.

Ironically, Zappa’s orchestral work was never performed in Carnegie Hall in his lifetime. After his death, though, Zappa’s long-form fable, “The Adventures of Greggary Peccary” (issued on 1978’s Studio Tan), rendered in full, by an orchestra. Carnegie Hall marked Zappa’s first and last night on that stage. He never left the building.

“Americans are ugly. This music is designed for them,” proclaimed Frank Zappa during the Mothers of Inventions first ever European show, their landmark concert at London s Royal Albert Hall. Yet although Zappa s work may have been designed as a critique of his homeland, he would discover that the Mothers output found its most loyal audience on distant shores. That legendary performance occurred on September 23rd, 1967, and seven days later the band were playing to another packed crowd at The Stockholm Concert Hall. This momentous event, broadcast nationally, is presented in its entirety and in superb quality on Go Ape!,

By the time of the performance Zappa and the first incarnation of the Mothers were at the height of their powers. Their extended residency at New York s Garrick Theatre between April and September, 1967, had given the band a chance to experiment with both their musical repertoire and their unpredictable onstage antics This combination of off-the-wall experimentation and musical dexterity is captured perfectly in the Stockholm performance. With a set-list that includes cover versions of rock and pop standards alongside snippets of Stravinsky and Tchaikovksy, the Mothers run through inimitable versions of Freak Out s You Didn t Try to Call Me and It Can t Happen Here and their classic B-Side Big Leg Emma . The centre-piece of the concert is a remarkable rendition of King Kong , a composition that Zappa would develop and hone for years.

Frank Zappa, live at the Konserthuset, Stockholm, Sweden this remarkable performance, broadcast from the Konserthuset in Stockholm, Sweden on national FM radio, “Big Leg Emma” (which had recently appeared as a 45 in Sweden), and an epic rendition of “King Kong” (in its first known live recording), as well as a couple of Elvis classics Blue Suede Shoes and Hound dog.

A section of it had previously appeared in orchestral form on Lumpy Gravy, and another version would eventually make up an entire side of the double LP Uncle Meat. The live rendition presented here is a unique 18 minute phenomenon, its first section highlighting the remarkable interplay between Bunk Gardener on clarinet, Ian Underwood on alto sax and Don Preston on keyboards, and its second section a Zappa-conducted explosion of improvised sound. For many, the first Mothers of Invention were the greatest group Zappa ever assembled. Go Ape! is a perfect example of what made them such a rare and remarkable beast.

Very interesting early show from the original Mothers. This set seems complete and the sound is top notch, and the performance of King Kong is a blinder! One to add to your collection for sure.