Posts Tagged ‘Frank Zappa’

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Halloween was Frank Zappa’s favorite holiday & by 1977 his Halloween shows had become legendary. The part set Recorded “Live at The Palladium in NYC” ,  where Zappa performed over 6 shows 28th – 31st October. Four shows were filmed & resulted in Zappa’s movie “Baby Snakes.” The recorded version includes the Halloween night show in its entirety, mixed in 2016 from original Vault masters, plus select tracks from the other 5 shows.

On another Halloween night in 1978 Frank Zappa closed his band’s North American tour with a four-hour marathon show at the Palladium in New York City. The now legendary show is fondly known to his fans as “the big one”, after Zappa decided to combine the early and late shows into one and introduced the show with: “All right this is the big one. Since this is the big one, we’re gonna do an extra long show. I hope you don’t have to leave early”. Many put this show on their top live Zappa performances and considering the mammoth amount of shows that had been taped and bootlegged during his prolific career, this is no minor achievement. The evening was even more special, as the band was joined by guest L Shankar, the great Indian violinist who became known to western audiences a few years earlier with Shakti, the band he formed with John McLaughlin and Zakir Hussain.

On stage that night was a similar personnel to the one that would record a few months later the triple-LP rock opera “Joe’s Garage”, an album that is an acquired taste for many, and not considered one of his best. But it includes one of my favorite in all of Zappa’s large catalog of amazing performances: “Watermelon in Easter Hay”. What makes the 1978 Halloween show special for me is a great rendition of that song, perhaps the best live performance of that song that I’ve heard. The solo exchanges between Zappa and Shankar on that song are nothing short of spectacular. On the album Joe’s Garage, Watermelon in Easter Hay is played towards the end of the record, and it opens side six on the triple LP. The Central Scrutinizer, the narrating voice that comes whispering though a megaphone and glues the album songs with his tale of Joe and his entanglements in a dystopian society while trying to form a garage band, utters the following: “This is the CENTRAL SCRUTINIZER. Joe has just worked himself into an imaginary frenzy during the fade-out of his imaginary song. He begins to feel depressed now. He knows the end is near. He has realized at last that imaginary guitar notes and imaginary vocals exist only in the imagination of the imaginer. And ultimately, who gives a fuck anyway?! Excuse me. Who gives a fuck anyway? So he goes back to his ugly little room and quietly dreams his last imaginary guitar solo.”

Towards the end of the narration the band comes in with a riff that is played throughout the nine-minute song, a hypnotic slow arpeggiated pattern in a 9/4 time signature, The snare accents have tons of reverb and delay, creating a swooosh sound that sometimes sounds like wind. That effect alone adds another dimension to the song. As the song unfolds, the 9/4 cycle becomes a sort of a mantra that you cannot get out of your head after the song ends. But the best part comes right after the narration ends, with one of the best guitar solos in the history of music. There is really no song form here, no A, B or C parts, no verse, bridge or chorus. Its that pattern and the guitar on top of it, repeating endlessly with slight variation from one cycle to the next. The solo is uniquely emotional in Zappa’s catalog, and he considered it one of the top performances of his career.

Whether you like Joe’s Garage or not, you cannot argue with its sound quality. It was recorded at Village Recorders studios in Los Angeles where some other amazingly sounding albums were recorded in the late 70s including Steely Dan’s Aja, Supertramp’s Breakfast in America and Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk. The studio personnel was very accommodating and tried to provide everything the artists needed to get their creative juices going. Studio D was constructed especially for the production of Tusk, and Stevie Nicks asked for and got a vocal booth looking like a sunset in Tahiti. One of the things that stands out immediately when you hear the guitar on watermelon in Easter Hay is its tone, a clear spacey sound that works so well for the emotional mood of the piece and is very different from any other guitar sound I know. It was achieved by using the Space Station reverb unit in the days when sound engineers had to tinker with all of the equipment’s intricate options to get a unique sound. Today’s sameness of sound is a result of using factory presets in a digital age that encourages laziness when it comes to the sound and tone of an instrument.

The role of the other musicians on Watermelon in Easter Hay is much more restrained than usually on a Zappa composition, because they keep playing that 9/4 cycle over and over. But they are high enough in the mix that you can hear various nuances, especially by drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and percussionist Ed Mann on Marimba and Glockenspiel. In a long list of extraordinary drummers that worked with Frank Zappa over the years, including Ralph Humphrey, Chester Thompson, Chad Wakerman and Terry Bozzio, Colaiuta stands out as the one most able to cope up with Zappa’s polyrhythmical sense of phrasing. In an interview he explained: “I had a pretty fair knowledge of polyrhythms and stuff like that before I got in the band, but nowhere near what it became. I mean, I knew what they were theoretically, but in terms of approaching them the same way he did and using them on the drumset, no way. I got all that from him. In the two and a half years I was with him, it was incredible what I learned. If he sees you have it to begin with, you have to keep up with him. There’s so much information and knowledge coming out of him so fast that you have to be on your toes every second. I would play behind his guitar solos. He said, “I want you to listen to what I’m playing because I’m playing all those rhythms. When you accompany me, I don’t want you to just try to guess what they are and play some standard rhythmic fill. I want you to understand exactly where I’m at and communicate with me on that level.”

Many consider Vinnie Colaiuta the most advanced drummer who played with Zappa. Here is Steve Vai: “He’s one of the most amazing sight-readers that ever existed on the instrument. One day we were in a Frank rehearsal, this was early ’80s, and Frank brought in this piece of music called “Mo ‘N Herb’s Vacation.” Just unbelievably complex. All the drums were written out, just like “The Black Page” except even more complex. There were these runs of like 17 over 3 and every drumhead is notated differently. And there were a whole bunch of people there, I think Bozzio was there. Vinnie had this piece of music on the stand to his right. To his left he had another music stand with a plate of sushi on it, okay? Now the tempo of the piece was very slow, like “The Black Page.” And then the first riff came in, [mimics bizarre Zappa-esque drum rhythm patterns] with all these choking of cymbals, and hi-hat, riffs, spinning of rototoms and all this crazy stuff. And I saw Vinnie reading this thing. Now, Vinnie has this habit of pushing his glasses up with the middle finger of his right hand. Well I saw him look at this one bar of music, it was the last bar of music on the page. He started to play it as he was turning the page with one hand, and then once the page was turned he continued playing the riff with his right hand, as he reached over with his left hand, grabbed a piece of sushi and put it in his mouth, continued the riff with his left hand and feet, pushed his glasses up, and then played the remaining part of the bar. It was the slickest thing I have ever seen. Frank threw his music up in the air. Bozzio turned around and walked away. I just started laughing.”

Frank Zappa studio 1979

Frank Zappa developed the song during his live performances in 1978. The first recorded instance of Watermelon in Easter Hay was at at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on January 27, 1978. Another version was recorded a month later in Germany and is available on Frank Zappa Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa. A Memorial Tribute, an album released in 1996 by Dweezil Zappa that captures a few versions of pieces Zappa the father considered the best of his career . It is interesting to hear the development of the guitar solo from the early shows in 1978 to the ones on Halloween in New York and the studio version that appears on Joe’s Garage, recorded in 1979. The solo becomes more structured and mature in the last two and performances and projects a deeper emotion in my opinion. I believe the improvement is mainly due to the change of drummers from Terry Bozzio to Vinnie Colaiuta before the Halloween show .

On Joe’s Garage Zappa continued to use his technique of xenochrony, the placement of previously recorded material on top of studio tracks. Almost all his guitar solos on the album were recoded during live performances from his 1978 tours, and he let band members accompany these solos in the studio and improvise on top of them. He recorded only one new solo for Joe’s Garage and that was Watermelon in Easter Hay. As for the name, Zappa told an interviewer: “If a drummer overplays, if the bass player overplays or the keyboard overplays . . . if they don’t have any sensitivity to what I’m doing or if they aren’t smart enough to track the direction that I am going in it’s like dragging an anchor. In fact, I’ll point out the way that song, “Watermelon in Easter Hay” got its name. It’s from the statement that playing a solo with this band is like trying to grow a watermelon in Easter hay. And most of the bands that I’ve had it was like that. It’s been just recently where I’ve had rhythm sections that don’t get in my way and let me do what I am going to do.”

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“Inca Roads” is one of Frank Zappa’s most cherished, covered, and appreciated pieces. It allied his ability to write a catchy song with his mastery of complex music forms, making it a favorite among progressive rock fans and virtuoso ensembles. The lyrics begin on a UFO theme: “Did a vehicle/Come from somewhere out there/Just to land in the Andes?,” referring to South American architectural structures some believed were landing sites for flying saucers. But quickly the song takes a dive into “life on the road.” The word “vehicle” is replaced by “booger-bear,” a title given to the band member who ended up with the ugliest groupie the previous night (which makes it the contrary of “Bwana Dik”). The name of drummer Chester Thompson comes up in regards to that, as it will again under similar circumstances in “Florentine Pogen.” The song ends with a tutti “On Ruth!,” a wink at percussionist Ruth Underwood’s .

“Inca Roads” was the opening track of the Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention 1975 album, “One Size Fits All”. The song features unusual time signatures, lyrics and vocals. The marimba-playing of Zappa’s percussionist Ruth Underwood is featured prominently. The song was played in concert from 1973 to 1976, 1979 and 1988. “Inca Roads” uses mixed meter time sequences.

The song starts with dominant vocals, drums, and marimba, but soon features a massive, iconic guitar solo performed by Zappa in late September 1974 at a live performance in Helsinki, Finland. An edited version of this solo recording (and part of the bass and drums accompaniment) was “grafted” onto the KCET track and forms the backbone of the One Size Fits All version . Later, George Duke plays an equally complex solo in . On the video, Zappa is seen smiling gleefully, as he plays the backup chords. After a short marimba solo, “Inca Roads” reprises its snappy intro. The song ends with the lyrics “On Ruth, on Ruth, that’s Ruth!” acknowledging Underwood for her leading on the marimba.

In an interview vocalist and keyboard player George Duke said that Zappa pushed for him to sing on “Inca Roads” and that beforehand Duke had no intentions of singing professionally and was only there to play keyboards. He went on to explain how Zappa had bought him a synthesizer (an instrument which Duke had disliked) and told him he could play around with it if he wanted. This led to Duke playing the synth part on “Inca Roads” as well

This re recorded version was featured on the Eagle Rock Entertainment Vdeo release in conjuction with the Zappa Family Trust first official release of A TOKEN OF HIS EXTREME, an original program created by Frank Zappa for TV. Recorded on August 27, 1974 at KCET in Hollywood.

“A Token of his Extreme” features Frank Zappa with five incredibly talented band members for this extravaganza of live music. The line-up exists of Frank Zappa—guitar, percussion, vocals; George Duke—keyboards, finger cymbals, tambourine, vocals; Napoleon Murphy Brock—sax, vocals; Ruth Underwood—percussion; Tom Fowler—bass; Chester Thompson—drums.

I always end up emotionally overwhelmed at the unparalleled majesty of this band’s musicianship. Ruth Underwood percussion is amazing, This is truly one of Frank Zappa’s greatest compositions. Not only is his solo jaw dropping but the band are just scorching hot too. All that knotty odd time, crazy harmony and difficult vocals just shows how great these guys were. George Duke just absolutely burns on this song.

The track was taken from the Program, as edited and thoroughly tweezed & produced by Frank Zappa for Honker Home Video includes these delights: The Dog Breath Variations/ Uncle Meat, Montana, Earl Of Duke (George Duke), Florentine Pogen, Stink-Foot, Pygmy Twylyte, Room Service, Inca Roads, Oh No, Son Of Orange County, More Trouble Every Day, A Token Of My Extreme. Stereo Mixes Produced by Frank Zappa with Kerry McNabb at Paramount Studios, 1974.

“This was put together with my own money and my own time and it’s been offered to television networks and to syndication and it has been steadfastly rejected by the American television industry. It has been shown in primetime in France and Switzerland, with marvelous results. It’s probably one of the finest pieces of video work that any human being has ever done. I did it myself. And the animation that you’re gonna see in this was done by a guy named Bruce Bickford, and I hope he is watching the show, because it’s probably the first time that a lot of people in America got a chance to see it.”- FZ appearing on the Mike Douglas Show, 1976 Because ‘Token’ has never been commercially released until now, it is one of the most sought after Frank Zappa programs.

The Band

  • Frank Zappa – guitar, vocals
  • George Duke – keyboards, synthesizer, lead vocals
  • Napoleon Murphy Brock – flute, tenor saxophone, vocals
  • Chester Thompson – drums
  • Tom Fowler – bass
  • Ruth Underwood – vibes, marimba, percussion

“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.

Los Angeles – July 3, 2018 – Coming on the heels of last month’s vinyl release of his enigmatic Burnt Weeny Sandwich, Frank Zappa’s stylistically diverse and subversive 1970 album Chunga’s Revenge will be the next classic Zappa album to be reissued on vinyl as part of the Zappa Family Trust and UMe’s ongoing initiative to restore the iconoclast’s iconic catalog. The record will receive a 180-gram audiophile repressing on black vinyl on July 20 via Zappa Records/UMe. Supervised by the ZFT, the record was specially mastered for this release by Bernie Grundman with all analog production and cut directly from the original 1970 analog master tapes. Unavailable on vinyl for more than three decades, the last pressing was in 1986 for Zappa’s rare Old Masters Box Two on his own Barking Pumpkin Records. The LP, which will be pressed at Pallas in Germany, will include meticulously reproduced original artwork. A limited edition color vinyl version is also in the works to be released on the same date.

Chunga’s Revenge was one of three albums that the highly prolific composer released in 1970, followingBurnt Weeny SandwichandWeasels Ripped My Flesh. Although released under Frank Zappa’s own name, the album is most notable for introducing a new Mothers lineup that included the Phlorescent Leech (Flo) & Eddie, the pseudonyms for former Turtles members Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman who performed under the aliases due to contractual restrictions. The reconfigured lineup included bassist Jeff Simmons,keyboardist and trombonist George Duke, drummer Aynsley Dunbar and multi-instrumentalist Ian Underwood. Derived from various sessions during that year, the record ebbs and flows between instrumental and vocal tracks and as noted by Zappa on the original sleeve, “All the vocals in this album are a preview of the story from 200 Motels,” his acclaimed film and soundtrack released the following year.

From the funky guitar workout of opener “Transylvania Boogie” to the bluesy send-up “Road Ladies” to the jazzy “Twenty Small Cigars,” a standout recorded during the Hot Rats sessions, Chunga’s Revenge is an eclectic affair that sees the ever-restless musician and his adroit band traipse through a variety of genres with aplomb. The album’s centerpiece, closing side A, is “The Nancy & Mary Music,” an almost 10-minute long three-part improvisational suite recorded live that sees each Mother flexing their musical muscles for a freewheeling freak-out of epic proportions. Side B opens with the hard rocker “Tell Me You Love Me” which gives way to the warped pop of “Would You Go All The Way” and the jammy title track, propelled by Ian Underwood’s wah-wah pedal sax solo. The album closes with two songs that showcase the vocal talents of Flo & Eddie: “Rudy Wants To Buy Yez a Drink,” Zappa’s jaunty, tropical-tinged response to his experiences with the Musician’s Union, and “Sharleena,” a soulful ballad that see Zappa putting his unique spin on doo-wop and R&B.

Coming on Record Store Day! Lumpy Gravy: Primordial contains Frank Zappa’s first orchestral-only edit of the music sessions recorded at Capitol Studios during 1967.

Released in 1967, Frank Zappa’s first solo album Lumpy Gravy was a radical and schizophrenic experience, splicing together modern classical, rock, R&B and spoken word into an soupy, almost overstuffed delight. This Record Store Day release further edits those sessions down to just the work recorded by what its composer had dubbed the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra, an ensemble of session musicians that included drummer Shelly Manne and pianist Paul Smith. Mastered from the original ¼” tape, these two tracks are dizzying and glorious, aided by the decision to press the two pieces onto the brown-ish vinyl at 45 RPM. Some of the more beautiful moments from the original LP have been sadly excised but the sense of humor that drove much of Zappa’s work remains as does the complexity of this self-proclaimed “curiously inconsistent piece.”

This self-described “ballet” was never officially issued until 2008 on the posthumous collection Lumpy Money.

On Record Store Day 2018 it makes it’s debut on limited edition 12” 45rpm mono translucent burgundy colored vinyl, mastered from the original 1967 1/4” mono master tape, with FZ’s original gatefold album design lovingly restored.

Pick up your copy at a record store near you on April 21st!

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Ambitious Zappa Classics Back On Wax

Fifty years on from the release of his debut album with The Mothers Of InventionFrank Zappa’s work remains the subject of fascination. With many archival releases already celebrating his vast body of work, on 9th December Zappa Records/UMe will release five of Frank Zappa’s most ambitious outings on 180g vinyl, spanning a decade’s worth of innovation.

Earlier in the year, the 3CD Lumpy Money Project/Object release offered an unprecedented look at the making of two of Zappa’s classics, his debut solo album, Lumpy Gravy, and his acerbic, hippie-baiting third album with The MothersWe’re Only In It For The Money. Released in 1967, the first marked Zappa’s first foray into modern classical, mixing musique concrète with pioneering tape-editing techniques, and combining the 50-piece Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra with LA’s famed Wrecking Crew to create a truly unique sound. Following a year later, Money” gleefully took both the counter-culture and mainstream to task in a politically charged, no-hold-barred attack on contemporary politics. No less potent in today’s charged political landscape, it remains a high point in a career stuffed with them.

Frank Zappa We're Only In It For The Money Album Cover - 300

The trio of 60s reissues in this batch closes with 1968’s Cruising With Reuben And The Jets, in which Zappa and The Mothers revisited their beloved 50s doo-wop and R&B. Not that this was straight homage: despite sounding like an uncharacteristically straight attempt to capture the music, keen-eared listeners will hear nods to Igor Stravinsky in the music, while Zappa used the concept to both send up the doo-wop scene, even as he celebrated it.

Zappa called time on his original Mothers line-up in 1970, the same year that Weasels Ripped My Flesh was released. Pieced together from sessions that took place across 1967 and ’69, its mix of live and studio recordings shone a light on the wide-ranging influences that helped The Mothers of Invention become one of the most diverse groups of their generation. Featuring future Little Feat mainman Lowell George on guitar, and including everything from a cover of Little Richard (‘Directly From My Heart To You’) to an uncompromising barrage of feedback (the title track), it’s one of the most varied – but most insightful – albums in Zappa’s oeuvre.

Zappa’s confrontational streak only grew throughout the 70s. By the time he conceived of the three-act Joe’s Garage, which is here reissued as a 3LP set, the album surfaced at the height of punk and the new wave, and sees Zappa in as anarchic a mood as any of the young upstarts coming up beneath him. Envisioning a world where the government is trying to suppress music, Joe’s Garage is one of Zappa’s most successful satires, tackling religion, censorship and the government – and emerging as a typically wide-ranging release from a man for whom there were no boundaries.

Lumpy Gravy, We’re Only In It For The Money, Cruising With Reuben And The Jets, Weasels Ripped My Flesh and the 3LP Joe’s Garage are all due for release on 9th December.

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.”

Zappa Records is to issue a new box set, Halloween 77 , which features all six shows that Frank Zappa performed at The Palladium in New York City at the end of October 1977.
This set includes all six shows in their entirety chronicled in the concert film Baby Snakes  although they’ve chosen to put the audio (24-bit WAV files) on a USB stick, rather than give you CDs. So it’s hi-res (good), but not physical (not so good). If you find that annoying, then the fact that the USB stick is shaped like a shaped like a ‘Zappa’s Oh Punky!’ candy bar might not sway you. Incidentally, the audio was mixed in 2016 from original vault masters.

There are 158 tracks in total and you do get a 128-page ‘digital booklet’ with photos and sleeve notes from co-producer Joe Travers, musicians Adrian Belew and Ed Mann, tour manager Phil Kaufman and famous fan Janet “The Planet” Walley.

As you can’t have failed to notice from the images, you do also you get a Zappa mask and costume. Obviously.

If USB stick and fancy dress don’t constitute your idea great music box set, you can opt for a three-CD edition, although annoyingly, that only delivers the actual Halloween show from 31st October 1977 (plus a few bonus tracks from the previous evening’s show). That’s 32 tracks – 126 less than what’s on that USB stick.

Image result for frank zappa the palladium shows 1977

Frank’s son Ahmet Zappa said “This box set was a very special experience for me to work on. I wanted to make sure we honoured these legendary shows, so it was important to me that this box set felt of the era. It was a blast working with our partners to create the late ‘70s-inspired Frank Zappa mask and costume and the candy-shaped USB stick filled with tons of Zappa goodness. It was yet again a labor of love gathering up all the archival materials, reading notes by people who were there, and most importantly making sure the audio was up to par. All of us at Zappa Records are mighty pleased with it, and hope that fans of Frank Zappa and of Halloween will be too.”

There is going to be a digital download version of the fancy (dress) box so I guess buying the CDs for ‘casual’ listening and the download for an archive of the whole thing might be an option.

Halloween 77 is released on 20th October 2017.

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“Läther” released  OnThisDay in 1996. The recordings for the album were originally delivered to Warner Bros. in 1977 as a quadruple box set, but Warner Bros. refused to release it in this format. Contractual obligations stipulated that Zappa deliver four albums for release on DiscReet Records, which eventually resulted in much of the material on Läther being released on four separate albums: Zappa in New York (1977), Studio Tan (1978), Sleep Dirt (1979), and Orchestral Favorites (1979), only the first of which was produced with Zappa’s oversight.

However, bootlegs of the original recording had existed for years before the album’s official release as a result of Frank Zappa broadcasting it over the radio in 1977 and encouraging listeners to make tape recordings of it. The album was reissued  released posthumously as a triple album on Rykodisc in 1996. in 2012 through Universal with cover art Frank Zappa originally considered for the album.
This was Official Release number 65.

Gail Zappa has confirmed that the 2-track masters for the planned original album were located while producing the 1996 version. While the official CD version of Läther released is reportedly identical to the test-pressings for the original quadruple album, four bonus tracks were added to the 1996 release and the title of the song, “One More Time for the World” was changed to “The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution”, the title under which the same song appears on the album Sleep Dirt. The album does not include “Baby Snakes”, a song which was originally planned for the album. A version of the song served as the title of the film from the same era.

Two dozen rare and limited release Frank Zappa recordings will be made widely available around the world when UMe assumes distribution of the albums as part of their global partnership with the Zappa Trust. In the U.S., the 24 albums will be available on CD, download and streaming on March 24th. Internationally, they will be available digitally March 24th with physical to follow on April 28th. Nine of the albums, including Zappa’s 100th release, Dance Me This, and the revered live disc, Roxy By Proxy, have never been available for download or streaming. The wide-ranging collection includes fan favorite and Grammy Award-winning titles from Zappa’s independent labels Barking Pumpkin, Vaulternative Records and Zappa Records and encompasses more than 20 years of releases, dating back to 1994’s posthumous release, Civilization Phaze III.”For more than two decades, the only place to get exclusive Frank Zappa albums was through our mail order and website. We are thrilled to be able to make these titles available to fans across the globe with the help of our friends at Universal,” says Ahmet Zappa.

In all, the albums being made available internationally to online retailers, record stores, digital retailers and streaming services include a diverse collection of previously limited releases comprised of live concerts, taped rehearsals, treasures from Zappa’s extensive and extraordinary vault, audio documentaries, archival recordings, the famed “Corsaga” series and other exciting audio ephemera. The releases span Zappa’s entire career, from his first records with the Mothers of Invention to some of the last compositions and projects he ever worked on.

Below is a full list and descriptions of each of the titles included in this initiative. Albums can be pre-ordered here: https://UMe.lnk.to/ZappaAMSAmz

A Token Of His Extreme (Zappa Records, 2013) CD
In August 1974, Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention taped two legendary sets at KCET TV Studios in Hollywood, CA. This popular footage was used by Frank Zappa in a number of different edits originally intended as a TV special and eventually featured in the home video release The Dub Room Special (1982). A Token Of His Extreme was officially issued on DVD in 2013 along with the release of the soundtrack on CD.

Buffalo [2 CD]

Buffalo (Vaulternative Records, 2007) 2CD
Originally released in 2007, Buffalo captures an entire concert recorded live at the Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo, NY on October 25th, 1980. The original tapes were salvaged from the Vault by Vaultmeister Joe Travers and mixed by Grammy-Award winning engineer Frank Filipetti.

Carnegie Hall (Vaulternative Records, 2011) 4CD
As history would have it, and thanks to the persistence of promoter Ron Delsener, Frank Zappa & his band The Mothers actually played Carnegie Hall. The two shows on October 11th, 1971 were recorded for posterity to mono 1/4″ tape using a concealed Nagra tape machine and a Electrovoice 664 microphone.

Civilization Phaze III (Barking Pumpkin, 1994) 2CD
Civilization Phaze III, one of the final projects to be finished by Zappa before his passing, completes the trilogy of Masterworks established first with Lumpy Gravy and We’re Only In It For The Money in 1968. Originally envisioned as “Lumpy Gravy, Phase III,” this music morphed over a period of years in various states of completion. Realized mainly on the Synclavier and including performances by the Ensemble Modern and newly recorded dialogue from inside the piano, Frank finally put the finishing touches on the double CD in 1992. It received a Grammy for Best Recording Package in 1995.

Congress Shall Make No Law(Zappa Records, 2010) CD
Gail Zappa always said that Frank Zappa always made a point to “educate” his audience as well as entertain them. She continued on that note with this release, an informative document that focuses on the importance of Frank’s testimonies to fight censorship. Zappa’s address to the Senate Committee Hearings in 1985 and to the Maryland State Legislature in 1986 are featured here in their entirety combined with various Synclavier and interview excerpts found in the Vault.

Dance Me This (Zappa Records, 2015) CD

The 100th release by the Zappa Family Trust and the last project to be finished by Frank Zappa before his passing, Dance Me This, was composed and realized on the Synclavier, Zappa’s go-to digital workstation that was state of the art at the time of the recording. The music is described by as ‘designed for modern dance groups.’ The album was finished but shelved by the Trust until finally receiving its much anticipated release in 2015.

Everything Is Healing Nicely (Barking Pumpkin, 1999) CD

The Ensemble Modern from Frankfurt Germany spent a lot of time with Frank Zappa during the last few years of his life. As the group was working closely with Zappa preparing for a series of concerts scheduled in 1992 (to be known as “The Yellow Shark”), Zappa, in his typical manner, was digitally recording every rehearsal. Everything Is Healing Nicely features highlights from those recordings, hand-picked by Zappa, compiled posthumously by then staff engineer Spence Chrislu, and released exclusively through mail order in 1999.

Feeding The Monkies At Ma Maison (Zappa Records, 2011) CD

Around 1987 or so, Frank Zappa completed a digital master of this title which was intended for a vinyl release. Frank Zappa never released it and re-worked some of the material for another project, mainly Civilization, Phaze III. Feeding The Monkies At Ma Maison, realized on the Synclavier, eventually found a release in original form in 2011. The CD contains unreleased compositions, unedited versions and added bonus tracks from the time period.

Frank Zappa Plays The Music of Frank Zappa (Barking Pumpkin, 1996) CD

When released on Halloween 1996, Frank Zappa Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa, A Memorial Tribute was considered to be an “Audio Tombstone” by the family. It features the three signature guitar pieces: “Black Napkins,” “Zoot Allures” and “Watermelon In Easter Hay” in their original released form (remastered) with added live versions that predate the issued masters. Also included is “Merely A Blues In A: from Paris ’74. A fitting “Memorial Tribute” indeed.

FZ: OZ (Vaulternative Records, 2002) 2CD

FZ:OZ is the very first release from Vaulternative Records, the label created by the Zappa Trust that focuses on material found in the infamous Zappa Vault. Released in 2002, this audio nugget contains an almost complete concert from Frank Zappa’s second and final visit to Sydney, Australia in early 1976.

Greasy Love Songs (Zappa Records, 2010) CD

The third installment of the Project/Object Audio Documentary series focuses on the 40th anniversary of Zappa’s 1968 homage to old Doo Wop and Rhythm & Blues. Cruising With Ruben & The Jets was Frank Zappa & The Mothers’ fourth album release. Greasy Love Songs brings together the long awaited release of the original 1968 mix along with mix outtakes, interview excerpts and oddities from the sessions. Also contains liner notes from Cheech Marin.

Hammersmith Odeon (Zappa Records, 2010) 3CD
In early 1978, Frank Zappa played a string of dates between January and February at the famous Hammersmith Odeon in London, England. Hammersmith Odeon, first issued in conjunction with a special birthday event at The Roundhouse in London in 2010, contains performances from those shows. These recordings are famous for being the basis for the Sheik Yerbouti album. This album contains all alternate performances and highlights from the master show tapes.

Imaginary Diseases (Zappa Records, 2006) CD
Released in 2006, Imaginary Diseases compiles for the first time all live recordings from a very rare and undocumented Zappa band line-up. In 1972, after taking a 20-piece ‘electric orchestra’ on the road for eight dates as The Grand Wazoo, Frank Zappa reduced the personnel to 10 pieces and toured this new band for roughly two months. Billed as The Mothers of Invention but eventually becoming known as the ‘Petit Wazoo,’ audio from this period was never released during Frank’s lifetime.

Joe’s Camouflage (Vaulternative Records, 2014) CD
In late summer 1975, Frank Zappa formed a band that never got past the rehearsal stage, but managed to have their own band promo shots taken with fall touring rapidly approaching. This Joe’s series entry, Joe’s Camouflage, finds mainly 4-track rehearsal tapes that captured Frank Zappa experimenting with this group, updating arrangements of older songs along with some new compositions, some that were never revisited later in his career. Featuring Novi Novog on viola and keys, Robert ‘Frog’ Camarena on vocals and Denny Walley on guitar, all three of whom left the band shortly after these recordings were made.

Joe’s Corsage (Vaulternative Records, 2004) CD
The first in a series of special material released from the Vault. The titles of the “Corsaga” are a play on words of Frank Zappa’s famous Joe’s Garage title, with the contents produced and compiled by the Vaultmeister, Joe Travers. Joe’s Corsage, the first release created in 2004, was produced in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the creation of The Mothers in 1964. It focuses on the origin of the Mothers of Invention as told by Frank himself, along with early recordings made before their first record contract in early 1966.

Joe’s Domage (Vaulternative Records, 2004) CD
Joe’s Domage, the second entry from the “Corsaga” series, gives you an insight into how Frank worked. The recording from this primitive cassette tape captures the first rehearsal of the Wazoo band, freezing in time early ideas and arrangements of material that went on to be used on The Grand Wazoo & Waka/Jawaka album sessions of 1972. Recorded ambiently in Frank’s rehearsal room in Hollywood, Frank conducted these sessions while confined to a wheelchair after being pushed offstage in London, England roughly three months prior.

Joe’s Menage (Vaulternative Records, 2008) CD
Frank Zappa, notorious for recording everything, carried cassettes with him on the road. On one occasion backstage during the late ’70s, Frank gave longtime fan Ole’ Lysgaard a cassette which contained a dub of a live recording excerpt from a concert in Williamsburg, VA 11-1-75. Thanks to Ole’, this excerpt has been forever immortalized as the content for “Corsaga” number 4. Joe’s Menage is transferred directly from the show master tape.

Joe’s Xmasage (Vaulternative Records, 2005) CD
Joe’s Xmasage was released on Frank’s birthday during the Christmas season of 2005. Joe worked closely with Gail Zappa on this third installment of the “Corsaga,” showcasing vintage recordings from Frank’s life in the early ’60s. Music, historical audio documents and Conceptual Continuity clues fill up this special Christmas dish from the Vault for you and yours.

MOFO (Zappa Records, 2006) 2CD
This 2-disc version of the Making Of Freak Out! Project/Object Audio Documentary contains highlights from the 4-disc version which is available only through mail order. MOFO (2 Disc) was released in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of  The Mothers of Invention’s first album, Freak Out!, it includes the original album’s 1966 vinyl mix along with exclusive tracks not found anywhere else.

One Shot Deal (Zappa Records, 2008) CD
Released in 2008, One Shot Deal features chunks of material found in the vault selected by Frank Zappa and compiled by Gail Zappa & Joe Travers. Ranging from 1972 to 1981, One Shot Deal blends live compositions, improvisations and guitar solos from various world tours, all recorded live.

Philly ’76 (Vaulternative Records, 2009)
Frank Zappa played the Philadelphia Spectrum Theater on October 29th, 1976. The concert was professionally recorded and was a perfect contender for the ongoing concert series from Vaulternative Records. Philly ’76 was released in 2009 and features a complete show from a rare band line-up with another stellar mix from Grammy Award winning engineer Frank Filipetti.

Frank Zappa Roxy By Proxy Album

Roxy By Proxy (Zappa Records, 2014) CD
Roxy By Proxy contains material recorded live at the infamous run of shows at The Roxy Theater in Hollywood, CA, December 1973. It’s the first compilation made from digital mixes created in 1987 by Frank with Bob Stone at FZ’s home studio, The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen. The sequencing plays like a full show while the package features extensive liner notes from the one and only Ruth Underwood, then the percussionist in the band.

The Dub Room Special (Zappa Records, 2007) CD
A previously unreleased soundtrack album created by Zappa himself, contains material found in The Dub Room Special, a 90-minute home video first released by mail order only in 1982. Tracks consist of live cuts from The Palladium, NYC on Halloween 1981 along with performances taped at KCET TV studios in Los Angeles during 1974.

WAZOO (Vaulternative Records, 2007) 2CD
WAZOO contains a complete show recorded live to stereo tape at the Boston Music Hall in Boston, MA on September 24th, 1972. Originally released in 2007, this set is the only document found in the Vault of the short-lived Grand Wazoo, an ambitious 20-piece ‘electric orchestra’ formed by Zappa and toured for only eight dates during the fall of 1972.

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