Posts Tagged ‘Ruth Underwood’

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In 1976, Frank Zappa played four historic sold-out concerts at The Palladium in New York City the week between Christmas and New Year’s. These were thrilling shows – described by band member Ruth Underwood as “theatrical, outrageous and raucously funny, but also filled with startling and gorgeous music, dating from Frank’s 1960s output to literally the moment the curtain went up”— served as the source material for the live double album “Zappa In New York”which was constructed from the best-played performances with overdubs later recorded in the studio. Originally slated for release in 1977, the album was delayed for a year due to record label censorship issues, mostly over the controversial song “Punky’s Whips,” and finally released in 1978. One of Zappa’s most beloved collections of songs, the now classic album included a sensational live version of “Sofa” alongside nine new compositions, including the complex percussion-based piece “The Black Page,” which has become infamous in the drum community as the ultimate challenge, the Devilish comedic sendup “Titties & Beer,” and the notorious aforementioned “Punky’s Whips” about Punky Meadows, the flamboyant guitarist for the band Angel.

In celebration of its eventual release in 1978, Zappa In New York will be released on March 29th via Zappa Records/UMeas a suite of expanded anniversary editions to commemorate the album’s recent 40th anniversary. Overseen by the Zappa Family Trust and produced by Ahmet Zappa and Vaultmeister Joe Travers, the expanded versions will be available as a 5CD box set, 3LP on 180-gram audiophile grade vinyl and digitally. The 5-disc collection, which will be housed in a limited-edition metal tin shaped like a NYC street manhole cover and includes a replica ticket from one of the shows, consists of the main album in its original mix, newly remastered by Bob Ludwig in 2018 and available for the first time since its debut. The four additional discs are loaded with relevant Vault nuggets and more than three hours of unreleased live performances from the NYC Palladium concerts, representing every composition played during the concerts and the best alternate performances of every tune Zappa picked for the original album, all newly mixed in 2018. To achieve the highest-level sound quality, the audio team went back to the original two-inch 24-track multi-track master tapes and transferred every reel at 96kHz 24-bit wavs.

The Zappa In New York 40th Anniversary Editions are available for pre-order now and all digital pre-orders will receive an instant download of the unreleased rarity “The Purple Lagoon/Any Kind of Pain.” Recorded on the first night of the four-night stand, the track features Zappa performing the chorus of the song “Any Kind of Pain” in the middle of “The Purple Lagoon.” What makes this so significant is that nobody knew this existed or that Zappa had the idea for this song more than a decade before it was released in 1988 on the live album Broadway The Hard Way until the Zappa Family Trust archived the tapes and made the fascinating discovery. More proof that Zappa was creating at an unmatched pace and always thinking years ahead.

“We are excited to bring you this new Deluxe version of Zappa in New York: an opportunity to re-examine and celebrate the source material of a great album while exploring the events of Frank’s life in late December 1976, Collections like these really show of the work ethic of a musical genius,” exclaims the Zappa Family Trust in the album notes.

Zappa In New York includes expanded packaging which features previously unseen live photos by Gail Zappa alongside extensive liner notes by band members Ruth Underwood and Ray White (who were part of Zappa’s band for these shows) as well as an insightful essay by Joe Travers with Australian writer Jen Jewel Brown. Underwood also contributes a solo piano version of “The Black Page” that has been newly recorded for this special edition. “‘The Black Page’ has proven to be one of Frank Zappa’s most intriguing and enduring compositions. It is performed in many kinds of venues all over the world. It is taught and studied in schools. Perhaps most exciting is that it is adaptable and lends itself to a variety of orchestrations and re-workings, as FZ himself demonstrated. I am proud that after forty years, mine is finally among them. It is my love letter to Frank and Gail,” Underwood writes in the liners.

The 3LP set, pressed at Pallas in Germany, features all-analog mastering of the original album mix, unavailable since first issued. Plus, an additional LP of select bonus content from The Vault. The digital release marks the debut of the original mix.

Photo by Gail Zappa

Zappa In New York capped off a terrific year for the ever-prolific and always-moving musician which included shows around the globe including his second Australian tour and one and only Japanese jaunt, the release of his album Zoot Allures and Grand Funk Railroad’s record Good Singin’ Good Playin, which he produced, a string of Halloween shows and a performance on “Saturday Night Live” which ended up having a profound impact on the Palladium shows. Following an on-air collaboration with SNL’s announcer Don Pardo and the show’s house band, Zappa invited them to be a part of the shows after three of the horn players so loved playing with Zappa that they asked if they could be involved. As Travers and Brown write in the illuminating liner notes: “Out of nowhere, the concept of adapting horns to the scheduled concerts became a reality. Frank was immediately swept up in the pleasure and challenge of writing and arranging parts for the existing material.”

The collection showcases some of Zappa’s most masterful guitar playing and electrifying arrangements as he leads an exceptional band featuring Ray White on vocals and guitar, Terry Bozzio on drums and vocals, Eddie Jobson on keyboard, Ruth Underwood on percussion and synthesizer, Patrick O’Hearn on bass and vocals and David Samuels on timpani and vibes. Don Pardo provided “sophisticated narration” and the brass section, featuring jazz duo the Brecker Brothers with Randy Brecker on trumpet and Michael Brecker on tenor saxophone, was rounded out by the SNL players: Lou Marini on alto sax, Ronnie Cuber on baritone sax and Tom Malone on trombone.

ZAPPA IN NEW YORK – 5CD DELUXE EDITION

Zappa-Frank-Token-Of-His-Extreme-DVD-NEW

“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