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1976 10 24 (E) Boston, MA  
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Zappa Penguin
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Post 2008-03-04 20:47   [Quote] 
1976 10 24 (E) Boston 111.35 Aud 2nd (Yojimbo-Chunga's Revenge-flambay) ZTLS#305

One reoccuring theme that should be well-known to anybody well-versed in, well, concert tapes, is the well-ement (say it aloud) of well-frustration. You know - tapeflips that occur right in the midst of a kick-ass guitar solo. Tapes that begin in the end of a known monster song. Tapes documenting amazing shows in despicable, ratty sound quality (the tail end of Summer 73 seems especially prone to this flaw). Tapes that get damaged, stories of recordings that were confiscated by Mr. John Smothers - the works.

At first glance, it would seem odd that this particular tape would have anything to do with frustration - over 90 minutes long, and patched with another recording so we know it's complete. The set sure isn't abbreviated or missing the more enjoyable songs of the tour. Zappa's in a mood that hovers between "good" and downright "jolly", and, oh yeah, the sound is very, very impressive - one of the only A+/A AUDs we have of the 1970s, with a rich balance that compares favorably to most 1988 tapes. The lows are warm, the highs are distinct, the mid-range very well-defined and all-in-all everything's very very audible. So what could possibly be frustrating about such a tape?

The tape begins with about thirty seconds of excited crowd (no, that's not what's frustrating), soon leading into the typical Knick-Knack collage (that's not it, either), which gives way to the brief Purple Lagoon that served as an opener for this tour and the European offering in 77. Zappa mentions that they will be in town for five nights - according to the Gigslist, there were no known shows between this and the show in Pawtucket on the 27th, so Zappa most likely means that the band will be "setting up camp" in Boston, taking a couple days off, then commuting out to Pawtucket, going back to the hotel in Boston to sleep, and finally leaving Boston for Philly on the 29th.

As mentioned previously, Zappa is in a good mood - introducing each band member as "Ms", and then - "[just] as we've started our shows here for the last four [sic] years with the same stupid song, we're going to start it again" - yes sir, it's time for Stinkfoot. Even if the song has only been in heavy rotation for two years at this point, it's clearly felt like an eternity to Frank, and what was once a near-breathtaking example of dirty, filthy swamp blues has become a lah-dee-dah by-the-numbers solo that's over and done with in the span of two minutes. Frank's technique is certainly professional, but there are better Stinkfoot solos to be heard.

Stinkfoot leads into the Poodle Lecture, which I'm sure everybody knows by now, and is basically the same as any other night - though, as mentioned earlier, Zappa is in a good mood, and gives this lecture the best coloring he can while - for the most part - remaining on-script. Dirty Love is fun to hear when Bianca's singing it, but is virtually the same as any other version of Dirty Love with Bianca on vocals. Ditto Wind Up Working In a Gas Station. And nearly-ditto Tryin' to Grow a Chin, which doesn't feature Bianca on vocals, but does feature a rare glimpse into the singing abilities [sic] of Eddie Jobson (I believe - it may be O'Hearn, but it's certainly not Frank or Ray). At least Tryin' sounds sorta neat at this slower-than-usual tempo.

Finally, the first usually-diverse song of the night rolls around in the form of the Torture (which Never Stops). Each band that played Torture put their own distinct spin on it - this band's motif is "languid and relaxed", which occasionally worked to great, spine-chilling effect (c.f. 12/28/76). Tonight's version is not spine-chilling, nor great. The solo is basically Frank's interpretation of the Grateful Dead, only without the night-in-night-out devotion to this modus of ponens which allowed the Dead to drop jaws from coast to coast. Like his Stinkfoot solo, it's certainly nice - some day I'll get around to documenting true disasters of Zappa solos, if only to have them to point to in situations like this. The notes go where you'd expect them to go, and if this particular track were the only version of Torture ever released, I certainly wouldn't have much to complain with. The problem, however, is that there are so many more interesting versions played (even by this band). In the time it took me to write the preceeding evaluation, I could have sat back and fully listened to the solo. I chose not to. Let that speak for the overall quality of the effort. Naturally, I could have just as easily made the decision to not even half-listen to the track as I wrote about it - let that also speak for the overall quality of the effort. Not bad, just not great.

City is next - a very unpredictable song on this tour, occasionally giving way to utter kitchen-utensil mayhem. Even the more constrained versions are interesting to hear for the laid-back approach to what was typically a more upbeat, in-your-face number (to borrow a line from Jon Naurin: "I love [Jobson's] use of clavinet on 'City of Tiny Lites', for example."). The solo... well, I could pretty much re-use the gist of my Torture evaluation. Technically fine and enjoyable and would exist fine in a void, but there are plenty Cities which are more interesting, by other bands (even the weakest Fall 1980 Cities that I've heard are better than this), and even by this one (11/18/76, 11/25/76).

We thus arrive at precisely what makes this tape so frustrating. The excellent recording job can only do so much - ultimately, the onus is on the band to make the damn experience interesting. It's early in the tour, sure, but that's no excuse. The late show from this very date gave us a show-stopping, most-likely-one-time-only monster version of I'm So Cute, and there are both well-played and well-deviated shows from the first two weeks of virtually any other tour. But what we get tonight is all strictly by-the-numbers. Torture, City, even Black Napkins - sure, the solos in these songs are musically redeeming, but not a single one of them exceeds the norm. I'll even go so far as to say that each one of them is slightly below the norm. That is to say, "bland". "Forgettable". Not dog-awful or completely pointless, mind you. Just un-memorable. Even Titties & Beer is bland (though I suppose a point or two must be awarded to tonight's version for being one of the very few where the Terry-Frank interplay doesn't devolve into an awkward trainwreck of some sort).

The fact that such un-memorable performances are captured in such crystal-clear, crank-it-up-and-knock-your-socks-off sound is frustrating as anything. Sure, it's great to have a tape that can be played at high volume on an expensive stereo without sounding amateurish, but there are so many other shows that would be so much more fun to hear in such excellent, vibrant sound.

That said, there are two interesting bits in the tape. You Didn't Try to Call Me features a brief interlude during which an audience member tells Bianca to take her clothes off. She retorts, "tell your mama to take her clothes off, and after you do that, tell her to suck a rat's dick" - a line which future Zappa scholars would still be discussing decades later. On other nights, this exchange would have naturally led to a flurry of secret-word abuse, but not tonight - all we get from Zappa is an impromptu re-titling of "Manx Needs Women" to "Manx Needs Yo Mama". The other memorable bit occurs in the tail end of an otherwise fine-and-well-and-good-and-sure-it's-enjoyable-but-as-is-typical-for-this-show-it-is-also-rather-faceless-and-unmemorable Advance Romance, where Terry decides he's gonna stuff the (toy, stuffed) poodle between his legs and "see what it makes [him] do". This leads to an impromptu In-a-Gadda-da-Vida - or, er, In-a-Gadda-da-Poodle. This whole routine is over and done with in less than two minutes, but it's the only moment where I felt the Curtain of Predictable Likelihood drawn back to offer us all a tantalizing peek into the Unknown, where so many jaw-dropping moments were birthed. But, as Zappa says, we must go back to the real world, and the rest of the show resides squarely there, in the land where we may well enjoy ourselves, but will never be taken by surprise.

So, what we got here? We've got a tape that is, if nothing else, a true technical masterpiece, a bona-fide trophy to champion and whip out as an example of just how amazing an audience recording can sound. The fact that the tape is so close to being "nothing else" is one of the gloomy tragedies of the live Zappa catalogue. Grab it as an example of the songs played in 76, grab it if all you want to do is hear versions of You Didn't Try to Call Me and Stranded in the Jungle (the latter being the most enjoyable of all the doo-wop songs Zappa covered through the years - so of course, naturally, we only got it on one tour), grab it if you need to play some live Zappa for an audience that may not be as forgiving of grungey sound as a dedicated fanatic would be. By all means, grab this tape - but don't expect much more than very nice sound and average solos.


Last edited by Zappa Penguin on 2008-03-04 21:54; edited 2 times in total
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pbuzby
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Post 2008-03-04 20:59   [Quote] 
Quote:
And nearly-ditto Tryin' to Grow a Chin, which doesn't feature Bianca on vocals, but does feature a rare glimpse into the singing abilities [sic] of Eddie Jobson (I believe - it may be O'Hearn, but it's certainly not Frank or Ray).


The lead vocal is Terry, or are you talking about a backing vocal?
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Zappa Penguin
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Post 2008-03-04 21:46   [Quote] 
pbuzby wrote:
Quote:
And nearly-ditto Tryin' to Grow a Chin, which doesn't feature Bianca on vocals, but does feature a rare glimpse into the singing abilities [sic] of Eddie Jobson (I believe - it may be O'Hearn, but it's certainly not Frank or Ray).


The lead vocal is Terry, or are you talking about a backing vocal?


The backing vocal, taking the "I'd rather be dead" harmony in the end as Terry ad-libs over it. Very flat, and not exactly what I'd think of when I think of the word "harmony" - but hey. I'm pretty sure it's Jobson, as it's in a higher register than what I'm used to from O'Hearn, but there's always a chance that O'Hearn "sang" in a higher voice than he spoke with.
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Drew51
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Post 2008-03-05 04:02   [Quote] 
Wow, I'm glad I downloaded this before i read the review, else I would have just skipped it. As expected I disagree. Some people might even start collecting Zappa after hearing this one, Oh wait that happened already. What a contrast of opinions. This tape I got to hear what Bianca really sounded like and was blown away. Obviously it didn't srtike you near the same way. Sorry i didn't get a chance to hear the rest of the band, i'm still recovering from Bianca's vocals.
No offense ZP, but after reading that review i have to question why are you even here?
Tryin' out for Rolling Stone?
To all others, if you miss this one, you're going to regret it the rest of your life. Grab it right now!
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Zappa Penguin
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Post 2008-03-05 05:39   [Quote] 
drew51 wrote:
Wow, I'm glad I downloaded this before i read the review, else I would have just skipped it.

Zappa Penguin wrote:
By all means, grab this tape


drew51 wrote:
As expected I disagree. Some people might even start collecting Zappa after hearing this one, Oh wait that happened already.

As I said, it's a very nice-sounding tape that serves as a solid representation of this particular band. It's not, however, the best show of the tour - or even close. If the vaults were opened up and every tape available in crystal-clear SBD sound, I doubt this show would be considered one of Zappa's finest - or even one of the finest of this tour.

drew51 wrote:
What a contrast of opinions. This tape I got to hear what Bianca really sounded like and was blown away.

Funny, I don't have much trouble hearing her in virtually any other tape from this tour. Or Stage #6 for that matter.

drew51 wrote:
Obviously it didn't srtike you near the same way. Sorry i didn't get a chance to hear the rest of the band, i'm still recovering from Bianca's vocals.

Zappa Penguin wrote:
Grab it as an example of the songs played in 76


drew51 wrote:
No offense ZP, but after reading that review i have to question why are you even here?
Tryin' out for Rolling Stone?

Well, no offense Drew, but did you even read the review? As the saying goes, "read, comprehend, post".

I'm sure you were king of the schoolyard with quips like that, but if I were trying out for Rolling Stone I imagine I'd be doing exactly what it seems you wish I was doing - giving empty, positive reviews to stuff that doesn't really move me, using the logic that "someone, somewhere might like it" as an excuse to keep everything watered down and condescendingly neutral at all times.

drew51 wrote:
To all others, if you miss this one, you're going to regret it the rest of your life. Grab it right now!

Zappa Penguin wrote:
By all means, grab this tape

At least we can agree on something.


Last edited by Zappa Penguin on 2010-01-02 21:35; edited 1 time in total
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Thingfish79
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Post 2009-07-29 23:56   [Quote] 
This is a great recording just given the fact that quality recordings of quality Zappa shows seem to be rare to find. Furthermore, although Frank didn't play any 8 minute long GD solos, I thought his playing was superb here. Probably not one of the best shows of the tour, but definitely some prime FZ soloing. For the '76-'79 era, it may be nothing special, but we're comparing to 4 of the best years of the greatest rock group ever, and the greatest rock guitarist who ever lived. And I emphasize, the greatest *rock* guitarist.

Others can have their opinions, insisting that Jimmy Page, Jerry Garcia, Hendrix, Jeff Beck, SRV, Allman, etc., are the best rock guitarists of all time, but as any knowledgeable and intelligent musician will tell you, Zappa is the best in his genre. The Grateful Dead made a lot of great music and legendary performances, an uncontested 2nd on my list of greatest rock bands, but Zappa transcends the entire genre.

It's alright if you think the GD are better than Zappa, not to put words in your mouth, but if you do you'd be smart never to say it to a musician, unless you'd like to be laughed at.
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Empire Hancock
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Post 2009-07-30 01:02   [Quote] 
I haven't listened to this show yet (though I've heard a couple selections from it in the past), so I don't have any opinions of my own to offer, but I very much enjoyed your write-up, ZP, and I've enjoyed all of them. At any rate, I'm replying mainly for this one point.

Zappa Penguin wrote:
some day I'll get around to documenting true disasters of Zappa solos, if only to have them to point to in situations like this.


I would be very interested in (and likely very entertained by) such a document, were you to write it. Now, I haven't listened to as many shows as many of my fellow Zappateers have, but when it comes to gawd-awful guitar solos, one always springs immediately to mind, from a show I've quite enjoyed over the years: the Sept 1, 1984 "Truck Driver Divorce". No matter how many times I've heard it, it's maddeningly aimless, sloppy, playing-a-lot-of-notes-and-not-accomplishing-anything-with-them awful and it still makes me a little angry just to hear my favorite guitarist ever play something that bad (ymmv.)
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hoops
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Post 2009-10-30 12:11   [Quote] 
Well, i really enjoyed that ZP...thanks, man.

Sometimes when i'm listening to one show after another i get The 1000 yard stare, so it's very nice to have such a thought-provoking review to pull me back into line and make me question why i like what i like... and just have another perspective, y'know?

The FZsolos comment is an interesting one... FZ's Torture solo certainly sounds like it's trying to find its way to the magnificent Torture solo from Zappa in NY and falling just short, as you say- the solos are good but not great. Even then i can't help thinking that Zappa's merely 'good' solos are still light years ahead of anyone else.

I'd need to listen to more shows but I can't help feeling that this was a rather shaky line-up, maybe FZ didn't feel entirely comfortable with the band? Hence the professional/ workmanlike approach..?

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Zappa Penguin
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Post 2010-08-16 02:22   [Quote] 
hoops wrote:
I'd need to listen to more shows but I can't help feeling that this was a rather shaky line-up, maybe FZ didn't feel entirely comfortable with the band? Hence the professional/ workmanlike approach..?

Considering Bianca was only there for a month, I suppose you could say that - though the Bozzio/O'Hearn combo lasted for several more tours, and of course Mr. White became a Zappa mainstay (not quite as many shows as Thunes/Wackerman/Martin/Willis, but probably about as many as Mr. Duke!)

I don't think Zappa and Jobson clashed or anything, though they certainly had a friendly rivalry going on in terms of "who's gonna get the better Black Napkins solo tonight" Very Happy

I think the workmanlike approach to this particular show is a combination of "new lineup getting comfortable with each other" syndrome (March/April 1980, September 1981, July 1984, even February/March 1973 and August 1978 to some extent are all guilty of this) and "early show" syndrome (with maybe a handful of exceptions throughout the years, late shows were always better than the early shows from the same night). And of course, "piss off Zappa Penguin" syndrome.

Zappa got sillier as the tour progressed - the Winter 77 tour has been described as containing a certain "carnival barker" vibe, and the shows from November find the band heading in this direction.
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