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1979 Reviews

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March 29th, 1979

This show continues the string of relatively wild shows (for 1979) that inhabit the final week-plus of this Winter tour. The main ingredient of weirdness in this outing is the "City-> Outside Now-> City-> Pound for a Brown" flurry which occupies a solid 25 minutes early in the show.

This is the third known performance of "Outside Now", debuting as an instrumental late in this tour as the vamp for Frank's solo during "City of Tiny Lites". While there would be four more performances on this tour, this version contains the smoothest segue from "City" into "Outside", and also contains one of the strongest solos. Thanks to a clean sounding tape, the keyboard parts come through nice and clear, establishing an eerie backdrop to the carefully played "Outside Now" arpeggio. Frank's solo is restrained yet forceful, striking a careful balance against Vinnie's completely unrestrained yet appropriate rhythmic support. Not the best of the '79 "Outside Now" solos, this one succeeds largely thanks to the strong segue out of and back into "City of Tiny Lites".

The second special treat of the night follows in the guise of a monster "Pound for a Brown". Ed solos first. Mars continues the madness and throws in a little vocal tomfoolery ("I say Livingston- is this Africa?"), before joining Vinnie in a variety of funky jams. Vinnie gets a little, and then Wolf concludes the affair with some more keyboard madness. Sadly, Frank does not choose to solo here, but the segue from Wolf's solo into "Andy" is powerful enough to almost allow me to forgive him.

From here on out, the show is pretty standard musically, with a strong but not spectacular "Inca Roads" solo providing some more musical madness. Lyrically speaking, however, the show maintains a consistent humorous edge, thanks to constant Secret Word abuse concerning Sonor Drums. Apparently, Vinnie was approached by a Sonor representative earlier in the day, and thus he is the butt of many endorsement jokes throughout the show (a prelude to the Paiste madness of a late '88 show- date?). Some examples: Cosmik Debris: "But I got the Sonor drums!", "The price of drums has just gone up…."; Tryin' to Grow A Chin: "If Sonor was here…"; Keep It Greasy: During Vinnie's end of the song flurry, Frank adds, "This solo is being brought to you by Sonor"; The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing: "You ain't got nothing at all- not even a deal with Sonor". Just a few examples of some of the madness that kept me smiling.

I really enjoyed listening to this show, thanks to its high-end sound quality and consistently entertaining performances, both musically and lyrically. It may not be one of the best shows of the tour, but it is definitely worth getting. And, oh yeah, I love Denny's slide in "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing".


March 30th, 1979

Near the end of the tour, and you can tell that Frank is starting to get a little bored with the normal guitar solo conventions. Deathless Horsie starts off the set, but Frank barely finishes the first line before going off into a series of fast, hard notes. The solo doesn't really go anywhere, but manages to beat you to death with sheer fury.

After that we get the standard first half. Vinnie is said to be on 'Catholic Girls', and Warren on 'smaller Catholic Girls', giving a taste of what will come later. In addition, there are still several refs to Sonor drums carrying over from last night, and Frank mentions Carlos Santana in Debris.

City of Tiny Lites gives Denny far less time to work out than it did a week or two ago, and it's only about a minute before FZ cues the sound effects keyboard to intro the Outside Now vamp. This has become the mellow portion of the show, with Peter's keyboard solo sounding very much like Jobson's Lather solos from Xmas 76. He moves to the piano a bit, but here the sound on my tape deteriorates to about B-, so it's harder to hear. Frank's solo is excellent, very similar to the Inca solos from SUAPYG. As always, there's a very awkward segue back to the Tiny Lites theme.

For once, the tape cut comes in the middle of Dancing Fool, rather than a solo. Frank is in good spirits, and chats with a girl in the audience for a bit before moving into Easy Meat. And here's a surprise, as Catholic Girls appears in the middle of the solo, in its world premiere. Played once instrumental, and once with vocals, it's very interesting, if musically sparse. Again, the segue into EM is really not that good.

Since Outside Now has the Inca-ish solo, Inca Roads gets to be more experimental. The beginning is very stop-and-start, with lots of jagged chords. Frank seems to enjoy playing 3 notes over and over as a variation on a theme, then moving to another set of repeats. Through all this, Vinnie is going insane in the background, leaving one to wonder whether the rest of the band were totally lost by these two. In addition, FZ seems to play a bit of 'Cars'.

The rest of the show is as per normal. Ed really gets into his 'I grease it dooooown!' at the end of KIG, and Why Does It Hurt When I Pee? has a very loud Barrow bass at one point (that sounds really cool). The encore is Titties 'n Beer, with Warren sounding quite good, but the tape sadly cuts in the middle of it.

Not an amazing show, but a good one to get, for the CG premiere and FZ's wacked-out guitar work.


March 31st, 1979 early

This show is available both as a complete audience tape and as a chopped-up soundboard which captures all the most interesting bits. This review is based on the board tape.

FZ sounds a bit uninspired at the start of Deathless Horsie, but he digs in and the D-flat portion stretches out disproportionately long, with the guitar cooking over a relatively subdued rhythm section. Next comes the usual vocal numbers, without any joking this time, but played (as usual by now) in an aggressive way which suggests to this suggestible listener that the band (including FZ) is as fed up with the restrictive setlist as us reviewers are.

The tape cuts early in Cosmik and re-emerges with the solos from Tiny Lites. After Denny's usual bit, we get perhaps the smoothest transition into the Outside Now vamp, and FZ delivers a substantial solo quite similar to the one on Guitar, though with more active accompaniment. Next the tape cuts again and rejoins the set during Easy Meat. We get a few fun minutes of garage-rock jamming, minus the vamp, and then FZ breaks into an instrumental Catholic Girls, followed by Ike and Denny singing a rough version of the song before a rough segue back into Easy Meat. Quite fun.

Jumbo and Andy appear intact, then comes Inca Roads. The solo starts out low-key with big clumps of guitar notes, then turns into a shuffle, then becomes a double-time shuffle after a polyrhythmic interlude, and winds up with a complete train wreck during the post-solo bit. A fun ride, though perhaps lacking the profundity of the London solos. Florentine Pogen and Peaches are the final two complete songs on this tape.

Not much not to like on this board tape - the sound is very crisp and it documents some of the more intriguing experiments of the final 79 hows.

March 31st, 1979 late

In typical end-of-the-tour fashion, Frank pulls out all of the stops for the penultimate show of the '79 jaunt.  With a set list featuring seven rare '79 songs, a handful of indescribably adventurous guitar workouts, solos by band members galore, and a bundle of psychotic energy masquerading as a drummer, this show demonstrates the lengths that this band was capable of reaching, but sadly almost never allowed.    

Things start off in high gear, with Frank whipping out the most aggressive "Deathless" solo I have yet to hear.  At least, I think it is a "Deathless" solo, since apart from the first minute or so, all I can hear is Frank and Vinnie attacking their respective instruments at full strength.  While the end product is not the most musical of "Horsies", it is quite exhilarating.    

The show hits an early slump for the next several songs, with the standard '79 repertoire not matching the intensity of the opener, nor satisfying the excitement I have knowing what will eventually come.  But all is set right with "City of Tiny Lites", which contains an unusual Walley solo over a hyper Charlie Watts-type 4/4 beat, followed by an awkward but who-really-cares-about-the-segue segue into "Outside Now". Once the vamp is established, Wolf goes first, playing a melodic and lyrical solo that makes me wish Frank had allowed the keyboardists to solo more often over a series of pre-established chord changes.  The emotional content of Wolf's solo is a refreshing change of scenery, with Wolf drawing all the emotion he can from the powerful vamp.  Frank does likewise, playing his guitar with an intensity that matches the hope and longing that the album version of "Outside Now" so well captures.  For my money, this is one of the most inspired performances of the tour, with both Wolf and Zappa successfully capturing real feeling in their respective solos, and using this feeling to push their solos to greater heights.    

The craziness continues after this, with the "Where has it been all tour?" "Pound for a Brown" reclaiming its post-"City" home.  This is the Monster we have all been waiting for, with Barrow (yes!!), Mann, Mars, and Frank all getting their chance to solo.  Mars and Mann do not do much with their spots, but Barrow and Zappa bookend this Monster with beauties. Frank's solo is another aggressive tour-de-force, climaxing in a chord-drenched fury that somehow manages to glide effortlessly into "Bamboozled By Love".    

After another excellent "Inca Roads" solo (not as good as many of the early ones, though; Frank has abandoned the traditional vamp for a blank canvas, and while this effort is good, it lacks the epic sweep of many of the better "Inca's") Frank treats us to some"Titties 'n' Beer", which gets the biggest response from the German crowd.  Warren plays the Devil (he is verrrry cool- almost to the point of being asleep), and despite valiant attempts on Warren's part to get some middle dialogue going, Frank is only interested in doing the composed parts.  "The Black Page" follows, sounding quite confident, before segueing- again rather effortlessly- into "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow".  Unfortunately, my tape ends here (I cannot find the last two songs), so if anyone out there wants to review "Bobby Brown" and "Conehead", please do.    

As great as this show is (and it is), I do have one complaint.  As Naurin will point out in his 4/1 review (which I received before I wrote this), Vinnie is, at times, just too much.  His aggressive attacks sound simply like drum solos for many of the songs, drowning out the vamps and ruining some of the better moments.  "The Deathless Horsie" is way too cluttered. "Inca Roads" sounds like a xenocranized drum solo over a Frank solo. "The Black Page" sounds great if not for Vinnie's over-presence.  He is an amazing drummer, no doubt, but the beats that are not played are sometimes as important as the ones that are.  
A minor complaint for an amazing show.

[Oh yeah, one more tiny little thing- at the end of "Tryin' to Grow A Chin", instead of yelling "One more time for the world", Denny yells "One more time to try to get the lyrics right", referring to yet another Denny-lyric goof-up.  Not hilarious, but enjoyable nonetheless.]    


April 1st, 1979

And so we've reached the end of the tour. It's a pleasure to announce that it's a concert that highlights the better of the tour's two characteristics: the great guitar playing. The other one - the predictability - gets overshadowed by a shock-full of surprises set of encores. I have one little problem with this show however, and strangely enough it's the drumming.  Vinnie had a habit of concluding every tour by playing at his very wildest. On the legendary 10/31/78 and 12/11/80 shows he did it to great effect, but tonight he almost overdoes it. Many of the solo vehicles practically turn into drum solos with guitar solos on top, which is cool to some extent, but can easily become too much.

The opening "Persona Non Grata" solo begins very nicely with FZ at his melodic best, continues with an unusual steady 4/4 vamp (Frank plays in that cool "wah-wah without a wah-wah" style as Foggy described), but the final section is on the verge of falling apart most of the time. The rest of the band give up and just listen to FZ and VC's xenochrony-like playing.

The following three solos are played by the guys who were doing their last show with FZ. Warren comes up with one of his better efforts in Cosmik Debris, which can't be said about Denny in City Of Tiny Lites. Peter takes the first solo in the Outside Now portion of COTL, and he does it great - melodic and moody, not unlike some of Eddie Jobson's violin solos from 1976/77. Frank tops it off with some really beautiful guitar mangling, while Vinnie tries to steal the show, taking huge liberties with the vamp.

Tonight's the night when we finally bury the old duh-nuh-NUH Easy Meat vamp. And wow, if all funerals were this entertaining! The vamp has been stripped down with one 16th, and the remaining 15/16 spawns one of the best pre- 1980 EM jams I've heard. If I remember correctly, Ben Watson claims that this is the Packard Goose solo on Joe's Garage, and if that's the case, I'll have to admit I don't recognize it (if someone does, please let me know!). Either way, an awesome solo it is!
After this, Inca Roads becomes a little disappointment. Very good solo, no doubt, FZ once again showing that he was able to find new approaches and ideas to the vamp every night. But something's missing in his playing, while Vinnie's a little too much.

The rest of the regular set proceeds without surprises, without Sophisticate/Wet T-Shirt to spice it up. Still, a slightly above-average set. But it's what happens next - the Encores - that make this show memorable.

It begins with Bobby Brown, an unusual song for this tour, but not exactly one we've been dying to hear. In classic 1978 fashion, it leads us into Conhead - a rarity that's much more welcome. A nice version too, one of the funkier things we've heard from this band. Peter Wold takes the solos, on e-piano and synth. Great! An even bigger surprise when they segue into Village Of The Sun. Where had it been hiding for the past 50 days? It sounds just as great as the previous tour, with some of that keyboard extravaganza that we've been missing for most of the tour.

And - who woulda thunk? - things would get even a little bit better. The last song of the show, becomes another surprise. Treacherous Cretins, the reliable vehicle, makes sure that the very last minutes of the tour contains what we want to remember it for - excellent guitar playing. A wise move Frank: if it had ended with Dirty Love/Montana, we might have remembered it for its other characteristic - the predictability. Vinnie has calmed down during the encores, helping them to become perhaps the strongest threesome of the tour.


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