Fall '75 Reviews
October 29th, 1975 early
The show starts off promising, with Frank showing signs that his fingers are itching to play tonight. He plays a little solo-ette between the verses in Stinkfoot, and the "real" solo is excellent - an intensely squealing and screaming blues affair. Unfortunately, the rest of the tape is a mixed plate that can't really live up to the expectations raised by this great opening. A nasty cut and some poor decisions by FZ prevents this tape from being a must-have.
The first of the poor decisions is one we have to live with through most of the tour - the Freak Out medley near the beginning of the show. What I want after the great Stinkfoot is more dirty guitar work from FZ, and what I get is Napoleon wailing his way through those three songs, none of which suits this rocking teenage combo. The other poor decisions come when FZ chooses not to take solos in either The Illinois Enema Bandit or Chunga's Revenge, and then cuts the show without giving us Zoot Allures.
The cut comes in the middle of the Carolina Hardcore Ecstasy solo, and takes us right into Nappy's solo in Chunga's, depriving us of the WOIIFTM medley. But there are some more good things about this tape too: a long Black Napkins solo, and at least the first half of it is really beautiful. We also get a long theatrical happening in the Enema Bandit, with Roy acting as Michael Kenyon against a girl from the audience. This was probably much funnier live, but is still pretty amusing. And the fragment of Frank's CHCE solo is good, as is Andre's solo in Chunga's Revenge. Oh, and the sound is really good too, one of the best from this tour.
This is a tough one to review, simply because there's so incredibly much going on. I could summarize it by just writing "This is one of FZ's sickest guitar shows ever - go get it!", but I will try to analyse it in detail. Believe me, I've tried to be brief...
The first 25 minutes of the show are nothing short of magnificent. The opening blues jam is just as greasy as I want it, and FZ's solo in Stinkfoot is a little blues-epic, if such a thing exists. Not as intense as in the early show, but much longer with FZ displaying a wide variety of approaches to blues playing. Dirty Love follows, and then the first of tonight's surprises: Sleep Dirt! Napoleon and Andre have both gotten more and more comfortable with the chord progression, and bring us two beautiful solos. FZ does some cool experimenting with the arpeggio in the background, making this perhaps the ultimate version of this song. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to be at ease with the not-exactly-modal nature of the vamp yet, as his solo turns out short and rather uninteresting - quite possibly, this was the reason why the song was dropped from the setlists from here on.
After being served with so many goodies, it's easier to accept the Freak Out medley that inevitably follows. But - who'da thunk? - here comes the second surprise: between How Could I Be Such A Fool? and Ain't Got No Heart, FZ has chosen to throw in Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up. The vocal harmonies are a little too blurry for it to be really good, but it's pretty cool to hear because it's so rare.
No sax solo in Black Napkins tonight, and FZ's solo is a little below my expectations. This can't be said about The Illinois Enema Bandit though, which comes with one of the best solos of the show. Frank begins with some extremely simple blues figures, which he builds into more and more complex lines, and ends up in a great, frenzied workout. Another good solo in Carolina Hard Core Ecstasy and the Money medley keep us in good spirits until it's time for the really crucial part of the show. Yes, as enjoyable as the first half of those shows can be, it is this reporter's opinion that it's the outcome of the Chunga/Zoot combo that determines whether it's a great show or not.
And what we get is is The Monster - and one of the absolute highlights - of the entire tour: Chunga's Revenge. After a nice solo by Napoleon, FZ starts playing some cool rhythm guitar, and Andre seems to hesitate whether it's really his turn to solo. He gets his chance, but FZ steals the attention with his accompaniment. Next, he steals the show completely with a long workout on his guitar. The rest of the band tries to follow, and manages to do so through a short, C&W-ish Tryin' To Grow A Chin. But as he starts getting really far out, the boys give up, and we get several minutes of a capella guitar soloing. Quite fascinating, though not all of it is great, and we get teases of Blessed Relief as well as Ship Ahoy. Frank then invites the band again for a little blues number, where he continues to solo for quite a while. As the tape cuts - after 12 minutes of continous guitar madness - FZ kicks out a new riff, and it's possible that he continued for another while.
Tape 2 begins with a drum solo, and then Zoot Allures with more far out guitar soloing that the band can't follow. My ears might be saturated now, because I don't like these improvisations as much as the previous. At this stage, I even find the stupid Swallow My Pride as pleasant relief.
The encores begin with another '75 fave, Any Downers? We do not get another guitar orgy, just some really heavy riffing and Nappy's and Roy's wailing, which is cool enough. Then comes the next surprise - an extremely rough proto-version of Packard Goose. We've heard it recited several times this tour, but this time FZ actually sings it, in a melody that resembles the final version. He refers to it as a "demo". I'm The Slime sees FZ freak out on the guitar once again, but we get an unfortunate cut just as he whips out a ultra-rapid Willie The Pimp. The show closes with a nice San Ber'dino.
The show starts off with the cool blues jam that always sets a nice mood (well, after a short Pedro's Dowry over the loudspeaker). This has an average keyboard solo by Andre and a better sax solo from Brock. Frank then comes out to introduce the band, and includes Marty Perellis.
Stinkfoot has an excellent FZ solo. Say what you will about the band (and I will), there is no doubt that you can't fault Frank's guitar on these tours. Full of energy and dark overtones. Best of all the Poodle Lecture that follows is still in its infancy, so manages to be a) interesting, and b) SHORT. Terry Bozzio's mother is namechecked, as apparently she was in the audience.
Then comes the Freak Out medley. It's not as bad as it would get in Europe this winter. It's still not very good, though. I've never been a big fan of Napoleon at his BEST, and these two tours do not show him at his best. Save your ears, fast forward this medley. Luckily, Black Napkins follows. It's strictly a FZ solo vehicle at this point, very mellow. At the beginning, Frank recites some of the Packard Goose lyrics to the crowd, along with some interesting variations that were never heard.
Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy has lost the extra repeat that made it so tedious back in the Spring, and luckily has not lost the energy in Frank's solos. An excellent rendition, with a Ms. Pinky quote to boot. Then comes what is generally referred to as 'the GOOD medley'. Indeed, Lonely Little Girl has some really heavy ugly guitar, and very few "WWAAAAOOHHH"s from Nappy. This one should have stuck around, rather than being dropped early in 76.
Plus, the medley leads into Chunga's Revenge, one of the highlights of the show. I tend to think of this tour when I think of this song, with its loud guitar intro and excellent parade of solos. We start off with a sax solo by Nappy, which appears to have some sort of echo effect near the end. After a short sax/falsetto duel between Roy and Nappy (Roy rarely soloed on bass, a fact we should probably be grateful for), Frank introduces Norma Bell as a special guest (though she played at several shows all through this tour). Her solo is excellent, and I wish she'd been able to stay for a while longer. After a return to the theme, we get a Lewis keyboard solo, which is merely okay, before Frank steps up. Despite two short cuts, this is a great solo, with Frank varying his speed and style throughout. Terry's shorter-than-usual drum solo finishes it up.
Zoot Allures is always nice to hear on this tour. It's still growing, and the head is not quite as assured, but the solo is nice, blending into a guitar/sax duet with Norma. We then have a really awkward cold intro into Honey, Don't...Me? and IEB, which are in brand new, still finding their feet forms. Honey is fairly faceless, if sleazier, but Illinois Enema Bandit gets the full Halloween treatment, and becomes the other highlight of this tape. Frank describes it as a 'bicentennial song', celebrating the best of what America has to offer. He then gives the standard Kenyon intro, but then decides that we need a bit of audience participation, which involves getting a young woman on the stage and haoping Nappy pretend to give her an enema. Best of all, the woman (Fran) is a radiologist, so is well trained in the art of enema. The song itself, when it finally arrives, is kind of an anticlimax, though Frank does liven things up in the solo by alternating guitar licks with more enema talk.
Not the best band in the world (Andre and Roy in particular fail to inspire me), not the best setlist in the world. However, this band had a sleazy, bar-band sound that we wouldn't really hear again from Frank, and his solos were kickin'. Not the best Halloween tape, but worthy.
At this point of the tour, I have become just as tired of the vocal songs as I had
expected. Only Carolina Hardcore Ecstasy, Lonely Little Girl and the less worn-out encore
songs keep my attention. However, I keep getting surprised at how much I enjoy the jams.
Or should I say the solos, because I must admit that the Estrada/Bozzio combo doesn't
inspire me much, but that makes it easier to concentrate on the solos, which are in most
instances very good.
A strange sounding tape. I've given it a C+, but it sounds like it
could origin from a soundboard or FM source. If you take your Vancouver 10/1 tape,let your
hungry Alsatian play with it for 20 minutes, put the remnants back together with Scotch
tape and store it on top of your speaker for a year, it would probably sound something
Advance Romance includes a rare sax solo instead of keyboards and a
good one from Frankie. Honey, Don't You Want A Man Like Me? is unusually interesting, as
Norma sings most of the lines that Roy would normally take. It seems Norma plays the role
of the co-ed in The Illinois Enema Bandit, as she's heard
Another fairly new tape, this presents us with a nice little late November concert,
with two major cuts but the majority of the show intact. The cuts are Black Napkins and
The Illinois Enema Bandit, both totally missing to get the tape to a 90-minute length.
Other tours I might be bothered, but for this one I have other songs I'd rather hear, and
those cuts mean we get them - a complete Chunga's Revenge and Zoot Allures.
Except, that is, for the following two songs- "Stinkfoot" and "Chunga's Revenge". "Stinkfoot"- the first real song of the show following the opening jam (which tonight is minus a Zappa solo)- is tremendous. The solo is another one of those that makes you think that this must be the longest "Stinkfoot" solo ever. Frank just plays and plays, riding that two chord vamp for all its worth, flirting with some Transylvania Boogie and sprinkling some T'Mershi Duween quotes throughout. It is a great start, but unfortunately it is not indicative of what would follow.
A short "Poodle Lecture" slows things down (I am not a fan AT ALL of the Poodle Lecture, so I profess major bias here), and the "Dirty Love-> Freak Out! Medley" which follows does not recapture the energy of the opener. Even "Black Napkins"-a typically ferocious mid-set highlight- leaves me sort of cold, though I will give props to the eerie keyboard atmospherics Lewis plays behind Frank's solo.
Things do not get interesting again until "Chunga's Revenge", which may redeem the entire show. This is the first time in the show that I really notice Norma Bell, with her sax solo propelling the band into an all-out "kick-out-the-jams" stampede. I have mentioned before that one of the worst things about late '70's/'80's Zappa is that he no longer plays rhythm guitar, and his rhythm work here is another example of just how inventive a rhythm player he was. His solo proper begins in a "rhythm guitar" fashion, with Frank messing around with some chords to establish a bouncy, sprightly groove. Things slowly get more intense, eventually reaching a "Five-five-five"-esque peak (the reviewer from Ohio wanted to make sure I mentioned this).
"Zoot Allures" follows as usual, and contains some typical '75 "Zoot"-ish meanderings. My "Zoot" is missing what I assume is a large chunk in the middle, so I have not heard it all, but what little I have seems to belong back to the more standard fare of the pre-"Chunga's" show.
While this is not one of the consistently best shows of the Fall '75 tour, it does contain two definite highlights. I am glad I heard the "Stinkfoot" and "Chunga's Revenge" preformed on this night, but when reaching for a '75 show, I would probably go for something else first. Worth hearing but not essential.
I recently had the pleasure to recieve a complete, good-sounding copy of this show. My
old one was crappy and missed the first 25 minutes. After this upgrade, I'm ready to say
that this is one of the best tapes of the tour.
The side begins with the final notes of Frank's "Chunga's" solo floating into space, creating a vacuum that Frank fills by announcing that the band will now play "some new and never heard before" songs. They start off with "Find Her Finer", which appears in the best version I have heard apart from the '88 tour. This debut has much more energy than the lethargic "Zoot Allures" take, and contains some funky Nappy horn bursts throughout the song. (As the song winds down, Frank says "And obviously the name of that song is "Da Da Goo Goo" huh?). From here, the band debuts the still unreleased "Kaiser Rolls", a song Frank admits to having tried with "a number of bands a number of times" but was not satisfied with until now. It is about a man who "encounters a shell shocked person in the park", and while the song itself is not that great, this performance is the best I have heard of it. It does end with some cool FZ riffing though, which eventually segues (very smoothly) into the short, skeletal, and quite anemic debut of "Let's Move to Cleveland". There is nothing much here other than a couple of the themes which would eventually kick-ass 6 years later- quite pathetic sounding as played here- but this is an interesting listen simply as a reference point for the final product. [And the segue from "Kaiser Rolls" is good .very Grateful Dead-ish in its flow]. Finally, this debut party ends with "Keep It Greasy", which is easily the funkiest version of this tune ever. Bozzio's drumming is simple but very effective, as is Estrada's sparse but poppin' bass. Not as fast or chaotic as later versions, this performance paints "Greasy" in a whole new light, and hints at the non-annoying potential it initially had. The best apart about these four performances is that apart from "Cleveland", the songs themselves represent Frank's more predictable or routine song writing side, but are captured here in versions that paint them as fresh and full of life.
The first 90 minutes of the show finds Frank dishing up a typical serving of Fall '75 dining. "Stinkfoot" starts things off well with an energetic, straightforward solo, but then brings us all down with a lengthy Poodle Lecture. "Filthy Habits" is not in the line up yet, so after "Dirty Love" and the Freak Out! Medley, the show is already starting to bore. "Black Napkins" arrives to save the day, with Lewis taking a rare BN keyboard solo (typical Lewis solo), followed by a typically excellent BN Frank solo. The parade of songs which follow have long since bored me ("Advance", "Illinois", Carolina"), but Frank finds inspiration and redeems them all with some more first rate guitar playing. "Advance Romance" is especially noisy and dissonant, while "Illinois Enema Bandit" finds Bozzio and Estrada digging in with a heavy blues vamp that gives Frank's solo an emotional edge that it seldom achieved. The WOIIFTM Medely is a welcome treat as always, while "Chunga's Revenge" finishes off the first tape of music with Brock and Lewis doing what they always do, and Frank whipping out a short little solo.
This is not the best show from the Fall '75 tour. Thanks to some strong FZ guitar playing, though, and the unique suite of songs which helps close the show, it is a tape which I highly recommend acquiring.
The Fall 75 tour has proven to be, on listening to several shows, much better than
perhaps originally thought. That may be why it's so difficult to listen to this show. Dull
as a very dull thing indeed, this has everything bad about Fall 75 in it.
Despite the special occasion, most of the first 2/3rds of this tape is nothing more or
less than the standard late '75 performance. Black Napkins is the number the band plays as
the clock strikes midnight, but FZ turns in the most sour and choppy solo I've heard on
this song from the 70's. As well, FZ learns that it's seven minutes until midnight when he
finishes the solo, which results in several minutes of noisy time-killing until Auld Lang
Syne finally arrives. (Although this is not noted elsewhere, it sounds to me like
Beefheart joins in on sax at one point.)
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