Fall '78 Reviews
September 21st, 1978
Slow. There is really no other way to describe the September 21 show. And on some songs this works wonderfully, while on others it sends the show crashing to a halt. We start off with an interesting Deathless Horsie, with FZ's guitar just all over the map. He can't stay in one style for more than 30 seconds, and the effect is very interesting.
Then you might as well fastforward to Village. Frank really sounds bored with Dancin' Fool, Easy Meat plods, with the tempo slower, and the solo uninspiring. Honey and Greasey are also sapped of energy. Luckily, Village fits with the slow tempo beautifully. Ike has never sounded better, and Frank's solo is quite lyrical, a style he would use again for Any Kind of Pain in 1988. The first real highlight of the show. The mood carries over to Meek, which has some amazing Denny slide, and Frank and Ike actually sounding like the lyrics are new and fresh to them.
The tape I have has the keyboards mixed WAY up front, which makes some of the songs sound different, especially Tiny Lites - you forget how keyboard oriented it once was. Denny's solo, too is fierce, and sadly Frank can't top it this time.
Then comes perhaps the highlight of the show, and one of the highlights of the tour - Pound for a Brown. The head is cut off by a tape flip, so we go directly into Ed's solo, which is pretty good. Tommy comes in on synths for a couple of minutes, then provides a layer of synth backwash for Peter to begin his solo. He solos for about a minute on his synth before the instruments cut out, and then moves to piano. Then he begins an acapella solo that some might recognise as 'Prelude to Bobby Brown' off of the Project/Object bootleg. It has been suggested that part of this might be composed, as the band seem to know where it's headed when they eventually come in. In any case, it's magical. After about 3 minutes Tommy comes back, and the two keyboardists being the song to a close with a rockin' teenage ending that you just want to get up and dance to. Classic.
Bobby Brown ruins the energy, but not for long, as we get a nice, funky Conehead, with prominent Barrow and a nifty FZ solo, his best of the night so far. The show finally seems to be picking up for good now, and Moe's Vacation/Black Page is actually a refreshing change of pace, with Moe's in particular sounding quite professional.
I Have Been in You is sounding more polished than it did in the Winter tour, which is both good and bad. Luckily, Frank's monologues are beginning to diverge a bit from the standard 'boutique girl' regimen, and we get a sidebar about Wagner the underpants fetishist, complete with Mars keyboards. Then follows Flakes, which isn't as musically interesting as last tour, but funny and fresh enough to be good. Magic Fingers clips along too.
Then...the Yellow Snow Suite. Slow. Dull. Meandering. AAAIGHGHGHG!!! By 1979, this would be fast enough and rehearsed enough to be good. Now, it's 15 minutes of sheer boredom.
Luckily, we have the encores, coming to the rescue and saving the show. We start off with Little House, where Tommy does his best to top Peter's solo on Pound, with a long piano riff complete with scatted lyrics about sex. Vinnie then does some manic drum energy, and his solo slinks right into Tell Me You Love Me, which should have stuck around. Again, another song where the slower tempo works, making it a bit bluesy. It also has a double ending, a la Tryin' to Grow a Chin.
We then get two guitar vehicles to end the show, Yo Mama and Black Napkins, both of which have nice, serviceable Frank solos. So overall, this show had its fair share of slow, dull moments, but the solos from Denny, Peter, and Tommy and the (somewhat) rare songs make it a keeper. It's also got excellent sound, even if vocals and guitar are mixed a bit low.
September 28th, 1978
Review Coming Soon!
September 29th, 1978
My tape lacks the opening solo, which is probably a big loss judging from the rest of the tape. Because FZ's "on" tonight and delivers three excellent guitar solos during the first half hour. First, Easy Meat - an up and down experience: the verses and choruses are a bore, but boy is the solo hot! And at this stage of the tour, FZ dares to stretch things out a bit, mangles out a little mini-epic, while Vinnie's struggling to spice up the pretty dull vamp.
And yes, Village Of The Sun manages to top it, with an even longer, greater solo. Frank starts off cool, with small melodic phrases, which he makes longer and longer. Eventually, we get FZ at his aggressive, nasty best, but without bursting into frenzy. Easily the best solo I've heard so far this tour! And after The Meek, it's time for the third guitar vehicle, City Of Tiny Lights. Denny's solo sounds very similar from night to night, but FZ's much better than usual. Raw, some creative use of the whammy bar and centered around the lower frets. Unfortunately to short, though.
The Pound For A Brown theme becomes weird when Tommy's synth doesn't come through - he still scats along where he's supposed to, but he does it out-of-tune, and the result is pretty disgusting. Then, we get the ol ' Eddie, Tommy and Petey variations - not bad, but too short, and a little predictable by now.
And dammit, once again I get a Conehead without a solo [sorry Jon!- Fogz] . A collegue of mine described this song as underrated a while ago, and yes, I'm one of those who rate this song quite low, but I have to admit that it was a reliable vehicle for good solos this tour. But this time around, it's audience participation - we are invited to sing "Remulak, Remulak, I'm coming back". I'm not that amused, but the people at the Uptown are, and FZ keeps chatting with them for quite some time. He tells us that last year, Ed Mann saw some rodents at this theater, and he has promised that if he saw one this year, he'd take it back home and fuck it. And we get a long lecture about love songs before I Have Been In You, which unfortunately is the last song on this tape.
I would have love to hear some more solos from this show - I have the feeling that a Yo Mama this night could have become a classic. Oh well, at least it seems the band, and especially FZ has begun their climbing upwards. Now Frank, let's just give the boys in the band some more freedom and time to stretch out in their solos - it's just a month 'til Halloween...
October 4th, 1978 late
This is starting to get good. The opening solo (an Am11 waltz vamp similar to Ancient Armaments) fades in, and what's immediately clear is that Vinnie is starting to come into his own. During this solo, and whenever he gets a chance during the otherwise routine Dancin'-to-Pound sequence, he supplies the turbulence under FZ's guitar that is half of what would make SUAPYG a landmark. Other than that, Easy Meat sounds better with Denny singing the verses alone and Ike joining in on the choruses, and Pound has some nice variations on the typical Sep. 78 jamming framework but gets butchered by the tape flip.
Then they take a set break, and in the second half of the show FZ delves into the more intriguing areas of the fall '78 repertoire. They start with Twenty One (why didn't this appear more often?), then Bamboozled and Sy Borg (personal favorite from this tour). Next we get Little House and Yo Mama, neither of which are all time versions, but both of which are epics with the requisite epic quality that only the first-rate Zappa bands can provide - and by now it's apparent that this lineup is becoming one of the first-rate Zappa bands.
The next 30 minutes or so are a formality (Magic Fingers, Yellow Snow suite, Strictly Genteel), but Black Napkins closes the show and displays FZ still finding new possibilities within this two-chord vamp. This is one of the better AUD recordings from the tour (though not spectacular), and it shows the band beginning to transform itself into the monster it would become by the end of this month.
October 8th, 1978 late
Suffering from almost nonexistent levels, this AUD tape is for completionists only. However, if you crank it up and deal with the hiss (or locate a lower-gen copy than mine, perhaps), there is some interesting music here, even if it's sprinkled among a large helping of routine tour fare.
On each solo that he plays at this show (only three, unfortunately), FZ is on fire, bringing out his most barbed and furious guitar playing mood. This results in the first Easy Meat solo from this tour I've heard that really works, and on Yo Mama the guitar simply screams. The opening solo (an early Persona Non Grata in 4/4) is quite memorable - the rhythm section initially provides a lethargic plod (a bit like a weak summer 1980 Easy Meat vamp), but this only makes FZ's Middle Eastern-influenced wailing sound more pointed. Eventually Vinnie gets going, and we get a hint of what was coming five nights later in Passaic.
Little House is a good Monster, with Tommy observing in song, "I like it here in New York - it's been a while," before engaging in the usual duel with Vinnie. Oddly enough, Tommy also solos rather than FZ in Village Of The Sun, and he gives this vamp the usual sterling Mars treatments, starting on Hammond and moving to his various synths. No other surprises here, but don't pass this by too quickly.
Incidentally, some have labelled this tape as 10-24-78, but Ike's still here and O'Hearn isn't, so this date is more likely.
October 9th, 1978
Frank's guitar solos during this concert not only save the show from mediocrity, but also push it towards the upper limits of the Fall '78 echelon.
The festivities start off with an "Ancient Armaments"-esque solo, with Vinnie and Artie laying down a slow, methodical groove while Frank simply tears the place apart. Artie manages to control himself throughout the solo, sticking with the low, drawn out notes, while Vinnie jumps between tense, deliberate pounding and manic outbursts. The rhythm section creates an amazing sense of tension-and-release that is enhanced by the bizarre, sci-fi noises oozing out of the keyboards. Over all this, Frank whips out one of his evil, "Filthy Habits"-sounding solos, throwing in both feedback and lightning fast licks to color his palette.
After this draining opener, Frank announces that we are now entering the "loud and obnoxious part of the show", and so we do. The "Easy Meat" solo keeps things interesting in its typically aggressive fashion, and "Village of the Sun" gives us a rollicking keyboard solo (Wolf?) that finds Vinnie once again going crazy underneath. "City of Tiny Lites", which began the tour in a very disappointing fashion, is definitely a worthy event tonight, with Frank once again unleashing an evil, feedback heavy, "Filthy Habits"-esque solo. Vinnie is a monster here, and the final march to the finish line has Vinnie and FZ sounding like a herd of stampeding rhinos. Very heavy.
Sadly, the "Pound for a Brown" is quite disappointing after this guitar madness, following its standard Mann-> Mars->Wolf solo pattern, with none of the solos particularly standing out. "Conehead" provides the final interesting moment of the night, thanks to a Frank guitar solo that, well, does not sound like a guitar solo. Roughly the first minute of his solo sounds like an electric harp, or some other stringed instrument that is not a guitar. I am not sure if it is an effect Frank is using, my tape, or actually another instrument, but it is weird and it is cool. After this short digression, Frank starts his solo proper, and this time out we get one of those choke-your-guitar-to-death solos reminiscent of his heavier '82 excursions.
From this point on, the show enters "no-more-solos-standard-fare" territory (though we are missing the encores, so ), and thus there is not much to talk about. On the whole, this is not a great show, as nothing really special happens. But if all you really want to hear is Frank playing guitar and doing so outrageously, then this show should please you.
October 11th, 1978
This is a rare tape in trading circles, most likely due to the near horrible sound in which the majority of the show is captured. Despite the obvious sound problems, however, it is an October '78 show, and as is the case with almost every other October show from this year, it is a hot one. Not as phenomenal as the guitar orgy of 10/13, or as unpredictably insane as 10/29 or 10/31, but a keeper nonetheless.
The show starts off as all shows should- with nine-plus minutes of Frank Zappa on guitar. Using the "Persona Non Grata" vamp as his launching pad, Frank takes us on a slow, patient, heavy six-string journey, exercising great restrain throughout and somehow keeping both Artie and Vinnie in check. No manic drum bursts, bass runs, or incomprehensible flurries of guitar notes- just a slowly building march of rather angry sounding music that bores its way into your skull and then sits there. This may not be one of the greatest displays of guitar prowess Frank has produced, but it is an impressive and disturbing statement.
As the show continues, Frank keeps the guitar treats coming, pulling out some energetic and lengthy solos in both "Easy Meat" and "City of Tiny Lites". Apart from the opening solo, the highlight of the first half is "Village of the Sun" though, with a soulful vocal performance by Ike, and an infectuously groovy keyboard solo that made me want to get up and dance (er, pull over to the side of the road and dance).
The "Pound" solos have by this time in the tour reached a respectable length, allowing Ed and the keyboardists more time to stretch out, but tonight none of them whip out anything particularly memorable. Frank inserts "The Deathless Horsie" here as his solo vamp, and works this vamp to death for nine solid minutes. Unfortunately, he gets absolutely nothing going, and the end result is one of missed opportunity. Even Vinnie sounds uninspired during the course of the solo, not once venturing near his "I am going to solo now during his solo" routine.
After a routine ending to the main set, Frank stirs things up with the one-time-only-on-this-tour "Titties 'n' Beer", followed by "The Black Page". Musically, "Titties" sounds pretty good (despite being the worst sounding thing on this tape quality wise), with Frank and Ed (I assume) even trying a little improv in the middle section. "The Black Page" also sounds quite good, and Vinnie must be having a bad night cause his playing does not overpower the rest of the band as it would on other performances of this tune. Finally, Frank ends the night with "Black Napkins", which while being nowhere near as powerful as the "Black Napkins" from two nights later, does reclaim some of the intrigue and emotion pulled out in the opening solo.
Despite the high quality of music, I am hesitant to recommend this show simply cause the sound quality is so bad. This is a good show performance wise, and it does have a couple truly memorable moments. But there are better October shows, and all of them sound better than this one. If you have nothing else to get, check it out. Otherwise, go for something a little bit easier to listen to.
October 13th, 1978 early
10/13/78 is sort of a legendary date for us FZ guitar solo fanatics. The late show is world famous for its extravagant string manglings, as I'm sure my esteemed colleague from Connecticut will tell you about below. The early one is not that widely circulated, but does indeed contain some incredibly inspired moments. One of the reasons might be spelled O'Hearn, making one of his great guest appearances.
Tonight's opening course, The Deathless Horsie, is quite a tasty appetizer. The recipe is the one we know and love: soaring beautiful notes, mixed with aggressive string abuse, boiled for 5 minutes and tasted with some spicy "Squirm" licks. (Hope it doesn't show that the reviewer was very hungry as he wrote this). Easy Meat also contains some really hot playing, though the solo is pretty short. Vinnie and the bass players have finally found out how to make the vamp interesting.
In a way, Village Of The Sun might be the Monster Song of the tour (not counting the Halloween shows), as it is totally unpredictable - sometimes just a regular guitar solo vehicle, and sometimes an orgy of solos from various band members. This is a case of the latter - hooray! Ike stretches out quite far with his ad-libbed vocals before the solo section begins. The first solo is Petey on the Hammond, and it strikes me how unusual a solo instrument this was in Zappa's bands. Next goes Tommy on the synth, a characteristic quirky solo, while Vinnie plays the grooviest calypso you ever heard in the background. The vamp is transformed into a subtler one, as it's Arthur's turn to step into the spotlight. A great solo, where he switches between picked and slap bass, then trades a couple of licks with Patrick, who soon starts trading with the Hammond instead. Terrific stuff. The segue into the Meek is very nice and smooth.
The show stays at this high level: City Of Tiny Lights is unusually good, with Denny playing the same solo he always does, but somehow with much more energy. FZ's solo is cool, the licks and sound (drenched in delay) are so Rock 'n Roll.
Now the big question is: can Pound For A Brown live up to all this? So far, the show has been of near-Halloween quality, but what about the supposed highlight? Well, the solos start out promising - Ed is pretty much his usual self, but Vinnie, Artie and Pattie are superb! Same goes for the following electric piano solo (Wolf, I think) - the solo is good but the accompaniment is gorgeous, and it reaches a climax during Tommy's short synth solo. FZ stops this abruptly, and very tastefully lowers the tempo by letting Peter play 'a capella' for a while. First a little Moog solo, then the piano, and soon the whole band breaks in and finishes this Monster. Not sure if the piano part is composed or improvised - it sounds familiar, and might be the same thing he played in Poughkeepsie. Nevertheless, it's great, majestic and groovy at the same time
Conehead features some audience participation, which is a little worrying, since it might mean we don't get a solo. But no reason to be alarmed - "now keep singing while I get my guitar". The solo starts with a very unusual, clean guitar sound. Quite cool, but FZ doesn't seem pleased and kicks out the old fuzz tone. Very good solo.
Unfortunately, this is the last thing of major interest that happens. The last 30 min are disappointing, containing no more solos or surprises. Maybe FZ felt this too, that the show should have had another climax near the end. And man, did he change this for the late show...
Anyway - excellent show, showing that FZ had begun to realize and develop this band's abilities!
October 13th, 1978 late
It has proved very difficult for me to write this review, mainly because there are only so many times you can say 'amazing' before it gets old. This is one of the best tapes out there for hearing Frank's guitar. The other soloists are no slouches either, and Patrick has joined the band. Like Jason with the Fall 74 tour, I can't find a fault with this tape.
For one thing, the opening solo is incredible, quite probably the best opening solo of the run. Frank is all over the place in terms of style, getting middle-eastern, bluesy, and then just pouring out notes. And did I mention Vinnie, Arthur, and Patrick are providing incredible backup that deserves a listen of its own? It even quotes Transylvania Boogie. What more can I say?
Easy Meat has a meaner, more feedback-laden solo than we've heard so far in this tour, and FZ seems to actually use the high notes in his range for once. Bamboozled has Ike in good voice, and Denny with the first and better of his 2 slide solos for the evening. Frank apparently slammed some coffee before this show, as his solos are still full of fast, amazing energy. Intense.
Peter's solo on Sy Borg is a nice mellow change of pace for the first part, sounding much like the official version on Joe's Garage. Then Artie or Patrick decides to change the vamp a bit, and Peter gets a little more hyper. Suicide Chump has Denny singing (I always liked his vocals here), and a somewhat weak slide solo, before FZ once again tears into his guitar. A shame this song would turn routine.
Little House is where the audience begin to take over this tape. The crowd is right in your ears, asking about the tape, insulting Tommy, insulting each other, and generally behaving like a FZ crowd. It's great, and adds a wonderful atmosphere to Tommy's sparse solo, very classical- sounding. The synth part is tape cut, but seems to pick right back up. Then he even does a little vocoder solo. Peter then gives a short solo, and then it's off to VinnieLand. The audience may not have liked Tommy, but they love Vinnie, and he gives them a bitchin' solo worthy of that love.
We then get a very fast, bouncy Yo Mama (maybe it's just my ears after listening to the slower Winter 78 versions). This is another incredible solo, which FZ riding the tri-part vamp for all it's worth. Plus, for once, he gets the segue exactly right! One of my favorite Yo Mama performances. Then comes contrast and relief with a short Magic Fingers, and FZ bids us adieu.
But it's not over yet. Now we have the highlight of a highlight-filled show - Black Napkins. I really can't do justice to this performance. FZ plays his heart out for 8 minutes, then begins to wrap it up, and decides he wants to keep playing, so he does. 5 more minutes of Frank, then he hands it to Patrick for a few, then back with more - it's just jaw dropping. GET THIS TAPE, if only for this performance.
Camarillo Brillo is its usual self, but Muffin Man sounds quite nasty tonight, with another feedback-filled solo. FZ asks the crowd if they want another song, but we sadly don't get to hear it as the tape ends there.
I tried my best, but I probably sounded like a big fanboy. No matter. This tape is a must-have, some of FZ's best live solos.
PAT BUZBY ADDS: One of my favorite moments on this tape occurs at the end of the opening solo, after FZ delivers an instrumental "that's all, folks" ending and the band provides a big flourish - Vinnie then simply stops playing. Fitting, given his all-out effort during the solo. Another great Vinnie moment appears when he segues into Honey Don't You Want A Man Like Me out of Easy Meat while the rest of the band plays the intro to Bamboozled. Vinnie realizes his mistake and does his best to pass it off as an unusually wild Bamboozled intro-fill. Even his errors were outrageous.
This is one tape I was curious about for a while. Despite the fact that
it comes between the 10/13 and 10/15 shows, both of them legendary nights in FZ history,
not many people have it. The only explanation I've heard about this is that the sound is
poor. So when I saw it on a European mega-trader's list marked vg+, I grabbed it.
This SBD is one of the must-have tapes from this tour, along with 10/13L and the Palladium shows. Like all of them, it has its drawbacks (small repertoire, weak vocals) but displays a band ready to cut loose like maniacs whenever it gets half a chance.
The opening "Persona Non Grata" solo is nearly as massive as its counterparts from 10/13 and 10/27 - by now, O'Hearn is here (and Ike is gone), and the board tape puts his contributions (tossing many of FZ's most pungent phrases back at him) into sharp relief. At the end, FZ quotes the intro to "Mo's Vacation," leading to a mini-"Mo's" jam led by Barrow (pretty sure) before FZ starts the band intros.
After this, the usual vocal numbers - "Easy Meat" suffers vocally without Ike (sounds like Arthur trying to pick up the slack along with Denny), and Denny delivers the crudest versions of "Bamboozled" and "Suicide Chump" preserved on tape. (One e-mail pen pal of mine from my college years compared his vocal stylings on the latter song to Kurt Cobain.) FZ and Vinnie take "Chump" as far out as it can go, but the "Easy Meat" and "Tiny Lites" solos, though fierce, are too short.
Then "Pound," and all hell breaks loose. Aside from the usual percussion and keyboard solos (allowed to go longer tonight than usual), we get just about everything one could imagine (except for "Thirteen" and Shankar) - a jam between FZ and O'Hearn (with some assistance from the others), O'Hearn's "Emperor of Ohio" rap and more. Definitely one of the classic moments of the year. Unfortunately, the SBD cuts during Tommy's solo, though many copies (not mine) have a few AUD-recorded minutes patched in to pick up the story.
October 15th, 1978 early
Another one of those concerts that have earned October '78 a reputation as being one of the best months ever for FZ solos. Tonight we meet a very inspired FZ, who along with the rest of guys delivers some mighty fine playing. What happens in between the instrumental workouts is more or less forgettable, but who cares - we're here to hear the boys play! This is also the first concert after Ike's departure, and I can't say I miss him. Well, I do miss Village Of The Sun, which now leaves the setlists, but apart from that, Ike's absence almost goes unnoticed.
As in Passaic two days earlier, the opening solo gives us a hint that FZ is "on" tonight. The vamp is an unusual one, a reggae-tinted little thing in C major, and FZ goes on and on for more than 10 minutes, ranging from great to excellent.
Easy Meat and City Of Tiny Lights bring wonderfully monstrous FZ solos, but they both look like little kitties compared to the beast that jumps out of Pound For A Brown. You can tell that Frank's fingers are itching - he's not supposed to solo here, but after Ed's nice solo, the urge obviously gets to big and FZ mangles out an absolutely sick solo. Cool interplay with Vinnie and the bass players. We also get some of the usual great keyboard adventures, before Bobby Brown takes us back to planet Earth.
It only takes 8 minutes before we're back up there again, though. After some more or less failed attempts at getting the audience to interact in Conehead, FZ draws his weapon again. And gosh, how shall I describe this solo?! I won't even try - this must be heard. Among the ingredients are Apostrophe (') and a really sinister boogie - and isn't that AC/DC's TNT riff at the end? Next, it's the bass players' showcase. Patrick takes the first solo, Arthur the second, then it turns into a duet. Terrific!
From one monster into another, but Little House actually looks pretty small next to the 15 min Conehead. Great keyboard extravaganza from Tommy and a drum solo, but it's too short to qualiify as a true Monster. The set closes with another guitar tour-de-force - a 14 min Yo Mama. Another solo that must be heard to be believed - the old three-step rocket we all know and love - simply amazing!
The encores don't bring any surprises, though Dinah Moe Humm has some funny audience participation (where FZ reports that they've found a person who's "educated to the point of total inhibition") and Muffin Man makes sure we get another guitar solo. Not the best solo of the evening, but FZ freaks out a little more than usual, and the result is quite enjoyable.
A marvellous show and a really good recording - do yourself a favor and get a copy!
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