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Spring 1973 Reviews

page one


February 24th, 1973

Welcome to the '73 tour.  This second show of the year, made disproportionately famous by a vinyl boot, is like many shows from early in FZ tours, which is to say that it's the same as usual but just not as good.  However, this tape does have its selling points.

It is amusing to note the audience responses to FZ's band intros on some tours.  This time out, it is clear that Ian, Jean-Luc and George (in descending order) are the popular members of the group.  Some songs would get tweaked later in the tour - here, there's no Exercise Four, and so Dog Breath emerges sheepishly from the end of RDNZL.  The band stumbles a bit during the odd meter section of Dog Breath Variations, but I could listen to the Dog/Meat/50-50 medley happily once a week for the rest of my life, and the overall performance is good.  George and Jean-Luc have good solos in 50-50, while FZ offers dull, twangy solos in that song and RDNZL.  As for 50-50, it may just be me, but I love the wrenching effect when the upbeat solos yield to the return of the grim theme.

Next is the slow arrangement of Inca Roads, with a nice chord under the part of the melody that later featured the words "was it something different" that got a bit lost when FZ sped it up.  The dull 4/4 vamp supports a sour solo from Bruce and a sweet one from Ian on flute.  Next is a group improv, which becomes the highlight of the tape.  It starts out in a standard way, with free noise leading to a funk jam with Jean-Luc soloing, but gets better with a bizarre exchange between Ralph on drums and Ruth (or is it FZ?) on bongos, leading to some weird conducted improv, again featuring Ruth, which sounds like a proto-Mo's Vacation at one point.

FZ stops the band after his first countoff into Montana, and most of his solo gets cut.  This leads into an odd medley : Dupree's/I'm The Slime/Don't You Ever Wash That Thing.  Dupree's features no pre-theme improv and a surprisingly tepid Jean-Luc solo, but George gets one over the turnaround changes from the theme, which is cool.  Don't You Ever Wash on this tour is just a quick head leading to a long, meandering jam, with fairly entertaining solos from everyone except Tom and Ruth.  Cosmik Debris, with a more biting FZ guitar tone, closes the set.


March 1st, 1973

The "backwards" show - yes, Frank surprises everyone at the beginning by announcing that tonight's
set will be played in reverse order. The only noticeable effect for the listener is the fact that the show
opens with the Green Genes medley. And maybe this is why all the solos in this suite sound unusually
inspired, especially Ian's and George's, the latter with a nice Arabesque passage. A tired-sounding
Montana follows, but Frank wakes up in time for his solo, which is pretty good.

George hasn't really found his feet for his Dupree's introduction - not bad at all, but with growing
confidence, he would get a lot better in the months to come. In the middle of the spacey synth-sounds,
FZ throws in a little "Ground control to Captain Tom" (nice CC with the late Feb '78 shows). Then he
soon cues in the band, and we get some full band jamming (including a good trombone solo) before the
theme. Ponty's solo really surprised me - some of the most inspired and far-out playing I've heard from
him in this spot. Tom and Ralph catch up, taking this solo vehicle into dimension it would rarely reach at
this early stage of the tour. Jean-Luc's reputation of being predictable may be well-deserved, but he sure
had his really fine moments. Frank's solo starts out promising, but it seems like the tape was damaged
here, and it cuts soon.

The boogie-rock vamp in Don't You Ever Wash That Thing? may not seem like the right choice for this
band, but it seems to evoke a "let's jam!" feeling, which would spawn some really cool soloing. Ian goes
first to solo, and this is great! He switches effects, and I think instruments (the sound makes it hard to
tell), and is throughout very good. Next, the Fowlers with one fine solo each, before it's Ponty's turn
again. He starts out pizzicato - very cool, and he whips out a really nice solo with the bow too. Next, a
more chaotic passage, with the Zomby Woof/Rollo riff played a few times, a dirty R&R solo by Frank,
and finally a really good (a bit too long, though) drum solo. This song would grow more sophisticated
over the coming tours, but I really dig these early renditions too.

The show ends with a rather dull Cosmik Debris, but overall, this is a pretty nice tape. The rather lifeless
sound makes it sound rather dull at first, but once you get used to it, there are quite a few things to
enjoy here. Not one of your five first picks from this tour, though.


March 2nd, 1973

This is a short concert from early in the 73 tour, clocking in at one 67 minutes. Still, it's quite good for this early, and has a lot to offer even without a Don't You Ever...

My copy starts, oddly enough, with a radio ad for the concert, with Eat That Question and Monster Magnet as bg for the announcer's "Go see Zappa!" pitch. Surreal. After that, we get a straightforward intros into RDNZL, with an average Ponty solo and a good Frank one. There's more solos here than some RDNZLs. Bruce goes next, and for once in these Spring 73 concerts, he's audible! And it's a great solo, the best of the song. George rocks out. The keyword for these solos is 'short but effective'.

This is a very audience oriented tape - they are clear, loud, and talkative. We here chatter about the songs, chatter about the taping, chatter about previous albums... just a lot of chatter. Next up is Dog Meat Fifty, sounding assured and competent, except at one point where we lose a melody line for 8 bars in DB - mic loss, or screw up? With this B-sounding aud tape, who knows? Whatever, Fifty-Fifty is always a highlight, even if it's the shortish instrumental version. Funky intro, then George does a bizarre synths solo, using his 'keyboard toys' - sounds like a video game at times. Ponty next, with a better solo effort this time, segueing gradually into Frank.

Inca Roads is the short version here (notice a pattern?) with Bruce on trombone and Ian on flute. Both deliver excellent eforts, both too short. This song needed to extend. Cosmik Debris is next, and it's only Frank, which is just fine. Fabulous FZ solo here, even if it sounds too similar to a violing. Dammit, Frank's guitar and Jean-Luc's violing were too similar this tour...

Big Swifty next, "from the worst selling album I ever put out!". This one's hard to describe, with solos from Bruce, George, and Jean-Luc over a background of conducted madness from the others. The staccato chords we're used to from this era, with the soloists getting in licks over it. The only thing it lacks is a FZ solo to finish, and later in the tour Frank would come to realize this...

Montana has a good if sortish solo. Then Dupree's, another solo bonanza. George starts off with a little bit of ETQ-quoting, and we get more band improved staccato chords with Duke running in between. After the theme, Jean-Luc delivers an excellent solo, managing to go almost 2 minutes before doing his fast little 'spoo' type thing. :-D Frank stretches out into a very relaxed, jazz lounge solo (how appropriate for the Dupree's), and George finishes with another loungey solo, nice and mellow. Back into the theme, then a quick segue into I'm the Slime - which just as quickly cuts. Rats.

Not a classic, but sweet enough to please any Spring 73 band, provided they don't mind an audience that's very much in on the show and the tape.


March 7th, 1973

Unlike some tapes from my hometown of Columbus which have only surfaced recently, this tape has been around for a while, and features primitive but listenable sound quality. Like others from this tour, it includes some amusing comments from the audience and some good-natured banter from FZ, and I even hear someone singing along with the melody of Dog Breath Variations at one point.

Musically, this is a standard tape with very short FZ solos, even on Dupree's, although the band sounds good and I could listen to this setlist (especially Exercise Four [which FZ intros by telling the audience to imagine themselves "in the conservatory of a great Midwestern university"]/Dog Meat/50-50/Inca Roads) any day. One deviation is a rare Ruth solo in the group improv portion. The other, and probably enough to make this tape a must for many, is the insertion of a complete Uncle Remus into the Dupree's intro, with FZ sounding good on vocals, though he mixes up the words once or twice ("before I get up, they'll be gone - no - before they get up, I'll be gone").

A good "second-tier" tape.


March 9th, 1973

I was completely taken by surprise by how much I enjoyed this show.

First off, the sound quality is nowhere near as bad as most sources report. Either I have a better sounding copy, or most traders who have this (including the one I got it from) simply use the same grade as the Master himself [that's you Naurin (though I have been recently informed that Naurin's next page update will revise this grade to a B)] without rating the tape for themselves. Whichever, the sound quality wavers throughout the show, and is at worst a high B-, and at best, a solid B+. This is a very manageable listen for the typical FZ trader.

The second thing I want to mention about this show is the excellent set list structure. Take "RDNZL", for example. Now I am not a big fan of this song, or at least the versions of this song that appear prior to Fall 1974. Having the damn near perfect Fall 1974/Studio Tan version to compare it to, this early '73 version is way to hurried and way to half-baked to thoroughly satisfy me. BUT, put the song at the beginning of the show, immediately following some quick and to the point band introductions, and you have an exhilarating start to the show. "And George Duke on keyboards!", wait a second, and then BAM!, straight into "RDNZL". That is the way this show begins, and it’s the equivalent of a musical rollercoaster ride. Wait, wait, wait, ZOOM! And no looking back, either. This is the first time that "RDNZL" really worked for me. (Plus, Frank delivers a short but filling solo that is quite good.)

The rest of the show builds nicely from this point. "Dog Meat" leads into the always funky "50-50", while "Inca Roads" follows with the first lengthy solos of the night (Fowler(?) and Zappa). "Cosmik Debris" and "Montana" deliver the guitar solo goods, with Frank's latter effort suffering due to poor choice in guitar tones. The thin sound he chooses for "Montana" gets lost in the mix and all we hear for most of the solo is Humphrey pounding away.

"Dupree's Paradise" starts with your typical Duke weirdness, staying spacey and calm for most of its duration. Ponty delivers the first solo, and thanks to some engaging rhythmic support (I found myself listening more closely to Ruth and Ralph than I did Jean), this is the best single solo of the night. Frank's effort is somewhat calm and laid-back, and while quite good, does not really go anywhere.

The highlight of this show (and, for me, the highlight of the early part of this tour) is the "I'm the Slime-> Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?" combo. "Slime" is funky and deliciously arranged, and "Don't You Ever?" is a hectic version of the Roxy classic, complete with a parade of inspired solos from the whole group. Fowler sounds majestic, Ian funky, Ponty primordal, Humphrey inspired, and Frank sounds like Frank.

This is not a great show by any means. But the performances are solid, and there are a couple truly inspired performances that make the listen well worth it.


March 11th, 1973

First off, this is easily the best-sounding show of the entire Spring 73 tour. Crystal-clear A- soundboard, with the only problem being Frank's spoken chat, which tends to be very poorly miked. Other than that, everything's great. We start off as per usual, after a "Are the horns balanced" band intro, with
RDNZL/Dog Meat/Fifty. Highlights include a longer-than-usual solo from Frank on RDNZL, a very slow and methodical E4 Dog Meat - the show was being taped, and I'm guessing Frank wanted all the right notes in there - and the usual funky Fifty.

The highlight of this tape is the Improvizations section, with audience participation. After Frank asks whether they want it straight ahead or deviate (naturally the audience goes for the latter), we get the long explanation of how to clap in stereo, and added bonuses of a Sssssss, a high-pitched laugh, and a WHOOP!. Frank decides to let Ralph deviate first, and he gives a nice start, with Tom and the horns joining in shortly. There's a small cut in the tape during Jean-Luc's solo, but it only seems to be a few seconds, and we do get the entirety of the "Imaginary Diseases" lecture, a classic Frank would use
on several tours. It all ends with a frenzied chaotic jam in 5/8. Classic Spring 73 improv at its finest.

The rest of the show manages to keep the high quality going. Dupree's actually suffers from being the least exciting of the major solo outlets, though George proves to be an exception, and Ralph's drum solos are always interesting to hear. The other major surprise is King Kong, which usually on this tour
doesn't inspire much more than a boring Ponty solo. And indeed we do get a boring Ponty solo. But we then get a rare Fowler solo, which is marvelous, and mutates into a bass-trombone duet! Then as Bruce keeps going the band slowly creeps back in, trading quick licks of solo between Frank, George and Tom. After building to an orgasmic frenzy, Ian takes a sax solo, sounding like he's using some sort of effects pedal. And as always with KK these tours, it segues into Chunga's Revenge for Frank's solo, which is wonderfully slow-moving and subtle, building and calming in great crashing waves.

Get this tape for the sound, yes, but it's also got some killer solo spots, emphasizing this band's sheer talent.


April 27th, 1973

This is a special show in many regards. At 2h 43 min, it's FZ's longest show to this date, as far as we
know (although this record would be broken a fortnight later), it's the first show with Kin Vassey, and it
features the world premieres of some soon-to-become-classic Zappa tunes. It's also one of the very few
early-70s shows from which there are two different sources, both of which have their ups & downs. The
old, well-circulated version sounds quite fine (at least low-gen copies do), but is cut up badly, and has
speed problems, while the new, complete version sounds overall slightly worse, and has some annoying
mic glitches.

What about the music then? Well, the thing starts out with a public soundcheck/rehearsal, where the
band tries out RDNZL and some parts of the Yellow Snow suite. RDNZL also opens the show, and as
everyone has pointed out already, this song would evolve a lot over the following year and a half. The
feel and instrumentation makes this a very different song than the final rendition, but already at this early
stage, it's a nice listen, though it would rarely spawn any great solos. The Dog Meat medley is as
beautiful as always - well played, and the setting is perfect for this music. It still leads inevitably to Fifty-
Fifty, one of the most characteristic songs of this tour. The solos tend to resemble each other from show
to show, but are good, and the groove is always irresistible.

Yes, groove is one of the things that defines this band for me, and over the following tours, it would be
transformed into funk. Pygmy Twylyte, which probably is given its world premiere at this show, is an
example - later, this would be one of the funkier numbers in FZ's oeuvre, but here it's heavily based on
groove. Kin Vassey does his first vocal contributions of the evening, and he does it good. It works its
way into a vocal improvisation phase, which becomes quite long, as FZ tells us an amusing story, based
on the PT lyrics. The song clocks at nearly 15 min, but never gets boring, much because of the
contagious groove.

Next, another world premiere: The Yellow Snow suite. It's obvious from the start that Vassey has
problems with the fast 7/8 vamp here, and the whole thing sounds quite unstable, until FZ joins in
halfway through Nanook Rubs It. Kin makes a strong return in Father O'Blivion, and after St. Alphonzo
comes a surprise - we get the vamp for the bluesy FO reprise, but instead of the words, we get solos, and solos, and solos, and...the band don't stop until after 16 min of jamming. Frank, Jean-Luc and George all play nice solos over the blues vamp, before things gradually start to flip out. First some conducted Ponty/Ruth madness, then the horns take over, with Bruce and Ian toying around with effects over FZ-conducted backdrops. Great stuff! Enter Sal Marquez, with some cool trumpet stuff. After a while, Frank cues in a comp, which turns the whole thing into mariachi - hilarious, and the audience loves it! Unfortunately, this is were the jamming stops.

A new phase in the history of Inca Roads starts here, with the world premiere of the cocktail version, the
first one with words. I really like this version, and the solos over the swinging vamp are nice. Montana
feels a little sleepy, and Kin doesn't start singing until the very end of the song, but Frank saves the
song with a powerful solo. George does a long intro to Dupree's Paradise, where FZ joins in at a point,
sounding like he would launch Big Swifty. After Ponty's usual, pyramidal solo, Frank makes a glorious
return with a long, great solo.

Cosmik Debris is another little solo-feast, with nice and harmless little solos by Jean-Luc, George, Ian
and Frank. This is where the regular show ends, and already at this point, it's an unusually long show.
But it's the encores that make this show HUGE. First, Farther Oblivion. This song is one of the reasons
why I love this tour so much - one of Frank's finest compositions if you ask me, and I've never heard a
less-than-excellent version by this band. Ponty's Steno Pool solo sounds pretty identical from time 'til
time, but I like it! Bruce's BeBop Tango solo is awesome, and the comp is so great, Frank can't resist to
join in on the guitar. Next goes Ralph, and shows us that he was one of the best drum soloists FZ ever
hired. The intricate notes of Cucamonga closes the first encore set, but Frank and the boys enters the
stage once again, to finish the whole thing with Green Genes/King Kong/Chunga. Good solos, but the
best part is Frank's creative rhythm playing during George's synth solo.

Not a perfect show (all the soloists can do better than this), but with Kin's presence, the long jams and
Pygmy Twylyte, it's interesting enough to be warmly recommended.


April 28th, 1973

Helping out new traders can have unexpected payoffs. A fellow who works down the street from me provided me with this tape and the new source of the previous night, both of them taped by his onetime high school band teacher. This is notable as the first of many great tapes from Philadelphia and as another Kin Vassy show - however, though the taper's mic problems aren't as persistent as on 4/27, they do decimate perhaps the most interesting part of the night.

The tape starts with a jam emerging from the usual mic/monitor-check, which has a cool groove but goes nowhere, finally petering out before the start of RDNZL. FZ uses the McLaughlin-esque effects immortalized on the Son Of Orange County solo from R & E, for the first time that I've noticed.

After another wonderful Exercise 4/Dog-Meat/50-50, it's time for Vassy's most prominent appearance with the Yellow Snow Suite. I see that my fellow reviewers have praised his contributions, but to me it's just amusing to hear his David Clayton Thomas-esque style applied to lines like "I turned around and said 'ho'." Unfortunately, the mic problems flare up here and the tape cuts during Nanook Rubs It, returning in the middle of FZ's Montana solo. Dupree's is also damaged, with the sound quality interfering with George's intro and solos from Jean-Luc and Tom (another feature I didn't hear in the previous leg), and the rest of the song lost without a trace.

The tape returns to its opening quality after this, and it's nice to have new versions of Inca Roads and Farther Oblivion (unusually prominent FZ rhythm guitar during Bruce's Be-Bop Tango solo). The set closes with the only appearance on this touring leg of the early Don't You Wash That Thing, with an endless round of one-chord solos including a good one from FZ. The encore medley starts with King Kong rather than Mr. Green Genes at this show.


May 1st, 1973

Holy smoke! I had forgotten what a terrific concert this is. While some of the shows of the past two
months have felt a little sleepy, this is one adrenaline-laden evening. All the guys seem highly inspired,
and play the songs with an energy and confidence we haven't heard before. Add to this a fine audience
recording with a nice spacey ambience, and you get one of the most essential tapes of the tour.

The Yellow Snow Suite feels a little unusual in the opening spot, but works as a kick-start! Kin still has
problems with the lyrics and the rhythm, but delivers the words with such passion and dynamics
tonight, that he's easily forgiven (apparently FZ disagreed, since this became Kin's last show). Frank
deviates a lot in Nanook Rubs It, much to the audience's - and my - amusement. Still no real Mar-juh-rene rap, but a funny "Give me an M! Give me an A..." game with the audience. And for the first time, we get the "Join the march and eat my starch" (yelled by Kin) segue into Farther Oblivion and the fast flurry of notes that precedes the Steno Pool section. FO is breathtaking, with the rhythm section going wild in the solo sections. In Cucamonga, someone (I assume Kin) is singing along with the melody, quite well.

It seems Kin is supposed to sing quite a bit in Montana too, as you can hear him try a couple of times,
for example a few words in the "I'm plucking the ol' dental floss..." part. Frank delivers a mighty fine solo, with an intense climax at the end (Ralph rules!). Feels weird to hear the song stop cold without leading into Dupree's, just like Dog Meat feels strange without 50/50. Cosmik Debris is played on request, with just an FZ solo, and a rather lame one at that. It's followed by Pygmy Twylyte, since Frank has noticed that the audience digs the funky stuff. "Let's get a groove going, just like the big rock groups", he says, and boy do they get a groove going! They just jam around a little with the riff for a while before Kin enters with his iron tonsils. Then some more jamming, and it starts sounding more like the heavy fall '74 version. Great stuff - Pygmy Twylyte was probably the biggest loss about Kin's departure.

Just the look at the following threesome is enough to make an FZ-listener drool: Inca Roads, Dupree's
Paradise and Big Swifty. Inca Roads has yet to become a real masterpiece, but with Sal's Sinatra intro, it
has reached a new level. George does his best Dupree's intro of the tour so far, switching between
exciting chord soundscapes and funky outbursts, spiced up with variations on the Inca Roads theme.
This seems to inspire the whole band, and we get a really hot solo section, where Ralph, Tom and
George force Ponty and Zappa to excel themselves, with some high energy accompaniment.
Big Swifty seems to become a bigger monster. Sal begins his solo with the BeBop Tango theme, and
goes on with a long, good solo, over a straight jazz comp. When it's Ian's turn, it's off into more
adventurous land, and it soon evolves into full band improvisations. Unfortunately, Frank decides to
keep it rather short, and ends the song too soon. The high energy is maintained into the encores, which unsurprisingly consist of Green Genes/Kong/Chunga. Ponty's and Duke's solos are unusually good for this spot, much because of the intense comp. Frank concludes the soloing for tonight with a long and powerful solo.

If you don't have this show already - get it!