Sunday, May 3, 2009

Great Wazoo EP

Both the Grand and Petit Wazoo tours in the fall of 1972 went without any official releases of any of the shows until January 2006 when “Imaginary Diseases” was released representing the Petit Wazoo, and November 2007 when “Wazoo!” was released to represent the Grand Wazoo tour. So for 34 years, Zappaphiles had to rely on bootleg releases to get anything on the tour, which covered mostly the U.S., but had three gigs in Europe. And the price tag on the “official” releases proved to be a shocker for more than just a few fans: $30 for the latter release ($26.99 at

One of those bootlegs is the “Great Wazoo EP”, which appears to be a recording from the Sept. 15, 1972, show at Deutschlandhalle in Berlin. That conclusion is based on a number of somewhat conflicting factors. The cover art of the EP explicitly states it was recorded at this show. The only other European venues on the tour were in London and the Netherlands. The Grand Wazoo tour schedule here indicates that there was a stop on this date at the identified venue, as does this site. This information seems to outweigh the text on the EP cover, which identifies it as a recording of the Petit Wazoo tour (the EP’s title is “Frank Zappa & the Petit Wazoo Orchestra”) rather than the Grand Wazoo, as well as the inconsistencies in the set list established for that date and the songs that are identified on the bootleg.

The EP has three songs identified as “Berlin Blues,” “Variant Processional March (Regyption Strut),” and “Die Neuen Braunen Wolken.” That seems to fit with the set lists for the Sept. 15, 1972, concert as identified by the Zappateers site as well as this one, which were listed as follows: New Brown Clouds, Big Swifty, Approximate, For Calvin And His Next Two Hitch-hikers, Think It Over (The Grand Wazoo), The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary, Dog Meat, improvisations, Blues For A Minute, Penis Dimension, Variant Processional March (Regyptian Strut), Chunga’s Revenge.

“Die Neuen Braunen Wolken” translates into “New Brown Clouds,” and the “Variant Processional March” is clearly identified. The only dubious song left is “Berlin Blues,” as it is identified on the bootleg, which might be “Blues for A Minute.” If I am in error, I hope someone will correct me.

Enough of all that, let’s get to the music!

“Berlin Blues” is likely a representation of one of the few times Zappa bothered to play a solo during the Grand Wazoo tour. Conducting and managing a 20-piece band didn’t necessarily leave a lot of time for Frank to cut loose on his axe. This song is a very laid back blues piece that has minimal accompaniment and could possibly have been something he would do to give the larger band a rest. It may also have been something Zappa would play to give his audience a rest too, by providing some more “accessible” and listenable music between the more demanding pieces.

Next is “Variant Processional March,” more commonly known as “Regyptian Strut,” which has the full band playing. Nothing particularly interesting in this, given the quality of the bootleg. The orchestration of the number sounds impressive, but its depth just doesn’t get carried through the bootleg.

The final song on the EP is “Die Neuen Braunen Wolken,” which is also listed on “Wazoo!” as the fourth movement to “The Adventures of Greggery Peccary.” Despite the poor sound quality, the impeccable playing of the musicians during this complex and undoubtedly difficult piece comes through beautifully.

This is a very simple EP bootleg that provided for many years one of the few glimpses of what the Grand Wazoo touring band sounded like. Obviously, it’s not for everyone, particularly in light of the subsequent release of “Wazoo!”

I give this recording three of five stars. Provide your own rating below.

The twenty musicians in the Grand Wazoo band were:

Jay Migliori--flute, saxophone, clarinet
Mike Altschul--piccolo, bass clarinet
Ray Reed--saxophone, clarinet
Charles Owens--saxophone, clarinet
Joann Caldwell McNab--bassoon
Earle Dumler--oboe
Jerry Kessler--cello
Malcolm McNab--trumpet
Sal Marquez--trumpet
Tom Malone--tuba
Bruce Fowler--trombone
Glenn Ferris--trombone
Ken Shroyer--trombone
Ian Underwood--synthesizer
Jim Gordon--drums
Dave Parlato--bass
Tony Duran--slide guitar
Tom Raney--percussion
Ruth Underwood--percussion
Frank Zappa--guitar

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