Saturday, July 4, 2009

Moby Gym, 1980

This bootleg from a Dec. 2, 1980 show at the Moby Gym in Fort Collins, CO, has three really outstanding tracks that make this rather mediocre concert recording worth having. Like many of the 1980 shows, and many from 1981 as well, the band drew heavily from material that was released on “Sheik Yerbouti,” and “You Are What You Is,” with a few songs that appeared on “Tinseltown Rebellion,” which became the release in Zappa’s catalog representing this tour.

The Fort Collins concert opens with the “Panty Rap,” which became feature of this tour. It was also very well-rehearsed, offering little spontaneity, as heard through an explanation by Zappa to the crowd that varied minimally from what was recorded for the “Tinseltown Rebellion” release. This is followed by a decent performance of the title track from “You Are What You Is,” although it’s missing Ray White’s beautiful, sweeping, high-range vocals found on the official release.

We get some decent harmonizing out of Bob Harris for the next song, “Love of My Life,” but again, not quite the stunning falsetto that he delivers on “Tinseltown Rebellion.” Close, but not quite. Not sure who does a fairly decent Bob Dylan on “Flakes, but it’s nothing like Adrian Belew’s impersonation, and I really miss the harmonica that was part of the performance recorded for “Sheik Yerbouti.” When the bridge occurs, launched by the lyric, “I am a moron and this is my wife,” I’m digging the song as it builds, but then it just moves right along into the next segment that begins with the lyric “We are millions and millions” and completely lacks the dramatic build up I was expecting.

But that minor disappointment was quickly dispersed as the band jumps into “Magic Fingers.” Ray White’s vocals on this are great and not for one second was I missing the lack of Howard Kaylan’s screeching vocals normally associated with this song. This is one of the true standouts of this show. So imagine my anticipation as the bands moves into “The Blue Light.” Despite the unfinished and rambling nature of this song, I’ve tended to like it since first hearing it on “Tinseltown Rebellion.” Frank takes a decent jab Colorado’s granola culture, followed by the song’s expected final crescendo with a few more cultural jabs (“Drink that carrot juice”).

With “Tinseltown Rebellion,” Frank takes advantage of the fact that there are three other guitars on stage with a rocking guitar-centered intro to the song, something I wished he would have done with “Flakes.” Musically, I find this song enjoyable. What has always annoyed me about “Tinseltown Rebellion” was Frank’s holier-than-thou attitude regarding music; that only his and a few select others had real “substance.” Well, I’m sorry Frank, but I like all types of music, everything from empty pop and dance music, to complex orchestral pieces and avant-garde jazz. I don’t subscribe to this elitist attitude Zappa apparently held and from which he looked with disdain upon those who did not measure up.

Next comes “Pick Me I’m Clean,” which segues into a stellar guitar “Sex Jam” that is accented with vocalizations of a moaning, orgasmic woman reminiscent of “The Torture Never Stops.” This, however, abruptly stops. Our bootlegger must have run out of tape.

The recording picks up with the sing-songy “The Dangerous Kitchen,” one of the few songs that worked well with this delivery method. The best song performance comes next with “City of Tiny Lights,” an item composed with a lengthy guitar solo in mind, and Frank doesn’t disappoint. This is a real hard rock jam with amazing ambience and feedback. It is jams like this that will always keep me hungry for Zappa bootlegs. Gotta love Ray White’s vocals following the solo as well.

The last two songs, “Ain’t Got No Heart” and “The Torture Never Stops,” the former of which was competently performed, exhibit nothing special about them. Frank, however, delivers again with “Torture.” This trickles away into some rather boring keyboard sonics, except for a bit of tinkling by Bob Harris. This blather really lacks any inspiration and strikes me as very formulaic, but that has often been my criticism of Tommy Mars. Harris, however, manages to bring some character and interest into this final section of the song that would otherwise cause me to get up and leave my seat to beat the crowd exciting the venue. By the time the song returns to “Torture,” it’s lost all connection and the remaining drumming by Vinnie Colaiuta seems like filler, or worse yet, like he’s warming up by simply testing and tuning his drums. It’s the song that should have ended 10 minutes before it did. And even more astounding is the fact that the song fades out! There was even more of that!

Overall, a relatively mediocre bootleg that is saved by the presence of a few outstanding songs and guitar solos.

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

Track listing:

1. Panty Rap/You Are What You Is
2. Love Of My Life
3. Flakes
4. Magic Fingers
5. The Blue Light
6. Tinseltown Rebellion
7. Pick Me I'm Clean
8. The Dangerous Kitchen
9. City Of Tiny Lights
10. Ain't Got No Heart
11. The Torture Never Stops


Frank Zappa (guitar, vocals)
Arthur Barrow (bass)
Vinnie Colaiuta (drums)
Bob Harris (keyboards, vocals)
Tommy Mars (keyboards)
Steve Vai (guitar)
Ray White (guitar, vocals)
Ike Willis (guitar, vocals)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was born in 80, but my friend went to this show and said the sound was horrible and they ended up stealing wallets from underneath the bleachers. There was also a rumor going around that he fired his band that day and hired some locals to fill in.