Sunday, July 26, 2009

Playground Psychotics

I am somewhat surprised by the fact that the All Music Guide gives “Playground Psychotics” three of five stars. Even with all the caveats mentioned in the AMG review – that it’s a recording only for true Frank Zappa fans, and more specifically, fans of the Flo & Eddie era – I find this recording barely listenable.

“Aficionados of this particular period will find most of this album amusing; others will get profoundly bored,” states the AMG entry on this album. I fall within the latter camp. I like the concept of a sort of audio-documentary of the bizarreness of life on the road; I just believe that “Playground Psychotics” fails miserably in its execution.

Mark Prindle in his review of the album also is generous, in my opinion, in his review, rating it with a six out of 10. Despite that, Prindle provides an excellent explanation backing up his discourse on the recording’s merits. Prindle is uncharacteristically persuasive with his remarks.

Musically, there are some very interesting items on this double CD set. Perhaps the most intriguing is the set performed with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, including the Lennon number “Say Please,” which includes Yoko’s bizarre caterwauling that reminds me of a psychotic Olive Oil (remember Popeye’s girlfriend?) in the throes of narcotic withdrawal, and “Scum Bag,” which ends with Yoko still on stage wailing her gibberish. Zappa more than sufficiently fills in during the Lennon song with an outstanding guitar solo, able to smoothly adjust to the song just on listening to Lennon going through a single sequence of the 12 bars in the progression. Those two songs alone almost make the double-CD bearable. But there are others.

The eerie “Mom and Dad” is outstanding, the prescience of this song all the more impressive when considering it was written prior to the Kent State shootings. And “The Mudshark Interview” provides fascinating background to the “Mud Shark,” recorded for the “Fillmore East” LP. And the apparent “secret recording” of a conversation among the band members found on “It’s a Good Thing We Get Paid to do This” provides an amazing glimpse into what the band members thought about Zappa’s bizarre peccadilloes as well as their reaction to Zappa’s obsession with what they were up to.

But there’s no getting around that it’s boring and repetitious; even the performance of “Billy the Mountain,” somewhat longer than the version recorded for JABFLA, cannot pull this recording out of the depths of awful mediocrity.

I rate this two out of five stars. Add your own rating below.

Recorded at various locations from September, 1970, through Dec. 10, 1971; released Oct. 27, 1992 through Barking Pumpkin; re-released May 30, 1995 through Rykodisc.

Track listing:

Disc One

1. Here Comes The Gear, Lads (01:00)
2. The Living Garbage Truck (01:21)
3. A Typical Sound Check (01:19)
4. "This Is Neat" (00:24)
5. The Motel Lobby (01:21)
6. Getting Stewed (00:55)
7. The Motel Room (00:30)
8. "Don't Take Me Down" (01:11)
9. The Dressing Room (00:25)
10. Learning "Penis Dimension" (02:02)
11. "You There, With The Hard On!" (00:25)
12. Zanti Serenade (02:40)
13. Divan (01:46)
14. Sleeping In A Jar (01:30)
15. "Don't Eat There" (02:26)
16. Brixton Still Life (03:00)
17. Super Grease (01:40)
18. Wonderful Wino (04:52)
19. Sharleena (04:23)
20. Cruising For Burgers (02:54)
21. Diphteria Blues (06:19)
22. Well (04:43)
23. Say Please (00:57)
24. Aaawk (02:59)
25. Scum Bag (05:54)
26. A Small Eternity With Yoko Ono (06:08)

Disc Two
1. Beer Shampoo (01:39)
2. Champagne Lecture (04:30)
3. Childish Perversions (01:31)
4. Playground Psychotics (01:08)
5. The Mudshark Interview (02:39)
6. "There's No Lust In Jazz" (00:55)
7. Botulism On The Hoof (00:47)
8. You Got Your Armies (00:11)
9. The Spew King (00:25)
10. I'm Doomed (00:25)
11. Status Back Baby (02:50)
12. The London Cab Tape (01:24)
13. Concentration Moon, Part 1 (01:21)
14. The Sanzini Brothers (01:34)
15. "It's A Good Thing We Get Paid To Do This" (02:45)
16. Concentration Moon, Part 2 (02:05)
17. Mom & Dad (03:16)
18. Intro To Music For Low Budget Orchestra (01:32)
19. Billy The Mountain (30:26)

The True Story Of 200 Motels:
20. He's Watching Us (01:21)
21. If You're Not A Professional Actor (00:23)
22. He's Right (00:15)
23. Going For The Money (00:12)
24. Jeff Quits (01:34)
25. A Bunch Of Adventures (00:56)
26. Martin Lickert's Story (00:39)
27. A Great Guy (00:30)
28. Bad Acting (00:11)
29. The Worst Reviews (00:21)
30. A Version Of Himself (01:00)
31. I Could Be A Star Now (00:36)


DJ Useo said...

I was suprised.Mebbe it's just the live rarity nature of this rekkid,but it's one I enjoy lots.
I went for the bought experience,& thought it worth the cost.

Richard Harrold said...

You know, I completely get where you're coming from. I actually like the previously released Flo and Eddie material, and I do find some real gems in Playground Psychotics. It's just way too much for me. Thanks for being a reader! There is so much more to go.

Adrian said...

Listened to it end to end once when I bought it in a small independent record shop in an English market town on one of my trips back to the UK from the tropics. A few years later, one day when I was bored and looking for a way to pass a pleasant hour or so emersed in a SoundForge project, I put together an 80 minute segue of all the actual musical bits. The resulting CD-R got played a few times. A case of my judgement vs FZ's judgement, perhaps. He he. Certainly a somewhat non-essential FZ item but not one of the very least essential items.