Saturday, December 19, 2009
While Volume 1 of the “You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore” series lacked an overt theme for the selected songs, Volume 2’s material is focused around two 1974 concerts at the Kulttuuritalo in Helsinki, Finland.
There are two very remarkable items on this recording that are worthy of mention. First is Zappa’s performance of “Inca Roads” from one of the shows. A portion of his amazing guitar solo was used for the studio release of “One Size Fits All” for the same track. However, there is some disagreement about the origin of the solo edit. Both the Wikipedia entry for Vol. 2, as well as the Wiki song entry for “Inca Roads,” mention that the solo edit was taken from the Helsinki show that was published on YCDTOSA Vol 2. But Barry Miles’ “Zappa: A Biography” states that the solo was taken from an Aug. 7, 1975, show in Helsinki. That doesn’t seem to make sense, because “One Size Fits All” was released in June, 1975, and he wasn’t in Europe touring at that time either. Zappa played for KCET-TV in August 1974, where he performed “Inca Roads,” ostensibly dropping in the solo from Helsinki. But again, he wasn’t to play Helsinki until a month later, and the record isn’t clear anyway as to whether the KCET-TV show was Aug. 7 or Aug. 18. Miles also asserts that YCDTOSA Vol. 2 is from a single Helsinki show, which is contrary to most other sites that credit the double-CD as culling material from both shows. While Miles’ biography is a good read, I find myself frequently confused about when some of the events he describes take place.
The second is an audience member shouting out “Whipping Post!” at the band just before they begin playing “Montana.” Besides that outburst prompting Zappa to ad lib the lyrics a bit in “Montana,” it also was very likely the incident that prompted Zappa to later have the band learn the Allman Brothers classic, versions of which showed up on “Them Or Us,” as well as the bootleg from the 1981 Halloween early show.
All in all, this is a really outstanding and diverse recording. Zappa had often said he enjoyed his Finnish audiences, perhaps in part because he could perform some of his more obscure works and receive great appreciation from these crowds. Interestingly, the band’s lineup at this time was similar to, if not identical with, the lineup I saw at the Ferris State Field House in April, 1974, in Big Rapids, Mich. And with this lineup, when it comes to guitar, it’s all FZ. In fact, he opens the show with two guitar-centric numbers, “Stinkfoot” and “Inca Roads.”
With the former, Franks makes his guitar howl like a dog in a narcotic swoon over the stench of his python boots. The band then launches into “Inca Roads.” This is a really great orchestration of this number; Ruth Underwood and George Duke are both outstanding.
Ruth Underwood continues to display her extraordinary talent with “RDNZL,” a song that was released on “Studio Tan.” Zappa is killer on this as well, his guitar playing sounding a bit like Al Dimeola after swallowing huge doses of LSD and then channeling Eric Clapton. Seriously though, it is totally Zappa.
We get a swinging “Village of the Sun,” which had just been released on “Roxy & Elsewhere,” with Napoleon Murphy Brock rockin’ and rollin’ on saxophone. The next song “Echidna’s Arf (Of You)” is so cool (Also from Roxy, in fact, we have four songs in a row here from Roxy). The incredible rhythmic variations are superbly rendered. After an interlude that includes the ramblings of “Room Service,” and “The Idiot Bastard Son,” from “We’re Only In It For the Money,” the first disc closes out with more Roxy fare with “Cheepnis,” Zappa’s ode to cheesy sci-fi movies. Oh, by the way, did you catch the nod to War’s “The World is a Ghetto” during “Pygmy Twylyte”? (The Mozart nod is an easy catch, as well as the reference to “The Twilight Zone.”)
Disc two starts with “Approximate,” which contains an allusion to “Eva’s Wedding,” a reference to an incident Zappa had at the hotel where he was staying that involved a Finnish bachelorette party and a wedding invitation.
We get a very long and avant garde rendition of “Dupree’s Paradise” that is both intriguing and chilling. Things build up after the band gets through the dialogue portions with the full theme coming through. Napoleon Murphy Brock plays some totally kick ass flute, which is followed by a very cosmic and mysterious bass segue by Tom Fowler, whose plucking is accentuated with brief rhythmic interplays by Chester Thompson on drums. The piece drifts into jazz fusion as George Duke comes back on the keyboards and Thompson goes very heavy on the cymbals. This is followed by a Thompson drum solo that carries with it a bit of “Uncle Meat.” Ruth Underwood’s quote in the February 1994 edition of Musician magazine that carried Frank’s obituary is relevant: “Frank really lived in a world of percussion.”
It all finishes with a musical quote from “Louie Louie” as the band moves into playing a Finnish tango called “Satumaa,” which brings the cheers and hand clapping from the audience. In fact, the band moves through several short bits, including “The Dog Breath Variations” and “Uncle Meat” before they perform the next major piece, “Montana,” from “Over-nite Sensation.”
Another interesting item regarding “Montana” is that Frank starts the song at, what sounds to me, an incredibly fast pace. He stops everything to slow the tempo down. I’m not completely sure, but I think he really wanted to play the song with that fast a tempo, which seems incredulous to me; true, it should have been a bit faster, but I’m not sure as fast as he tried to start it. Despite it being “such a ballad” at that tempo, Frank delivers a righteous solo.
The show concludes with Frank performing on guitar the closing melody from "Big Swifty," which is normally a horn part from "Waka/Jawaka."
There was an interesting Finnish article regarding Zappa’s experiences in Finland that included a description of his mercurial nature, as well as his being treated like a prima donna because he had burned his fingers on a hot shish kebab.
I rate this 4.5 of five stars. Add your own rating below.
Released Oct. 25, 1988, on Rykodisc; Recorded Sept. 22-23, 1974 at the Kulttuuritalo, Helsinki, Finland.
1. “Tush Tush Tush (A Token of My Extreme)” – 2:48
2. “Stinkfoot” – 4:18
3. “Inca Roads” – 10:54
4. “RDNZL” – 8:43
5. “Village of the Sun” – 4:33
6. “Echidna’s Arf (Of You)” – 3:30
7. “Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing?” – 4:56
8. “Pygmy Twylyte” – 8:22
9. “Room Service” – 6:22
10. “The Idiot Bastard Son” – 2:39
11. “Cheepnis” – 4:29
1. “Approximate” – 8:11
2. “Dupree’s Paradise” – 23:59
3. “Satumaa (Finnish Tango)” (Mononen) – 3:51
4. “T’Mershi Duween” – 1:31
5. “The Dog Breath Variations” – 1:38
6. “Uncle Meat” – 2:28
7. “Building a Girl” – 1:00
8. “Montana (Whipping Floss)” – 10:15
9. “Big Swifty” – 2:17
Frank Zappa – lead guitar, vocals
Napoleon Murphy Brock – saxophone, flute, vocals
George Duke – keyboards, vocals
Ruth Underwood – percussion
Tom Fowler – bass guitar
Chester Thompson – drums