Saturday, February 13, 2010
The 1977 Halloween show produced a number of bootlegs, including this one, which erroneously states on the cover that it is from the 1977 show at the Felt Forum. The show was at the Palladium, as documented here and here; Zappa played a Halloween show at the Felt Forum in 1976, which I’ve already reviewed.
Much of this material has appeared on official releases, such as “Baby Snakes,” both on the CD release and the movie release. “Black page #2” and the title track, “Jones Crusher,” appear in both the movie and the CD release of “Baby Snakes,” while “San Ber’dino,” “City of Tiny Lites,” “Camarillo Brillo,” and “Black Napkins” were only on the movie release. “Tryin’ to Grow a Chin,” was released on YCDTOSA Vol. 6.
While most of this material was later officially released, it’s worth noting that with this boot, you’re getting the raw performance. The 1995 CD edition of “Baby Snakes” uses a new master made from the remixed version of the album release, for example.
This boot begins with an intro from “Flakes,” followed by Zappa introducing the band. They launch into “San Ber’dino,” which on this recording sounds a bit thin and pinched, but the playing is really fabulous. The tempo is also much faster than the studio release on “One Size Fits All.” Adrian Belew’s guitar on this is stinging, as are Terry Bozzio’s vocals. Bozzio continues with vocals on “Tryin’ to Grow a Chin,” and he’s just as guttural and frenetic as he is on “Sheik Yerbouti.”
“City of Tiny Lites” has always been one of my favorites, and not just for the guitar solo this song is built around. But when Zappa and Belew start trading licks, it is positively scintillating. A minor disappointment, however, is this performance lacks the typical extended guitar solo normally associated with it.
We do get a solo out of Frank in the next track titled “The Squirm.” This also appears as “Bowling on Charen” from “Trance-Fusion.” Although from the same tour, the version released on “Trance-Fusion” was recorded Oct. 28, 1977. This solo begins similar to other Zappa solos found on his guitar solo albums, but his playing soon transitions into an ethereal quality that literally lifts the listener skyward. It’s even reminiscent of “Watermelon in Easter Hay” in some respects. There are also some musical themes that reach back to “Burnt Weeny Sandwich.” It’s really quite beautifully composed.
After that solo, the band drops into “Big Leg Emma,” or rather devolves into the song. While “Emma” can be a fun song, coming after “The Squirm,” it comes off as odd and jarring.
“Invocations” is an audience participation routine that serendipitously includes allusions to previous material with a couple of women who say their names are Janet the Planet and her friend, Donna Youwanna, who has a bottle of Yoohoo. (Interestingly, in this routine, the word “fuck” is bleeped out, as are other expletives). The routine is another one of Frank’s pointless attempts at mocking Warner Bros. It transitions into “Dance Contest,” which was a common routine in Zappa’s tours. It’s set against “The Black Page #2,” a rhythmically complex song that would be a challenge to any dancer. It must have been a joy to watch the contestants try to find a beat in that number.
The band gets to jamming with the next song, “Jones Crusher,” a song about a woman who has a love so strong that she crushes penises. After all, “she can push, she can shove, until it’s just a nub.”
It becomes obvious with the next song, “Camarillo Brillo,” that the song sequence on this boot bears little resemblance to the actual set list. At the show, the song was followed with “Muffin Man,” as it almost always was. Instead, it is followed with “Black Napkins,” which was, in fact, the last song of the show. But while the boot opens with “San Ber’dino,” that song was played just before “Black Napkins.” The intro at the start was actually followed by “Peaches En Regalia.”
Despite all that, the solo in “Black Napkins” on this boot is really amazing, one of the best solos for this song Zappa ever performed.
I rate this four of five stars. Add your own rating below.
1. San Bernadino
2. Grow Me a Chin
3. Tiny Lights
4. The Squirm
5. Big Leg Emma
7. Dance Contest
8. Black Page #2
9. Jones Crusher
10. Camarillo Brillo
11. Black Napkins
Frank Zappa: guitar, vocals
Adrian Belew: guitar, vocals
Roy Estrada: guest vocals
Patrick O’Hearn: bass
Terry Bozzio: drums, vocals
Ed Mann: percussion
Tommy Mars: keyboards, vocals
Peter Wolf: keyboards