Friday, November 25, 2016

Chicago '78 - Zappa

I wanted to fit in one last one before I had to do the Christmas reviews. This is one of the newest Zappa records to drop, I'll not acknowledge the existence of Zappetite, but this was released on November 4th, 2016 and was dropped alongside Little Dots and Meat Light. The album is the September 29th concert at the Uptown Theater in Chicago. Now I was excited to see this being released, it's a Chicago show and I live not far from there. While I've heard official releases from this band, the Fall '78 band is featured on Beat the Boots albums Saarbrücken 1978 and At the Circus, plus a number of various live tracks on different albums (On Stage and Tinsel Town) here and there and the Halloween album from 2003. But I still have hope, I mean look at the line up. Vinnie on drums, Denny on guitar and vocal, Ike on vocal and guitar, Arthur on bass guitar, Tommy and Peter both on keyboards and to wrap it up..... Ed Mann on percussion and rat. I mean that's a pretty solid line up of you ask me. Yeah, it maybe true I didn't like Saarbrückennor am I crazy about At the Circus or the Halloween album, but who knows. To be fair; Halloween does have a minor line up difference, No Ike, L. Shankar or Arthur, but still. I mean in reality most of this I've heard other versions from this period, so I'll have a general idea ahead of time what is being played. But I could always be surprised. 
  1. Chicago Walk On: This opens with the Lather conversation, and you hear the introduction in the background. I'm wondering if they actually played this while they got on stage. I like the drums I'm hearing but I'm not sure what's live and what was before hand you know.
  2. Twenty-One: At first I wondered if this is something along the lines of Thirteen. It wasn't until I revisited Halloween I realized, it's probably more in line with Ancient Arnaments. I mean it's basically the same track listing for the first 4 tracks. This is an instrumental track and I'm liking the vamp I'm hearing so far. The solo from this actually isn't half bad, I mean I'm digging what I'm hearing. So far I think this might have been a solid choice to use for a release and I'm glad and feeling confident. This sounds like it wouldn't have been out of place on Shut Up N Play Yer Guitar, any of them. The only complaint is it doesn't really go anywhere. But it is enjoyable.
  3. Dancin' Fool: Ah Dancin' Fool, a track that was featured on the famous Sheik Yerbouti record. This is, more or less, the same as the album version. The deviations come from differences to side commentary and other little tiny things. The drums sound a bit different, but that's obvious, different drummer. The song has a bit of a different vibe to it, but it's still done the same way it is from the original album. Where a track like Uncle Remus - Mix Outtake revived my love of the song, I never was tired of this track so something like this doesn't do much for me. 
  4. Easy Meat: I love this song, really I honestly do, it's just there isn't a version I think completely works... For me at least. The TTR version is great, it just goes on to long, and the extra sections definitely hurt the song for me. On Stage 5's version is also great but the song section isn't as strong as the original. So I can kind of assume this is sung by Ike and a bit slower than on the 80's versions of the song. There is a heaviness that I feel should be here, it kinda feels like a hard rock/heavy metal song. This is a solid version and I think the solo is so much better here than on the original album. The original just kind transitions into the orchestra part of Sink Trap then comes back and the guitar just doesn't stop, its like if (since hearing this live album, not the tracks original version) the Yo Mama solo drained you to the point where the pay off doesn't even register. Like you were done before it even gets to the good part. I wish the song was maybe faster and we got this type of solo on the original. Though I guess it could work faster then slow it down, to this tempo, for the vamp. I'm probably just being picky, this track is still overall really good (and flows better than the original I think). This is also a bit more hard rock (70's rock) vs heavy metal (or 80s rock). I'm an idiot, I can't believe I forgot about the best version of the song, the Crush All Boxes version. 
  5. Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me?: A ZiNY cut, I fucking love this one. This is a great version of the song, though it's nothing I haven't heard already. I do like the drums on this one though. But sadly I don't have much more to say about it. My one complaint is Terry had a personality and Vinnie doesn't really. He's an amazing drummer and has a personality when he plays, but I can't imagine him singing about Punky Meadows. Though he didn't make seal calls for whatever reason. I miss Terry's shrieks and that makes this not as engaging. I do like Denny, Tommy and Ike but they don't do what Terry does with Patrick and the other members who were with the band while they were. It's like those two are the best friends in High School who have been away from each other for years and meet up again and just play off each other perfectly like no time has passed. I don't feel the same chemistry with this band's vocalists.
  6. Keep It Greasy: I have heard the live version from On Stage 3, and it's more or less faithful to the album.... But no where near as good. Kinda like when a band is on their fourth decade and they play the songs they wrote on their first album, probably not as good. Hopefully this cut will either be different, or a solid enough version in its own right. Well, this version is like a slower version of the album version. Not significantly, just enough to where it's like why? It's also not as big or engaging. Like it doesn't suck me in and make me wanna play along or be a part of it, the same way Joe's version does. 
  7. Village of the Sun: I don't think I've heard a version of this from this period. I do really like Napi's vocals on the Roxy album, and also on later versions from '74 (Token, On Stage 2). I'm figuring, based on my knowledge of his vocals, Ike will l be singing the song for the performance. Right before this was released, I re-stumbled upon the Saarbrucken 1978 track listing. Whrn I saw it I was like, "I don't remember at all this track on there". This is similar to the original and I'm glad they did it that way. This is a pretty solid version and Ike gives a great performance. There are parts that do feel a bit bare, but I still enjoy this overall rendition. The ad-libs also work quite well. Yeah there is five extra minutes in this version, but I'm not growing tired of the track. I really like the vamp in the track. The solo is nice, and there's this weird twang that I really like in the background.
  8. The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing: I kind of have an idea of how this song will go, but that doesn't take away form the track. I do like the slide guitar on this, and this is a far more laid back version of the track. This doesn't really get me into is as much as the other album version, or even the SNL version, but it still works.
  9. Bamboozled by Love: Again this feels a bit slower than the album version. I'm glad some of these weren't released until Vai joined because they are not heavy metal enough. This feels more like a blues number. Yeah I like the solo, but by the point it comes in I've kind of been checked out. Not like, I'm not paying attention, just I've been bored and am done with the song. The coda or ending is the most interesting part of the song.
  10. Sy Borg: It'll be nice to hear a live version of this song, I haven't heard one yet... at least from my recollection. I remember reading it was originally an instrumental, I'm thinking something along the lines of Tush Tush Tush maybe. But wouldn't that be at the beginning of the concert then? I mean the lyrics to that are so much a part of the story, in the same way A Token of My Extreme's are, I can't imagine he used them. So it'll probably be a vamp with a solo or maybe different lyrics. Wow, I'm surprised this is more or less the album version. The only real difference is the slick and lush production of the album. And the percussion is very audible in this. The guitar on this track is really great and subdued too, or is that keyboards. I don't know, and it doesn't really matter, this track is worth a few listens alone. Really I've listened to this a few times since listening to the album, and posting the review. I love this cut and it's a lot easier to digest maybe than the album version. It doesn't have Sy talking, which I think is appropriate in context of the album, but not if I just wanna listen to the song.
Now on to disc 2. There are more songs here than on the Halloween album but I do also want to point out (including an introduction) 7 of the 17 tracks are on both of the albums. They're in common. But on the Saarbrucken album there are 12 tracks in common.
  1. Little House I Used to Live In: During this period, from the boots I've heard, this is a stand out. I generally like this tune, but I really dig it during the late 70's live. My favorite being from the Poughkeepsie show from the 21st of September 1978 (8 days before this show). They should release that show at some point. I really like this introduction, and it makes me a bit excited for what to come. It grabs my attention and I'm like what I'm hearing. I really like the differences between the parts. The band is doing a really good job on this and I really enjoy the keyboard sounds on this. It's shit like this that makes me forget about Bamboozled and the other tracks that don't do much for me, well in the context of the album not in reality. I really like the changes and I really like the part where it goes into double time. It's been a while since I've heard the '78 version of this but I gotta say I'll be revisiting this. That vocal keyboard matching thing they George Duke did on Bebop Tango isn't bothering me here. I mean I could easily see myself being annoyed but I dig it. There is also a sort of progressive rock feeling I'm getting to this, but this feels far more interesting than a lot of those old records I heard loved and grew away from. I also really like the gospel organ sound they got in that one section. Really digging the jazzy feeling and Vinnie is doing a great job here, and impressing me. It doesn't even sound like he's trying.
  2. Paoxysmal Splendor: I'ma take a shot in the dark and guess this is either a solo or an instrumental. Most likely a solo, though it could also be a talking track or an intro/audience participation. I really dig the Greggory name drop, didn't expect that. I also really enjoy the waltz or tango. The guitar reminds me a tad of Love is Strange. This is a fun track and I'm glad it's here. This is kinda like a proto '88 tour goof around you know where it's like they'd just throw in sounds and burps and what not and try to make each other laugh. I also like the Beautiful Guy quote, the bass line is great and the solo has nice overdrive. I don't think it's his best but I wonder if this is where the riff is derived from (the vamp). There's something he's doing on guitar I've heard somewhere before but I'm drawing a blank. I also love the keys sound on this track. This is probably the highlight and the boogie section's solo so makes up for the lack of one in the Beautiful Guy one. This actually kinda reminds me, his guitar, of Deep Purple. They also play Crew Slut in the track. I don't really know how to feel about this. It's like a gift from heaven. 
  3. Yo Mama: This is actually on an album I plan to do next March, and the only other version I can recall (outside of one of the shows it was made up of) was from, I wanna say, '88. But regardless it'll be nice to hear a non overdubbed version and being a whole version of the song, not made up from different shows. Maybe that'll hurt it, who knows, but I think it'd be nice. The song section of it works and I enjoy what I'm listening to. I don't think its as good as the album version so far, but it's pretty faithful to it. Well with the exception Ike. The second that solo starts I get nervous, like it's so bare and he better do something great or I'll check out. I am not sure, but it sounded like he quoted Zoot Allures at one point. The solo is better than I expect it would be, but it's not like it really does anything. It sounds like he's quoting a few songs in other parts, I think it sounded better when the drums come in, along with the bass, but I don't know. I like that the drums are speeding up, but that doesn't particularly sell me on the live cut. I feel like if the solo was a bit more focused this would be phenomenal (before 8 minute mark maybe 7:30). The song kind of comes into focus and we get something really nice and I'm glad we eventually got here. Did it take a while.....yeah. But the pay off is worth it I guess. I mean it's a more grand pay off than Tupelo Honey. I like the ending of the track and it was good enough. I mean I'm not sure if I liked it enough to bold, but I don't know. That outro solo is great with the vocals. I'm glad this is here.
  4. Magic Fingers: This is a track that I'm glad they brought back from the grave. It was originally on 200 Motels and I remember digging the Halloween version. I'm a bit surprised this is basically faithful to the original version, with differences to instruments and sounds. I'm not complaining, but I'm just a bit surprised. Plus they really sound like Flo & Eddie. Solid hard rock number. I really like the sort of kookiness of the ending and I like the Louie Louie quote
  5. Don't Eat the Yellow Snow: There exists no version from the late 70's revival of this song, I care all that much for. In fact, though I love it, it never reached the highs it would during those 73 shows.  So I'm hoping it's just Yellow Snow and not the entire suite. Well fuck me, because we got all 18 fucking minutes. Also it's fucking 2:26 in the morning, not looking forward to being up another 34 minutes because of this track. I don't know what it is but I get bothered by the keyboards playing the marimba part. I mean this is superior to the On Stage #1 version, but I far appreciate the Crux the Biscuit live version and my favorite version Apostrophe. Like I honestly get very little out of this track. The one highlight for me, if I'm being honest, is the Chicago name drop in "unknown to the people on this area" part. I'm glad the audience participation isn't a poetry reading. And the voting comment did make me laugh, but I don't know. Part of the charm of the track for me is the commentary and his ad libs and jokes to the audience, in the live versions. This one has some nice little things that do make me laugh. The marimba works, but the keyboards in the St Alphonso into bother me and I'm not jiving at all with this version of St Al. There' only like two parts I like, the part where they repeat it before the "stole the margarine" line and that instrumental section following because they keys aren't so prominent. Father Oblivion is good enough, but I feel like something's missing. Napi does a really great version with his vocals. I don't know, they changed enough to make it this bands, but it just doesn't have that charm. The "domnius vo-bisque" section is okay enough. This includes Rollo, and while I dig it I don't dig the lyrics to the song. It kind of ruins the subtlety. I know, Frank and subtlety that's a joke right? But in the original you could tell he was jerking off, they didn't come out and say cock. They make it kind of obvious but don't say it. I don't know, it's just kinda like. Oh in case you're a fucking idiot, he's masturbating.
  6. Strictly Genteel: I was really looking forward to this one too, and this is the encore. This was worth the wait, though it doesn't really differ from the On Stage #6 version. I do wish this was the closer though, but I do like the shorter versions of the following track anyway, so this should be a nice ending.
  7. Black Napkins: Closing is an appropriate number, and a classic, Negro Nakins (in a Thing Fish vernacular). I guess this is shorter maybe because of the shitty version of Yellow Snow. This is a solid version of the track and doesn't over stay it's welcome. A nice closer.
Overall I have to give this album a 7/10. I mean I guess in theory, this isn't anything new. The earlier albums I mentioned  all have this so you're not really getting much new. I mean if you like this period it's solid, but I don't think I'll revisit this outside of the bold tracks. I will say there exist version of all the songs here I do enjoy listening to, it's just some of these aren't the ones I'd go to or really even like enough to revisit. I think the best comparison is to a film. A really good film pulls you in and you forget what's going on other than the Film. It's as if your a part of it, these songs for the most part don't do that. Some do. But most don't. One thing I also want to point out is of all the tracks released this year; all 153 (including alternate takes/versions) the best, outside of Meat Light, were tracks like Twenty-One, Little House, King Kong/Igor's Boogie, A Piece of Contemporary Music and the other longer instrumental tracks. Why not just put those in a compilation a llah On Stage. I mean I why release complete concerts if the material is 90 been heard in other shows. Maybe make Joes Solage an album of solos a llsh Shut Up/Guitar/Trance Fusion. Or make a new album with goodies weve never heard. 

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