cream of the crate #16 : frank zappa – roxy & elsewhere

 

 

cream of the crate #16 : frank zappa – roxy and elsewhere

 

 This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site which was abandoned for its current site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site. 

""I love monster movies, I simply adore monster movies, and the cheaper they are, the better they are." - [Frank Zappa] "Jazz is not dead, it just smells that way" - [Frank Zappa]

This is number sixteen in the series of albums I’m featuring as part of an on-going retrospective of vinyl albums in my collection, that I believe have significant musical value and are being post reviewed under the banner of Cream of The Crate.

Album #16 is Roxy and Elsewhere and is what might be termed, an album by an artist that is either loved or disliked. There is almost no room for a middle path. The artist is Frank Zappa and whilst not officially identified as being the Mothers of Invention, many of the musicians contributing to this album have been part of ‘Mothers” combinations.

Released on the Diskreet label – 2DS-2202 (MX 173510).

cream of the crate #16 : frank zappa – roxy & elsewhere
CLICK to enlarge

The album has a beautiful gate fold cover with double vinyl albums inside.

cream of the crate #16 : frank zappa – roxy & elsewhere
LHS of the gatefold [CLICK to enlarge]


The album was released was released in 1974 and to quote from the cover, “Most of the material in this double set was recorded December 10, 11 & 12, 1973 at the Roxy, Hollywood. Other portions were extracted from road tapes . . . of Show #2, Mothers day 1974 at the Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, and the recent gymnasium extravaganza at Edinboro State College, Edinboro, Pennsylvania, May 8th, 1974.”

So, with some magnificent Zappa albums which would have to include, Hot Rats, Weasels Ripped My Flesh, Zoot Allures and We’re Only In It For The Money, and the list could go on – why this album?

Frank has produced some magnificent studio work! His attention to detail and his demands upon his musicians is legendary and the end result is music that is tight in its playing, yet to the untested ear, it can sound like one huge jam.

Yet I believe the live performances captured on this album both demonstrate that attention to detail and the control the maestro has over his band.

cream of the crate #16 : frank zappa – roxy & elsewhere
Frank at the Roxy [CLICK to enlarge]

It certainly retains sufficient flexibility and humour to provide and all round double album that entertains, educates (yes, educates), and causes your feet to beat uncontrollably.

There are fourteen tracks (ten music tracks) over the four sides and they represent a myriad of styles. They go from (one suspects) the personal tale of “Penguin in Bondage (Boy)” through to the comical and clever dig at the College education system in “Dummy Up”.

It also includes the clever composition of “Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing” and the 1950’s comedy send up of “Cheepnis”.

But wait! There’s more! We also get the amazing Be Bop Jazz piece of “Be Bop Tango (Of The Old Jazzmen’s Church)”! Don’t make the mistake of thinking Frank Zappa has no time for Jazz when he declares, “Jazz is not dead, it just smells that way”.

This is an incredibly well constructed piece of Jazz/Be Bop music that sets Zappa the composer, way ahead of the pack.

The Son of orange County is he title is a reference to Richard Nixon, who was born in Yorba Linda, Orange County, California. It is another example of how Zappa made his feelings known on social issues or people but in a clever way.

The words “I am not a crook” were used by Nixon during his impeachment process. The guitar solo is NOT as played at the show, but is the only track on tha album which has his solo stitched together from a variety of shows.

And in your dreams
You can see yourself
As a prophet
Saving the world
The words from your lips
(I AM NOT A CROOK)
I just can’t believe you are such
A fool
 
I just can’t believe
You are such a fool
I just can’t believe
You are such a fool
I just can’t believe
You are such a fool
I just can’t believe
You are such a fool

 

Son of Orange County

Zappa was notorious for being almost ‘anal’ about his music. Every note has to be correct, every piece of timing is correct and yet as alluded to earlier, to any listener not familiar with Frank Zappa’s composing and playing, it would often sound like it was often random key changes and timing changes.

In fact as this album attests, it is quite the work of a brilliant composer, player and conductor.

Zappa always assembled around him the very best available musicians and when you look at the list further on, it is a veritable who’s who of musicians. I feel compelled to make mention of some of them, because I have a personal high level of appreciation, and certainly respect for their amazing talents.

cream of the crate #16 : frank zappa – roxy & elsewhere
Napoleon Murphy Brock [CLICK to enlarge]

 Napoleon Murphy Brock, when not setting a wailing sound on his wind and brass instruments (especially the sax), he was singing up a storm. He is in fact the ‘main man’ after Zappa when it comes to not just ‘singing’, but really entertaining.

 His voice in terms of his ability to hit his notes is exemplary, but it is also his amazing character, which comes across on many of the tracks, such as on “Dummy Up (which he co-wrote).

 

 

Dummy Up

The other male voice featured on this album, is that of George Duke, who also plays a multitude of keyboards and features on Be-bop Tango.

cream of the crate #16 : frank zappa – roxy & elsewhere
George Duke [CLICK to enlarge]

 

An amazingly accomplished Jazz / Funk musician, his credits are lengthy, and the people he has collaborated with are at the top of the tree, artists such as Jean-Luc Ponty and Miles Davis.

Ruth Underwood on Percussion is simply brilliant.

With Frank Zappa the percussion is not just to supplement the rhythms and beat set up by the drummer but is used to provide the most brilliant counter-points to the driving beats and to accentuate and twist the rhythms.

She achieves this through her use of the broadest range of percussion instruments. The bizarre timing changes in “Echidna’s Arf” would flummox many professional percussionists, but not Ruth!

cream of the crate #16 : frank zappa – roxy & elsewhere
Ruth Underwood [CLOCK to enlarge]

 

Echidna’s Arf (For You)

Zappa was pleased with what was going on with the material on this album and considered the material the band had to play the hardest repertoire he had composed to that point in his career.

Indeed “Echidna’s arf“, “Don’t you ever wash that thing” and “The Be-bop tango” are by rock band standards, extremely complex pieces to play live.

The final track I’m presenting is “Sun Village” and doesn’t feature Frank on vocals, but features Napoleon Murphy Brock

This song is about Frank Zappa’s teenage years in Lancaster, California. The area was filled with turkey farms and is still prone to vicious sandstorms. In the tiny town of Sun Village (which was almost entirely Black and Latino and was mostly burned to the ground during race riots in the late 1960s and early 1970s), Zappa and some friends formed a group called “The Black-Outs,” which played at a place called “The Village Inn & Barbecue” on Palmdale Boulevard.

There was always a crowd of drunken individuals who would dance in a stumbling manner, all of which are mentioned in the song.[Songfacts]

Sun Village

Side one
 
No. Title    
1. Preamble    
2. “Penguin in Bondage”    
3. “Pygmy Twylyte”    
4. “Dummy Up”    

 

Side two
 
No.
Title
   
1. “Preamble”    
2. “Village of the Sun”    
3. “Echidna’s Arf (Of You)”    
4. “Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing?”    

 

Side three
 
No.
Title
   
1. “Preamble”    
2. “Cheepnis”    
3. “Son of Orange County”    
4. “More Trouble Every Day”    

 

Side four
 
No.
Title
   
1. “Preamble”    
2. “Be-Bop Tango (Of the Old Jazzmen’s Church)”    
  TOTAL TIME:    


Having named three of his genius band, it’s almost a crime not to mention the others because they are all so good – Frank would not have had it any other way!

Musicians

  • Frank Zappa – guitar, vocals, producer
  • Napoleon Murphy Brock – flute, tenor saxophone, vocals
  • Robert “Frog” Camarena – backing vocals (“Cheepnis”)
  • Debbie – backing vocals (“Cheepnis”)
  • Lynn – backing vocals (“Cheepnis”)
  • Ruben Ladron de Guevara – backing vocals (“Cheepnis”)
  • George Duke – synthesizer, keyboards, vocals
  • Bruce Fowler – trombone, dancer
  • Tom Fowler – bass guitar
  • Walt Fowler – trumpet, bass trumpet
  • Ralph Humphrey – drums
  • Don Preston – synthesizer
  • Jeff Simmons – rhythm guitar, vocals
  • Chester Thompson – drums
  • Ruth Underwood – percussion


The album has been released on CD and can be streamed and the CD retails around $20.00 plus postage Australian.

cream of the crate #16 : frank zappa – roxy & elsewhere
CLICK to enlarge

 

The only vinyl album I could find on Ebay was around $70.00 which included postage from the USA.
If you have read this review, the odds are that you are already a fan of Frank Zappa and I hope at the very least this post-review of this fabulous album meets your approval.

If however, you are still discovering Frank and his music, then you have a plethora of material to choose from and you wouldn’t be making a mistake by purchasing this album as part of a starter of a collection of Frank Zappa (and the Mothers of Invention).


 

VIDEOS:
Here are two video’s directly related to this album. 

The first fantastic video collage to go with the track Cheepnis.

Cheepnis

 

The second is a wonderful advert created to promote Roxy, by Zappa.

Roxy Performances

 

Roxy The Movie – Audience Participation