Worst of the Series.
(3 out of 5 stars)
"To put it up front, this is my least favorite of the You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore series. Most of this volume is dominated by the 1984 band, generally considered by fans, myself included, as one of Zappa's worst tours. With Ike Willis, Ray White, and Bob Harris on board, this tour is pretty much dedicated to exercising vocal muscle. The band was stripped down, a lot of things (like percussion) taken over by synthesizers, rhythm was dumbed down in the material to be more conductive to the heavy guitar playing and vocals, and the tempos were sped up. This probably explains why this sounds like a "song" tour, so to speak, with an abbreviated, poppish sound. In addition, the tour relied heavily on FZ's guitar playing, which would normally be an excellent attribute. Unfortunately, this just wasn't FZ's best guitar year, as is evidenced by the disappointing Guitar album. A lot of these solos sound overwrought and uninspired. They hardly have that beautiful tinge of bold originality and technical experimentation that makes FZ usually so great to listen to. The first disc is entirely devoted to the '84 tour. SHARLEENA features a 15 year old Dweezil joining his father on stage for the first time, and soloing with him. While Dweezil's playing is impressive considering that he'd only been playing for 2 years, it sounds hopelessly Van Halenish. This track is more interesting as a documentary of a charming father/son moment. BAMBOOZLED BY LOVE is so rhythmically stripped that it clocks into "Owner of a Lonely Heart" at one point. LUCILLE HAS MESSED MY MIND UP has a charming calypsoish feel. ADVANCE ROMANCE is one of my favorite FZ songs, but this is the worst version of it. A lot of the next tracks deal with a miserable Thanksgiving show, where the band, despite its hardships, seemed to be having a lot of fun. A Lone Ranger motif keeps reoccuring and forcing FZ and Ike Willis into uncontrollable fits of laughter. I have no idea why there's yet another version of HONEY, DON'T YOU WANT A MAN LIKE ME here. Like the plenty of other versions, there's no real variation, except a cute audience fakeout. DROWNING WITCH is a brilliant epic work, of course. Because none of his bands ever performed it right, Zappa mixes the '82 and '84 band together to get an ideal performance. The best part of this disc is a chain of three premiere songs, RIDE MY FACE TO CHICAGO, a great little rocker inspired by graffiti found in the bathroom of the Whisky-a-Go-Go, CAROL, YOU FOOL, a nice crooner piece, and CHANA IN DE BUSHWOP, co-written by Diva Zappa. The Joe's Garage songs that end the disc are far inferior to the album versions.The second disc is a lot better. It opens with a 10 minute version of DICKIE'S SUCH AN... as originally performed by the '73 Roxy band. After disc one, its a real breath of fresh air. HANDS WITH A HAMMER, an incredible drum solo by Terry Bozzio, confirming the incredible precocious genius of that certain FZ alumnus. It leads into a split version of ZOOT ALLURES, with the original variant of the composed portion, as played in 1975, which jumps into a reggae-vamped solo played in 1984, which is pretty good. The You Are What You Is songs that follow are just wasteful. Why would we want to hear the 1981 band trying to replicate these songs exactly as they appear on the albums? Didn't we get enough of that on Volume one? COCAINE DECISIONS and NIG BIZ (another premiere song) are classic documentary moments, played during the Palermo riots that ended the 1982 tour. You can hear the tear gas cannisters being shot off as the band, blinded, goes on undaunted. Its absolutely incredible. The 24 minute KING KONG mixes the '82, '84, and '72 band. The last is from the concert in which Zappa was pushed off stage. Some excellent solos here. COSMIK DEBRIS, performed by the '84 band, is another throw-away, put on here for its Secret Word significance.There's a lot on this volume worth having, but overall its pretty lacklustre. I recommend getting this one last."
FZ Journal # 7
Jeff Hodges | Denton, TX United States | 06/21/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Although I know and understand the premise of this series of discs, and have heard a couple of them, I am generally not familiar with the details of the performances. I have never listened to this volume in the series, but my conception of Zappa's work is heavily influenced by the Best Band recordings. In some ways, YCDTOSA 3 feels like home.
These recordings have also been a source of interest in they way that they are structured. Zappa himself states that the live material contains "ABSOLUTELY NO OVER-DUBS", but there is some editing together of separate performances. In some instances, like Zoot Allures and King Kong on disc 2, a single "performance" contains entirely different bands. Now on one hand, it is a testament to both the consistency of Zappa's preparations and his deft hand in the studio. In these cases, one must listen very closely for the seams. The casual listener would probably not even notice them. In the end, Zappa can look at his best performances and create what he might consider a live show that most closely captures his intention. On the other hand, it begs the question of "ABSOLUTELY NO OVER DUBS....". Technically, there are no overdubs, but there is definitely some studio trickery going on. However, we have stated that Zappa conceived of the studio as an instrument in and of itself, and these recordings most definitely show his mastery of the medium.
In the liner notes, Zappa also gives eight criteria for the selecting songs for this series, and number six is whether a given recording has "Conceptual Continuity Clues". I have had an interest in familiarizing myself with this feature of Zappa's repertoire, but as I am becoming more familiar with them, it is getting more difficult to tease out the threads. This recording just about made my brain hurt as I tried to figure out where I heard what from where, and there were so many of them that I could hardly find pen and paper fast enough.
As Zappa hit the `80's, his repertoire of mindless rock licks expanded beyond "Louie Louie", and here he adds "Owner of a Lonely Heart" to the list as a vamp for the solo on "Bamboozled By Love". His choice and presentation of "cover" songs is of interest, as they represent a satirical view of the state of rock and roll and the music industry. Of course, the audience is just happy to hear their faves cranked out through Zappa's outfreakage.
I was really happy to hear a live version of "Drowning Witch", which is one of my favorite Zappa compositions. In the liner notes, he admitted how hard the song was to perform, and here he had to splice a couple of performances together to just get one that was close. I also enjoyed getting to hear an entire performance of "Dickie's Such an A**h*le". I really only know that song by the lick that Ed Mann "f****d up" on the Make A Jazz Noise Here recording. Dweezil and Frank sound great together on "Sharleena" as well. There's also a nice post-modern moment when he starts referring to back-up doo-wops as lyrics, encouraging the performers to get the lyrics right.
Something else I have been thinking about is how Zappa chose people for his band that were sort of the charismatic "drama" figures. As we were watching Napolean Murphy Brock in class today, I was thinking about Ike Willis and the place that he held in the `80's lineup, and about how the late `70's group had very charismatic players in the group (Bozzio, O'Hearn) and about how much these members were necessary to Franks live performances as people who could command the attention of the spotlight in musically technical sections. This problem of keeping audience attention in technically demanding rock music was what caused Peter Gabriel to start wearing makeup and outlandish costumes.