The city of tiny, broth­erly lites

Pasatiempo - - Pop Cd Reviews - Steve Ter­rell

Frank Zappa is alive and well in Philadel­phia.

Not lit­er­ally. But the re­cently re­leased live dou­ble-disc Philly ’76 is like a sweet post­card from the dead for Frank-ophiles ev­ery­where. It’s a dy­namic two-hour-plus show with a lit­tle-recorded Moth­ers lineup do­ing a wide va­ri­ety of ma­te­rial.

For those who like those lengthy in­stru­men­tals in which Zappa draws from jazz and mod­ern clas­si­cal sounds, there’s a near19-minute ver­sion of “Black Nap­kins”; and there are lots of his bet­ter-known funny songs like “Di­nah-Moe Humm,” “Stink Foot,” and “Dirty Love.” Zappa reaches back to his first al­bum, Freak Out! (1966), for “You Didn’t Try to Call Me” and to the groupie suite of Fill­more East: June 1971 for the song “What Kind of Girl Do You ThinkWe Are.” And there is some funk fu­sion (“City of Tiny Lites”), a cool old R & B cover (The Cadets’ “Stranded in the Jun­gle”), and a song that later be­came the ba­sis for U.S. for­eign pol­icy (“The Tor­ture Never Stops”).

Ma­te­rial from some of my fa­vorite un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated Zappa al­bums, Chunga’s Re­venge (two songs!) and Bongo Fury (ditto), are here.

Zappa plays the hip MC, “a more sin­is­ter Dick Clark,” as he says dur­ing one spiel. His twisted pseudo-sci­en­tific/ pseudo-re­li­gious “The Poo­dle Lec­ture” is clas­sic Zappa hu­mor.

The true star of this al­bum is a singer called Lady Bianca Thorn­ton, billed as Bianca Odin and in­tro­duced by Zappa at this show as “the Bionic Woman.” Her ré­sumé in­cludes back­ground vo­cals with Jon Hen­dricks, the late disco star Sylvester, Sly Stone, Taj Ma­hal, and Van Mor­ri­son. Be­fore now, the only (le­gal) Zappa al­bum that fea­tured Odin was You Can’t Do That On Stage Any­more, Vol. 6.

She was only a Mother for a few months. Ac­cord­ing to Zap­paWiki Jawaka (Wikipedia for Zappa fans), “She quit the band thanks to au­di­ence mem­bers con­stantly want­ing her to take her clothes off.” Other ac­counts say she quit be­cause of the crazy Zappa sex lyrics she was sup­posed to sing. I guess it’s harder than you think to find a woman will­ing to sing lines like “I get off be­ing juked with a baby oc­to­pus and spewed upon with cream corn.”

That’s truly a shame. Her sul­try, bluesy in­ter­pre­ta­tion of “What Kind of Girl” is a treat— baby oc­to­pus and all. Her soul­ful ren­di­tion of “You Didn’t Try to Call Me” trans­forms the old doo-wop par­ody into a thing of beauty. And it gives a new per­spec­tive to hear a fe­male sing lead on “Dirty Love” and “Ad­vance Ro­mance.” (“No more credit at the liquor store” is an omi­nous way to start off any song, no mat­ter who sings it.)

Also stand­ing out on this al­bum is gui­tarist/singer Ray White, who in 1976 was new to Zappa’s band but stayed un­til the mid-’80s. White was in the Zappa lineup that played the Paolo So­leri Am­phithe­ater

in 1984— the only time I got to see Zappa live. He es­pe­cially shines on “City of Tiny Lites,” per­formed here three years be­fore the song ap­peared on a Zappa record. White’s scat­ting and his call-an­dresponse seg­ment with Odin is a real plea­sure.

Oth­ers shine too. Ed­die Job­son’s vi­o­lin solo on “Black Nap­kins” stands proud by the work of pre­vi­ous Zappa fid­dlers Jean-Luc Ponty and Don “Sug­ar­cane” Har­ris. And drum­mer Terry Bozzio— an­other long­time Zappa player— is, as al­ways, a pow­er­house.

This is a warts-and-all record­ing. You hear Zappa call­ing to the sound man in “Ad­vance Ro­mance” when the power goes out on Pa­trick O’Hearn’s bass. I’m glad they didn’t edit it out. It’s al­most like be­ing there.

Bonus: Back in 2002 when Rykodisc re­leased Zappa Picks, a cou­ple of “mix tape” col­lec­tions of Zappa songs com­piled by mu­si­cian fans (one by Larry LaLonde of Primus, the other by Jon Fish­man of Phish), I com­piled my own “Zappa Picks by Steve Ter­rell” list. My selections still hold up to­day. Here’s that list. 1. “Are You Hung Up” and “Who Needs the Peace Corps” from

We’re Only in It for the Money 2. “Inca Roads” from One Size Fits All 3. “WPLJ” from Burnt Wee­nie Sand­wich 4. “Zom­byWoof” from Over-Nite Sen­sa­tion 5. “Harder Than Your Hus­band” (vo­cals by the late Jimmy Carl

Black) from You Are What You Is 6. “The Mud Shark” from Fill­more East 7. “Ad­vance Ro­mance” from Bongo Fury 8. “Con­cen­tra­tion Moon” from We’re Only in It for the Money 9. “Who Are the Brain Po­lice?” from Freak Out! 10. “The Tor­ture Never Stops” from Zoot Al­lures 11. “Oh No” and “The Or­ange County Lum­ber Truck” from

Weasels Ripped My Flesh 12. “Later That Night” from Cruis­ing With Ruben & The Jets 13. “Lemme Take You to the Beach” from Stu­dio Tan 14. “Teen-age Pros­ti­tute” from Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a

Drown­ing Witch 15. A con­densed ver­sion of “PornWars” from Frank Zappa Meets

the Moth­ers of Preven­tion 16. “Ste­vie’s Spank­ing” from You Can’t Do That on Stage Any­more,

Vol. 4 17. “Amer­ica Drinks and Goes Home” from Ab­so­lutely Free Kill Ugly Ra­dio: I do my best ev­ery week. Hear a large dose of Zappa Sun­day night on Ter­rell’s Sound World, freeform weirdo ra­dio. The show starts at 10 p.m. on KSFR-101.1 FM. Frank will prob­a­bly creep in around the 11th hour. And don’t for­get The Santa Fe Opry, the coun­try mu­sic Nashville does not want you to hear, same time, same sta­tion on Fri­day.

Blogs for glory: You can find my Ter­rell’s Tune-Up archives, my ra­dio playlists and rants about the mu­sic in­dus­try at stevet­er­rell. blogspot.com. And for those in­ter­ested in the strange world of New Mex­ico pol­i­tics and the state Leg­is­la­ture, check out my po­lit­i­cal blog at round­house­roundup.com.

The Big En­chi­lada!: Hear my fa­vorite mu­sic on your iPod or com­puter. Check out my grow­ing list of pod­casts at bi­gen­chi­ladapod­cast.com. It’s al­most time for a new episode.

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