(out of a possible five)
As I sat down to write this review, I realized that I have not listened to this album for
years. I mean years. My last recollection of hearing this album goes back to May of 1990.
I was leaving Las Vegas, heading home at 3:00 in the morning after a long and crazy
weekend of Dead shows. We were about a half-hour out of Vegas, away from the city lights,
with six long hours of California desert ahead of us. All the others were asleep, secure
in the knowledge that Cowboy Foggy was at the wheel of the bus to Never-Never Land (er, I
mean, the Honda to Berkeley). Just me, the road, and my music. I remember grabbing my Hot
Rats tape first thing (a blank cassette, with WOIIFTM on the other side- what a
combination), and driving into the darkness with Frank and Ian playing the most incredible
music I had ever heard. When the album finished, I listened to "Money", and then
allowed the tape to flip, and listened to "Hot Rats" all over again. I was in
heaven. That was the last time I remember hearing this album.
Until just before I wrote this review, that is. I had to go back and listen to it- refresh
my memory as to just what amazing music was on it. "Peaches en Regalia" I
remember, as it is on many of the live tapes I visit so frequently. Likewise, "Willie
the Pimp", though no live version comes close to matching the intensity Frank
displays here. And "Son of Mr. Green Genes"- well that resides prominently on an
instrumental compilation I made, and has by this point become permanently etched into my
brain. But those last three songs? I couldn't even hum along with them.
First off, "Little Umbrellas". This does not do much for me, and only reaffirms
my notion that when writing "serious" music, Frank was better off sticking to
waltzes. Next, "The Gumbo Variations", and oh is this good. Ian's blowing is
something else, and Sugarcane Harris proves once again that violin solos do not have to
suck. I start to get a little bored right around FZ's solo, but then, thankfully enough,
the song just
.ends. "It Must Be a Camel" closes the album,
and while this is more interesting then "Little Umbrellas", its still far from
being another "Peaches".
I do not find this to be the classic Zappa album it so commonly heralded as. Yes, the
first three songs are classics, but that only covers half of the album. The second half is
not bad, but despite containing an enjoyable and passionate jam, it is rather faceless. So
on the basis of the first three songs alone, I am giving this album a very generous four
THE LIVE EFFECT
Three of the six tunes were performed live, though "Peaches en Regalia" was the
only one of the three that was ever improved upon. The other two, while no way slouches in
the live setting, achieved their perfect states with this recording.
PEACHES EN REGALIA- This tune was first performed live- and regularly, at that- during the
'71 Flo and Eddie tours ("Fillmore East, June 1971"). Sadly, it then disappeared
until the Xmas '76 shows, and was so enjoyed by all, that it became a regular tour fixture
all the way through Spring '78. It only received limited exposure during Fall '78, but
then returned with a vengeance in '79 ("Tinseltown Rebellion"). Its final
tour-of-duty was '88, where with a 12-piece band behind it, it sounded better than ever.
WILLIE THE PIMP- This song premiered during the Hot Rats' shows of early '70. It
reappeared in set lists during the '71 portion of the Flo 'n' Eddie tours, performed as an
instrumental following "Latex Solar Beef" ("Fillmore East, June
1971"). It appeared on the '72 Petite Wazoo tour; once in Spring '73, Summer '73,
Summer '74, and Fall '75; as an encore at every known "Bongo Fury" show;
throughout Spring '77; and as a horrible disco mutant during the '84 (YCDTOSA IV) and '88
SON OF MR. GREEN GENES- The full-blown instrumental version of this tune premiered in
1968, when the Mothers' performed what I feel to be the best live version of this ever
(4/10). It was performed once in mid-70, and then did not see daylight again until the
Petite Wazoo tour of '72, at which point it established itself as a concert favorite. For
the next year plus, up through the Winter '74 tour, this instrumental was a standard
encore number, serving as the first and last parts of a "Mr. Green Genes-> King
Kong-> Chunga's Revenge" medley. It was never performed as intricately as on the
album, consisting only of the main theme and miscellaneous solos in all live instances.
LITTLE UMBRELLAS- Never performed live.
THE GUMBO VARIATIONS- Never performed live.
IT MUST BE A CAMEL- Never performed live.
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