Just Another Band from LA
(out of a possible five)
While I feel a tinge of shame in admitting this, I really like this album. It is without a
doubt not a great album, but Flo 'n' Eddie manage to be highly enjoyable this time out,
and the live performances documented here contain enough energy to continually satisfy.
The centerpiece of the album is without a doubt "Billy the Mountain", a near 25
minute opus containing far too much Flo 'n' Eddie but succeeding nonetheless. I grew up in
Los Angeles, the setting for the story of Billy and Ethel, and am familiar with many of
the people and places at which Frank pokes fun. This obviously helps with my enjoyment of
the piece. The tune does drag at times, but there are enough musical surprises throughout
to keep things interesting. [While I hate to in anyway promote "Playground
Psychotics", the version of "Billy the Mountain" contained there does
contain the tasty Studebaker Hoch jam, which helps break the monotony and adds flavor to
this lengthy piece]. "Eddie, Are You Kidding?" and "Magdalena" are the
other new pieces premiered here, with the first of the two being rather pointless, and the
second being blasphemingly hilarious. Yes, it deals with incest, but if Howard's closing
improvised monologue, and Pons' boomingly low backing vocals do not at least bring a smile
to your face (let alone an outright laugh), then have someone check your pulse. The other
two songs are revamped versions of '60's classics, with "Call Any Vegetable"
being the more successful of the two. I have always felt that Frank's constant edits on
"Absolutely Free" ruined the overall effect of many of that album's tunes. Thus,
I have always enjoyed later versions of those songs- live "Plastic People's",
the '79 "Brown Shoes Don't Make It", this version of "Call Any
Vegetable"- much better than the recorded versions. This does not apply to "Dog
Breath", however, in which Flo 'n' Eddie finally manage to annoy me.
THE LIVE EFFECT
As this is a live album, all the songs contained therein obviously appeared live at
BILLY THE MOUNTAIN- This was performed live only during 1971, with a better example of
said performance being on "Playground Psychotics".
CALL ANY VEGETABLE- This tune popped up occasionally during the late '60's, in an
arrangement closer to the "Absolutely Free" version, including the lengthier,
jazzier middle section. For the Flo 'n' Eddie years, the tune was streamlined and rocked
up, and the middle section was reduced to nothing more than a Frank solo (and typically a
good one at that.) The tune then vanished.
EDDIE, ARE YOU KIDDING? - This was only performed during 1971.
MAGDALENA- This was only performed during 1971.
DOG BREATH- This tune was a staple of most Zappa bands from 1968 on through Fall 1974. In
'68 and '69, it was essentially performed as on "Uncle Meat", several examples
of which can be heard on the Beat the Boots sets. For 1970 and '71, the tune became a rock
'n' roll crowd pleaser, performed as heard here. Finally, in 1972, the song transformed
into the smooth instrumental piece (along with "Uncle Meat") eventually released
on YCDTOSA II. It was played this way in Fall '72 (Grand Wazoo), all of '73, Winter '74,
and Summer/Fall '74. Its final appearances were during the "Orchestral
Favorites" concerts from September '75.
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