Frank Zappa – You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Volume 1   Leave a comment

I’ve been slow putting this review up, because I wanted to be certain of what I was hearing. Not feeling compelled to completely re-invent the wheel, I’ll start off by quoting myself (with a few edits and overdubs) from a review of this record I wrote elsewhere, way back in late-September 2000:

This set works perfectly on a couple of different levels. As an introduction to the “non-serious” part of Frank’s World, it’s great. While it doesn’t have most of the “signature” tracks (Peaches, Montana, Dancin’ Fool, Valley Girl, etc.), it gives the needed depth and breadth that I find lacking on every compilation I have ever heard.

The Zappa catalog is both vast and varied. So how do you get the guitar playing, arranging, twisted humor, and maybe even a hint of the monstrous line-ups that Frank put together (again and again and again)? There isn’t a studio record that can do it, largely because so much of Frank’s reputation was built on his live shows…

You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Volume 1 is a two-disc, 15 year overview (1969-1984), ranging from on-the-road-between-show-conversation about vomiting on stage (The Florida Airport Tape) and on-stage rap about various health problems in the band (Diseases Of The Band), to sharing life on the road with groupies (The Groupie Routine, on a far better night than the Fillmore record).

And then there are the bands’ performances, the improvising, and Frank’s guitar work. On disc one, The Mammy Anthem is pure molten metal. Big Swifty is equal parts pulsing jazz track and other worldly guitar solo. The disc closes with a 20 minute version of Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow that includes an almost out of control audience participation segment that no other musician could ever hope to instigate, let alone pull off.

The highlights on disc two include an absolutely crushing 15 minute version of The Torture Never Stops (the original version on Zoot Allures is pretty darn great too). The three tracks taken from the 1981 Halloween Show (Dumb All Over > Heavenly Bank Account > Suicide Chump) are over the top. They rock, they swing, they make you laugh, and it’s all political.

Another facet of Frank’s World is Social Critic. If you’re easily offended, this may not be the set for you. He gives The Church a pretty thorough hosing. There’s “raw” language and sexual references throughout. So there, you’ve been warned.

As an introduction, this set might be a little much. Again, I think it does a better job than any compilation to date (sorry Gail). This set is an absolute must for any fan of Frank Zappa’s rock music.

No, you can’t do this on stage anymore. And that is a crying shame.

Not everyone is going to hear The Problem, but, those of you listening through better than average equipment may find the sound stage a bit weird, and the mix blown out. That’s because the discs were mastered, lacking a better term, out of phase. If you don’t have a phase/polarity switch on your rig, rip the CDs to your computer, and use something like Audacity to invert the sign wave of the tracks. Save the changes, and playback/burn/etc. as normal.

I did an A/B comparison, using the new, reissued tracks (with signwave flippage) against my original Ryko discs. The corrected tracks sound better, but only by the slimmest of margins. There is a bit better definition across the curve: Bottom and top have a bit more presence, and the decay/roll off at the top sounds a bit better.

You might file this next rap under: You kids get off my lawn… While it is to be applauded from a technical, can-do perspective, I don’t like the removal of the tape hiss, and the overall lower noise floor on the new reissue. It’s really disorienting to go from a small club date in ’69 to a stadium gig in ’82 and not have all the usual secondary audio cues that make analog audio tape such a wonderful medium of expression. There are a couple more of the YCDTOSA sets I want to pick up, hopefully, with no “digital sine wave inversion” to deal with.

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Posted 2013/05/08 by MG Nagy in Uncategorized

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