RELEASES #14-27 (1972-1979)
14. Just Another Band From L.A. (LP, Bizarre/Reprise MS 2075, March 26, 1972)
There is no incarnation of any Zappa band that did not incorporate large doses of FZ-humor into its regular repertoire. However, over the years, this band has come to be known as "Zappa's Comedy Group." In fact, other than a short appearances on #11, this "Flo & Eddie band" was integral on only three releases (this one, and the previous two [including the film], and a few "post-mortem" releases) ... but if the hard-core early Zappa fans stubbornly refused to give this band a chance -- they missed out on a quite a bit of incredible music!
"Billy the Mountain" is a classic. This edit stitches together several performances seamlessly and the end result is a powerful 25-minute masterpiece. (CC: compare the versions on Release #60 and 91).
"Call Any Vegetable" gets a unique treatment with a Gustav Holst quote thrown in for good measure, which cleverly segues into an historic high-octane guitar solo.
15. Waka/Jawaka (LP, Bizarre/Reprise MS 2094, July 5, 1972)
With good reason, FZ put the words "HOT RATS" on the faucet handles. This is a sort of follow-up to the '69 masterpiece; it is an all-studio album, but it is also quite different than Hot Rats. There is no Ian Underwood, no Ponty or Sugarcane Harris.
Zappa had been thrown off a stage in London by a crazed fan and was severely injured. He recuperated by creating two new masterpieces.
"Big Swifty" (17:22) features an amazing five-piece band (FZ, guitar & percussion / Tony Duran, slide guitar / George Duke, ring-modulated & echoplexed electric piano / Sal Marquez, many trumpets & chimes / Erroneous [Alex Dmochowski], electric bass / and Aynsley Dunbar, drums) with tons of overdubs. The initial melody, stomps out an insistent seven, dissolving into long -- but never boring -- solos by Marquez and FZ.
"Your Mouth" (3:12) is hilarious. By now, Zappa's producing abilities were enhancing his compositional skills -- like the weird little musical snippets which accompany the vocals here -- and creating an end product that sounds both slick and shockingly original.
"It Just Might Be a One-Shot Deal" (4:16) features FZ on "electric bed springs." The lyrics -- something about a frog with a satchel -- are partially recited with a Russian accent. This is wonderfully obtuse.
"Waka/Jawaka" (11:19). Nine musicians make this track sound like a full big band! Masterful music with never a dull moment, despite the track's length.
16. The Grand Wazoo (LP, Bizarre/Reprise MS 2093, November 27, 1972)
As Zappa's injuries healed, he rehearsed this large ensemble from his wheelchair, and began pondering the idea of taking this current band on the road -- which he ultimately did for two very brief tours at the tail end of 1972 (see Charles Ulrich: Big Band Projects of 1972). The five tracks on this record are all suberb -- the final one "Blessed Relief" (about pain meds, I heard once -- but it might have referred to the time when he could finally stop taking the pills -- he hated taking drugs in any form, other than coffee and cigarettes) has become something of a jazz standard, with its lilting 3/4 melody and rich 9th-chord harmonies.
17. Over-Nite Sensation (LP, DiscReet MS 2149, September 7, 1973)
Many people believe -- and sales would probably verify -- that the next four releases constitute the finest period in the entire oeuvre. It would be hard to argue otherwise. These are four slickly produced studio albums (Roxy is live, of course) played by some of the finest studio musicians in the world.
This seven-track release is stitched together like a thousand-dollar suit. What sound like relatively simplistic "pop songs" are carefully tailored charts, using Zappa's sophisticated musical language in new and unusual ways (for example: the dirty blues feel he achieves with syncopated flat-sevens; the cute musical fills in tight rhythmic spaces, etc.)