Frank Zappa & the Mothers - Roxy Performances

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Review Text Frank Zappa's 1973 band was certainly one of his best, and in order to showcase it, Frank booked a series of shows at Hollywood's Roxy club that were both recorded and filmed. This box set is all five shows (four public and one for invited guests) as well as some soundcheck rehearsals and material recorded a couple days later at Ike Turner's Bolic studios. This is really everything a fan could expect. The band is so well-rehearsed, they're both loose and tight. Unlike most Zappa shows, there was no prearranged set list. The tunes played from night to night are mostly the same and some songs were played as a suite, but Frank has to call out what they're playing to the band, and the order of songs is different for almost every show. It's mostly new material (the stuff that ended up on Roxy & Elsewhere, of course) with some old favorites thrown in, and interesting early versions of "Inca Roads" and "Rdnzl." It's tricky stuff, but the band handles it with aplomb. Everyone's solos are completely different each night. George Duke is amazing and an absolute joy throughout, and Zappa clearly loves having him and Ruth Underwood in the band (much of this material was written specifically with their talents in mind). The rehearsals are exactly that, and the songs don't really get full run-throughs. There's lots of chatter in the Bolic studios material, and it also has a rehearsal feel, but there's also a nice audio nugget that would appear on Apostrophe(') less than six months later.While this might seem like a deluxe version of Roxy & Elsewhere, it really isn't. The Roxy Performances reveal that the Roxy & Elsewhere album was nearly as much a studio creation as a live album. For example, the song suite that comprises side two of the Roxy & Elsewhere album starts with the late show on 12/9 with the "Village of the Sun" intro, uses the 12/10 late show for "Echidna's Arf" and "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing", then it's back to 12/9 for the ending drum battle and outro vamp (which was heavily edited). The keyboard solo from 12/10 was used on the Roxy & Elsewhere album, but the trombone solo was replaced so the "original" trombone solo was actually an overdub and doesn't appear on this set at all! Roxy & Elsewhere also used other studio overdubs on the live tracks and of course, the Elsewhere material doesn't appear here, either. Here we get everything that was played, exactly as it was played, in December 1973. The Roxy Performances nicely complement the original album and shine a spotlight on one of the most talented rock bands ever. Like Halloween 77, it's unlikely FZ would have released this set in its entirety, but it's another home run for the ZFT. ~ Sean Westergaard

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