Roxy And Elsewhere

Frank Zappa / Mothers Of Invention

Barking Pumpkin Records, 1974

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Something tells me that, if you look up the word "enigma" in the dictionary in a decade or so, you'll see Frank Zappa's picture next to the definition.

There is no simple way to explain Zappa's musical idiosyncracies, as he jumps from jazz to free-form improvisational to doo-wop, often within the course of the same song. There is no way to explain why, in the midst of the brief period of Zappa's commercial success in 1973 and 1974, that he would record and release an album like Roxy And Elsewhere, a two-record set featuring none of the songs that were garnering him some well-deserved attention.

That all being said, Roxy And Elsewhere -- which, as its name suggests, was recorded in a small variety of different locations in concert -- is a pleasing disc, even if you have to have a certain knowledge of Zappa's work before you can truly appreciate this release.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Sometimes, you just have to let the music overtake you, track timings be damned. Such is the case with the set of music that makes up "Village Of The Sun," "Echidna's Arf (Of You)" and "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?". Sure, you could sit there with a stopwatch and try to figure out the exact moment one song ends and another begins, but that would be missing the whole point of the music. If anything, the fact that these tracks blend together so well stand as a testament to Zappa's musical legacy, creating works that not only had a chemistry between them, but were also interchangable -- yet never losing that mystique about them.

Yet there are times when it's obvious that Zappa was as much a performance artist as he was a musician. While I enjoy the track "Be-Bop Tango (Of The Old Jazzmen's Church)," hearing the dialogue about the improvisational dancing happening on stage makes me wish that I could actually see the lunacy that was being inspired by the scat singing and keyboards of George Duke. As merely an audio track, something is lost in the translation.

Likewise, I recognize that Roxy And Elsewhere was released originally on vinyl, and there were limitations to records which allowed only a certain amount of music to be pressed onto a side. But I still can't help wishing that I was able to hear "More Trouble Every Day" -- a track originally from Freak Out! -- in its entirety, without having it fade out in what I can only guess is the final verse.

Yet Roxy And Elsewhere has its own unique treasures. "Penguin In Bondage" has never sounded better than it does on this release, and you can't help but laugh at "Dummy Up," featuring Napoleon Murphy Brock discovering the, aah, "uselessness" of a college degree.

Neophytes to Zappa's vast discography will undoubtedly listen to Roxy And Elsewhere and walk away confused. Admittedly, this is not the place to start discovering Zappa's musical quirks - but once you're somewhat comfortable in Zappa's world, Roxy And Elsewhere proves to be a nice place to crash for an hour or so.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2003 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Barking Pumpkin Records, and is used for informational purposes only.