Just Another Band From L.A.

Frank Zappa / Mothers Of Invention

Rykodisc, 1972

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/07/2005

One could honestly question whether it was Frank Zappa's intention to release Just Another Band From L.A., the final "real-time" documentation of the Flo & Eddie-era Mothers Of Invention, when it came out in March 1972. Zappa had been attacked on-stage in London, when he was thrown from the stage into the orchestra pit, putting him in a wheelchair for the better part of a year. But, without any actual explanation of the circumstances behind this disc's release - I could find none on the official Frank Zappa website - we're left to guess whether or not it was Zappa's master plan to release this when he did.

This release does mark the best of the Flo & Eddie-era Mothers - though I don't know if this is saying a whole lot. In actuality, Just Another Band From L.A. is a somewhat decent release, marred by a rambling 24-minute piece that does little more than take up valuable real estate. Had this release focused on pure songwriting, it would have been unstoppable.

Let's focus on the four songs, and not the mammoth epic, for a few minutes. The re-working of "Call Any Vegetable" does two things right - it plays to the strengths of the expanded lineup, and it dares to improve on the original with an even stronger delivery. Granted, there was something charming about the off-key warble of "Ru-ta-be-ga" on the original (found on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Absolutely Free), but that's a very minor quibble. What this lineup of the Mothers does is take the original, slap on a few hundred coats of wax, and put premium gas in the tank to create a track that is nearly unstoppable.

Likewise, hearing a new take on "Dog Breath" (despite being only three years old) is intriguing. As much as I love the version on Uncle Meat, this live rendition absolutely blows the doors off things. The harmonizing of Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman is what really seals the deal for me in this case. The two "lesser" tracks, "Eddie, Are You Kidding?" (apparently a parody of a well-known L.A. clothier at the time - almost reminds me of "Weird Al" Yankovic's "King Of Suede") and "Magdalena" - are not bad tracks, but a little of the edge has been lost due to the passage of time.

So far, Just Another Band From L.A. sounds like it's a killer disc, and in that regard, it is. Too bad that the whole apple-cart is upended by the opening track, "Billy The Mountain," a story that seems to have absolutely no point whatsoever, except to be silly for silliness's sake. Again filled with references to the time and area (many of which won't be grasped by younger listeners - Christ, most of them won't even know what a Howard Johnson's is), I'd call this a stream-of-consciousness piece if it weren't for the lightning-quick reflexes of the band who switch into snippets of songs at the drop of a hat (such as the "Tonight Show" theme).

Maybe, had this piece been a lot shorter, it would have been easier to understand what Zappa and crew were trying to get across in the story. Instead, like the mountain in the song, we're left with a monstrosity that tends to crumble everything that gets in its way. Too bad that it's the rest of the disc that stands in its path.

Where Just Another Band From L.A. goes right is that the Mothers drop a lot of the ridiculous sexual gags that had become their trademark for this iteration of the group, and they, for the most part, were focusing on just how musically tight they had become. In all truth, if this had been a disc with more actual songs, I'd dare to say that this would have been the best Mothers release ever, possibly topping even Uncle Meat in my book. Instead, a gargantuan error ends up closing the chapter on the unofficial "third" version of the Mothers Of Invention.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2005 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 Rykodisc, and is used for informational purposes only.