FZ: OZ

Frank Zappa

Vaulternative, 2002

http://www.zappa.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/29/2005

For all of the live recordings that have been released by Frank Zappa and his heirs, to the best of my knowledge, there has not been a complete performance release in his discography - that is, until the 2002 release of FZ:OZ, a concert recorded in Sydney, Australia in January 1976.

The concept was a good one - with the exception of bootlegs, the true Zappa concert experience had not been captured accurately. So, props to the Zappa Family Trust for finally beginning the process of correcting this critical flaw in the Zappa discography. That being said, one has to wonder what made them choose this particular version of Zappa's band - also interestingly enough, being referred to as the Mothers - since the overall sound of the group has to be called minimal. Without a powerful enough rhythm section backing Zappa, the overall vibe of the concert pales, leaving the listener wanting to hear something more powerful.

Make no mistake, the musicians this time around - including Napoleon Murphy Brock, Roy Estrada and Terry Bozzio - were talented enough. But what lacked with this particular group was a solid rhythmic punch. Maybe the problem is that I first got into Zappa in the my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Sheik Yerbouti period, which was still two years away from coming to pass. But it sometimes seems like some of the instruments, including the keyboards and drums, are muted too much. (To play devil's advocate, Estrada's bass work is outstanding.)

The minimalistic approach to the band tends to hurt some of the songs, making them peculiar, though not dreadful, selections. Hearing sped-up versions of classics like "I Ain't Got No Heart," "How Could I Be Such A Fool," "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance" and an early version of "Keep It Greasy" is a bit odd, though I will admit hearing many of these performed live was still a thrill.

If anything, FZ:OZ could be seen as a developmental show for Zappa; many of the ideas the listener hears performed on stage would be polished up over the course of touring, such as "The Poodle Lecture," which takes on an almost Biblical rendering by Zappa in this version. Likewise, "Keep It Greasy" was still being worked on, and had not become the version that would become famous on Joe's Garage.

FZ:OZ is noteworthy for two things. First, this disc features, to the best of my knowledge, the debut of the song "Kaiser Rolls" on any official Zappa release. (And, brother, after doing over 50 of these reviews in a short period of time, I'd better know my Zappa tracks.) This track, however, doesn't seem to have what I would call the Zappa magic, and didn't seem to last past this period in Zappa's history. (A studio version is also included at the end of the set.)

Second, this disc includes a powerful one-two punch in the form of the instrumentals "Chunga's Revenge" (a surprising but wonderful inclusion) and "Zoot Allures". For nearly 30 minutes, Zappa and his band take over your brain and ears and pummel them into submission with some of the finest performances I've heard from Zappa ever. Hearing this makes me wonder why Zappa didn't perform "Chunga's Revenge" more often in concert.

FZ:OZ is a curious place to start releasing complete concerts - not the ideal place in my mind, but not a terrible one, either. This is the kind of disc that may confuse a newbie to the Zappa scene, but should thrill the diehard fans, and is recommended with some reservations.

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 the Zappa Family Trust / record label, and is used for informational purposes only.

Rating: C+

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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 Vaulternative, and is used for informational purposes only.