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As history would have it, and thanks to the persistence of promoter Ron Delsener, Frank Zappa & his Mothers actually played Carnegie Hall. The two shows on October 11th, 1971 were recorded for posterity to mono 1/4' tape using a concealed Nagra tape machine and a Electrovoice 664 microphone. Both shows are presented here in their entirety along with the opening set of show 1 by the fabulous accapella group The Persuasions.
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This official release from the Zappa Family Trust is a notable exception. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention played Carnegie Hall October 11, 1971. The line-up featured the usual Mothers crew that toured after Hot Rats: Frank Zappa, with Ainsley Dunbar on drums, Flo (a.k.a. Mark Volman) and Eddie (a.k.a. Howard Kaylon) on vocals, and Ian Underwood, Don Preston, and Jim Pons. On this particular night the Mothers’ performance was anything but restrained. They played their hearts out, much like they did on any one of their many concerts.
This concert was nearly four hours, and it is all here, both shows. On tour, Frank Zappa usually improvised his many compositions. The Mothers did not simply mimic the sound of their recordings. This particular concert contained selections from the Zappa catalogue up to that time, and featured some of the most interesting improvisations of those familiar compositions.
This concert is an almost perfect blend of music and theater/performance that so characterized a Zappa concert during the Flo and Eddie years. Their concert at Carnegie Hall was typical of the type of show the Mothers delivered during this time: Wild improvisations of well-known Zappa tunes devolving onto crazed, inane performance theater with Flo, Eddie and/or FZ, and capped with tight, feverish instrumentals at the end. It was all great fun. Quite frankly, this is one of the best recordings of Zappa in concert I have ever heard. Some of the highlights:
“Anywhere the Wind Blows” is transformed from the straight rock rendition in Freak Out to that blend of performance art and music.
“King Kong” was over thirty minutes. With what started out as a spirited, jazzy version of King Kong after some performance/music shenanigans, the piece evolves into a tasty lengthy trio between the guitar, drums and bass, with Zappa soloing for about ten minutes. The band did not stop there. The band then segued into Peaches en Regalia, Flo and Eddie providing the “instrumental” part.
Their version of “Billy the Mountain” was audacious. Clocking at almost one hour, it was a pure delight.
Once you listen to the concerts you will see why it took so long for an official release. Frank and the gang drop the occasional f-bomb throughout the concerts, particularly during “Billy the Mountain.” These f-bombs add spice to an already flavorful dish of music. The performances were spirited, lively, and joyful. The audience went wild. The dust and the plaster from the August walls of Carnegie probably never saw such a good time or heard such good music. But you will went you listen to this concert.
Thanks to the Zappa Family Trust, what we have here is a piece of history--the first rock & roll band to EVER play the likes of Carnegie Hall. Mr. Zappa, backed by the Mothers of Invention (including Flo & Eddie of Turtles fame), unleashed quite possibly the most brilliant of concerts to ever be unleashed. The opening act, the a capella r&b/soul group the Persuasions, provide a level of comfort and class that leads into the FZATMOI's lewd and crass blend of rock & roll. Ever the deviant, Frank even goes so far as to deviate from his own set list, unleashing the brand-new saga of God, His girlfriend, a pig, and a red velvet sofa--"Divan"--and even going so far as to pay a $600.00 fine just to play "The Mud Shark" for his crowd. Oh! and don't forget about "King Kong" and "Billy the Mountain," which clock in at over 30 min. each! There's a reason this concert took 4 CDs to capture!
It's a darn shame this record didn't get nominated for any Grammys, because it's hands-down my # 1 favorite release of 2011. So, what are you waiting for? Hop on into your time machine, set the date to October 11, 1971, and get that needle to hit 88 mph. Next stop: Carnegie Hall!
extensive liner notes in which Gail Zappa describes these shows as they represent the only time Frank Zappa, with or without the Mothers of Invention, appeared at Carnegie Hall. Promoter Ron Delsener, who had to convince the venue's booker that Zappa was "a very accomplished classical musician of several wind instruments like the cello, viola and harp," says "enjoy genius and smile, Frank is smilin' at you." For a final thought all i can say is this is now my favorite live zappa vault recording of them all. Bravo Frank & thank you Zappa family for putting out this true gem.