|Total Time: 3 hours, 39 minutes, 19 seconds|
This three disc set documents the 1977 edition Zappa's legendary Halloween shows. Specifically, a marathon three hour set performed on October 31st of that year at the Palladium in New York City, with some bonus tracks from the previous day's performance tacked on at the end of disc three. If three and a half hours of this sort of thing isn't enough for you, this title was also released as a limited edition boxed set that comes with a USB stick containing audio files of the entire run of shows from the multi-day residency at that venue. It also comes with a Frank Zappa halloween costume. It's also around a hundred bucks and doesn't come with any actual CDs, so I passed and just got the three CD version.
The sound quality of this set is excellent - this is one of the shows that was filmed for the concert video Baby Snakes, and I think it may have spawned some of the In New York album as well. So every now and then while listening to this set, I'd realize I've heard this exact same performance before, but it's still neat to hear the whole show from beginning to end.
The show kicks off with a good Peaches En Regalia, which is nice, but then it immediately goes into a 14 minute long Torture Never Stops. Have I mentioned recently how sick I am of that song? Oh well, at least they get it out of the way early.
Throughout the show Frank keeps reciting lines from the Uncle Meat movie, specifically "What's he doing? He's eating. Watch him eat, and while he's eating talk to me and ask me what he's doing. He's eating." He tells the audience that they have no idea what he's talking about, but they'll get it when the movie comes out. But by the tenth or so repetition, as soon as Frank says "What's he doing?" the audience shouts "He's eating!".
This version of Pound For a Brown is a great one that's over 13 minutes long and includes lots of flashy bass playing and keyboard solos. The track Conehead (instrumental) is basically an eight minute guitar solo in the vein of the Guitar album. I doubt I would have recognized it as Conehead if the liner notes didn't give that title.
There's a lot of audience interaction, such as when Zappa explains that the house lights are being kept on because they're filming a movie, and then whips the crowd into a frenzy with the idea that they're going to be in the movie. In fact, there's maybe TOO MUCH audience interaction, as the crowd noise is nearly continuous and sometimes distracts from the music. This release seems like it's trying to make up for the Zappa albums that were initially live recordings with the audience noise removed. The audience participation tracks don't exactly make for compelling listening though - maybe it's interesting to watch in a video, but I really wish a lot of it had been edited out to pare this set down to two CDs.
Near the end of disc one the band plays "Flakes", complete with Adrien Belew's Bob Dylan imitation. Belew provided the liner notes for this release, and in them he explains that he thought the song sounded similar to folk music, so at a rehearsal he started singing it in Dylan's voice and Frank immediately said "That's going in the show".
Disc one ends with a quick, two-minute version of Big Leg Emma - it seems odd that Frank would still be playing an unsuccessful single recorded nearly a decade earlier. The disc ends with the first few seconds of Envelopes being faded out, and disc two begins with the final keyboard blast of "Emma" fading into the opening of Envelopes. Must have been hard to figure out how to split a continuous three hour show over multiple CDs.
Another highlight of the set is a performance of Wild Love on disc two that's over half an hour long (!) and, as you'd imagine, features lots and lots of guitar work from Zappa.
Despite the duplications from previous releases, if you like this era of Zappa, this set is well worth picking up. I'd stick with the three disc version though, unless you're a super-fanatic.