|Trudgin' Across the Tundra||4:01|
|The Illinois Enema Bandit||9:27|
|Australian Yellow Snow||12:26|
Around Christmas time in 2009 I decided to get my Zappa CD collection caught up - it had been a while since I bought anything, and it turned out there were four new releases that I hadn't heard. I hinted around and got a couple of them as Christmas gifts, then went and ordered the rest off the Zappa web site. The first of these albums, in release order, is One Shot Deal.
This disc is a collection of odds and ends that doesn't really fit into any of the general categories that the Zappa Family Trust has been releasing lately (full concerts, 40th anniversary documentaries of albums, the "Joe's" series of official bootleg recordings, etc). What exactly this material is is a little difficult to figure out - I haven't been able to find much information on the web about it, despite the CD having been out for over a year now. Gail's typically cryptic liner notes shed a little light, but not as much as one would hope. Seriously Gail, would it kill you to just write some straightforward liner notes explaining what the songs are, why they were chosen, etc?
Apparently Frank had compiled the first four and last two tracks on this disc for part of some project, but then never used them. Since that wasn't quite enough material for a full CD, Gail and vaultmeister Joe Travers dug up a few more tracks that Zappa had mixed for release and stuck them in the middle. The whole album is from live performances.
The first track, Bathtub Man, is a bluesy jam from 1974 that sounds like it was probably part of a longer song. The title comes from some banter at the beginning between George Duke and Napoleon Murphy Brock about finding someone in a bathtub that was assumed to be a woman but turned out to be a man. Some great guitar wailing from Frank on this one over a nice jam by the rest of the band (Duke, Brock, Ruth Underwood, Tom Fowler and Chester Thompson).
The second piece is a brief synthesizer freakout by Duke with drum accompaniment by Thompson, also from 1974. The flurry of liquid-sounding notes is interrupted in the middle by a different tape of Zappa saying "I hope you're recording this". This track sounds like it could have been one of the little "connector" pieces on Lšther.
Hermitage is a percussion and synthesizer based improvisation by the grand wazoo band - it literally takes longer to read the list of musicians involved on the CD case than it does to listen to the track. That list isn't exactly easy to read though - it's printed in a fuzzy tan font on an olive colored background. Jeeze, didn't anyone bother to look at this thing before they printed it? Anyway, this track works as an intro to the next song...
Trudgin' Across the Tundra is another wazoo piece, but this time it's the petite version (or maybe not - it's listed as being from 1972, and I thought the petite wazoo band came after the grand version). Anyway, this is probably my favorite track on the disc - a four minute trumpet solo over an atmospheric vamp by the bass and horn section with lots of percussion and even a bit of steel drums. Sounds like Zappa meets fusion-era Miles Davis. Very nice. It must have been the end of some song, because it ends with applause and then fades out. All the previous songs segued into each other, so Zappa must have intended this to be the end of an album side.
Next we get into the "random picks" section of the disc with the song Occam's Razor. It's pure guitar solo over a vamp by the late 70s band. The liner notes indicate that part of this solo was extracted and used on the Joe's Garage album for the song On The Bus. Nice track if you're into the guitar-hero side of Zappa.
Heidelberg is another late-70s guitar solo that originally appeared on the semi-rare, cassette-only Guitar World According to Frank Zappa release. Has everything from that cassette seen official CD release yet? That's one of the few official Zappa releases (possibly the only one) that I've never heard. Anyway, this is another good track for fans of albums like Shut Up 'n' Play Yer Guitar. Has this song already been officially released elsewhere? I could swear I've heard it before. Possibly on the Apocrypha bootleg.
Following that we get, oh joy, yet another version of The Illinois Enema Bandit. This one is from the 1981 Halloween concert in New York City. It's interesting because, right in the middle of the song and for no apparent reason, it completely shifts gears into a guitar solo section that has no relation to the rest of the song at all. I'm about 99% sure that the solo was chopped out of the rest of the song and put on the Guitar album, but I'm too lazy to dig it out and figure out which track it is. If anyone knows, shoot me an email and I'll update this page. Anyway, after the solo the song resumes its normal course.
The last two tracks are a lengthy live performance of Don't Eat the Yellow Snow concluding with Rollo. I think the ZFT must have a policy that they can't put out more than two posthumous releases in a row without including the song Rollo. Anyway, the Snow portion of this combination comes from a 1973 performance in Sydney, Australia. It's kind of neat because when it gets to the Saint Alphonzo section the music switches to big church organ mode and Frank "preaches" to the audience. The opening of the song also features some really propulsive drumming and some neat vocals. And the audience is surprisingly loud in the mix - you can clearly hear them laughing and applauding throughout the song. Other than that though, this is fairly similar to the version that ended up on the first You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore volume, which is probably why Frank never released this one. The Rollo that follows is not from the same performance, in fact it's not even the same band. It's grafted in from the Royce Hall 1975 orchestral concert, the same performance that was used for the QuAUDIOPHILIAc audio DVD, although the liner notes are quick to point out that this is a different edit.
All in all this is a fairly interesting collection of bits and pieces that Frank had left lying around. The sound quality is excellent and the mix of styles and bands keeps it interesting, even if most of the material is stuff that long-time fans have heard before in one version or another. For my money, the first four tracks are the most interesting stuff - it's a shame that Frank never finished putting that album together, I'd love to hear it.