Frank Zappa - The Dub Room Special! (recorded 1974 & 1981, released 2007)

A Token of My Extreme (Vamp)    2:29
Stevie's Spanking   5:54
The Dog Breath Variations   1:42
Uncle Meat   2:16
Stink-Foot   3:58
Easy Meat   6:51
Montana   4:24
Inca Roads   9:46
Room Service   9:15
Cosmic Debris   7:44
Florentine Pogen 10:13
 
Total Time: 64 min, 27 sec

The Dub Room Special was a project that Frank put together in the early 80s, which followed the blueprint of Baby Snakes. It was supposed to be a concert film with a corresponding soundtrack album. The film never got released to theaters, but eventually made its way to the public as a mail-order video tape, and much later as a slightly more widely distributed DVD. However, the related soundtrack album languished in obscurity until it was finally released on CD in 2007.

The songs come mainly from a 1974 performance that was taped at Los Angeles television station KCET for a potential TV special that never materialized. Frank took that footage and, oddly, combined it with some video shot at a 1981 Halloween concert with a completely different line-up, and then spliced the whole thing together with various oddball interviews and claymation. That's what got released as the video.

The CD removes the interviews and (thankfully) the sound effects that were added for the claymation and just presents the music. It leans heavily towards the '74 band with George Duke, Ruth Underwood, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Tom Fowler and Chester Thompson. Nine of the eleven tracks come from that band. The songs chosen are fairly similar to the track listing of You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol 2, which features mostly the same musicians. There's also some overlap with albums like Roxy and Elsewhere and One Size Fits All.

The two tracks from 1981 are Stevie's Spanking and Easy Meat. As you can tell from the first song title, that band featured Steve Vai on guitar, along with Tommy Mars, Ed Mann, Ray White, Bobby Martin, Scott Thunes and Chad Wackerman. Both songs are decent performances, but in my opinion better versions are available on other albums. And the switching back and forth from one "generation" of Zappa's bands to another is a little jarring. If it had been up to me, I probably would have dropped the 80s material from the disc, or at least put it at the end so the disc isn't constantly jumping round in time. It's mentioned in Gail's typically cryptic (and insulting) liner notes (we get it Gail, you're pissed at Apple for not meeting your demands about iTunes) that Dweezil "resequenced the program for CD", so I guess he's to blame.

So, do you need yet another version of Inca Roads, A Token of My Extreme, Room Service, Stink-Foot, etc? Well, it depends on how rabid a fan you are of that 1974 band. These performances are definitely worth hearing, and feature little nuances that differ from the other released versions; in particular Duke's synthesizers sound a little more "sci-fi" and are all over the place. And the sound quality is excellent, since the music was recorded in a professional TV studio. But if you find yourself rarely listening to Roxy or Stage 2 any more, and you're not a hard-core collector, you can probably skip this CD or just buy the DVD. Personally, I own both but rarely ever find time to watch music videos, so this CD will probably get a lot more spins than the DVD.

Album Cover

Image of the Dub Room Special album cover