|Billy the Mountain||24:46|
|Call Any Vegetable||7:22|
|Eddie, Are You Kidding?||3:09|
|Total Time: 45 min, 19 sec|
This is one of my least-played Zappa albums. I didn't really care for it at all when I first picked it up, and although it has grown on me a little it's still not one of my favorites. One of the big problems with it is that it is packed with inside references that only people living in Los Angeles in the 70s would get (thus the album's title). It's still enjoyable to some degree to that huge majority of us who have never lived in L.A., but I doubt it's ever going to become one of my personal favorites.
This live album begins with one of the few non-instrumental epic-length Zappa tracks, Billy the Mountain. It tells the story of a mountain who lives outside L.A. with his wife, Ethel the tree. Billy gets a royalty check for all the postcards he's posed for over the years, so he and Ethel go on vacation. They accidentally destroy a military base and are branded communists by the authorities. Secret agent Studebaker Hoch is sent out to track them down. In the end, he learns that "a mountain is something you don't want to fuck with". It's a silly story, but the lyrics are used largely to propel the song from one section of music to another. Most of these pieces would make good songs on their own, and some parts crop up elsewhere. In the end though, Billy the Mountain kind of tries my patience - there are a few funny references (I like how they mention the "white album with the pencil front", and the little Crosby, Stills and Nash parody in the middle), but in general this song goes on way too long. I'm still glad I've heard it though, because Billy makes another appearance in Zappa's other lyrical epic, Greggery Peccary (a much better song). And I've gotta admit that after listening to this song, I usually find myself singing the "A mountain is something..." line over and over.
The second half of the album is OK, but after hearing all the Beat the Boots versions of Call Any Vegetable and Dog Breath, it's hard to get excited about those tracks. Magdalena is just as offensive here as it is on the Swiss Cheese / Fire boot (see my review of that one for the reasons I don't like that song). That just leaves Eddie, Are You Kidding, which contains some of the catchiest music of the Zappa catalog. Unfortunately it's also packed with more references that only L.A. area residents would get, so it's not really a favorite of mine either.
As time goes by and even listeners living in L.A. become unfamiliar with all the things referenced in this album, I have a feeling that this will become one of the least popular Zappa albums. It's not one that I feel is an essential purchase.