Zappa / Mothers - Roxy & Elsewhere (1974)

Penguin in Bondage   6:47
Pygmy Twylyte   2:13
Dummy Up   6:03
Village of the Sun   4:17
Echidna's Arf (of You)   3:53
Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?   9:40
Cheepnis   6:53
Son of Orange County   5:53
More Trouble Every Day   6:00
Be-Bop Tango (of the Old Jazzmen's Church)   16:40
Total Time: 68:00

The first official live album from the mid-70s mothers. It's interesting to note that this album has no tracks in common with the two Beat the Boots albums of this band. They must have had a big song selection to choose from. This disc also has no songs from the previous two studio albums - it's almost as if Frank wanted to have a "twisted pop" musician persona for his studio albums, but a more jazz fusion persona for his concerts. I wonder how many people went to the Roxy shows expecting to hear about Dinah Moe and Yellow Snow, and were disappointed.

Not that there's much that's disappointing about Roxy & Elsewhere. Since this double live album was released, it has become a favorite amongst Zappa fans, with special praise being given to sides two and three. Personally I've never been quite as big a fan of this album as others are - there is indeed some great stuff here, but there's enough filler that this could have been edited down to a single album, IMHO. Penguin in Bondage has never been one of my favorite songs, and Dummy Up and Be-Bop Tango seem to stretch a couple minutes worth of good music well past the breaking point.

On the other hand, Pygmy Twylyte compresses enough ideas for most bands to get an entire album's worth of material down into one two minute song. Village of the Sun is also great, with uncharacteristically sentimental lyrics about a club that Zappa played in with one of his earliest bands. I like the relatively relaxed beat of this track, compared to the frantic pace of the version on You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol 2. The next track, Echidna's Arf, is a cool piece of complexity that should keep prog rock fans happy. It kind of reminds me of Yes' Heart of the Sunrise in that it's rather repetitive, but there are enough variations that should one musician lose his place the whole thing would come crashing down. Don't You Ever Wash That Thing? is another staggering instrumental that wanders all over the map.

Cheepnis is Zappa's tribute to the cheap monster movies of the 50s, complete with an opening monologue about the movie It Conquered The World (which, as Mystery Science Theater fans can attest, is indeed a very cheap monster movie). The music to this song is fun, and the lyrics are pretty funny. The vocal gymnastics the band does to get all those lyrics into the small space available for them are very impressive. Son of Orange County is a slower, spacey instrumental take on Oh No / Orange County Lumber Truck. This segues straight into a nice (and also fairly slow) version of Trouble Every Day. The final track, Be-Bop Tango has some good music at the beginning, and ends the album with some foot-stompingly catchy stuff, but in between spends waaay too much time goofing around. I mean, the dance contest was probably fun for the people who were there at the time, but it's kinda dull to listen to on album, particularly after the first couple times.

So overall I think this album is a little overrated by Zappa fans. Had it been cut down to just a single album with all the best music kept intact, it would be fantastic. As it is, the watering down of several tracks makes this a disc that I don't pull out to listen to very often.

Album Cover

Image of the Roxy & Elsewhere album cover