Frank / Mothers - Swiss Cheese / Fire! (Recorded live, December 4th, 1971 in Montreaux, Switzerland)

SWISS CHEESE:
Intro 14:22
Peaches En Regalia   3:27
Tears Began to Fall   2:34
She Painted Up Her Face   2:21
Half-a-Dozen Provocative Squats   1:03
Call Any Vegetable   9:56
Anyway the Wind Blows   3:43
 
 
Total Time: 1 hour, 28 min, 21 sec
   
FIRE:
Magdalena   5:53
Dog Breath   4:13
Sofa Suite Prologue   4:54
Sofa   3:55
Stick it Out   5:20
Sofa Suite Epilogue   3:56
A Pound For a Brown (on the Bus)    7:06
Wonderful Wino   5:01
Sharleena   4:31
Cruisin' For Burgers   3:05
King Kong   0:50
Fire!   2:29

(All track times are approximate, taken from my homemade a CDRs burned from a cassette tape of the album)

This is the concert made infamous by the Deep Purple song Smoke on the Water. It's the one where the concert ended with someone starting a fire (although I doubt it was with a flare gun, as the song suggests) that burned down the casino where the band was playing. Odd that it happened on December 4th, the same date that Zappa died in 1993. Must have been an unlucky day for him.

Anyway, not only is the recording of historical interest, but the boot actually has fairly good sound quality, a good song selection, and great performances. If you're only going to own one of the Beat the Boots releases, this is the one to have (or two actually, since it's two CDs). And unfortunately it's another one that I only have on cassette and CDR.

The Swiss Cheese album starts the boot off. It opens with a very long improv section. A single, warbling keyboard note floats up and continues on and on with some slight shifting in pitch and tone, and then the rest of the band slowly joins in for a grooving jam session. This intro goes on for about 14 minutes, and then suddenly (in one of the coolest segues of the Zappa catalog) Aynsley Dunbar blasts out the opening drum fill for Peaches, and the band jumps into a high-energy version of that song, with some incredible vocalizing from Flo and Eddie. This is followed by an equally energetic version of Tears Began To Fall. The first three tracks match the Lonesome Electric Turkey (keyboard solo) / Peaches / Tears grouping that closes the Fillmore East album, but the version on this boot is much better, IMHO.

Without even pausing, the band launches into a short and fast version of the "groupie medley" from 200 Motels. This is followed by Call Any Vegetable, which gets a big cheer from the crowd when Frank introduces it with "This is a song about vegetables, they keep you regular and they're good for you". The performance includes a quick Invocation and Ritual Dance... jam, a lengthy suggestion list of things to dip in fondue cheese, and a story about finding an old man buried in the snow, who tells them...Anyway the Wind Blows.

The Fire! disc starts off with Magdalena, which is one of the few tracks where I think Frank went a bit too far. It's a fairly graphic song about a man who wants to have sex with his daughter. Same thing as Brown Shoes Don't Make It - makes you wonder what Frank's fascination with the subject was. In this song, the daughter fends off the father's advances, but the song is still pretty offensive. The first time I listened to this album was in the car with my wife in the passenger seat - she's not a big Zappa fan to begin with, but this is the only song she's asked me to never play again when she's around. She's as hard to offend as I am, so that says a lot about the song. It's a shame about the lyrics, because the music is really good, particularly some of the quick shifts the drums do here and there.

After that, the disc is very good, with nice performances of some classic Zappa material. Notable is Sofa, which wouldn't be officially released until the One Size Fits All album (same album as Inca Roads - seems like Frank was working on that album for a long time. No wonder it's a favorite among casual and hard-core fans alike), and Stick it Out which wouldn't appear until Joe's Garage. This is the whole, semi-perverted mini-rock-opera about God looking for the perfect sofa with squat the magic pig (complete with German lyrics).

After that there's a long, guitar-solo version of Pound For a Brown, and a good Wino / Sharleena / Cruisin' medley. The disc then suddenly cuts to an already-in-progress King Kong, right at the beginning of the keyboard solo. All that gets played of the solo is one long held-out note (which makes for a nice symmetry with the long keyboard note from the beginning of Swiss Cheese), and then the power cuts out and we hear people shouting "Fire!". Flo (or is it Eddie?) gets in the quip "Arthur Brown, in person!", and then we hear Frank asking people to calmly move towards the exits. This is followed by members of the audience talking, and eventually the tape runs out. Everyone seems pretty calm for being in a burning building, which makes me think that the fire mustn't have been too bad.

Overall, this is one of my favorite Zappa albums, due mostly to the energetic and enthusiastic performance. I even like the sound for a bootleg - it's got a thick, full bass sound and crisp drums. The drawbacks are some tape hiss and some slight distortion during the loudest parts (mostly on Flo and Eddie's vocals), but overall this thing sounds great. I'd love to find a real, store-bought, copy someday.

Album Cover

Image of the Swiss Cheese / Fire! album cover