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Frank Zappa - Zappa in New York Deluxe

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Like so many releases from the classic rock era, Frank Zappa's live album Zappa in New York hit a significant milestone in 2018 as it reached its 40th anniversary. In celebration, Zappa Records/Ume Records released this collectible 5-CD box set this spring, and the fun starts before the music even begins playing. The set comes packaged in a rugged flip top cardboard box that when opened reveals a circular metal tin, meant to look like a manhole cover. Pop that container open and you'll find the five CDs, an updated booklet featuring an essay from Zappa Family Trust "vaultmeister" Joe Travers, recently-penned liner notes from band members Ray White and Ruth Underwood, and a souvenir replica concert ticket. Of course, the music is the thing and there is plenty of it to hear, including lots of previously-unreleased material.

There was no digital recording back in the day when Zappa in New York was committed to tape, so CD-1 features the original album as mixed for release on vinyl. In keeping with Zappa's often surprising way of doing things, Zappa in New York was not a rehashing of previous material as most live albums are; instead Zappa offered a set where nine of the 10 songs played were new. So this was the album that introduced what would become favorites; Zappa's tussle with the Devil on "Titties & Beer," the naughtily-titled but benign "I Promise Not to Come in Your Mouth" (it's a jazzy instrumental) and "The Illinois Enema Bandit," a long, smoky Ray White-sung jam that was inspired by the true story of an armed robber who liked to also give his female victims enemas. Both parts of "The Black Page" are included; part 1 is a drum solo from Terry Bozzio and Zappa explains before part 2 is performed that, after Bozzio had mastered part 1, it inspired him to complete the song with a melody. "Big Leg Emma," "Manx Needs Women," "Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me?" and a 17-minute jam on the jazzy "The Purple Lagoon" round out the new music performed. A take on "Sofa" from the One Size Fits All album is the only "oldie" performed during the set as released here. But many older goodies were performed during the series of concerts that took place over four days in December of 1976, and they're presented on three of the four additional CDs included in the box set.

The grandiose instrumental "Peaches en Regalia" kicks off the collection of bonus concert material on disc 2; the song segues into the wacky but sublime "The Torture Never Stops." Also here is the set's only live performance of "Punky's Whips," a controversial cut about Punky Meadows of glam band Angel, who was prone to posing with prominent pouty lips in promotional photos. Longtime favorite "Montana" is also included among reprisals of four cuts from the main concert. Among the non-main concert goodies on disc 3 are "America Drinks," the boisterous "I'm the Slime," the funky, sax-enhanced "Find Her Finer," the delightful "Chrissy Puked Twice" and "Cruisin' for Burgers," a cut originally found on the 1969 Uncle Meat album. The highlight of disc 4 is a version of the always popular "Dinah-Moe Humm" but it is preceded by a take on "Black Napkins" where everyone gets to stretch out; at nearly a half hour in length the cut spotlights Zappa's guitar playing but also horn work from Randy and Michael Brecker. Other notable band members for the occasion include Eddie Jobson, Patrick O'Hearn and David Samuels; also appearing throughout with emcee announcements is the famed voiceover man Don Pardo. The fifth and final CD in the box is a collection of seven cuts associated with the live material, including an unused version of "Punky's Whips," an alternate take on "I Promise Not to Come in Your Mouth," piano versions of "The Black Page #1" and "The Black Page #2" and a 1977 mix of "Cruisin' for Burgers."

All in all there's about five hours of listening to be had in this collectible box set.


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