And in your dreams
You can see yourself
As a prophet
Saving the world
I think I’ve figured out one of the major splits that puts me and Zappa at odds a lot of the time. See, I’m of the theory that a musical artist should take the desire to do a double album as a kind of red flag; when you start thinking, “Yeah, this could be a double album,” it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate things. Because look at all the people who ****** up double albums: the Beatles, Bob Dylan, I mean, stop right there. Two of the greatest musical acts of all time ****** up when they tried to do a double album. But Zappa loves double albums; LOVES them. Roxy & Elsewhere is a good example of where that leads him sometimes.
Because there’s a superlative, one of the greatest live albums ever, masterpiece in Roxy & Elsewhere, buried under the fat of what is ultimately a sloppy, sprawling mess. What I like here, I really love. Cheepnis is a great, high energy track and I think it really is something of a genuine artistic statement from Zappa and it really points up why he wants an album like this one to be sprawling and messy. But, much as I love the song, I wish he’d tightened this album up. I mean, cut the nearly seventeen minute Bebop Tango, which is pretty well dead weight, and you’re down to just three sides. Dummy Up is the obligatory skit section of the evening and you know how I feel about that. Nothing else is really as bad as those two, but there’s trivia here: Echidna’s Arf and Penguin in Bondage are both . . . pretty bland. But when the album works, it really works. Son of Orange County and More Trouble Every Day are both fantastic, really great live reworkings of tracks I loved in their original incarnations. Oh No & Orange County were about the only things I really liked on Weasels Ripped My Flesh, so I like seeing them both pop up here in a kind of new way; More Trouble Every Day skimps on the lyrics, which are so searing on the original that I did miss them, but it builds to a really astounding frenzy. The band, by the way, is just on point here for damn sure. On those two in particular, they’re just on fire. Pygmy Twylyte is a small gem, with a great melody, a great groove and energy through the roof; setting aside the vocals, it sounds like a kind of Hot Rats/Chunga’s Revenge offspring. Village of the Sun is pleasant enough as the obligatory “normal” song on the record, though (spoilers!) I like the super-fast version the group did later a lot better. Anyway, it’s a good album; when it cooks, it really, REALLY cooks. When it doesn’t, it feels interminable and, let’s face it, when you’re talking about tracks that are sixteen minutes long, it might as well actually be interminable. This is another one of those albums where Zappa & I are frustratingly close to the same page, but just not quite. This is a pretty good seventy minute album; it could have been a fifty minute masterpiece. Woulda, coulda, shoulda; welcome to the world of Frank Zappa. 2 ½ stars.
tl;dr – overlong live album features a great band and some amazingly great, high-octane rock music; it also features a lot of trivia and some cringingly long doldrums. 2 ½ stars.