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Frank Zappa - Zappa In New York: 40th Anniversary Edition (Zappa Records)

25 May 2019

The Frank Zappa reissue campaign hits a high-water mark with this lavish 40th anniversary presentation of the bandleader’s 1978 live album (with studio overdubs, per Zappa’s frequent habit), with recording spanning four concerts between Christmas and New Year’s Eve in 1976 at The Palladium in New York City. The audiophile-grade 3xLP reissue features a new all-analog mastering of the original album mix across two heavyweight platters, an additional LP of bonus cuts, and new liner notes from bandmembers Ruth Underwood and Ray White. The set open with the funk-pop fusion of “Titties & Beer,” allegedly inspired by Stravinsky’s “Histoire Du Soldat” and describing a dubious deal with a befuddled devil. Next is the avant garde instrumental “I Promise Not to ____ in Your Mouth.” Both songs ply Zappa’s stock in trade, marrying inventive and sophisticated performances to comically provocative (and sometimes depraved) subjects. The band then segues into the loopy and bluesy “Big Leg Emma,” revealing Zappa’s love for doo-wop vocals. Saxophonist Mike Brecker leads “Sofa,” the influential waltz-time instrumental from 1975’s One Size Fits All album. The song also features flute by Saturday Night Live bandmember Lou Marini, later of Blues Brothers fame. David Samuels’ vibraphone provides another of Zappa’s signature sounds before the song devolves into chaos. Virtuoso drummer Terry Bozzio is featured during the off-kilter “The Black Page,” accompanied by Underwood on percussion and “humanly impossible overdubs.” Zappa describes the evolution of the “The Black Page Part 2,” introducing a funkier and arguably more accessible offshoot dubbed “the easy teenage New York version.” “Did anybody dance?,” Zappa asks sarcastically upon the song’s conclusion. “Honey, Don’t You Want a Man Like Me?” sounds like it shared a bit of Afro-pop influence with Brian Eno-era Talking Heads. Following an introduction by SNL announcer Don Pardo, White’s soulful vocal tells the partially-true tale of “The Illinois Enema Bandit.” Zappa’s extended blues-based guitar solo plays against Patrick O’Hearn’s percolating bass track as the song careens toward the Bandit’s courtroom scene. O’Hearn frenetic, avant garde bass and Randy Brecker’s trumpet are featured during the side-length “The Purple Bandit.” The bonus LP includes alternate takes from the multiple performances and unused songs including “Black Napkins,” “Cruising for Burgers,” and fan-favorite “Punky’s Whips” with Bozzio’s delirious, star-smitten, Bullwinkle-styled vocal. A deluxe 5-disc CD version of Live in New York comes packaged in a manhole-shaped tin housing a book of photos and essays, and reproduction concert ticket. The set also includes a full 3 discs of material beyond the LP set, representing every composition performed during the concert series. Among numerous additional songs are worthy versions of “Dinah-Moe Humm,” “Montana,” “Find Her Finer” from 1976’s Zoot Alures, and a performance of “Peaches En Regalia” from 1969’s Hot Rats.