"Touring makes you crazy," Frank Zappa says, explaining that the idea for this film came to him while the Mothers of Invention were touring. The story, interspersed with performances by the Mothers and the Royal Symphony Orchestra, is a tale of life on the road. The band members' main concerns are the search for groupies and the desire to get paid.
The soundtrack to Frank Zappa's strange early-'70s film 200 Motels was always doomed to be a peripheral entry in his discography. The movie's story was not easy to follow, and neither is the record (not that plot was ever a big focus of the production). It's typically wacky Zappa of the era, with unpredictable sharp turns between crunchy rock bombast, orchestration, and jazz/classical influences, as well as interjections of wacky spoken dialogue. Those who like his late-'60s/early-'70s work – not as song-oriented as his first albums, in other words, but not as "serious" or as silly as his later records – will probably like this fine, although it's not up to the level of Uncle Meat.
This live record was recorded with the Flo & Eddie incarnation of the ever-changing Mothers line-up. The vocal duo, which had considerable chart success as the Turtles, parodied their success as "rock stars" here, and Zappa utilized their soul and doo-wop-style vocals for maximum comedic effect. The set works as a comedy record as much as anything else. They perform their huge hit "Happy Together," but it's done as a goof. Zappa and Flo & Eddie talk over the backbeat like standup comics.
Official Release #51. While most of the other volumes in the You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore series would be compiled around loose themes (whether topical or historical), this first volume contained a little of everything for everyone. The material spans most of Frank Zappa's career, from 1969 live recordings by the original Mothers of Invention (the medley "Let's Make the Water Turn Black/Harry, You're a Beast/The Orange County Lumber Truck" constitutes a highlight) up to the 1984 tour, with about every incarnation of his group in-between.
Official Release #50. Released in 1988, Guitar may be the most important and ironically one of the least-known entries in Frank Zappa's voluminous discography – which spans over seven-dozen LPs as of this writing. His proficiencies as a composer and instrumentalist have long been lauded. However, anthologies of this nature provide an outlet for the remarkable breadth and depth of Zappa's manual dexterity and improvisational scope, which can now be enjoyed on a myriad of levels. The casual enthusiast can revel in the seemingly endless personas and sounds summoned from the soloist and band alike.
Released in October 1984, Them or Us is Frank Zappa's last studio rock album (unless one counts Thing-Fish). It contains a little of everything for everyone, but most of all it has that cold and dry early-'80s feel that made this and other albums like The Man From Utopia and Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention sound dated pretty quickly. The record begins and ends with covers. "The Closer You Are" is one of those '50s R&B tunes the man loved so much.
Zappa and Beefheart were birds of a feather. Though each was fiercely individualistic, idiosyncratic and uncompromising, they both followed their own path of sophisticated wierdness so far that each was probably the only artist the other could relate to in terms of peerage. The pair had collaborated here and there many times, but BONGO FURY is their only album-length effort. Recorded at a 1975 Austin concert, this is essentially a Zappa program, with Beefheart sitting in (Zappa's monstrously talented mid-'70s band featuring Terry Bozzio and George Duke provides accompaniment).
Burnt Weeny Sandwich is an album by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, released in 1970. The album was essentially a 'posthumous' Mothers release having been released after Frank Zappa dissolved the band. Presumably a favorite musician of Zappa's, the versatile Ian Underwood's contributions are significant on this album. The album, like its counterpart Weasels Ripped My Flesh, comprises tracks from the Mothers vault that were not previously released.
Official Release #52. In his contract with Ryko, Frank Zappa had to put together 12 CDs worth of live material for the series You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore. The fact that he decided to devote two of them (all of Vol. 2) to a Helsinki concert from 1974 illustrates how good and representative he thought it was – and he was right. This two-CD set features the 1973-1974 band (Napoleon Murphy Brock, George Duke, Ruth Underwood, Tom Fowler, Chester Thompson) near the end of their tour, in a concert in faraway Finland on September 22, 1974 (there were actually two concerts performed that day and, as usual, Zappa edited the best moments together).