OK here's the review of the new Frank Zappa three cd set, Hammersmith Odeon (Vaulternative Records, VR 20101):
This is yet another great release from the Zappa family trust. Excellent material (yes, one of my favorite line ups), great sound, not as "close" as Frank used to make them, but the sound is clear and the balance between the intruments and voices is very good. In some selections the vocals are a little too low though.
The sound is compressed BUT it's not overdone, like on the Buffalo album. It's more like the Philly '76 album.
Speaking of Philly '76, this can be seen as Philly's sister album, where Hammersmith is the full blown version. They both feature Bozzio/O'Hearn on drums and bass respectively, and some of the songs are the same but they have developed a bit during one year and four months. Take City Of Tiny Lites for instance, on Philly we get the early raw prototype. On Hammersmith it has turned out to be the dynamic, well orchestrated version that we know from Sheik Yerbouti. To be honest, during the following tours that song would slowly change, or degenerate, into a less enjoyable piece of music.
Hammersmith is a three cd set with many songs on it. They are culled from several shows that took place in London in early 1978. Frank complains a bit over the lame London audiences, and yes, the audience is quite the opposite from the hysterical Halloween 1977 concerts in New York that one can see in the Baby Snakes movie. Maybe the London concerts is when he got the inspiration to write the song Dead Girls Of London.
There are a couple of long awaited songs that we don't get here. I would have loved to hear Wild Love with solos and Yo Mama, but I guess we have to be satisfied with three other "monster songs" we get here, A Pound For A Brown, Little House I Used To Live In and King Kong.
But overall: If you enjoyed Zappa's Philly '76 and Buffalo albums...this one's for you!
1. Convocation/The Purple Lagoon
During the band introduction Frank explains that the show is recorded for radio broadcast in the US. Never happened I guess.
2. Dancin' Fool
I'm even a bit excited to hear this staple song, with this line up.
3. Peaches En Regalia
Nice different arrangement with an acapella part at the end.
4. The Torture Never Stops
This band made the best performance of this song. Frank's Rat Tomago sounding guitar really gets me off. Better sound than the version on You Can't Do That On Stage Vol.1 too!
5. Tryin' To Grow A Chin
6. City Of Tiny Lites
Another song that this particular band did so well! During the next tours this song started to degenerate.
8. Baby Snakes
9. Pound For A Brown
Long awaited long version with some jazzy improvisation. Also includes the Hail Caesar routine, but Patrick's voice is too low in the mix.
1. I Have Been In You
Is introduced by Frank telling the story behind the song.
Great song, good version! But it's understandable that Frank made overdubs on the Sheik Yerbouti version. Needed those massive vocal overdubs. This recording was made when the "I'm a moron and this is my wife" section did not have any vocals and was rather a solo spot for Adrian Belew.
3. Broken Heart Are For Assholes
4. Punky's Whips
Always great to hear this one, but I wonder if the London audience ever got the story of Punky.
5. Titties & Beer
6. Audience participation
7. The Black Page #2
8. Jones Crusher
9. Little House I Used To Live In
Actually an arrangement of the piano introduction from the Burnt Weeny Sandwich album. Then some cool improvisation featuring Tommy Mars on keyboards and vocals.
1. Dong Work For Yuda
Great almost acapella version with big band type groove during the choruses.
2. Bobby Brown
Frank tells the audience what inspired him to write the song, the story about "the three assholes".
Previously released as an instrumental on Ship Arriwing Too Late album. Here we get the original version with vocals (!) by Tommy Mars. Great, but for hardcore fans and completists only.
4. Terry Firma
Mr. Bozzio whips it out.
5. Disco Boy
6. King Kong
One of the greatest versions of this song. This is a tight ensemble!
7. Watermelon In Easter Hay. Prequel.
An early version of the instrumental that would later find it's form on Joe's Garage. Fast tempo. Sounds as if Frank had not decided yet what to do with this musical pattern. Starts off in a surprisingly romantic mood.
8. Dinah-Moe Humm
9. Camarillo Brillo
10. Muffin Man
11. Black Napkins
12. San Ber'dino
The end of the concert is made up of the standard encores that the band used to play at the time. Probably a great set of "hits" if you were there 1978, but today's Zappa fan has heard them so many times on different releases.
//Siggy, Radio Dupree