Frank Zappa and The Mothers, Mannfred Mann's Earth Band. Public Hall. December 3

By Mark Kmetzko

Scene, 5 December 1974

Public Hall
Dec. 3

Since the last time I saw the group (about a year and a half ago,) Manfred Mann and company have grown up considerably. At that time they were an entertaining act, but little more than that. The edition of the band we saw Tuesday, however, showed a group far more disciplined and willing to experiment.

The quartet did an hour set comprised of things from their past few albums, one lengthy new number and an encore of “Mighty Quinn” that sounded like previous versions of the song for only the first 16 bars or so. That number, like most of the set, featured fine soloing by both keyboardist Mann and guitarist Mick Rogers. The work of the two was exceptional, but Rogers edged out his teammate with some particularly stunning leads and fills. He is a guitarist to be on the watch for.

It wasn’t that Zappa wasn’t good: simply that he paled in comparison to Mann and company. The sets of the two bands were similar in that both found a nice blend of the planned and the improvised, but Zappa’s lacked direction.

Zappa and his Mothers also devoted a bit too much time to soloing, mainly in the case of leader/guitarist Zappa himself. His three or four solos in the 1 3/4-hour set were way too long, and near the end of the show they were just plain boring. In a way, it’s too bad, because Zappa, like Rogers, is a superb guitarist. At times, though, what Zappa was doing was only technically pleasing. Musically, it was nothing.

The band covered mostly older material, due to the substitution of a new bass player, but the numbers pulled off well, and with the famous Zappa feel for comedy. These would have been better, though, had not the acoustics of Public Hall mangled most of Zappa’s lyrics. It was hard enough to make out the words if you knew them ahead of time: I can imagine how lost someone not familiar with the material would have been.