Frank Zappa & The Mothers: Roxy & Elsewhere

By Marv Hohman

DownBeat, 15 January 1975


ROXY AND ELSEWHERE – DiscReet 2 DS 2202: Penguin In Bondage; Pygmy Twylyte; Dummy Up; Village Of The Sun; Echidna's Arf (Of You); Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?; Cheepnis; Son Of Orange County; More Trouble Every Day; Be-Bop Tango (Of The Old Jazzmen's Church).

Personnel: Zappa, lead guitar, vocals; Napoleon Murphy Brock, lead vocals, tenor sax, flute; George Duke, keyboards, synthesizer, vocals; Tom Fowler, bass; Ruth Underwood, percussion; Don Preston, synthesizer; Bruce Fowler, trombone; Walt Fowler, trumpet; Jeff Simmons, rhythm guitar, vocals; Ralph Humphrey, Chester Thompson, drums.

Rating: ★★★½

The latest Zappaplatter finds der Frank basically uncontaminated by his tasteless encounter with the yellow snow. Vulgarity has at last catapulted Zappa onto the singles charts and for all those who were titillated by the excrescences of Apostrophe, the new session will come as another abnormality. The majority of the tracks were recorded at Los Angeles’ Roxy in December of ’73, with other portions culled from Chicago and Pennsylvania dates.

In preparation for the debauch, Zappa delivers a spoken monologue (the four Preambles) at the start of each side. Penguin In Bondage is a hunk of latex paraphernalia parlance featuring Zappa on distorto-lead and lecher-songspiel. Napoleon Brock does the soul-drenched vocal on Pygmy Twylyte, a cut extolling the agony/ecstasy of a cat “hurlin’ for sleep in the Quaalude midnite” of downtown L.A.

Village Of The Sun, one of the better Mother newies, has Ruth Underwood tickling away on vibes with Frank adding his porous guitar figures. The 10-minute instrumental Don't You Ever Wash That Thing? showcases Fowler, Ruth, Duke, the drummers, and F. Z. in that order, bouncing over a typically schizoid terrain.

A rap about monster movies (It Conquered The World, in particular) and tawdry set creations leads into Cheepnis, a theatrical farce about a creature named Frunobulax who is sort of a mutant cousin to Billy The Mountain. The closest thing to a ballad is Son Of Orange County (a hymn to San Clemente), its nightclubbish strains meshing with the refrain, “I can’t believe you are such/A fool.” A lengthy Zappa solo segues into More Trouble Every Day, an updated version of Freak Out’s paranoid masterpiece. Somehow it doesn’t sound the least bit antiquated, and that’s really scary.

Side four sports an extravaganza, a 15-minute neo-ballet called Be-Bop Tango. Beginning with an overdose of cowbell, then moving into a broad Fowler trombone solo, the piece finds Zappa declaring it is “sort of like jazz” and that “jazz is not dead, it just smells funny.” Duke delivers some righteous scat singing as Zappa calls for members of the audience to get up on stage and dance to George’s efforts. The result is bedlam, with Brenda, “a professional harlot from Edwards Air Force Base”, winding up the star attraction. This St. Vitus Twitch brings things to a spastic conclusion.

It goes without saying that the music is oftentimes subservient to the bizarre spectacle. But then that’s a trademark of the Mothers and doesn’t raw genius compensate for eccentric excessiveness? Doesn’t it???

Read by OCR software. If you spot errors, let me know afka (at)