You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 3

By John Diliberto

Audio, March 1990

You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 3: Frank Zappa
Rykodisc 10085 and 10086, two CDs;
ADD or DDD; 1:06:33 and 1:08:36.
Sound: B- Performance: C

You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 3 continues to chronicle the odd appeal of Frank Zappa, who seems perennially caught between the roles of social satirist and composer/ improviser. Culling from live recordings, in this case from 1971 through 1984, Zappa freely mixes 'n' matches, combining three or four different performances in any given piece, and a couple of different bands as well.

Since Zappa's scathing 1960s barbs, We're Only in It for the Money, Absolutely Free, and Freak Out, his humor has continually reveled in locker-room humor for a mostly male audience. It's all sung in a pseudo doowop style that's tiresome in its monotonous harmonies.

But as a longtime, devoted Zappaphile friend of mine insists: Sure the humor is juvenile, but listen to the music, the odd meters and the solos. And that's all true. Zappa takes a haunting, slow-motion, note-bending solo on "Zoot Allures" that makes you realize he's got other emotions besides rage and juvenile sarcasm. These moods are very much in evidence on "King Kong." Here Zappa combines two different bands, from 1971 and 1982, at four different locations. It's a tour de force of sudden tempo shifts that moves through reggae, free jazz, and dirty blues. Zappa's solos are vicious excursions with uncanny structure and form, the kind of solos that make people say, "Shut up and play yer guitar." "King Kong," however, also points to the slick professionalism of Zappa's 1980s groups, compared to the more open, anarchic spirit of his earlier ensembles.

But, of course, there remain lines like "My car is fast, my teeth are shiny, tell all the girls they can kiss my hiney," from "Bobby Brown Goes Down." So, is this the guy we want testifying before Congress against censorship in rock? Definitely! Zappa will be the first and last to defend our right to not listen.

Given the various formats of this record and the rampant intersplicing of performances, Zappa maintains an audio integrity throughout, with good dynamic range, stereo separation, and effects. He also allows quite a few amplifier buzzes and hums, ín the interest of history.

People probably think the title means you can't bring this kind of outrage and off-color farce to the stage anymore. But in these days of computer-programmed pop and freeze-dried performances tied more to lighting effects and smoke bombs than to music, Zappa is really recalling when performances were spontaneous and live.