Frank Zappa’s Legendary 1973 “The Roxy” Performances Captured On Definitive 7 CD Boxed Set

It was a few months ago that I shared some press about the issuing of Frank Zappa’s legendary “Halloween ’77” performances and if you missed that notice somehow please click HERE to be up to speed on it. This is especially important if you consider yourself any kind of study in Frank’s contributions to music. Yesterday, the world learned that a brand new release was coming care of “The Roxy Performances” which is a series of gigs delivered back to back over a couple of nights. It is the first time ever that they have been presented in the fashion in which they happened. Take a look at the lengthy press release and song listing down below. I’ll close out with some thoughts at the end.

The Press Release:
43 years ago in December 1973, Frank Zappa played a series of legendary concerts at the famed Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. Considered a high-water mark of his career, owing to the incredible, virtuosic performances of himself and his stellar band The Mothers, the five shows – across three nights – included a private invite-only performance/soundcheck/film shoot followed by back-to-back doubleheaders. A few days later, continuing this incredibly prolific week, Zappa brought his band and camera crew to Ike Turner’s Bolic Sound in Inglewood for a filmed recording session. In typical Zappa fashion, he recorded it all.

On February 2, 2018, Zappa Records/UMe will release The Roxy Performances, a definitive seven-CD box set that collects all four public shows from December 9-10, 1973, and the December 8th film shoot/soundcheck, each presented in their entirety for the first time, along with bonus content featuring rarities from a rehearsal, unreleased tracks and highlights from the Bolic Studios recording session. This complete collection, totaling nearly eight hours, documents the Roxy shows as they happened and presents brand new 2016 mixes by Craig Parker Adams from new 96K 24 Bit transfers of the multi-track masters. The set is rounded out with a 48-page booklet that includes photos from the performances, extensive liner notes by Vaultmeister Joe Travers, essays from Zappa family friend, Australian writer Jen Jewel Brown, and American singer/songwriter Dave Alvin, who give their firsthand recollections about the shows, and a selection of archival press reviews. Those who digitally pre-order the box set will receive an instant grat download of “RDNZL.” Culled from the very first show on December 9, the track is a live version of the classic song featuring the never-before-heard 2016 mix that exemplifies the sonics of the new box set. Pre-order The Roxy Performances now:

“This is one of my favorite FZ line-ups ever. This box contains some of the best nights of music Los Angeles has ever seen with their ears at an historic venue,” says Ahmet Zappa, who co-produced the collection along with Travers, “Hold on to your hotdogs people. This box is the be-all-end-all. This is it. This is all of it. It’s time to get your rocks off for the Roxy.”

While portions of these concerts have been released in various formats over the years – first in 1974 on the album Roxy and Elsewhere, which mixed material from the shows with performances recorded in different locations months later, followed by 2014’s Roxy By Proxy, which featured Zappa’s 1987 digital mixes of tracks from various shows, and most recently the 2015 film Roxy The Movie and its accompanying soundtrack – the shows have never been released in their entirety until now.

The Roxy Performances capture Zappa and The Mothers in peak condition as they play to rowdy sold-out crowds in the intimate, just-opened venue in their hometown Los Angeles following the release of Over-Nite Sensation. The extraordinary band was one of Zappa’s best with keyboardist George Duke, bassist Tom Fowler, trombonist Bruce Fowler, tenor saxophonist and vocalist Napoleon Murphy Brock, percussionist Ruth Underwood and drummers Ralph Humphrey and Chester Thompson all flawlessly in lockstep as Zappa led them through his musically adventurous compositions filled with complicated time signatures and sudden tempo changes. As the Los Angeles Times remarked in their review, “The content of any show starring Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention is unpredictable. But the quality of the show is predictable. I have seen this satirical rock group many times and every show has been excellent. True to form, the group performed sensationally at the Roxy on Sunday night.” The (long-defunct) Los Angeles Herald-Examiner was equally impressed: “This time around Zappa, the counter-culture’s John Cage, has assembled a remarkable group of musicians. Tim Fowler on bass, his brother Bruce on trombone, Ralph Humphrey on drums, and George Duke, whose keyboard skills almost upstaged the leader himself. Percussionist Ruth Underwood kept up with the band’s frenetic pace without missing a single swat of the gong, and she was incredible.”

The material expertly performed across the five shows consisted mostly of songs from 1969 and beyond and included a dizzying array of stylistically diverse tracks from Uncle Meat, Hot Rats, Waka/Jawaka and Over-Nite Sensation. The shows also include a number of live favorites like “Village Of The Sun,” “Pygmy Twylyte,” “Cheepnis,” “Penguin In Bondage,” “Echidna’s Arf (Of You),” and “Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing.” Many of these ended up on Roxy & Elsewhere.

Jen Jewel Brown and Dave Alvin give a glimpse at what it was like to be at these historic shows in their richly detailed essays in the liner notes that accompany the recordings. Alvin reflects about meeting Zappa on the Isle of Capri in 1982 while on tour with his band The Blasters and how Zappa’s eyes lit up when he told him he saw him at the Roxy. “You were at a Roxy show?,” he beamed. He goes on to write, “The Roxy Mothers were a grand combination of high art, low art, masterful technique and razor sharp humor with a touch of wild abandon.” In Brown’s reflection, Frank and Gail’s personal friend tells about what it was like for a young girl from Australia to witness Zappa on the Sunset Strip in the ’70s and paints a vivid picture about what the shows were like. “This material shows an absolutely sleek beast at its prime,” she pens, adding, “This is a cultural record and there’s some prime Zappanalia here. Frank had put the crippling disasters of December ’71 behind him and was plunged headlong into some of the most beautiful music and zestful, open-hearted engagement with life imaginable.”

12-9-73 – Show 1
1. Sunday Show 1 Start 4:59
2. Cosmik Debris 11:33
3. “We’re Makin’ A Movie” 3:16
4. Pygmy Twylyte 9:08
5. The Idiot Bastard Son 2:19
6. Cheepnis 3:44
7. Hollywood Perverts 1:07
8. Penguin In Bondage 5:54
9. T’Mershi Duween 1:56
10. The Dog Breath Variations 1:44
11. Uncle Meat 2:29
12. RDNZL 5:14
13. Montana 7:49
14. Dupree’s Paradise 15:25
TT: 76:43

1. Dickie’s Such An Asshole 10:29
12-9-73 Show 2
2. Sunday Show 2 Start 4:08
3. Inca Roads 8:27
4. Village Of The Sun 4:19
5. Echidna’s Arf (Of You) 4:01
6. Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing? 13:22
7. Slime Intro :59
8. I’m The Slime 3:34
9. Big Swifty 9:01
TT: 58:25

1. Tango #1 Intro 3:50
2. Be-Bop Tango
(Of The Old Jazzmen’s Church) 18:12
3. Medley: King Kong, Chunga’s Revenge, Son Of Mr. Green Genes 9:46

12-10-73 – Show 1
4. Monday Show 1 Start 5:31
5. Montana 6:57
6. Dupree’s Paradise 21:26
7. Cosmik Intro 1:05
8. Cosmik Debris 8:05
TT: 74:57

1. Bondage Intro 1:52
2. Penguin In Bondage 6:54
3. T’Mershi Duween 1:52
4. The Dog Breath Variations 1:48
5. Uncle Meat 2:29
6. RDNZL 4:59
7. Audience Participation – RDNZL 3:08
8. Pygmy Twylyte 4:05
9. The Idiot Bastard Son 2:21
10. Cheepnis 4:49
11. Dickie’s Such An Asshole 10:21

12-10-73 Show 2
12. Monday Show 2 Start 5:13
13. Penguin In Bondage 6:33
14. T’Mershi Duween 1:52
15. The Dog Breath Variations 1:46
16. Uncle Meat 2:28
17. RDNZL 5:11
TT: 67:50

1. Village Of The Sun 4:05
2. Echidna’s Arf (Of You) 3:54
3. Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing? 6:56
4. Cheepnis – Percussion 4:08
5. “I Love Monster Movies” 2:10
6. Cheepnis 3:35
7. “Turn The Light Off”/Pamela’s Intro 3:59
8. Pygmy Twylyte 7:23
9. The Idiot Bastard Son 2:22
10. Tango #2 Intro 2:01
11. Be-Bop Tango
(Of The Old Jazzmen’s Church) 22:08
TT: 62:46

1. Dickie’s Such An Asshole 15:39

Bonus Section: 12-10-73 – Roxy Rehearsal
2. Big Swifty – In Rehearsal 2:50
3. Village Of The Sun 3:13
4. Farther O’Blivion – In Rehearsal 5:34
5. Pygmy Twylyte 6:17

Unreleased Track
6. That Arrogant Dick Nixon 2:19

12-12-73: Bolic Studios Recording Session
7. Kung Fu – In Session 4:50
8. Kung Fu – with guitar overdub 1:17
9. Tuning and Studio Chatter 3:38
10. Echidna’s Arf (Of You) – In Session 1:22
11. Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow – In Session 9:49
12. Nanook Rubs It – In Session 5:41
13. St. Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast – In Session 2:46
14. Father O’Blivion – In Session 2:31
15. Rollo (Be-Bop Version) 2:36
TT: 70:31

12-8-73 – Sound Check/Film Shoot
1. Saturday Show Start 2:20
2. Pygmy Twylyte/Dummy Up 20:25
3. Pygmy Twylyte – Part II 14:25
4. Echidna’s Arf (Of You) 3:42
5. Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing? 6:01
6. Orgy, Orgy 3:39
7. Penguin In Bondage 6:30
8. T’Mershi Duween 1:53
9. The Dog Breath Variations 1:45
10. Uncle Meat/Show End 4:01
TT: 64:46

*** end of transmission ***

PiercingMetal Thoughts: When I spoke about the Halloween ’77 release I don’t think that I admitted to the readership about my being quite the latecomer to the music and genius of Frank Zappa. My schooling came care of one of the guitarists I was playing with many years ago, and I had received my first album for a birthday present. The album was “You Are What You Is” and from there I went backwards into his catalog. It was a journey that I found of great interest and inspiration. Sadly I only ever saw Zappa during his late eighties forays which can be listened to on the “Broadway The Hard Way” and “Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life” releases. The legendary composer left us in 1993 but thankfully we have scores of music to keep him in our memory each and every day. I didn’t get around to purchasing the “Halloween ‘77” release since it’s a bit steep but this one might be a little more reasonable since its three less discs making up the proper release. There doesn’t appear to be a condensed version of this one which is a shame but it makes me wonder what you readers think about this being issued. Are you of the vintage to have been in attendance at any of these shows? If so do please comment in down below as that has to be interesting. I’d like to get my hands on a copy of this one. Do you?

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One thought on “Frank Zappa’s Legendary 1973 “The Roxy” Performances Captured On Definitive 7 CD Boxed Set”

  1. This is indeed the Holy Grail for many Zappa fans. As far as a condensed version goes, you have he previously released Roxy and Elsewhere and Roxy By Proxy albums. You also have the Roxy film. These seven discs contain some of the best music ever recorded. On Ruth!

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