Thursday, October 29, 2020

Album Review: Frank Zappa - Halloween '81

Frank Zappa
Halloween 81 - Live @ The Palladium 
*** out of *****

(This is a review of the single disk highlights disk, you can buy the full 6 CD box set here)

Frank Zappa on Halloween at the Palladium was iconic, even the Zappa family estate thinks so since this is the 3rd box set released following Halloween '77 and Halloween '73. Sure it is overkill and the lesser of the three box sets, but like The Grateful Dead, Frank was always evolving and has a rabid fan base who will purchase any and everything the artist ever created. 

For this run of shows the band supporting Frank was as whip-crack tight as always with Ray White on guitar, Ed Mann on percussion, Tommy Mars on keys, Steve Vai on guitar,  Scott Thunes on bass, Chad Wackerman on drums and Robert Martin on keyboards. This is the band who would record Ship To Late to Save A Drowning Witch and continue through the early 80's with Zappa before his bigger band outings later in the decade. 

Some of the bright spots from this stand alone highlights disk are the quick, bright and excellently played "Montana" that moves into the chugging "Easy Meat" which incorporates a more 80's synth vibe while remaining musically dexterous.  

"Sinister Footwear II" is more of the same high level musicianship and changes before devolving into the heavy metal stomps of "Stevie's Spanking" which showcased Vai's guitar technique. "Goblin Girl" combines Zappa humor (and love of kazoos) with the musically adventurous "The Black Page #2" ending the constructed set. The encore has the keyboard driven "Strictly Gentile" which is an album highlight before a fun requested "Whipping Post" cover which finds Ray White singing up a storm.   

Less successful are a tame version of "I'm the Slime", a rote"Joe's Garage" and a drawn out silly "The Torture Never Stops" to end the album. Unfortunately this would be Zappa's last stand at his beloved Palladium as the venue would close before he played Halloween again for the final time in 1984, this time at the Felt Forum. 

Every fan has their favorite era of Zappa's and ours is the mid to late 70's, while the 80's were OK for the zany virtuoso, things moved towards amped up cheesy synths/keyboard sounds and a less engaged all around style from the front man. 

This album takes highlights from the huge box set and flows seamlessly as it it was a show in itself and while fans will buy the full six CD sets, newcomers should look to other releases like Live in New York (RtBE's favorite Zappa) or Roxy and Elsewhere if looking for an intro into the strange world of live Zappa. 
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below:

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