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Frank Zappa – Hitherto Unknown (Godfather Records GR 818/819)

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Gr818

Hitherto Unknown
(Godfather Records GR 818/819)

Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ – October 13th, 1978 (early show)

Disc 1 (60:16):  Crowd noise and knick knack intro., Deathless Horsie, Introduction, Dancin’ Fool, Easy Meat, Honey Don’t You Want A Man Like Me?, Keep It Greasey, Village Of The Sun, The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing, City Of Tiny Lights, A Pound For A Brown

Disc 2 (51:33):  Bobby Brown, Conehead, Flakes, Magic Fingers, Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow medley, audience, Strictly Genteel, Dinah-Moe Humm

Frank Zappa spent almost two weeks in and around the metropolitan New York area in the middle of October, 1978.  Scheduled to be both host and musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” on October 21st, he spent the week in rehearsals and gigging.  Eight days before his television appearance he played two shows at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, New Jersey.  

Hitherto Unknokwn features the first silver pressing of the video soundtrack of the early show.  Sourced from the Wolfgang Vault, it is an excellent sounding, well balanced, enjoyable recording of a hot show. There are two small gaps in the tape found in “A Pound For A Brown” and “Bobby Brown” which are filled with a poor sounding audience recording.

The evening show is famous for Zappa’s guitar improvisation  but the early show hasn’t circulated much because of the poor sound on the audience tape.  With this new recording it’s clear that he was just as inspired in the early show that night in Passaic.  The show begins with Zappa’s slow and expressionistic soloing on “Deathless Horsie,” a song that wouldn’t be releases for several years until it appeared on Shut Up ‘n Play Yer Guitar Some More.  

He complains about the small stage but promises to give a good show “despite the munchkinified surroundings” and introduces the band before launching into “Dancin’ Fool.”  Always a critic of social and popular movements, he is taking full aim at the disco culture at it’s height.  The disco beat and scathing  lyrics cut deep, as do the inane “pick up” lines at the song’s end.  The song’s seamless segue into “Easy Meat” is scathing as is the guitar solo.  

“Village Of The Sun” is one of the tour’s “monster songs” where everyone it seems takes a solo at one time or another.  Ike sings improvised lyrics before the solo section begins.  First is Pete on the Hammond organ.  Tommy Mars follows with a strange synthesizer and Arthur on the bass, playing both picked and slap bass and starts to duet with the Hammond.  

It segues seamlessly into “The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing,” another popular song and was played, along with “Dancin’ Fool,” on television the following week.

“City Of Tiny Lights” is very good as is the ten minute “Pound For A Brown.”  The solos start off great.  It morphs into a free-form jazz jam on electric piano and great percussion by Vinnie.  Zappa ends this and lets Peter play alone for a bit on moog and piano.  Finally the entire band comes in for the song’s completion.

Zappa tries to get audience participation on “Conehead,” urging everyone to chant “Remulak” (the name of the Conehead’s planet in the “Saturday Night Live” skit) in rhythm.  He of course will act in the second to last ever Conehead skit on the show in the following week.  The show peters out a bit in the climax with the “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow” medley.  

The first encore is a non-orchestral arrangement of “Strictly  Genteel” with the melody carried on synthesizer.  The finale is “Dinah Mo-Hum.”  Zappa insists on audience participation and tries to coerce a fan wearing a Rolling Stones T shirt into joining in.  He threatens to end the show if he doesn’t perform and, true to his word, ends the show abruptly.  It’s a disappointing end to an excellent show.

Hitherto Unknown is packaged in the tri-fold gatefold sleeve with several pictures from the show along with great liner notes explaining the show’s significance.  It’s another very strong Zappa release by the label worth having.  

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