Muffin Man Goes To College (Godfather Records GR 577/578)
Alumni Hall, Providence College, Providence, RI – April 26th, 1975
Disc 1 (54:23): Improvisation, Camillarillo Brillo, Muffin Man, Stinkfoot, I’m Not Satisfied, Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy, Velvet Sunrise, A Pound For A Brown, Why Doesn’t Someone give Him A Pepsi? (AKA The Torture Never Stops)
Disc 2 (66:44): Montana, improvisations (incl. Sam With The Showing Scalp Flat Top), Penguin In Bondage, Poofter’s Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead, Echidna’s Arf (Of You), drums, Advance Romance, Willie The Pimp
Of all the Frank Zappa tours, the spring of 1975 is the most unusual and frustrating. The performances could range from absolutely exhilarating to rather drab with slopping renditions of composed “core” pieces like “Advance Romance” and “Willie The Pimp” played in the midst of brilliant improvisations by both Zappa and Captain Beefheart and the other musicians in the band.
Add to this the paucity of really good recordings, and the frustration is obvious. Zappa’s April 26th show in Providence had never circulated before Lampinski’s tape surfaced recently. Not only is this arguably the best sounding show from the tour, it’s a tight and enjoyable performance. There are two small tape flips in the show, at 8:26 in “A Pound For A Brown” and at 11:26 in “Penguin In Bondage.”
It is an amazing sounding document which captures the chaotic, eclectic turns in the set starting off with an atonal cacophony of noise in the beginning improvisation. Zappa comes on stage at about a minute and a half in, and beginnings playing at about five minutes, starting the band off into “Carmillarillo Brillo.” It is performed as in other tours with the first half at normal tempo and the second slowed down. In this tour the second half is slower than usual.
“Muffin Man” is played as an instrumental but contains Zappa’s band introduction and introduction to “a song we usually start off the show with,” “Stinkfoot.” In the song’s narrative he takes us out to the rectory and gives this a heavy Catholic overtone and leads into a straightforward “I’m Not Satisfied” from the Freak Out LP.
“Pound For A Brown” is the big “monster song” of the tour. Stretching close to ten minutes, Fowler and Duke take solos before Zappa, all in a jazz/funk vein. It segues right into the long “Why Doesn’t Someone give Him A Pepsi? (AKA The Torture Never Stops).” Brock and Captain Beefheart share non-sequitor lyrics. It is either an homage or parody of Chicago urban blues in general and Howlin’ Wolf in particular. The riff sounds close to “Smokestack Lightening” and even the delivery of the vocals sounds like Wolf’s.
The long improvisations after “Montana” begin with Zappa point out Brock who plays the little cymbal and pretends to cry when hitting himself. During the improv they play bits of “Chariot” and “Moon Trek.” Zappa preaches to the audience about coolness (“boola boola, rah rah”) before returning them to “Captain Reportcard” and the “Mothers Of Invention poetry reading hour.” The strangeness continues with “Sam With The Showing Scalp Flat Top” before the segway into “Penguin In Bondage.”
“Poofter’s Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead” speaks about the cynicism of marketing the bicentennial celebrations in the following year. The closing section of “Echidna’s Arf” segues into a drum solo and the final song of the set “Advance Romance.” Lasting fifteen minutes, the solo section is lengthy with Denny and Donnie soling on slide and harmonica and Zappa anchoring the whole thing. “Just like a rock and roll concert” Zappa says before they rip into a wild “Willie The Pimp” with more blues jams, Denny’s slide guitar, and Beefheart’s Howlin’ Wolf vocals.
Muffin Man Goes To College is the only silver pressing of this show and a strong release for Zappa collectors. With Lampinski recordings of the October 24th, 1975 and October 27th, 1977 shows now in circulation, hopefully Godfather will enshrine them in beautifully packaged, definitive mastered editions.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)