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Frank Zappa – Story Of Michael Kenyon (Guitar Master GM – 006/007)

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Story Of Michael Kenyon (Guitar Master GM – 006/007)

Barcelona, Spain 17 May 1988

Disc 1 [75:02]:  01. The Black Page 02. Packard Goose Medley 03. Sharleena 04. Bamboozled By Love 05. Black Napkins 06. When The Lie’s So Big 07. Planet Of The Baritone Women 08. Any Kind Of Pain 09. Jesus Thinks You’re A Jerk 10. Sofa 11. Find Her Finer 12. Big Swifty 13. I Ain’t Got No Heart 14. Love Of My Life

Disc 2 [54:36]:  01. The Torture Never Stops 02. Lonesome Cowboy Burt 03. The Torture Solo II 04. Audience Noise 1 05. Bolero 06. Watermelon In Easter Hay 07. Whipping Post 08. I’m The Walrus 09. Illinois Enema Bandit 10. Audience Noise II 11. Strictly Genteel

One fan writes: “I remember seeing ads for Frank Zappa’s stop in Columbus in March 1988. I was already a fan at this point, but I was only 13 and didn’t know many people who liked this sort of music, and I was then under the Rolling Stone – influenced delusion that the only “good” Zappa was the early Mothers’ albums. So I missed out on what turned out to be Zappa’s last tour”.

Zappa’s 1988 The easy Way Tour began in Albany on 2-2-88 and culminated on 6-9-88 in Genoa. “Many fans consider this to be FZ’s best tour ever, the presence of horns, percussion and “stunt guitar” (not to mention the infamous synclavier) gave the band a timbral variety lacking in the synth-dominated ’84 tour, and the proliferation of “secret words” made each show unique”. His 5-17-88 Barcelona show is presented as an excellent soundboard recording.

The Frank Zappa 1988 Tour Project includes the following review of the May 17, 1988 Barcelona concert: “This is one of the most well-known 1988 shows, not because it’s one of the best, but because it was broadcast on TV, and therefore widely circulated on video. Unfortunately, this is not one of the better May shows: not bad, but uneven – especially FZ’s guitar playing. But the show reaches a new dimension during the latter part when the secret word usage gets started, which inspires both FZ and the rest of the band.

The show starts off with the routine opening “Black Page’/”Packard Goose”, followed by a great “Sharleena”. FZ finds inspiration for a long, good solo, with brilliant support from Thunes (bass/mini-moog). “Bamboozled By Love” features an intense – as always, but not too interesting, solo.

Walt Fowler (trumpet/flugelhorn/synclavier) once again proves his excellence in melodic playing in his “Black Napkins” flugelhorn (would never have told if it wasn’t a video solo). FZ’s harsh guitar sound (not a good choice here, IMO) brings a sharp contrast, and sounds rather out of place. We get a near-complete Republican Retrospective Medley, quite unusual for the South-European part of the tour. “Any Kind Of Pain” is the inevitable highlight with its solo, this time featuring some nice, creative use of the ‘ol whammy bar, but it seems FZ runs out of inspiration quickly, and the solo stays short.

One of the biggest treats of this video is to see a Monster song (“Big Swifty”) performed, trying to detect FZ’s hand cues. Bruce Fowler (trombone) goes first, then a minute of full-band improvisations. This is where Scott Thunes takes over the show – his playing here, and in the following drums/bass/synclavier/synth percussion jam, is nothing short of masterful. Also, during Bobby’s routine piano solo, the accompaniment is funnier to listen to, at least until Mr. Martin, out of nowhere, starts singing “Like is in the air” (to a melody similar to “Strangers In The Night’), to which FZ responds with some lines in Spanish and Ike Willis (rhythm guitar/vocals) sings “I’ll never fall in love again”. FZ dedicates this portion to Iberia Airlines – probably something they heard on a flight (hope Mike’s diaries will clarify this). To close tonight’s Monster, FZ kicks off a loop – a great one, and it sounds as if it’s going to be a great jam. But FZ’s solo is weird, sounds as if he plays in a different key, or in no key at all. Or is it just me who don’t get it?

But it’s not until “The Torture Never Stops” medley that things start to happen. FZ has been teasing with the secret word “Raffle” earlier in the show, but now, it takes over the show. The song is full of “raffle” and “hookers”, and the singers are desperately – and successfully – trying to crack each other up, rather than focusing on the song. Quite amusing nevertheless, and FZ’s solo is very focused, displaying a variety of unique techniques and, for once, not going on too long.

The first encore number, “Bolero”, is beautiful, and so is “Watermelon” – here played as a composition rather than a solo vehicle (the solo is just about 1 minute), but as such (composition), it has never been more beautiful than in this arrangement.

The second encores are of the traditional kind: “Whipping Post”, “I Am The Walrus” and “Illinois Enema Bandit”. Bobby sings the old Allman Brothers Band song very convincing tonight (otherwise, I always thought he did it better on earlier tours), and the solo is quite good. Not much blues, but very intense, and again it’s interesting to study FZ’s techniques. Michael Kenyon has been substituted by Marqueson (sound engineer, main character of the raffle story), and IEB becomes (as so many times before) an orgy of secret words abuse. Again, FZ delivers an above average solo. The show closes with “Strictly Genteel” (which was left off the broadcast, I think).”

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If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

Frank Zappa - Story Of Michael Kenyon (Guitar Master GM - 006/007), 2.4 out of 5 based on 4 ratings

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