Frank Zappa – Vienna Is Calling (Guitar Master GM-020/021)

Vienna Is Calling (Guitar Master GM-020/021)

Konzerthaus, Vienna, Austria – December 12th, 1970

Disc 1 (67:43):  banter / tuning, Paladin Routine, Call Any Vegetable, Easy Meat, Penis Dimension, Chunga’s Revenge, The Sanzini Bros, A Pound For A Brown

Disc 2 (59:41):  Sleeping In A Jar, Porko The Magnificent (incl. The Man I Love, There’s No Business Like Show Business, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head, I Can’t Give You Anything But Love), Sharleena, Little House I Used To Live In, Mud Shark, Holiday In Berlin, Cruising For Burgers, The Air, King Kong, Who Are The Brain Police?

Franz Zappa output was extremely prolific in 1970.  Two Mothers Of Invention archive releases, Burnt Weeney Sandwich and Weasels Ripped My Flesh preceded his third solo album Chunga’s Revenge and the formation of the Mothers with Flo & Eddie of the Turtles.  He toured the US in the springtime and played in various festivals including Bath on June 26th. 

The end of the year was occupied with a long us tour followed by a short trip to Europe in December to close the year.  Vienna is one of the last (Munich, Paris and Brussels would follow).  Vienna Is Calling on Guitar Master utilizes a fair to good recording of the performance.  It is distant from the stage and suffers from a small amount of distortion.  There are tape flips after “Chunga’s Revenge” and “King Kong” with no music missing.

Zappa’s aesthetic sensibilities were quite schizophrenic at this point (although it could be argued that was always true)  The concert rides upon two, almost mutually exclusive paths of new material between a rock / jazz hybrid with virtuoso improvisation and humorous conceptual pieces serving as social commentary starting with the opening “Paladin Routine” including “Have Gun Will Travel” which is played for the final time.

“Call Any Vegetable” includes lyrics to the Mothers Of Invention track “Soft-Cell Conclusion.”  

After “Easy Meat” Zappa complains about the sound system and introduces “Penis Dimension” as being from 200 Motels.  It is more than twice the length of the released recordings and includes interludes of dick jokes and political references.  The sound quality makes it hard to really follow the jokes, however, but the audience laugh along.  “Penis Dimension” also includes the “Duodenum” theme from Lumpy Gravy.

The new song “Chunga’s Revenge” is a tour-de-force of jazz / progressive rock improvisation.  Lasting over twenty minutes, Ian Underwood is given a long solo on the alto saxophone in the middle between the bombastic, heavy rock riffs, which sounds much like the Islands-era King Crimson.  Zappa himself follows with a lyrical, melodic guitar solo over a walking bass-line. 

The second half of the show is much more silly with the long “Porko The Magnificent” magic routine.  Zappa exhorts the audience to bring their goovy vibes to help Ferdinand Fitzgerald and the sharp swords.  “You WILL be quiet” Zappa says afterwards, responding to the audience’s loud, rhythmic clapping.  

“Little House I Used To Live In” is introduced as “The Duke” and is an early stab at the concept that would be later elaborated, recorded and released the following year on Fillmore East – June 1971.  The song has a reference to “Mud Shark,” and “Holiday In Berlin” includes the “Would You Like A Snack?” lyrics and the post-solo theme from “Inca Roads.”  A fifteen jam in “King Kong,” which also includes “Igor’s Boogie,” closes the show with “Who Are The Brain Police?” the encore.

Vienna Is Calling is the first silver pressed title with this show.  It’s an interesting choice.  The show is very good but the sound quality isn’t the best but it is listenable.  The tape has been speed corrected over older copies in circulation.  The artwork uses the comic book theme in keeping with the show’s aesthetics.  Overall this is a good production on Guitar Master.   

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