Sound — 10
This is Zappa's finest live album that he ever released. The band is tighter than you could ever imagine and they can really wail on their instruments, all of them. This album contains two different lineups. The Roxy band is Frank Zappa (guitar, vocals), Napoleon Murphy Brock (tenor sax, flute, vocals), George Duke (keyboards, vocals), Bruce Fowler (trombone), Tom Fowler (bass), Ralph Humphrey (drums), Jeff Simmons (rhythm guitar, vocals), Chester Thompson (drums), and Ruth Underwood (percussion.) The Elsewhere band includes Zappa, Brock, Duke, both Fowlers, Don Preston (synthesizer), Simmons, and Thompson. Every musician is incredibly talented, and these two groups are arguably the most talented of Zappa's multiple backing bands. Some people may dispprove of the overdubs Zappa added to this in the studio, but in reality, they really complete the sound of the album.
Lyrics — 10
The lyrics on this album deal with, well I suppose not a lot of different topics, mainly sex really. 01. "Penguin in Bondage": I think the title speaks for itself. However, the lyrics, though somewhat repetative, are actually not bad, and it's one of few where Zappa is the main singer of the song. While he does more talking than singing in it, the guitar solo is very well done, like a fine steak. 02. "Pygmy Twylyte": this is one of the best versions of the song, which deals with drugs mainly, using some slang from the '70s. Musically, this is a great track. 03. "Dummy Up": this is a more than likely improvised track, a speaking piece really. This is similar to "Room Service" on The Dub Room Special. The tale told here is Jeff Simmons as an evil drug pusher trying to corrupt Napoleon Murphy Brock. The lesson learned? You get absolutely nothing with a college degree. 04. "Village of the Sun": a song about a town where Zappa had a gig, it is a track with fantastic vocals by Napoleon Murphy Brock. The guitar playing is great, although there is no actual solo in it, in fact, all of the playing is great. It is an ideal Zappa song, while not overtly funny, it is just a song that's easy to listen to, a smooth sound. 05. "Echidna's Arf (Of You)": an instrumental song, that goes through some great time signature changes. 06. "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?": another instrumenal track that showcases the very talented Ruth Underwood on percussion. The only words in the track are Zappa telling everybody to pay attention to Ruth, who had been worrying about what she could do to impress everybody. 07. "Cheepnis": this is by far the best song on this album, and maybe one of Zappa's best songs overall. A rip on '50s monster movies, the lyrics describe everything from strings on a giant spider to cardboard rocks. It is a great song, with great style changes, and great playing from all the members of the band. The overdubs on this song really add the right amount of atmosphere. 08. "Son of Orange County": a reworking of sorts of "Orange County Lumber Truck" from Weasels Riped My Flesh, the lyrics deal with Nixon, though not in as great a way that "Dickie's Such an Asshole" from You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Volume 3. However, the song is still a great work from Zappa. 09. "More Trouble Every Day": one of the best versions of the song, aside from the studio version from Freak Out!, this is shortened lyrically, and features a nice solo near the end of it. The lyrics deal with the Watts riots, Zappa wrote them as he watched them happen. 10. Be-Bop Tango (of the Old Jazzmen's Church"): there may not be any real written lyrics to this track, maybe the ones George Duke sings at the end of it. It's mostly something Zappa used to get audience members to come up and dance. Musically though, it's a fantastic 16 minute closer.
Overall Impression — 10
This album is another that would be great for a listener who's new to Zappa's music, it doesn't include anything too strange or out there (in a sexual sense). The music is great, the singing is great, nothing bad about this album at all. This is one of the few albums I can listen to all the way through at any point in the day.