Call Any Vegetable – 1970 versus 2006

One of the fantastic advantages of the advent of current technologies such as YouTube and the Internet, is it allows one to compare and contrast particular songs – in this case, Frank Zappa‘s “Call Any Vegetable” – with particular groups and bands of completely different eras: FZ‘s 2nd MOI band’s vaudeville-style with that of Dweezil’s Zappa Plays Zappa. Merely just a cover? Or an improvement on the original? Zappa Plays Zappa‘s clip is from their DVD/CD released in 2006 of two shows filmed and recorded in Portland, OR and Seattle, WA, respectively. While the two Vaudeville Mothers clips (the complete audio) and the edited version, both from the “Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA, 6 Nov 1970″ show. Personally, I’ll always have a bias toward the earlier versions. Still, Napoleon Murphy Brock does one hell of a rendition.



31 Responses to “Call Any Vegetable – 1970 versus 2006”

  1. Nick says:

    2006 was winning, until Dweezil spoke….

  2. Thinman says:

    The 2006 version is somehow lifeless.

  3. Matt says:

    The 1970 version destroys the 2006 rendition. I agree with Thinman. ZPZ plays the right notes, but in a robotic fashion with little zest and no eyebrows (except for NMB). It’s like a musical revue at Branson MO: plastic.

  4. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Matt:

    The 1970 version destroys the 2006 rendition. I agree with Thinman. ZPZ plays the right notes, but in a robotic fashion with little zest and no eyebrows (except for NMB). It’s like a musical revue at Branson MO: plastic.

    My only real criticism of the 2006 rendition lies in the length and pizzazz of Dweezil’s solo between 3:57 and 4:32 (a mere 35 seconds) as compared to FZ’s solo in the 1970 rendition between 3:47 and 7:32 (a robust 3 minutes, 45 seconds). It’s at this point Dweezil loses whatever intensity the song might have built up. This is unfortunate, because DZ has the chops to pull these solos off, as the following two clips – “Yo Mama” and “Ship Ahoy” from their Palladium Ballroom, Dallas, Texas, November 14th, 2007 show – respectively reveal.

  5. KnirpsForMoisture says:

    Got to be the early version for me – always thought this track was one of the highlights of “Just Another Band From LA”

    However, I do like the combined vocals of Napoleon Murphy Brock and Scheila Gonzalez in the ZPZ version – powerful stuff.

  6. Mezcalhead says:

    What movie or documentary does the first clip come from? Looks interesting….wonder if that entire show was filmed??

  7. exile says:

    The 2006 version lacks “eyebrows” – which is a pretty fundamental in FZ’s music.

    Concerning eyebrows and ZPZ – my god they sound like some lounge band going through the motions. Mere technical skill and rote learning doesn’t cut it.

  8. Feck's Rubber Girl says:

    It’s not that there is anything outwardly wrong with any of the Vaudeville Performances but from my perspective the clarity and dynamics of the ZPZ performances in this case is one of which are of a higher ambient domain of significant proportions of an extreme.

    The orchestral instrumentation of the ZPZ recording has so much more life where they had followed what the composer left as a performance model of a given arrangement of a given song. The original recordings will always be a model of the composers landscape. Some of the deep intricacies of some compositions are nearly impossible to replicate. ZPZ do not have a 100% cloning agenda but they do give a very high level or orchestral model approach to a basic arrangement and this song is one such example of just how good a set of talented musicians can sound when following FZs basic compositional and arrangement structure. Their shows are generally between 2 1/2 and 3 hours so there is so much to do these critical analysis on. As they move the DZPZ Project forward doing more an more tours and releasing more and more and more live projects we as fans will continue to hear how a composer left his work where a set of musicians follow the model of his intent.

    In conclusion when I put on JABFLA or LATF there is an extreme level of wanting to hear those albums sound better. My blow up doll can tell that those old live albums have extreme source limitations but got how she still digs it with a Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda . . . or a Cel-Ray! but finds no reason not to enjoy these ZPZ performances on a level of Unexpected perfection. Source tapes from 1971 that have lots of dead headroom at times can not even feed a bird suffering from oil spill regalia in The Gulf Of Mexico . These tapes from 2006 I can hear each instrument vividly with enough dynamics to feed Ethiopia.

  9. Thinman says:

    “Feck’s Rubber Girl” – Just Another Trendmonger Pseudonym

  10. exile says:

    Be that as it may Mr. Rubber Girl, the ZPZ cover band (albeit slick) still manage to drain any interest and enjoyment out of the music. IMHO. I really think they’d be happier doing Van Halen covers.

  11. exile says:

    Frank Zappa (for me, and only in my opinion) was nearly always moving forward, changing the rules, expanding the aesthetic (with the exception of some unfortunate blips in the 1980s). ZPZ (this is just my opinion now) is treading water… going nowhere… a mere commercial enterprise.
    Now, if they were to tour of a live version of Dance Me This, and simultaneously release Franks 1990s album of the same name, then I might need to revise my opinion.

  12. Thinman says:

    @exile: I agree 100% with what you say.

    I prefer the fiery performances and rough recordings of the ’71 band a million times against the clean, deep-frozen and dead ZPZ-versions.

    Th.

  13. String Beans to Utah says:

    I just never get the hatred here. Comparing 1970 to 2006 is ludicrous. Look, the whole rutabaga here is ZPZ is for people who never got a chance to see FZ in person or people who are not hung up on it not being Frank Zappa. Period. Let me make an analogy. If Igor Stravinsky had a son and wanted to conduct his father’s music, do you think Stravinsky fans who never got to see or hear Stravinsky live would be interested and would want to experience the music even though it is impossible at this time to time-travel to Paris 1910? It’s simple. A question for some of you who called it plastic and robotic. Were you there? Did you in fact see ZPZ in 2006? I did. It was not Frank Zappa, but it certainly was not plastic and robotic. I can make an intellectual argument because I was there. Did I ever get to see Frank live? No. Would I if I had the chance? Most assuredly. Would I prefer the real thing? Of course! Have you ever seen the Mona Lisa? I’ve never been to Paris, but I have seen reproductions of the Mona Lisa. Does that somehow make it not beautiful in my eyes? Just because Dweezil is playing his father’s music does not and cannot diminish the work of Frank Zappa. That music will stand on its own. What better way for a child to show his love and appreciation?

  14. Matt says:

    I have seen ZPZ live. I saw Frank live. I stand by my comments.

  15. Harry Barris says:

    An oft-quoted saying about rock groups: “A band is only as good as its drummer.”

    And frankly, Joe Travers is NO Aynsley Dunbar! (Not even close, even though he’s trying to play the same beat. Too bad his feel is so ‘off’. He should stick to basic heavy metal with obvious 4/4 backbeats. Zappa music is WAY beyond his capabilities.)

  16. Thinman says:

    A quote from Harry Barris:

    An oft-quoted saying about rock groups: “A band is only as good as its drummer.”

    Though he is technically skilled and no matter how hard he is trying – in my opinion Joe Travers is the most boring drummer I’ve heard in a Zappa music situation.

    Th.

  17. exile says:

    Mr. Beans to Utah,

    May I call you String?

    Just to clear up your apparent misconception – certainly if it applies to what I have written. My comments on the ZPZ vs FZ performances/recordings are NOT in any way based on hatred, rather on a sense of disappointment.

    Sure it’s my problem if I thought ZPZ might be aimed at me, (a Zappa fan since childhood. Interested mostly in the new and exciting records that were being released at a rate of 2 a year and were almost always surprising and stimulating). ZPZ is a tribute band and by definition that means there will be nothing significantly new. For that reason I didn’t go to see them when they played my town. If I want to listen to Zappa’s music I have all the definitive versions on vinyl and CD.

    What I would like, and this is part of the cause of my disappointment, is to hear the music Frank had recorded but not yet released. Somewhere there is “Dance Me This”. Somewhere there are, according to and interview he did (with Keyboard magazine, I think), about 100 Synclavier pieces. I might be wrong about the number, but it was a hell of a lot.

    And I do feel for the Zappa family in their loss. And I do appreciate the boy might be expressing love for his father.

    What better way for a child to show his love and appreciation? Off the top of my head I can think of many. Not least by facilitating the release of his father’s unheard compositions. Perhaps getting the Library of Congress involved in the conservation of the original tapes (they are the most qualified). I’m sure they’d be happy to contribute to the preservation of a most significant piece or American (hell, the world’s) musical history. He could start a band playing original compositions – new music – and maybe occasionally drop one of his dad’s pieces into a performance.

    And this all merely my opinions. Just a music lover.

    I’d like to joust with you about the Stravinsky analogy but this is not the place. But… he had 2 sons, and one surrogate-adoptee by the name of Craft, who did conduct, and tamper with the works of his beloved. Google it.

    BTW the Mona Lisa is a drab little picture. ;-)

  18. Theydon Bois says:

    A quote from String Beans to Utah:

    Comparing 1970 to 2006 is ludicrous.

    If comparing two versions of the same song is in any way a ludicrous activity, we may as well all just pack up and go home now.

  19. Phil J says:

    I like string just cant get the vitriol, I was just born when frank toured australia, and zpz played australia twice in the last couple of years 36 years later, ther is no wank wwith dweez he is a genuine great musician (have a look at how many places they play when they tour) ,who cuts it big time, and Joe is sensational, love to see these knockers get up and play 10 bars with Joe and see what they say then. Black page peice of piss ? yeah right try and clap the first 15 bars . I just dont get it! show us harry, show us how its done put it on you tube

  20. Dark Clothes says:

    Phil J – nobody could compare anybody to anybody if you require the skills of the bodies you compare to have a say at all. Who could talk about Vinnie Colaiuta if you had to have his skills to say something critical? I’ve enjoyed Frank Zappa live, and ZPZ, and the Grandmothers. It’s the ZPZ hype that’s annoying, because frankly they’re more of a substitute than the Grandmothers, who are still an original, creative collective of musicians. Travers is family now, but I doubt that he would have made it through an audition with Frank (as is the case with Garcia, but that’s another story).

  21. Thinman says:

    @Phil J: Having skill, playing the right notes and trying to recapture the original sounds doesn’t automatically make the music sound right.

    In German we have an expression for that concept:

    “Kunst kommt von Können.”

    Totally wrong concept!

    Th.

  22. metafunj says:

    I’m 27 and I never got to see Frank. I got into his music after he died. I saw Zappa Plays Zappa in Philly on their first tour. The first song was “Imaginary Diseases.” It was really exciting. But after that I wasn’t really impressed. The solo from Inca Roads wasn’t anything special. The performances of very technical, through composed pieces were spot on but some of Dweezil’s and Vai’s solos were boring. They just can’t “do” Frank. Sorry not even close. Dweezil is a very talented musician, but I think he is better in the heavy metal genre.

    His playing was way more intense on his 80s version of my guitar than what he is doing now.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXTxI0MyiJM

    Even young fans like myself know that Frank’s music was about AAAFNRA. ZPZ lacks this. Like a previous poster expressed, if I wanted to hear an exact replica I can listen to my CDs and thats what I have done since seeing ZPZ.

    However I don’t see a point in the continual comparison with ZPZ to Frank’s music. Many of us are unimpressed with ZPZ so is it really necessary to keep complaining about it. We got plenty of boots to enjoy and many marvelous cover bands so the is no need to be negative. Oh and yeh, we do need to “Dance Me This.” :)

  23. String Beans to Utah says:

    A quote from String Beans to Utah:

    Sure it’s my problem if I thought ZPZ might be aimed at me,

    You said it all right there. It’s not. Agreed about Stravinsky. A bad analogy. I knew one of the early 20th Century Composer’s kids had fiddled with (really bad pun) his father’s stuff, but couldn’t remember which one. Look, let me put it this way. I’ve been an FZ fan for almost 40 years. The closest places he played to me were a couple of hundred miles from my home. The one opportunity I had to see FZ was on the final tour. I even had an interview lined up with him through my Ryko Records rep the day before the show. Due to a family illness, I didn’t get to attend that show. No real big problem, I thought. There would be another time. There was obviously not. Fast-Forward to 2006. When I saw ZPZ with NMB, Steve Vai, and Terry Bozzio, the show DID NOT fulfill any hunger I had accrued over the years to see FZ, nor did it quench my desire to see FZ. But, to dismiss out of hand that lineup of ZPZ as being incapable of producing a wonderful evening of Frank’s music is beyond me. I have seen nearly 400 shows in my life, being a 30+year Rock radio veteran. Frank was the one person I would have traded nearly all those shows to get to see. I understand that I did not see FZ when I saw ZPZ, but as a musician, a music lover, and most importantly a father, I see absolutely no good reason to compare 1970 FZ to 2006 ZPZ. They are completely two different entities. There is only one Frank Zappa. I’ll stand by that.

  24. String Beans to Utah says:

    the above quote selected “Sure it’s my problem…” was not from String Beans to Utah, but attributed to “Exile.”

  25. metafunj says:

    I still think the best way to enjoy his music in a live situation is to get out an instrument and play the songs yourself. Nothing feels better. Now if I could just remember the chords to “Hungry Freaks, Daddy”

  26. profusion says:

    The Flo/Eddie stuff is probably not the best choice to evaluate ZPZ. Dweezil was pretty clear that he started ZPZ primarily to perform the more musically robust live material from the mid ’70s. The one thing most missing from ZPZ is the ‘eyebrows’, and the vaudeville band was pretty much all about the eyebrows.

    “Billy the Mountain,” for example, was a missed opportunity for ZPZ, simply because they chose to use the exact same spoken word associations that Flo & Eddie used on the particular night recorded for “Just Another Band From L.A.” Those were at least partially spontaneous, I believe, and it would have been a great opportunity for ZPZ to insert contemporary references, and thereby properly honor the spirit of that music.

    That said, I really enjoyed the first couple of ZPZ tours, which I thought did a lot of justice to Frank’s music, even if it’s obviously not the same. Apart from the eyebrows, the other missing element was Frank’s role as “ringmaster.” Dweezil doesn’t have the same command of an audience that his father did, and it shows whenever he speaks onstage.

    I was originally hoping that Dweezil would use ZPZ as a springboard to recording/performing his own music alongside his father’s. The project seems to have withered, simply because you can only pretend it’s 1976 for so long.

  27. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from String Beans to Utah:

    I just never get the hatred here. Comparing 1970 to 2006 is ludicrous.

    A quote from exile:

    The 2006 version lacks “eyebrows” – which is a pretty fundamental in FZ’s music.

    A quote from metafunj:

    I don’t see a point in the continual comparison with ZPZ to Frank’s music. Many of us are unimpressed with ZPZ so is it really necessary to keep complaining about it.

    A quote from String Beans to Utah:

    When I saw ZPZ with NMB, Steve Vai, and Terry Bozzio, the show DID NOT fulfill any hunger I had accrued over the years to see FZ, nor did it quench my desire to see FZ. But, to dismiss out of hand that lineup of ZPZ as being incapable of producing a wonderful evening of Frank’s music is beyond me. I have seen nearly 400 shows in my life, being a 30+year Rock radio veteran. Frank was the one person I would have traded nearly all those shows to get to see.

    I understand that I did not see FZ when I saw ZPZ, but as a musician, a music lover, and most importantly a father, I see absolutely no good reason to compare 1970 FZ to 2006 ZPZ.

    A quote from profusion:

    The Flo/Eddie stuff is probably not the best choice to evaluate ZPZ. Dweezil was pretty clear that he started ZPZ primarily to perform the more musically robust live material from the mid ’70s. The one thing most missing from ZPZ is the ‘eyebrows’, and the vaudeville band was pretty much all about the eyebrows.

    “Billy the Mountain,” for example, was a missed opportunity for ZPZ, simply because they chose to use the exact same spoken word associations that Flo & Eddie used on the particular night recorded for “Just Another Band From L.A.” Those were at least partially spontaneous, I believe, and it would have been a great opportunity for ZPZ to insert contemporary references, and thereby properly honor the spirit of that music.

    The whole point of this post, at least for me, was to compare and contrast not just these two individual versions of “Call Any Vegetable”, but to compare and contrast the function of FZ and DZ as ringmasters of their individual bands. The similarities between how Dweezil functions as bandleader, and his father, are too eerily close to just be coincidence. Depending on who was in both leader’s bands very often determined the setlists played. One need only compare FZ’s Vaudeville band’s setlists with those of the Roxy band and the subsequent 5 piece band that toured Australia. Contrast that with Zappa Plays Zappa’s 2006 Tour with guests NMB, Steve Vai (Japan in January 2008), and Terry Bozzio; Ray White in the 2007 Tour; and the arrival of Ben Thomas as new lead singer in May 2009. Each change in the line-up also brought about a change in the setlist. In this fashion, both Frank and Dweezil were exceptionally good at making the best use of the talent they had on hand. Over the past many months I have had the opportunity to listen to dozens of ZPZ field recordings in depth (just as I have had the same opportunity to listen to FZ field recordings over the years). One basic conclusion I have come to is this: just as every other cover band brings their own particular “eyebrows” to Frank Zappa’s music, so does DZ and ZPZ. It’s not the same “eyebrows” we’ve all grown accustomed to over FZ career, but “eyebrows” all the same. And like every incarnation of the Mothers, ZPZ and their cover versions are just as worthy of criticism and comparison, in my opinion. I suggest ZPZ detractors listen to their concerts in depth, as I did, before tagging them as cold or uninspired. You might be pleasantly surprised.

  28. metafunj says:

    I bet if Ahmet were in the band there would be plenty of eyebrows!

  29. profusion says:

    A quote from urbangraffito:

    The whole point of this post, at least for me, was to compare and contrast not just these two individual versions of “Call Any Vegetable”, but to compare and contrast the function of FZ and DZ as ringmasters of their individual bands. The similarities between how Dweezil functions as bandleader, and his father, are too eerily close to just be coincidence.

    That’s a fair point. I’ve seen pretty much every ZPZ tour that came through my area and enjoyed them all. The most recent tour didn’t feel as inspired to me, but it could simply have been that the band wasn’t feeling it that particular night.

    In one important way, Dweezil is operating at a disadvantage no matter what he does. When most folks were going to see FZ, they had no idea what to expect, since you couldn’t just download setlists and bootlegs from a few nights before. And FZ compounded that by almost always playing a bunch of new (& often unrecorded) material on tour. Dweezil is playing an established canon, with a huge trove of recordings against which to compare.

    After this many tours, I think it’s safe to say that there is a distinctive “ZPZ sound,” that folks will either love or hate. Dweezil and his bandmates are obviously of a different generation than most of FZ’s band members, and they filter the music through a different sensibility. Maybe it’s because I’m a jazzhole, but I think that is *perfectly acceptable*. In fact, my wish for ZPZ would be for them to personalize the music even more–take a few more risks. A few fans might get upset, but a more inspired show might result and attract even more people.

    For example, Dweezil’s more guitar-centric interpretations please me, because FZ’s guitar playing is central to my enjoyment of his music. Dweezil has additional guitar skills to bring to the table. There’s no reason he shouldn’t use them, even if it causes a divergence from FZ’s scores or arrangements.

  30. urbangraffito says:

    It’s my wish, too, profusion, that ZPZ would personalize the music even more – something they, in fact, do when they invite almost completely unknown artists (guitarists, singers, etc) onto the stage (i.e. Eric Johnson at Waller Creek Amphitheater, Stubbs BBQ, Austin, Texas, 19 Nov 2009). That’s when magic happens with ZPZ, the completely unexpected turns which FZ was known so well for doing at his shows. Indeed, Dweezil and his bandmates are of a different generation filter FZ’s music through a different sensibility. I see this as a plus rather than a negative. Quite probably it is ZPZ’s fear of upsetting fans (too hung up on nostalgia, I might add) who want to hear Frank’s music performed as it was recorded that keeps them from truly cutting loose more than they do. As a band, they are caught somewhere between a rock and a hard place on that point. Even Frank chided his audiences for treating him and his band mates as little more than a jukebox. One reason that I am open to cover bands (ZPZ among them) is they keep Zappa’s music fresh and vibrant with new interpretations. In the case of DZ and ZPZ, where else are we going to hear a live cover of “Imaginary Diseases”? I think we can all agree that ZPZ is capable of taking it up a number of levels, musically, and sustaining it.

  31. Slap says:

    Look, I saw Frank twice (’78 and ’80, not the best shows, but not bad). I took a group of friends who had open musical minds and little exposure to Zappa to see ZPZ here in Sacramento in ’07. I was completely impressed by all phases of the show. My friends were BLOWN AWAY, having never seen any group of musicians play such a complicated, idiosyncratic repertoire of music for damned near three hours. The band was relaxed and entertaining, the music tight as a drum. As one who never got a chance to hear the OSFA-era tunage live in the day, I was grateful to hear it performed in vibrant, living color by a skilled group of musicians who LOVED what they were doing.

    Frank’s long gone. As long as I am far away from any location where the EM might perform, I’ll praise and be grateful for what Dweezil is doing. Others are free to disagree.

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