Hammersmith Odeon – a Review

This is yet another great release from the Zappa family trust. Excellent material (yes, one of my favorite line ups), great sound, not as “close” as Frank used to make them, but the sound is clear and the balance between the intruments and voices is very good. In some selections the vocals are a little too low though.
The sound is compressed BUT it’s not overdone, like on the Buffalo album. It’s more like the Philly ’76 album.

Read the full review at Radio Dupree! (You’ll find some reviews here as well in the discography section.)

48 Responses to “Hammersmith Odeon – a Review”

  1. bantex says:

    cant wait to get it ………………………. what i have heard its a very very good set of music…………………

  2. urbangraffito says:

    Although overpriced, and some minor abruptly edited parts (at the end of “Baby Snakes” and “Jones Crusher”), an exceptional 3 disc set. I would even go as far as to say that this set is the missing link between Zappa’s 1978 Berlin Deutschlandhalle, New York Palladium, and Poughkeepsie shows. Any serious collector of Zappa, like myself, has long yearned for these Hammersmith shows.

    Personal highlights: Pound For A Brown, Little House I Used To Live In, Terry Firma, King Kong, Watermelon In Easter Hay (Prequel), Black Napkins.

  3. P-Rip says:

    So, I finally listened to the whole thing. I’m trying to figure out why I’m disappointed. Even though this lineup is not my favorite, I very much enjoyed Baby Snakes (movie and soundtrack), plus the bits and pieces of this lineup on YCDTOSA. Also, I saw the premier of this lineup in Phoenix Arizona, with Zappa onstage for the soundcheck, trying to make the best of basketball-arena acoustics as the audience came in. So there is some personal nostalgia to connect with as well. The highlights Urban mentions are pretty much my own. But I’ve heard much hotter solos from this lineup (What I heard live, plus the Wax Flags boot) and was expecting more (Wild Love and Yo Mama?) Maybe it all comes down to perceived value. If this was a single CD for $20, with the highlights Urban mentions…and Dong Work For Yuda, it would be an excellent deal. Or maybe a $15 download for the whole thing? I’ve been a Zappa fan since 1970 and own all the official releases on vinyl and again on CD. So maybe it’s just that the rest of it sounds too much like stuff I already have. It’s hard to get excited about yet another version “The Torture Never Stops”.

  4. urbangraffito says:

    I think I know why you, or any longtime Zappa fan like us, are always disappointed P-Rip. We long to be “blown away” like we were when we first heard those fantastic solos by this premier lineup. Believe me, I envy those newbie Zappa fans I occasionally come across and watch with delight as their faces light up with a kind of ecstasy as I dig out solo after solo for them from my collection. Yes, I too have heard hotter solos from this lineup. Yes, it’s incredibly overpriced. Yes, it also sounds like a lot of stuff I have, too. Yet personally, there are two big reasons I like this set having said all that – 1) being a completist I can’t resist, and 2) “Little House I Used To Live In” (man, I dig this version).

  5. P-Rip says:

    Urban, I guess another reason is that I should look at a lot of these live releases more like “historical documents” than a deliberate part of the “project/object”. In other words, if FZ would have released this, he would have made it much more interesting as a recording. And he did just that: “Sheik Yerbouti”.

  6. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from P-Rip:

    Urban, I guess another reason is that I should look at a lot of these live releases more like “historical documents” than a deliberate part of the “project/object”. In other words, if FZ would have released this, he would have made it much more interesting as a recording. And he did just that: “Sheik Yerbouti”.

    That’s exactly how I look at most of these live release, P-Rip.

  7. Hugh says:

    A quote from urbangraffito:

    I think I know why you, or any longtime Zappa fan like us, are always disappointed P-Rip. We long to be “blown away” like we were when we first heard those fantastic solos by this premier lineup.

    You said it, UrbanG. Sadly, you can’t go back. 🙁

  8. Dark Clothes says:

    Why did Frank pick Rat Tomago from an inferior recording? Because he realized that he had been on fire there, more than on the multi-track recordings from Hammersmith Odeon. But these Vaulternative releases are bound to come from the best recorded shows, because that gives the overall more acceptable product for our jaded ears. Philly ’76 has a fantastic Black Napkins, but there are bootlegs from that tour with even more spectacular performances. I don’t think it’s wrong to choose the better recording, but when you’ve listened to Frank’s own first pick choices and amazing shows from field recordings, some of the archive releases are bound to be disappointing. That said, I still think HO is very satisfying, and a fine release!

  9. Chuck says:

    I love this band and the Berlin show has been on high rotation the last 10 years or so, just because that show is on fire. Same with Wax Flags even with its crappy sound.

    These shows are interesting and enjoyable too just not as amazing, but they have nice sound.

    I wonder whether the playing is a little flatter and politer because FZ was recording and maybe told the band to be accuarte so he could get some basic tracks?

  10. Harry Barris says:

    I’ve just listened to a friend’s copy and i think that Zappa should have released this Watermelon In Easter Hay (Prequel) as a single 45 (or maybe even as a B-side to a single ala Ancient Armaments), since it is expressively beautiful & tasteful and less than 4 minutes long. The rest left me mostly unimpressed.

    Tommy Mars’ scatting & keyboard noodling drives me up the proverbial wall. And Terry Ted (who must be in extremely good graces with the ZFT–which makes sense since he is such a nice guy)–is placed WAY TOO loudly in the overall mix. (“Where’s the bass?” the granny from the ‘mystery meat’ fast food tv commercial might ask.)

    What else could explain my theory on why 98% of the full show(s) released from Gail as Vaulternatives so far–FZ:OZ, Philly ’76, Hammersmith Odeon–feature him. (That’s seven *full* discs of “bashing” Bozzio for those keeping track at home!!!)

    My personal buying boycott (i know, who cares) continues until something *substantial* (not just excerpts) live from 1973 and/or 1974 is released. (I was going to add Zappa/Mothers w. Beefheart from early 1975 to that, but the intrepid Dan “The Man” Lampinski took care of that with his superb Providence College aud. recording!

  11. Redunzling Sterbus says:

    A quote from Harry Barris:

    I was going to add Zappa/Mothers w. Beefheart from early 1975 to that…

    So you actually want more Bozzio! 🙂

  12. Harry Barris says:

    Well, i said “I was…” 😉 !

    To clarify, in his early tenure, pre-The Black Page, it seems Terry didn’t quite “overplay” as much as he did later on, i.e., once he became so *established* within the band: for instance, he’s practically the *star* of the Baby Snakes movie. (And yeah, i would have much preferred things if Chester Thompson hadn’t quit the band to join Weather Report. (What a mistake that turned out to be, short-term!)

  13. marco j says:

    OK–I am now writing this after having perused the reviewers before me, and I think they all make great points. Even before this release could be heard, many folks were sighing a “not again” refrain, in terms of the Bozzio-O’Hearn era band. I tend to lean a little toward this impression. Don’t get me wrong, I will never forget the moment I first saw the truncated VHS release of “Baby Snakes” in a dorm room in 1986. I was jumping up and down by the time the “Camarillo Brillo”–“Muffin Man” encore section was rockin’ out, but after many years, I do echo those who burn to hear a much wider variety of Zappa live excerpts. Sure, Bianca Odin can be heard on “Philly ’76”, but does that really justify the special nature of the whole release? I will positively say that the sound quality and mix of this Hammersmiith Odeon release is truly vibrant and really punchy, which I like. There are also places where the background vocals really start to lock and gel well. That said, I agree with others. Another “Torture Never Stops” while other live recordings languish in the vault, not to mention the 1973-1974 Roxy DVD promised as far back as the Baby Snakes DVD release. I think the fans have every right to look at the whole posthumous “spectrum” released since 1993, and make certain obvious conclusions—why so little Vinnie-era band (Buffalo was great, how about the Vinnie-era Hammersmith shows that made up parts of “Tinseltown Rebellion”)? Why absolutely no 1982-era band aside from YCDTOSA Vol. 5? Why so little 73-74 era? Why no 1988 band? To have such a proponderous amount of 76-78 era live recordings availalble when whole chunks of the life’s work remain hidden is a crime. It’s as if one could only view Picasso’s Blue Period paintings everywhere and little else.

    All that said, it is a fine release, but many of us are yearning for a wider release palate.

  14. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from marco j:

    I think the fans have every right to look at the whole posthumous “spectrum” released since 1993, and make certain obvious conclusions—why so little Vinnie-era band (Buffalo was great, how about the Vinnie-era Hammersmith shows that made up parts of “Tinseltown Rebellion”)? Why absolutely no 1982-era band aside from YCDTOSA Vol. 5? Why so little 73-74 era? Why no 1988 band?

    I definitely hear where you’re coming from, marco j. However, to attempt to make sense of the rhyme and reason of all the whole posthumous “spectrum” of releases would no doubt leave a Zappa fan down-right bingy. As I’ve said many times, it’s all gravy (though sometimes a singular flavoured gravy, at times). On KUR’s behalf, though, I’ve endeavoured to compile mixtapes of the 73-74 era and the 1988 band which you mentioned. A Vinnie Colaiuta inspired mixtape, though would be an interesting challenge. I would definitely accept it if there was enough of a demand. Is there?

  15. jonnybutter2 says:

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