Philly ’76

Zappa Philly 76

Announced 26 Nov. 2009, to be released Dec. 2009

This is a 2 Disc live album taken from the Spectrum Theater in Philadelphia show from 29 October 1976.
The band: FZ, Terry Bozzio, Ray White, Patrick O’Hearn, Eddie Jobson and Bianca Thornton.

Disc One

  1. The Purple Lagoon (3:36)
  2. Stink-Foot (5:53)
  3. The Poodle Lecture (3:49)
  4. Dirty Love (3:37)
  5. Wind Up Workin’ In A Gas Station (2:32)
  6. Tryin’ To Grow A Chin (4:02)
  7. The Torture Never Stops (13:32)
  8. City Of Tiny Lites (7:47)
  9. You Didn’t Try To Call Me (6:32)
  10. Manx Needs Women (1:45)
  11. Chrissy Puked Twice (6:49)

Disc Two

  1. Black Napkins (18:58)
  2. Advance Romance (13:56)
  3. Honey, Don’t You Want A Man Like Me? (4:09)
  4. Rudy Wants To Buy Yez A Drink (2:20)
  5. Would You Go All The Way? (2:04)
  6. Daddy, Daddy, Daddy (2:05)
  7. What Kind Of Girl Do You Think We Are? (4:58)
  8. Dinah-Moe Humm (8:10)
  9. Stranded In The Jungle (3:10)
  10. Find Her Finer (3:18)
  11. Camarillo Brillo (4:04)
  12. Muffin Man (6:55)

13 thoughts on “Philly ’76”

  1. Having listened to Philly ‘76 a few times now, I don’t feel it is so much a brother of a classic live album such as Zappa In New York – rather that of an official bootleg. After listening to the October 24th, 1976, Boston Music Hall show for years, the October 29th, 1976, Philadelphia show at The Spectrum is, indeed, a real treat. Still, if any comparisons between versions are to be made, it’s between these two shows (that is, given the somewhat lesser audio quality of the Boston show in comparison).

    Highlights: The Purple Lagoon, The Torture Never Stops, City of Tiny Lites, You Didn’t Try To Call Me, Black Napkins, Advance Romance, Dinah-Moe Humm, Stranded in the Jungle, and Muffin Man.

    Except for the song “Stranded in the Jungle” (which has only appeared on bootlegs and field recordings with the audio equivalent of ear cancer), these highlights cover both the Boston and Philly shows. The very same elements that made the Boston show so great – Bianca Thornton’s deep and soulful voice and Eddie Jobson’s violin (particularly on “Black Napkins”, “The Torture Never Stops” and “You Didn’t Try To Call Me”) – is what makes the Philly show so exceptional.

    The rest of the setlist is pretty much average fare for Zappa and his band – it’s neither a low point or a distraction from the overall show – with no solos from FZ or band members to make them especially interesting above any other versions from field recordings at the time. Just a given Zappa gig on a given night in a given hall, methinks.

    For the completist like me, a must have recording.

    Of course, if you’re comparing Philly ‘76 to Zappa In New York or Roxy & Elsewhere, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s not a release of that calibre.

    Philly ‘76, like the Buffalo release in 2007, are both official bootlegs, and as such are fantastic live archival pieces well worth the price. What’s next? A live show from the Bongo Fury tour? The 84 tour? The 88 band? The original Mothers?

    Imagine that, the ZFT doing something right?

    Who whadda thunk it?

  2. I was listenning to this release for a few times till now, and I have mixed feelings.

    First: about the music. To me it’s an average show, with good sound quality, nice to hear Bozzio’s drum more clearly than on FZ:OZ. I like The Purple Lagoon, Torture, Black Napkins, and some others. But… after a few listennings I’ve found myself getting bored, the next time I’ve found myself skipping a few tranck, and on the next occasion skipping almost the whole disc two…

    Why? The tunes are quite simple, and it was surprising to notice that on this album (on this autumn tour) there are REALLY FEW new things: LOTS of songs already released on OZ, in almost the same orchestration, so no much surprise left to this release…

    Second: about the release. After a few listenning I got back to a show from february 1977: (almost) the same lineup – playing a very-very different setlist: Purple Lagoon with a solo, Peaches, Yuda, Guitar, Jones, Pound for a Brown… New, different, exciting, with GREAT solos! Okay, I understand that the Philly show was „recorded on 16 tracks” (or what), but if there are tons of other shows with much more exciting material? With never-before-released versions? (Remember: Rat Tomago was recorded only on a four-track – and it’s still a GREAT MUSIC!)

    Summary: Anyway, I would not call it a bad album, but comparing with other releases and with other possible shows, this one is under the average to me. With no concept at all („we’ve found it in the vault”???…) – and this release also means that we’ll NEVER get a chance to hear the aforementioned tunes on an official release, because from now this is the official release of this tour. This is a pity, makes me really sad – and now I’m going back to listen to my ’77 Wiesbaden show…

    (ps: I really LOVE Buffalo and Wazoo – these two are the exeptions, the really good Vaulternative releases… The others?.. Uhh… forget it.)

  3. Judging from my perspective and from watching reviews on the internet (which might be far from representative of course), I notice a decrease of public interest for releases like this.


  4. (Thinman: I DO have a strong interest for releases like this – but with a REAL concept behind it, with really GOOD shows, with good solos, with unique setlist. This is not a very bad album – but almost anything could have been 10 times better: with different selection, maybe. We still do not know (nobody does), WHY this was selested (why OZ, why Menage, etc.) BTW: what’s your opinion about THIS album?)

  5. @Bálint: I don’t have it yet. Maybe I will order it when my german supplier stocks it. As far as I can tell from 1. bootlegs from this tour, 2. Wind Up Workin … on YCDTOSA: this is not one of my favourite tours and I don’t think that adding the Bianca vocals was doing the music a favour. And because of disappointments with most other ZFT releases I will probably skip this one. And this would the first one I would really skip completely. I skipped the MOFO 4-CD because I am more than satisfied with the 2-CD version. So not every release is a must-have for me these days.

    In fact if they didn’t release anything posthumously I would still be more than happy with FZs lifetime catalogue. I strongly feel that most ZFT-releases wouldn’t have passed Frank’s quality control.


  6. I couldn’t resist of course and finally bought it. After four or five complete run-throughs I am bored already.

    Though it has it’s moments (it is hard to imagine something by Frank without “moments”), I would suggest for the next release they should really take something from the shelves of the vault – not from Frank’s garbage can, like so many times ;-).

    One technical aspect: the Filipetti treatment here is not nearly as bad as on Buffalo, though when comparing this mix of Wind Up Workin’ In A Gas Station with Frank’s mix of the same recording on YCDTOSA, I like Frank’s version better. Filipetti couldn’t resist to equal things out dynamic-wise unnecessarily.



  7. Just when I thought it was safe to start regularly buying Zappa albums again…….
    This is a disappointment.

    Disc 1 is actually pretty good: Bozzio sounds like a man on a mission for most of it, and sounds like he’s staging a military coup during City of Tiny Lites. The Poodle Lecture is, of course, yet another run through of the same old silly routine; Dirty Love is a revelation in this version sung by Bianca; Gas Station has already been released on Stage 6; Tryin’ To Grow A Chin is run of the mill; Torture is average, especially when compared to the many versions already released of this tune (including the Conceptual Continuity official bootleg); City of Tiny Lites is fun, though still not as good as on the aforementioned bootleg – slightly sloppy sounding, with a not very impressive Ray White guitar solo; You Didn’t Try To Call Me sounds like a reject from one of those X-Factor talent shows – Bianca over sings and the song sounds amateurish in this arrangement. Chrissy Pukes Twice is actually Titties n Beer with an extra, unimpressive verse.

    But, although Disc 1 seems to be running out of steam towards its finish, it is difficult to describe it as less than pretty damn good due to the fine playing on display. Though to me it sounds like Frank’s guitar playing is not as inspired as on most recordings I’ve heard (official or otherwise).

    And Disc 2: I couldn’t believe my ears on first listen. I had to force myself to give it another try. I’ve now been listening to it all week, and I am pretty sure that I will not be listening to it again.

    Black Napkins is sheer boredom for about 15 minutes until Frank finally finds some inspiration for a couple of minutes (not including the rather dodgy Bulgarian bagpipe technique on display this evening). Bianca scats, badly, though does manage to impress briefly with her multiphonic singing; Eddie plays a boring violin solo that eventually tries to raise the energy levels (though I think Bozzio is the most responsible for that); Ray White plays a highly unimaginative guitar solo. If you’re still awake, or if you haven’t thrown the CD into the bin already, you get Frank’s solo, which takes awhile to go somewhere. At one point Bozzio is clearly trying to get everyone to put some oomph into proceedings. Frank ignores this for another minute or so.

    Advance Romance is the absolute rock bottom of Frank Zappa’s releases. Bianca sings it with no conviction, the band makes mistakes all over the place, it sounds like they want to go to sleep. Patrick O’Hearn then plays what has the dubious honour of being the worst solo on any FZ release. If that weren’t bad enough – his amp cuts out for about a minute! When he resumes playing it sounds for all the world that Frank has popped out to the local shops to get another pack of cigarettes, and the band are horsing around in his absence! It’s terrible! Frank’s solo is full of venom, and the word “shredding” is probably the most appropriate here. It’s up to you if that’s a good thing or not. After 13 minutes, it finishes, and the world is a better place.

    Honey is another average run-through, though with plenty of mistakes; the 2 Chunga’s Revenge tracks sound pretty crummy – no “eyebrows” and this is definitely the wrong band to play them. Daddy is almost ok by comparison; and then, a nice surprise: the highlight of Disc 2 is What Kind of Girl? The duet of Frank and Bianca is so unlikely (Bianca sounding pretty genuinely sexy and Frank sounding like some sick old pervert), that it really works. And I never thought I’d say that about this song! Dinah is pretty run of the mill, but the country and western coda is wonderfully bizarre! Stranded in the Jungle is ok, but the band are totally out of steam by the end of the pitiful Muffin Man.

    Still this album will probably be filed along with Francesco Zappa and FZ:OZ, never to be listened to again.

    Where’s the Ruben release promised a year ago?

  8. Same here. I love this one. Maybe I’m not as jaded, since I don’t collect FZ bootlegs. This one gets more spins in my CD player than any of the other Vaulternative releases. Honest. Is it the best FZ live album? No–I’d still give that honor to The Helsinki Concert. But I still think it’s a damned enjoyable listen and an interesting lineup finally seeing the light of day for those of us who weren’t there.

    It’s too bad Bianca didn’t stick around. She could have done some interesting things in FZ’s band. She was clearly still feeling her way around at this point, and I guess she just never became comfortable. Interestingly, she doesn’t explain in her essay in the booklet why she left after such a short time.

  9. Well according to her, she was with the band for a year! Who am I to argue? And why did she leave? Well, again, her version is as follows:

    “I left Frank Zappa because I am a lady. I did not feel I had to be humiliated by taking off my cloths (sic) or letting frank use me as a prop on his show. I feel that my vocals and musicianship should have sufficed. That is why I left, it was my choice.

    I was on good terms with Frank when I left as a matter of fact I returned to see some of his performances when he was in town. We kinda laughed about the whole thing. But it wasn’t funny at the time. The band was just host of incredible musicians and highly talented. I recommend Ray white for the guitar position and Terry I met when I auditioned for Frank. Patrick O,Hearn was the most kind and fabulous bassist. I got a call on the phone one day from intercontinental absurdities and they said Frank would like me to come down and audition for his band..I said Frank who? Then my friend said Frank Zappa! (I still didn’t know who he was) but I went anyway and the rest is history. He said you got the gig. I will not tell anymore about the experiences I had because I am gonna save it for my book.”

    This, from a good few years ago now, might amuse/interest you:

    Personally, much as I find her time with the band of interest, this CD proves why it didn’t really work (whatever Frank may have said). I mean, would you put any of the songs she sang on at the top of your “Best Versions of This Particular Song” list? Thought not.

  10. This is a fine album! Unusual vocal arrangements, an excellent long Black Napkins, and even an interesting version of Advance Romance (which I thought I’d never want to hear again), due to Bianca’s vocals. If you ever miss the experience of going to a Frank Zappa concert, this is highly recommendable. I can see why people are unhappy with the ZFT, but they’re doing the right thing with these full show releases – at the very least because they have a historical value. And this CD is also very enjoyable, if you like that period of Zappa.

  11. I just started letting this one sink in, and I also took some time to peruse the reviewers posts before mine. I see some merit in both pro and con reviewers above. I do appreciate the increase in 76-era Zappa band concert releases, because I feel that there has not been much released focused on this ensemble, aside from “Zappa In New York” and “Baby Snakes”, but already by “Baby Snakes” the band line-up and dynamic was changing again (Belew, etc…).

    I do see the valid criticism of some of the sloppiness, and I also somewhat understand the blame partly placed on Bozzio. As technical a monster player as he was/is, the Bozzio years are marked with a much looser, floppy-sounding drum kit and feel (to be fair, Patrick O’Hearn’s bass playing is also rather liquid and “rubbery” sounding). Sometimes Terry could really play tight (i.e. “Titties and Beer”), but just as often, he could play drum grooves that sounded like an elephant’s truck slowly unfolding and flopping around. That said, once you get used to the spreading-out nature of this particular band, I personally feel that the dynamic is really cool in a go-for-broke way. I also love Bianca’s R & B vocal additions, and I love the abandon with which Frank plays some of his out-of-control solos (i.e. “Muffin Man”). It really sounds like Frank is having a blast with this band, and the enthusiasm in his voice is unmistakable. Sloppy or not, this is definitely a happy, inspired band. I like Disc 2 better than Disc 1.

  12. I rather like this album.
    Granted, I haven’t played it recently, but listened to it a lot when it came out. I personally would like to see more releases such as this, than some of the other guff that’s be released.

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