Frank Zappa

Beat the Boots!

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The impetus behind creating an intentionally lo-fi and pricey box set of bootlegs was multi-faceted. At the root was Frank Zappa's attempt to reclaim some sort of financial and legal ownership of his work. The eight respective offerings in this first Beat the Boots collection -- of which there were two volumes -- covers the years 1967 to 1982. Most of the source tapes are several generations from the master. In the pre-digital days of amateur analog tape dubbing, that meant copious amounts of dynamic frequency loss, tape hiss, and even recordings that run too fast or too slow. Zappa deliberately chose not to make any adjustments or corrections and present the individual pieces exactly the way they were being sold in the underground market via head shops and independent music stores. The artist would also be able to claim that any future reproduction of these specific titles would -- in the eyes of the law -- be considered counterfeiting and easier to prosecute. For manufacturing and distribution of Beat the Boots, Zappa turned to Rhino Records who produced limited editions on vinyl and cassette. For the still burgeoning CD medium, they chose to release each separately. In chronological order, Beat the Boots contained the following entries: Tis the Season to Be Jelly is a roughly 45-minute broadcast from the Konserthuset in Stockholm, Sweden on September 30, 1967. The early Mothers of Invention lineup includes "Baby" Ray Collins and Billy Mundi. Legend has it that even though he was extremely ill, Zappa was able to make it through a few tunes before the band had to carry on without him. Among the interesting selections are "Petrushka," "Bristol Stomp," "Baby Love," and the doo wop classic "Gee" that leads into a practically quarter-hour reading of "King Kong." The Ark is a gem of a soundboard from the Boston-based venue on July 18, 1968. These are the infamous stolen tapes that "grew fins" and swam out of Zappa's studio. "Some Ballet Music" and arguably the most intense "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama" is out there and is heartbreakingly edited with over three minutes left. (Note: those looking (and you should) for the full performance, try to locate the Twenty Years Ago...Again disc on the Evil Records imprint). The requested "Uncle Meat/King Kong (Medley)" is likewise worth the price of admission. Freaks & Motherfu*%!!@ is a bit of Fillmore Auditorium teen-age heaven, right here on Earth! The exact date and venue -- like whether it is the Fillmore East or West -- is still up for grabs. And the fidelity might not make it as endearing as others in the series. However the "Wino Man -- With Dr. John Routine" and "Holiday in Berlin," with the rarely sung lyrics, are keepers. Piquantique stands out from the rest for its above-average sound and because the August 21, 1973 date finds the MOI in Stockholm, Sweden on the Oppåpoppa TV show. The band was a short-lived jazz/funk incarnation with Ian Underwood (woodwinds/synthesizer), Ruth Underwood (percussion), George Duke (keyboards), Ralph Humphrey (drums), Bruce Fowler (trombone), Tom Fowler (bass), and Jean-Luc Ponty (violin). The one exception is "T'Mershi Duween" with the return of Jeff Simmons (guitar) to the 1974 Roxy & Elsewhere-era MOI. The same combo is heard at a Notre Dame University appearance from the May 12, 1974 on the audience-derived Unmitigated Audacity. The short but sweet "Dupree's Paradise" is one of the only post-'70 songs, as the set list is heavy on primal MOI, such as "It Can't Happen Here," "Hungry Freaks, Daddy," "You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here," "How Could I Be Such a Fool?," "I Ain't Got No Heart (To Give Away)," "I'm Not Satisfied," "Wowie Zowie," "Let's Make the Water Turn Black," "Harry, You're a Beast," "Oh No," "Son of Orange County," "Trouble Every Day," and an update of "Louie, Louie." The last representative from the '70s is Any Way the Wind Blows -- Frank in Paris at the Nouvel Hippodrome in Paris, France February 24, 1979. It is spread over two LPs/cassettes/CDs and the good-to-excellent audio makes it suggested listening for inclined parties. Not to mention that Vinnie Colaiuta (drums) was part of the rhythmic backbone for these Mothers. As an Am Zappa is a sampling of two early-'80s gigs -- at the Palladium in New York City on Halloween, October 31, 1981 and in Cologne, Germany's Sporthalle on May 21, 1982. The listenability is marred by continuous distortion. The track "That Makes Me Mad" is a snippet from a radio interview on KLOS-FM in Los Angeles, CA on May 19, 1981, in which Zappa discusses his personal issues with bootlegs. Most tellingly, he says "I don't think that it's the work of just a couple of individual guys who went out and made a record for fun. It's some, one or two people who are releasing vast quantities of material. Last year twelve bootlegs, in the last year! And one of them has all the songs on the next album that's coming out in September. They've already got the stuff recorded live in concert before I can even release it on a record. And that makes me mad."

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