Following in the footsteps of the Grateful Dead and other vintage artists, the Zappa Family Trust has begun to issue archival live recordings by Frank Zappa through its website, www.zappa.com. Buffalo is a two-hour-and-20-minute, two-CD set chronicling Zappa's appearance at the Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo, New York, on October 25, 1980. At that time, the 39-year-old composer/guitarist/singer had assembled a particularly adept band including "stunt" guitarist Steve Vai and virtuoso drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and, freed from record company restrictions, was preparing a lot of new material for his new Barking Pumpkin Records label. The concert reflects that, looking forward to the upcoming Tinseltown Rebellion live album to be issued in May 1981 by presenting the title song, "Pick Me, I'm Clean," and "Easy Meat." You Are What You Is, Zappa's second double LP of 1981, was anticipated by the inclusion of its title song, "Mudd Club," and "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing." And there was even an improvisation, "Buffalo Drowning Witch," that presaged the 1982 album Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch. When Zappa wasn't introducing new material, he was, for the most part, reprising recent songs such as "City of Tiny Lites," "Broken Hearts Are for Assholes," "I'm So Cute," "Dancing Fool," and "Bobby Brown" from Sheik Yerbouti, "Joe's Garage" from Joe's Garage, Act I, and "Keep It Greasy" and "Stick It Out" from Joe's Garage, Acts II & III, all released in 1979, and his 1980 one-off single, "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted." Only "Ain't Got No Heart" (also to be featured on Tinseltown Rebellion) dated from the '60s. The technical abilities of Zappa's band allowed for the rhythmic complexity and sudden shifts from one song to another in which he delighted, as the group suddenly changed from rapid-fire improvisatory playing to subtle vamping behind one of his comic monologues. The Buffalo show was not one of Zappa's great performances; in fact, his repeated stumbling on the lyrics to "Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me?" might have condemned it to remain in the vaults. But it was a good one, and representative one of the 1980 tour, which should make it valuable to Zappa fans, particularly because it provides a true audio record of a full performance without the kinds of edits and overdubs Zappa was wont to employ on the live recordings he issued during his lifetime.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2