After his affair with jazz fusion (Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo, both released in 1972), Frank Zappa came back in late 1973 with an album of simple rock songs, Over-Nite Sensation. But the temptation for more challenging material was not long to resurface and, after a transitional LP (Apostrophe, early 1974), he unleashed a double LP (reissued on one CD) of his most complex music, creating a bridge between his comedy rock stylings and Canterbury-style progressive rock. Three-quarters of the album was recorded live at the Roxy in Hollywood and extensively overdubbed in the studio later. Only three tracks ("Dummy Up," "Son of Orange County," and "More Trouble Every Day"), taken from other concerts, are 100 percent live. The band is comprised of George Duke (keyboards), Tom Fowler (bass), Ruth Underwood (percussion), Bruce Fowler (trombone), Walt Fowler (trumpet), Napoleon Murphy Brock (vocals), and Chester Thompson (drums) -- drummer Ralph Humphrey, keyboardist Don Preston, and guitarist Jeff Simmons appear on the non-Roxy material. The sequence "Echidna's Arf (Of You)"/"Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?" stands as Zappa's most difficult rock music and provides quite a showcase for Underwood. Other highlights include "Penguin in Bondage" and "Cheepnis," a horror movie tribute. All the pieces were premiere recordings, except for "More Trouble Every Day" and "Son of Orange County," a revamped, slowed down "Orange County Lumber Truck"/"Oh No." Compared to the man's previous live recordings (Fillmore East: June 1971, Just Another Band from L.A.), this one sounds fantastic, finally providing an accurate image of the musicians' virtuosity. For fans of Zappa's intricate material like "RDNZL," "The Black Page," or "Inca Roads," this album is a must-have.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture