The first live album compiled from various performances on Frank Zappa's 1988 world tour (his final outing), Broadway the Hard Way is composed mostly of new, vocal-oriented material. The tone throughout is highly political, with Zappa taking potshots at such targets as Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Pat Robertson and other televangelists, Jesse Jackson, C. Everett Koop, and so on. Despite Zappa's well-deserved reputation as an acute satirist, his sarcasm is often surprisingly humorless here, leaning toward didacticism; his choice to name names and address his subjects explicitly, rather than through metaphor, also renders the album instantly dated, almost like a late-'80s standup comedy routine. Despite these flaws, many of Zappa's political observations hit the mark, as do some of the jokes, easily making Broadway the Hard Way one of his best and most intellectually stimulating post-'60s political efforts. The CD features a memorable guest appearance from Sting, singing his Jimmy Swaggart-condemned Police tune "Murder by Numbers."
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey