Friday, December 14, 2012

FZ: The chance of a lifetime?

These days I always say that Civilization Phaze III and The Yellow Shark are my favorite Zappa albums, and I think they really do represent the best renderings of the music he heard and his head that he was able to realize in his lifetime. That said, seeing the Grandmothers of Invention at the Kessler earlier this year reminded me that his bands always brought unique things to his music that he couldn't have envisioned without them. Of his band recordings, Roxy and Elsewhere has become my favorite over time, once I got over the whole silly "early Mothers of Invention were the best" fallacy (although Weasels Ripped My Flesh ain't no slouch either, and runs a close second in my personal pantheon).

Zappaphiles have salivated for years over the prospect of seeing the film that was shot during FZ's engagement at L.A.'s Roxy on December 9-10, 1973, when the basic tracks for Roxy and Elsewhere were recorded. Now the Zappa Family Trust is looking for 1,000 fans who want to pay a grand apiece for a CD duplication master of 76 minutes of music from those shows. The idea is that the fans could then become distributors, manufacturing and retailing copies from the master (and paying the ZFT a mechanical royalty of $1.20 per copy), or having the ZFT manufacture the CDs at a cost of $11 a pop (mechanical royalty included). Fans who take advantage of the offer are prohibited from dealing with distributors or uploading any of the material. Interested? You have until 5am (PST) on December 28th to reach out. According to the ZFT's website, if successful, this offer will make possible the release of The Roxy Performances - The Movie in time for the shows' 40th anniversary next year. Viewed another way, it's an easy way for the ZFT to make a million bucks.

Far be it from me to cast any rocks at Gail Zappa. During Frank's life, she and her kids had to put up with his frequent absences (not to mention his distant, nocturnal workaholic presence), and he left them the legacy of his life's work with the intent of providing for them financially after he was gone. That said, I'm not ponying up for any of the latest, ZFT-sanctioned batch of reissues because I have all the FZ I need already (although I do need to replace a skipping copy of Burnt Weenie Sandwich). It would be nice to see the Roxy shows on DVD, though. That band was something special, and is only represented on DVD by The Dub Room Special, where it has to share space with excerpts from the '81 Halloween show that was broadcast over MTV and has since been released in its entahrty as The Torture Never Stops -- a gig that's longer on Frank's mean-spirited humor than his challenging music. Anyway, we'll see how this eventuates.


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