Frank Zappa: Hamburg May 6 1988

Not available in the shops, but possibly available from you-know-what.  This is one of the best-sounding recordings of the 1988 tour, with the horn section and tuned percussion beautifully caught, and the keyboards not too high in the mix.

It begins with Frank receiving a surprising array of “love offerings” from his devoted fans – and fending off a request for “Titties and Beer” – before the familiar “new age arrangement” of “The Black Page” launches us into a program consisting entirely of pre-1980s material.

Highlights: a “Black Napkins” in which, after the usual sweet opening solo from Walt Fowler, Kurt McGettrick gets a rare opportunity to solo – and the result is relatively brief but it still blows the roof off the CCH Halle.  This man did for the baritone sax what Dolphy did for the bass clarinet.  (Or finished what John Surman started – however you prefer it).  A “Big Swifty” in which solos from Bruce, Ed, Mike (on keyboards. sounding very Tommy Mars-like) and Frank are separated by multiple breakdowns, featuring more of those pre-programmed bits of Synclavier music that are glimpsed in “When Yuppies Go To Hell” and the Barcelona broadcast.  And the best “Let’s Move to Cleveland” I’ve heard from this tour – Frank’s solo is long, investigative and yet tasteful – he uses his neo-acoustic tone.  And this version has a proper ending, unlike the officially released ’88 take.

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