By Ken Clarke
When Frank Zappa passed away, he left behind a massive collection of unfinished works in his basement vault that the Zappa Family Trust have been slowly sifting through. Although having earned a reputation for working at a snail’s pace, the Trust does occasionally release the odd hidden gem.
Philly ’76 is a two-disc, complete concert featuring a seldom heard line-up of Zappa musicians. The oddest presence is Bianca Odin, who provides rare female vocals to Zappa’s set list. Unfortunately, Odin did not even finish the 1976 tour due to constant requests from crowds for her to take off her clothes. Eddie Jobson, who just left Roxy Music provides superb keyboards and violin. That tour also marked the introduction of guitarist and vocalist Ray White, who later became a familiar member of various Zappa projects. Rounding out Zappa’s band is fretless bassist Patrick O’Hearn and maniac drummer Terry Bozzio.
While the performance is impressive, the lack of Zappa’s more complex compositions make the disc slightly more accessible to non hardcore fans. The album’s centerpiece is a 19-minute version of “Black Napkins,” an instrumental showcase vehicle for Zappa’s guitar soloing which also features some impressive scatting from Odin and a virtuoso violin solo from Jobson.
An absolute must have for Zappa fans, and not available in stores, Philly ’76 can be purchased online at zappa.com.