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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Grandmothers of Invention

Live In Bremen

Review by Gary Hill

There are a number of bands composed of former Zappa band and Mothers of Invention members playing Zappa's music. This is the longest consistently running incarnation. Here they are captured live in a concert from October of 2014. The band consists of Don Preston, Bunk Gardner, Max Kuttner, Eric Klerks and Christopher Garcia. They work through a killer set of Mothers music with some interesting stories and stage banter included in the experience.

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Track by Track Review
CD 1

This is a spoken introduction that describes how the opening song came about.

Pound for a Brown
Tastefully off-kilter and playful, this is jazzy and fun. It has a lot in common with "Peaches in Regalia." This live performance is smoking hot. The tune works through quite a few more changes and variations than the song I mentioned previously.
Call Any Vegetable
A mellower tune, this is also jazzy and pretty tastefully strange. Unlike that instrumental, this has vocals. I'm not overly crazy about those vocals, though. It has some trademark Zappa changes.
Absolutely Free
Another trippy kind of jam, this has a lot of psychedelia built into it.
Flower Punk (Bunk) (Hey Joe Excerpt)
This is a song that Zappa wrote around the same chords as "Hey Joe." So, they include some bits of that song here. This is suitably strange and equal parts tasty.
Who Needs The Peace Corps?
More Zappa weirdness, I think the vocals work better on this number. They take it into a cool little segue thing to lead into the classic that closes the first disc.      
I'm The Slime
This Mother's standard is delivered with a lot of style. I'm not sold on the spoken vocal on this, but the sung stuff works well. The musicianship is right on the money, too. They turn in some killer jamming from there, really driving this in great directions. It's one of the highlights of the performance for me. They bring it back to the song proper before it's all over and done.
CD 2
Uncle Meat

Here we get an extended medley of Uncle Meat material. It starts with the main theme, and then goes into a drum solo after they work on that for a while. The drum solo includes some cool scat singing as point counterpoint with the drums. After that they eventually make their way out into a full instrumental treatment before eventually ending. At over 12 minutes of music, they have plenty of room to explore, and they make good use of it.

The Orange County Lumber Truck
After some odd little introductory stuff, they work out into "Let's Turn the Water Black." It's an instrumental take on the tune, and it works really well. They really put in some smoking hot performances on this thing. It's another highlight of the set as far as I'm concerned.
Trouble Every Day
This seems to flow straight out of the last one. At close to 17 and a half minutes of music, this is the epic of the set. They work through some cool jazzy jamming as this works forward. The synthesizer really takes command around the minute and a half mark. They work out into just a killer jazz styled instrumental from there. It shifts and changes as it drives onward. The vocals come in around the 11 and a half mark. Again, I'm not completely sold on the voice, but they put in a killer rendition that really doesn't rely on them to work.
This is one of my favorite Zappa songs. The vocals work much better here. They turn this out into a smoking hot exploration that touches on jazz and space rock in some ways. This is probably my favorite number on the whole disc. The jazz break is just about perfect.  There is a lot of crowd activity at the end of this number, as the band left leading out to their encore.
Stratus (Excerpt)
They come back out for this smoking hot jam. It's a killer instrumental that has a lot of different themes and melodies built into it. It's a great way to end the set in serious style.
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