So many Zappa fans, so many differing opinions. Like mine. Unlike Milhouse I rarely pull out Volume 1 or 6. Some brilliant stuff there, granted. (How about that Mike Brecker solo on Black Napkins on Volume 6?) But a whole lot of Zappa The Entertainer which is not my favorite aspect of the work.

Volume 4 is actually my favorite all round listening experience of the set with a great cameo by Archie Shepp, a blistering, definitive "Outside Now", "Tiny Sick Tears" and a downright affectionate (and spirited) doo wop medley. And I prefer this "Torture Never Stops" over the finished product. (Although the finished product did afford us some great solos through the years.)

Volume 2's "Dupree's Paradise" does go on for a bit but overall it's essential listening.

Took me a while to appreciate Volume 5 (after getting over my resentment that it was probably the final death knell of the probably never to be released "History And Collected Improvisations Of The Mothers Of Invention"). And I was still a fan of the ambient sonics of the older material than the slick syntethic sounds of the 80's bands when it came out (I still have trouble trusting things that sound like they shine). But once I got over that hump that set became a fave as well.

Volume 3 is real hit or miss for me. I'm decidedly not a fan of the "King Kong" presented here, conceptually clever though it may be. Still I whip this set out quicker than Volumes 1 or 6.

Don't get me wrong here. For the dedicated Zappa fan/maven the whole 12 disc set is essential. But we all go to the Zappa well for different thirsts. Volumes 4, 2 & 5 quench mine more than the others.

Not Dead Yet,

Bill Amutis
(Ol' Baggy Eyes)

Progress is not possible without deviation from the norm.-Frank Zappa

What do others think of the Stage series ?Volume 1 is excellent, and is an album that I would term "essential" for Zappa fans and people just getting into Zappa. YMMV.
Volume 2 is Ok. I don't want to use the term "overrated", but it's very tempting. The first disc is really good. The second one drags down with a lesser performance of "Dupree's Paradise". The sprint thru "Uncle Meat / Dog Breath" could be a lot more enjoyable. I wonder why more people don't complain about the mix on this album. The overall sound is pretty 1980s for it being a 1974 recording. I'm not just talking about the bass drum, either. FZ's guitar in particular was reprocessed in such a way that it doesn't even sound like his tone circa 1974. I find it kind of annoying. That and the regrettable overuse of digital reverb.
Volume 3 is a hell of a lot of fun. I know a lot of people don't love the 1984 band. And almost an entire album's worth of stuff in this volume might be a little much. But it's fun. The 1973 "Dickie's" is great, and the extended, multi-edited "King Kong" is awesome.
Volume 4 is too inconsistent. This could have been an amazing volume of the series, but too many selections sabotage it. The 1982 stuff is great, but there's a lot of other stuff on it that leaves me unsatisfied. Think of what else could have been used from the Bongo Fury tour instead of the long and boring "original" Torture Never Stops, for instance.
Volume 5. Hm. I don't listen to the first disc very often. It's great when I want an early Mothers fix, but I don't come back to it very often. The 1982 band.. what can I say. 2nd disc is great, but there certainly could have been better song choices than another version of "Dancing Fool". That said, it's one of my favorite individual discs of the series.
Volume 6 is actually probably my 2nd favorite overall of the series, after Volume 1. I'm not crazy about a couple of the choices on the first disc, but the second disc is excellent. It's really a shame the series ended here, as there was obviously so much more of this kind of live stuff that FZ could have put together, but.. he probably spent an awful lot of time on these 6 volumes anyway and needed to move on to other projects at some point.

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