God Shave The Queen
is a CD of mostly live recordings by the Liverpool
based Frank Zappa
tribute band the Muffin Men
. Unlike most tribute CDs, this one is surprisingly listenable, as rather than just recreate Zappa's arrangements exactly, the Muffin Men put their own spin on it.
Lonely Little Girl, the first track, is a good example of this. A remake of It's his voice on the radio from We're Only In It For The Money, the group's scouse accents and vocal harmonies give this song a Beatles-esque feel, which is increased by the inclusion of the 'one two three four five six seven/all good children go to heaven' chant from You Never Give Me Your Money on the tag. This segues into
I Want You Kong - the first radical reinterpretation of a song, this places the melody of Zappa's King Kong over the arpeggiated guitar from the Beatles' I Want You (She's So Heavy) (and also includes the odd 'number nine' from Revolution #9). This works surprisingly well, as the two songs are both essentially one-chord 12/8 vamps, but it's a juxtaposition I for one would never have thought of, and they're two of my favourite tracks.
Tell me You Love Me is a note for note cover of the Zappa track from Chunga's Revenge, slightly rockier than the original, but other than the vocals almost identical.
Sure 'Nuff 'N' Yes I Do is the first track to feature Jimmy Carl Black, occasional Muffin vocalist and original drummer for the Mothers Of Invention. The Muffin Men basically have two styles - in the portions of the shows where Black doesn't appear, they play the long, jazz-influenced instrumentals Zappa did. In the sections where he does appear, they generally concentrate on blues-based material from the first Mothers line-up, and Captain Beefheart songs. Black's voice is very close to Beefheart's, although not as strong. This track is a Beefheart song - a 12-bar blues originally on Safe As Milk, done pretty much note-for-note in the arrangement of the original.
Dropout Boogie is another Beefheart track from Safe As Milk, also sung by Black. This one's more musically adventurous than the previous track, but still done very close to the original.
Evil is an old Howlin' Wolf song that Beefheart used to cover live, hence its inclusion. Black here sounds very like Wolf, whose vocal mannerisms Beefheart copied closely in his early years. These three songs are all excellent performances, but inessential for those who have the originals.
Kashmir Kong is the second reworking of King Kong, this time over the riff of Kashmir by Led Zeppelin. This doesn't work quite as well as I Want You Kong but is still better than you'd expect.
My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama is a reworking of the Weasels Ripped My Flesh classic, done pretty close to the record.
Dupree's Paradise and Heavy Duty Judy are both Zappa instrumental classics used as a chance for the band to show their improvisatory ability.
I'm The Slime is a close remake of the Over-Nite Sensation track, but this may be better than the original because Roddie Muffin's Liverpool accent gives the song an extra sardonic edge.
The Black Page Drum Solo is what it sounds like, but leads into
The Indian Of The Group is another track with Black singing lead. This one is an original, by Black's other group Farrel & Black. A simple Bo Diddley beat with lyrics about Black's life and career (the title comes from his comment on We're Only In It For The Money - 'hi boys and girls I'm Jimmy Carl Black and I'm the Indian of the group') this is fun but nothing special.
Willie The Pimp is a version of the song from Hot Rats, with Black once again singing Beefheart's vocal parts. Another really fun R&B track.
Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder, the final track, is a remake of the Freak Out! track - again given another edge by Roddie Muffin's scouse vocals.
The CD also features CD-Rom material (HTML and QuickTime) about the band's history, including footage of past performances with ex Zappa band members Don Preston, Bunk Gardner and Ike Willis.
The album isn't essential by any means, but if you go and see the Muffins, and I recommend you do, it's worth buying as a memento of the gig and is an enjoyable listen. Plus, as they say on stage, 'if you buy an album we'll be able to afford a bag of chips on the way home'.