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Frank Zappa - Apostrophe (') CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



4.03 | 651 ratings

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3 stars This may have been Frank's highest charting achievement, climbing up as far as the number ten spot, but it's far from being his best. In light of the surprising and overdue airplay he got from the excellent "Over-Nite Sensation" it's not hard to understand why Zappa would follow suit with another dose of accessible, humorous satire. For the first time in his career he was riding a wave of unexpected popularity with the public in general and it may have gone to his head just a bit (as it would anyone in his position).

The album starts off in grand style with a witty rock drama in four parts that mainly concerns itself with a dreamed confrontation between an Eskimo and a bloodthirsty baby seal clubber (a hot button in proper society at the time). You learn a great lesson in "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" (useful advice from the hero's mother), then the villainous fur trapper gets his comeuppance for whapping a pup with his lead-filled snowshoe when he is assailed with Husky wee-wee and dog-doo sno-cones in "Nanook Rubs It." Now blinded and forlorn, the bad guy seeks a cure at "St. Alfonzo's Pancake Breakfast" restaurant where the dubious "Father O'Blivion" is the cook that serves 'em up light and fluffy white. This epic is truly amazing in its deceivingly complex creativity, musicianship and arrangement. The single (a three and a half minute version found on the "Strictly Commercial" compilation) actually got on the hot 100 list and helped to boost the LP into gold status. No sacred cow was immune from Frank's sarcastic lampooning so next he takes on his generation's obsession with Transcendental Meditation, Gurus and higher consciousness seeking with "Cosmik Debris." ("Is that a real poncho or is that a Sears poncho?") It's a hilarious tune and delivers an excellent guitar lead in the middle just to let you know Zappa hasn't lost his fiery touch on the fretboard. This song garnered a lot of FM radio spins as well, generating even more sales. "Excentrifugal Forz" is a short, bizarre ditty that runs by so fast that it's hard to decipher what it's about. "Apostrophe" is a six-minute jam between Jack Bruce, Jim Gordon and Frank that never goes anywhere, much less reaching a climax. It's what Cream would have probably sounded like if Zappa had replaced Eric Clapton. Sorta. It marks the low point of the album for me. "Uncle Remus" dares to poke devilish fun at the civil rights movement. Now before you start accusing Frank of not being politically correct or respectfully sensitive here keep in mind that the co-author was none other than George Duke, an African American. It's actually a well-written song with some tasteful piano and soulful backup vocals. But "Stink-Foot" is where the project sadly runs out of funny ideas and the odorous joke involving the unsuspecting Fido falls flat on its face. The interesting guitar lead helps but, as Zappa himself admits toward the end, "Ain't this boogie a mess?"

There's a telling credit on the back of the LP cover that reads "Produced, Arranged & Struggled with: Frank Zappa." Despite the relative success of this album I think even Frank knew this "novelty" angle was taking him too far away from his avant-garde passions and purpose. His next offerings would show him stepping back into the sublime strangeness that he loved (i.e. "Bongo Fury" with Captain Beefheart). And, while "Apostrophe" wasn't as consistent and clever as some of his previous albums, it still succeeded in bringing him out of the underground realm and into wider acceptance along with his eclectic music.

Chicapah | 3/5 |


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