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Frank Zappa - Zappa In New York CD (album) cover

ZAPPA IN NEW YORK

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.19 | 171 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

fuxi
Prog Reviewer
5 stars With this album, Zappa and his band were moving into difficult territory. The musicianship was better than ever but the humour seemed juvenile ("Titties and Beer") or politically incorrect (although the term had not yet been coined): "Punky's Whips" is a satire on the ambiguous sexuality of some rock musicians; "The Illinois Enemy Bandit" cheerfully thrashes female university students (called coeds in the USA).

Well, if you find it hard to swallow Zappa's humour, there's not much I can do, but it would be wrong to lambast the man for being a gay-bashing misogynist. This is a mistake often made by critics of a puritan bent, who tend to misunderstand the satirical nature of Zappa's work. Like William Hogarth or Jonathan Swift, Zappa was one of those artists who saw the ridiculous side of everything. And believe me, everything on earth, including the things you hold most dear, actually has a ridiculous side. Furthermore, Zappa did not believe in "the redeeming power of love". At least he never celebrated that power in his music - as far as I know. Whenever Zappa sings about romantic love, it's intended as parody. This may give the impression that he was a misanthropist - someone who dislikes humanity altogether. But let's not forget that many of Zappa's songs poke fun at human stupidity in the most exuberant way you can imagine. Pardon the cliche, but they do sound like "celebrations of life".

A true celebration, that's what ZAPPA IN NEW YORK really is. As on GRAND WAZOO and ROXY AND ELSEWHERE (both superb) you will come across many first-rate jazz-rock moments, but these are now incorporated into a larger whole which is bluesy, pseudo-orchestral and operatic in turns. As a consequence, I feel we ought to consider this album as an example of Zappa's all-encompassing SYMPHONIC prog.

Certainly nothing could sound more symphonic than Eddie Jobson's lush moog on "I promise not to come in your mouth". This might just be Jobson's greatest ever moment on record. If it had appeared on an album by U.K. (the band!) and if it had had a title like "Winter in Wimbledon", symphonic prog freaks would be singing its praises at every possible opportunity.

My other favourite pieces are CRUISIN FOR BURGERS, which allows the main soloists in the band to shine (once again it reveals that Ruth Underwood is one of prog's greatest vibraphonists) and THE ILLINOIS ENEMA BANDIT, the hilarious report of a controversial court case.

ENEMA BANDIT purely and simply elevates the ridiculous to the sublime, mainly thanks to the exuberant vocals of Don Pardo, of Zappa himself (especially during the extended outro) and, last but not least, of Ray White. Never before or since has a parody of the blues sounded so masterful or outrageous. ENEMA BANDIT also confirms Zappa as the only major figure in prog rock whose oeuvre absorbs and reflects, in a totally natural way, the musical styles of white AND black Americans.

Misanthropist? Maybe. Visionary? No doubt about it!

Now sing this all together: "Wanna-wanna-wan-an-enema, oooooh, e-ne-maaaa"...

fuxi | 5/5 |

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