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Frank Zappa - Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch CD (album) cover

SHIP ARRIVING TOO LATE TO SAVE A DROWNING WITCH

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.59 | 268 ratings

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Isa
Prog Reviewer
3 stars |C| Prog from 82 - a good time for mockery in music... or perhaps too much of it.

This is an interesting album in the context of this time-period of the music industry, the problems of which most prog listeners are knowledgeable. In some ways there is a clear adaptation of their style to early eighties rock, often for the sake of mocking it, and sometimes in a way which is actually artistic. And as you might expect, as an album by Frank Zappa, there's plenty of blatant humor, mockery, and silliness, and a lot of really cool textures created by arranging instruments beyond the normal rock parameters. In the case of this album, the humor goes on for too long at times, often to the point where it looses its charm and becomes repetitive or even annoying. The music occasionally suffers this ailment as well, which is a bit surprising given the hefty lineup of musicians that contribute to the album.

Track Commentary: you can tell from the first few seconds of "no not now" that this is not music to take seriously, but is laden with humor and mockery, as to be expected from a Zappa album. The backup vocals are so screechy and forward sounding that there's no question that it's there to make fun some music that was popular at the time. I always thought this song would be hilarious set to a music video at a carnival with a carousel , "up and down" sort of silliness. This leads straight into the famous "Valley Girl" song with Frank Zappa's daughter Moon mocking the title's reference, and is quite hilarious. It gets a bit repetitive toward the end for sure, though, and drags out too long with the mockery. This leads straight into I Come from Nowhere, which I guess is making fun of those friendly hicks with bad teeth or something - or maybe an excuse for Frank Zappa to be self- indulgently silly, which gets a bit annoying pretty quickly, making for one of the weaker songs on the album. I'm guessing that that's Steve Vai playing the "impossible guitar parts" on this track, which is kinda cool at first, but looses its charm quickly and goes on for a bit too long in my opinion. The album title track is supposedly one of the most challenging and difficult-to-play songs that the band ever made (which fans know is saying a lot) and when you really listen to it, it's not too hard to figure out why. In fact the complex electric jam session leans on the side of being too discordant, and like other things about this album, seems to drag on too long as to sound quite self-indulgent, like a speaker rambling on too long without really saying anything substantial at all (which is not the case with instrumental jams in other albums). Envelope is an instrumental some cool keyboard settings, which combined with the other instruments makes some cool textures. As for Teenage Prostitute, I think some prudishness is in order in saying that I'm not too fond of the idea of making a joke out of something which is a sad and serious problem in the destitute realms of our culture, though I wouldn't put is past the "humor at the cost of anything" approach of Zappa, of course. That being said, the use of operatic singing and the arrangement of the instruments are both pretty cool.

While there is plenty to like about this album (much of which can be found in a lot of Zappa's albums), this one has the problem of either being way too redundant and dragged-out with the mockery and some song sections, or too heavy on the discordant rambling (mostly in the album title track). Finally, there's a general sense of frivolity and lack of depth about almost all of the music and lyrics, and even the humor itself seems contrived and forced at times. One might conclude that the musicians were trying too hard to just fill up time, rather than creating something really clever and great.

This is a decent album, and I would definitely recommend this album to Frank Zappa fans and avant-garde listeners; the former would appreciate the humor most, and the latter would probably appreciate the title track a lot more than I do.

Isa | 3/5 |

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