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Frank Zappa - Sheik Yerbouti CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.90 | 603 ratings

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3 stars Mix of Brilliance and Bad Taste.

For his first album in his own label, Zappa felt able to say what he wanted and it seems he was mostly in a snipey mood, probably a result of his long battle with Warner Bros records. This albums contains among his most querulous, disparaging, and demeaning lyrics of his career, even (or especially) when he is being funny. While not every song is like this, there are enough that it taints the listening experience. The album starts off with a tune ("I have been in you") that sends-up Peter Frampton's then-hit (who remembers it now?) "I'm In You", which segues into one of the best tunes on the album, the hilarious "Flakes" (making fun of both Californians and Bob Dylan). The hit single "Dancin' Fool" is also one of the best tunes on the album, which despite its commercial appeal is very clever and musical. "Broken Hearts" is classic Zappa, with the lyrics partly riffing off the opener, but I think he takes the lyrics too far with this one. As he does in "Bobby Brown Goes Down" which, implausibly, became a big hit in Europe where they didn't understand the words (if they did, the song would likely have been banned rather than played on the radio. Zappa is/was definitely getting the last laugh with that one!). Yo Mama is great music, but the lyrics again are too mean for my taste (perhaps he is getting back at WB executives with these songs?). This being the beginning of the punk scene, the album contains some good punk send-ups too, like "I'm So Cute" and "Tryin' to Grow a Chin", while "Baby Snakes" is more like "Let Me Take you To the Beach" from Studio Tan. Other tracks include the purposefully provocative (but why?) "Jewish Princess", the unmemorable "Wild Love", and a number of filler guitar solos and musique concrete. But the real stars of the album are the ones that Adrian Belew (who Zappa discovered playing in a Nashville club, and who left Zappa to play with David Bowie, before joining King Crimson) sings and plays on. This includes the aformentioned "Flakes" (Adrian does the great Dylan impersonation), "Jones Crusher", and "City of Tiny Lites". These are brilliant. But their brilliance is tarnished by the decidedly down-feeling on some of the other tunes, creating a very mixed bag. Taken as a whole, I give this album 6.8 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 3 PA stars.

Walkscore | 3/5 |


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