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Frank Zappa - Sheik Yerbouti CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.86 | 464 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars An interesting album to me, as it is technically a live album, even though you wouldn't know it until the end.

What we have here is a two LP collection of music that's been compiled onto one disc. All of the songs except the two thirty minute segues came from Frank's live act. Do not worry, though, if live albums aren't your thing: this honestly sounds just like a studio album. The mixing and mastering are as good as can be asked for, and the recording quality is remarkable for a live presentation. The instruments aren't plagued by missed notes or botched performances, the vocals are all in key and exciting, and all the energy you could possibly hope from a live presentation finds its way into the final recording. In short, this live album sounds better than many of its contemporary studio albums.

As far as performers go, this might be one of Frank's tastiest line-ups. Adrian Belew of King Crimson fame takes a number of lead vocals (including a Bob Dylan impersonation in Flakes), as well as contributes his standard fare quality guitar parts. The renowned Terrio Bozzio decides to maul the drums in Zappa's favor here, too, and his rhythm work is definitely some of the best seen on any record from this artist. The remainder of the performers are names I'd never heard before this album, but trust me when I say that they are up to the task of playing all the music that Mr. Zappa laid down for this rather eclectic and unconventional album.

The music, however, is a bit less interesting than it seems to merit. While the songs are catchy and exciting for the most part, absent are the progressive tendencies from early solo Zappa. The jams are much fewer and farther between, mostly taking place in Rat Tomago and Yo' Mama. Rather, for Sheik Yerbouti (a clever pun, I admit), the songs are mostly three to four minute singles-type tracks, vying for the more commercially accessible sound. If I remember correctly, the satirical Dancing Fool ended up being something of a minor disco hit.

Indeed, parody and satire have become the mainstay of the Frank Zappa experience by this point, it seems. Flakes mocks mindless members of the middle class (alliteration unintentional), even claiming that California's got the most of them, Lord they got a host of them. Broken Hearts Are for Assholes is a terribly catchy song with explicit lyrics (surprise, if the title didn't give it away) that mocks whiny rock stars, and even stands today as a spectacular response to the current emo movement. Bobby Brown Goes Down mocks the American dream and obsession with looks, the latter also being the object of I'm So Cute's satire as well. Tryin' to Grow a Chin mocks angsty youth.

In short, Frank Zappa is making fun of people. And that makes for a fun album.

On the whole, though, the music is not as impressive as it seems like it should be. Sure, most of the songs are fun and upbeat. That does not mean, however, that they are high quality and lasting songs. In fact, this is one of those albums that it is very easy to burn out of quickly. So while it is a nice addition to Zappa's discography, and while it's a great starting album for less prog-minded listeners, and while a number of the songs are fun to listen to, in the end it is merely an average album.

LiquidEternity | 3/5 |


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