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Frank Zappa - Zoot Allures CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.74 | 393 ratings

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3 stars Though not one of Zappa's more popular albums here on this site, Zoot Allures is nonetheless a normal release for Zappa: some amazingly unique and incredibly performed songs mixed in with some particularly unimpressive and average tunes.

Another piece of the mess that was originally supposed to be Lather, Zoot Allures looks on paper like a mostly not progressive album. What with Zappa's Sheik Yerbouti and other releases around the same time featuring mostly shorter, more commercial tracks, such a fear would be warranted. However, the track lengths belie the actual progression of this album. For starters, the first three tracks all segue together perfectly, and not just like completely unrelated songs stuck together with clever interludes. Three of the songs on this album are instrumentals, so fans of Frank's legendary guitar licks will not be disappointed. The lyrical content is somewhat focused on his (by this point) usual corny and twisted sense of humor, though a few of the tracks that do have lyrics are not written in this way. In the end, Zoot Allures is one of the later Zappa releases to be pretty good, as not long after the release of this album his quality began to rapidly drop for the most part.

The album opens with Wind Up Workin' in a Gas Station, a commercial, straightforward rocker with falsetto vocals that dissolve into creative rounds towards the end. There is not much to this song, but it fades away quickly into the open guitar of Black Napkins. The album's first instrumental, Black Napkins is basically a guitar solo, jamming and moving this way and that until in the middle section odd effects make up a very interesting melody. On the whole, it is upbeat and clever, and then without much warning it drops off into The Torture Never Stops with a dark bass line and a slow, horrifying mood. Yes, the song deals with torture, and Frank's deep vocals add a disturbing air to it. And despite it being almost ten minutes long, there is little variation or even soloing in it--that happens in the live versions instead. The last song on the first side is Ms. Pinky, a catchy song built on a distinctive distorted guitar riff. This song features a unique mixture of harmonica, creepy vocal lines, and electronic sounds more present than in Zappa's previous releases.

The second side begins with Find Her Finer, another song focusing on sexual lyrics and commercialism. There is not much to say about this one. Very average for Zappa. However, thankfully, Friendly Little Finger soon enters the picture. Hearkening back to the complexity of the One Size Fits All or Roxy & Elsewhere days, this song is an instrumental once more focused primarily on the guitar solo. Nevertheless, a burning bass line makes this song a standout track not just on the album but in general regards to Zappa's discography. The wind-down of this track is legendary, especially with the sudden insertion of triumphant horns that throw the next track straight away into the speakers. However, Wonderful Wino is another straightforward commercial Zappa tune, catchy but unremarkable. The concluding solo almost saves the tune, if it weren't for the next song, Zoot Allures. The title track here hearkens back to the classic early 70s Zappa clean sound with a melodic and gentle guitar lead. There is really no solo until the final minute, and though the song does become more complex eventually, the majority of it is unconventionally mellow. Disco Boy is a popular one of his songs, catchy and commercial and featuring some awkward falsetto voices that add to the humor. The groove here is palpable, but as far as Zappa songs go, this one has very little new to offer.

Any fan of Zappa will enjoy this album, though I would not recommend beginning here. Rather, check out One Size Fits All and work your way chronologically forward into the Lather pieces. Zoot Allures has plenty to offer and some to ignore, but on the whole it is a fairly good release.

LiquidEternity | 3/5 |


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