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


Frank Zappa



3.53 | 232 ratings

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2 stars While Zappa's albums are usually somewhat tainted by a song or two that just isn't up to snuff, Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch is at least 50% abysmal, by the high standards Frank himself set on previous releases.

Here we have, on side one and side two, a clear separation of the two sides of Zappa's work in the early 80s. Side A is characterized by bad pop built around a too few good ideas and some terrible humor. Side B explores his carefully composed technical side, ending on a crossing point between the two. If you have You Are What You Is and think Frank tackling prog-free pop is a good idea (admittedly, You Are What You Is is, despite a painful lack of jazz and tact, a fairly decent release), then the first three tracks on Ship Arriving might be enjoyable to you. No Not Now is perhaps the most upbeat of the three, returning to the best chorus on side A a few too many times, however. Valley Girl is humorous and enjoyable, but not for as long as the song is, and it tires intensely after a few listens. I Come from Nowhere, despite the horrifically goofy vocals (not the good kind of Zappic goofery), eventually turns into instrumental music and actually features a decent guitar solo after a period of wading through some pretty poor music.

At last, side two starts. The quasi title track is primarily instrumental, following a very YAWYI-sort of vocal passage. Here, the band finally gets to shine a bit. No, it doesn't have the wonderfully creative jazz flair that mid-70s Zappa was so blessed by, but it does move along at a good clip and do some interesting things. And honestly, I'm not too sure when that song ends and Envelopes begins. Pretty sure they're more or less one song split up over two tracks. All in all, if you are interested in the Zappa band featuring Steve Vai, this is a great pair of tracks to listen to. The third piece on the second half is Teenage Prostitute. Unlike the first three songs, this one is mildly clever but very creatively constructed. It's about as close as I've found Frank coming to metal, though the operatic vocals are perhaps almost prophetic towards the late 80s and on power metal sort of scene. It may be short and simplistic, but it's a very fun tune, and a nice ending to the album.

In short, an abysmal first half and a slightly redemptive second half. It can't quite average out to, well, average, so I'm going to have to go with two stars. Fans of 80s Zappa music will find plenty to enjoy here, while those who prefer 60s or 70s Zappa may find the quality sparser. And if you do not know much about 80s Zappa, I'd recommend starting with You Are What You Is instead of this one, as that album is stronger and features a much better spread of styles.

LiquidEternity | 2/5 |


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