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Frank Zappa - Cheap Thrills CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



2.90 | 43 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Today's lesson is on economics. But first a little history. Rykodisc purchased the compleat works of FRANK ZAPPA in the mid '90s, remastering and re-releasing the whole back catalog while adding to the oeuvre themselves with some new discs. They took their stewardship of the ZAPPA legacy seriously, which is to say with a sense of humor. Now for the economic part: ZAPPA's music has never come cheap. Original elpees have escalated in value, CDs usually start at the high end and rise when they go out of print. So building a ZAPPA collection is an expensive proposition. Now, here's the interesting part. Most companies would rub their hands together in glee, give each other conspiratorial looks, and think "I wonder if people would pay even more for FRANK ZAPPA's music." There'd probably be some chortling too. You know, that phlegmatic chortling that comes so easy to bad people on tv. But Rykodisc did something different: they released a pair of budget-priced samplers at $6.99 (about half the price of a regular CD) that compiled an album's worth of music from various ZAPPA reissues. What that meant was that consumers flipping through the CDs at their local record distributor were lulled from the internal dialogue of "Fifteen bucks, eighteen bucks, twenty-two bucks, sheesh" with the revelation of ""Seven" BUCKS?!" Then, in their trembling hands, they'd lift the CD to the light, check it for damage, and quickly flip through the rest of the ZAPPA section to see if this was a mistake that might happen again. I've exaggerated some, but that scenario probably isn't far from the mark. Rykodisc's plan was part of a much-maligned science called marketing: creating a desire on the part of the consumer for a certain product by using clever strategies. This is different from "mugging", which works by luring people into a place where they might otherwise feel safe (say, a record store) and stealing their money. This is what Vivendi/Universal is still doing to consumers, despite reducing the prices on some CDs. They're taking a slight hit on profits, but the real coup is pooching the silent partner (the music retailer) by forcing them to take an even smaller slice of the pie. And if the CDs are purchased with a credit card, a chunk of that slice hits the ground before the retailer can get it into their mouth. It's rapidly becoming the American way: one nation, under the god of commerce, with the hands of business in everybody's pockets. In the future, maybe the Chinese will sell us bootlegged CDs at a better price, which we can tax at 100%, distributing the tax revenue to Americans as income. Anyway, back to that original moment of pleasant discovery in an idyllic garden of multicolored plastic sadly being driven to extinction. For "Seven" bucks, you're getting a solid sampler of mostly live cuts from sundry ZAPPA releases. Lest the proceedings sound schizophrenic, the field has been narrowed to primarily '80s and '90s releases: the You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore series and Playground Psychotics in particular. It's not a greatest hits album by any means, but if you like the "funny" side of ZAPPA, "Cheap Thrills"'ll do just fine. Incidentally, mundane enhancements allow you to place this disc in your computer and browse Rykodisc's ZAPPA catalog off line, if you feel so inclined.
daveconn | 3/5 |


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