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


Frank Zappa



3.53 | 229 ratings

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4 stars Lowbrow humor and late-inning guitar heroics were fast becoming a staple in FRANK ZAPPA's diet, so Ship Arriving Too Late. couldn't have come a moment too soon. Led by Frank's first (and last) US Top 40 hit, "Valley Girl", the album distills the artist down to his current essence: funny dialog, startling arrangements, and stellar musicianship. At six songs and thirty-four minutes, it's one of ZAPPA's shortest albums, but also his tightest since Joe's Garage, Act I. An octet plus vocalists, you might expect this crowd to step on one another's toes, but they never do: led by Steve Vai and bassist Scott Thunes, the music is a group portrait that allows individual players like percussionist Ed Mann and drummer Chad Wackerman to claim their own corner of the painting. You'll hear this especially on "Drowning Witch" and "Envelopes", which have more space between instruments than you'd expect from a band this big. There are moments on the mock-opera "Teen-age Prostitute" and the equally demented "I Come from Nowhere" when sounds come crashing together, but that's by design, and they soon return to their respective posts. Amid this musical maelstrom are two of Frank's most accessible tracks: "No Not Now" and "Valley Girl." The former is an improvement over the funky formula of "Fine Girl", the latter a launching pad for a lesson in valleyspeak from Frank's then-teenage daughter, Moon. It's worth a warning that "Valley Girl" isn't a fair indicator of what to expect from "Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch"; no doubt some folks expecting a whole album of cute novelty songs were scratching their heads by side two. FZ produced some real clunkers in the '80s -- The Man from UTOPIA, Francesco ZAPPA -- but this one is worth rescuing from the junk pile. It's one of the "humorous" FRANK ZAPPA albums that tickles the imagination as well as the funny bone.
daveconn | 4/5 |


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