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Frank Zappa - Cruising With Ruben & The Jets CD (album) cover

CRUISING WITH RUBEN & THE JETS

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

2.69 | 185 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Frank Zappa: Cruising with Ruben & the Jets [1968]

Rating: 4/10

Zappa's early work with the Mothers used many pop music motifs in order to add additional levels of innovation and satire. Cruising with Ruben & the Jets is the only Zappa work in which an entire album consists only of these motifs. This album is not the result of an attempt at commercialism; rather, it is a both an homage and a lampoon of 1950s doo-wop. Pretty much everything that makes Zappa's music interesting is mostly absent here. The vocals tend to be rather irritating and overdone, and the songs are (intentionally) uninteresting and banal.

The opener "Cheap Thrills" is probably my favorite track here along with "Stuff Up the Cracks." While nothing mind-blowing, it's a catchy song with an infectious piano hook. "Love of My Life" is a school-dance doo-wop song that introduces the rather irritating vocals. "How Could I Be Such a Fool?" actually has some interesting bass hooks, and is another one of the slightly more interesting songs here. "Deseri" is another 1950s love song. "I'm Not Satisifed" is much less interesting reworking of the song from Freak Out! "Jelly Roll Gum Drop" probably contains the funniest lyrics here. "Anything" is a slow love ballad with a smooth-jazz sax solo. "Later That Night" continues in the same uniform style. "You Didn't Try To Call Me" is another redoing of a Freak Out! track. "Fountain of Love" is another funny one, but the music remains uninteresting. "No. No. No." has some more decent bass hooks. "Any Way the Wind Blows", one of the best straightforward songs from Freak Out!, is significantly slowed down on this reworking. "Stuff Up the Cracks" concludes the album. Hilariously twisted lyrics are juxtaposed with the happy music, and there's a decent guitar solo at the end.

While this is one of my least favorite Zappa albums, there really aren't very many objective criticisms that can be made about it. Zappa achieved exactly what he wanted here: an album of rather bland doo-wop music meant to pay tribute to the music of his teenhood. There's no intriguing composition, absurdist humor, biting satire, avant-garde craziness, or multifaceted jazz-fusion. But there isn't supposed to be. This album is well-conceived and succeeds in every way it's supposed to. While this is a funny album, the concept doesn't hold my interest, and I find myself revisiting this album only sparingly. While Cruising with Ruben & the Jets is a testament to just how diversely multitalented Uncle Frank was, it should be near the bottom of the list for somebody wanting to delve into the Zappa catalogue.

Anthony H. | 2/5 |

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