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LÄTHER

Frank Zappa

RIO/Avant-Prog


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soundsweird
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars You probably know the story: Zappa wanted to release this in the 70's as a deluxe 4-LP set, but the record company sensed disaster. So, many of the tracks wound up on single LP releases, some intact, others in different form. Now, you get the whole thing as originally intended, plus a few bonus tracks to fill out disc three. What I really like about this package is that you get a virtual overview of the various Zappa musical styles, minus the early and late stuff. Sure, there's a lot of stuff that's just okay, but the good stuff is really good. It's perfect for the more-than-casual fan who just can't afford to be a completist or doesn't have room for thirty Zappa albums.

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Send comments to soundsweird (BETA) | Report this review (#29714)
Posted Thursday, February 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars It might be much, but it's really an absolutely cool release, a labour of love by all involved recreating this. Most of this material has been released before, but it sounds better in this context rather than the seperate albums which got released instead of this back in the 70's (Sleep Dirt, Orchestral Favs, Studio Tan and Zappa In NY -which is an excellent live-disc, it must be said-). As if the Zappa Family Trust isn't generous enough, there's also bonus material to fill out the 3d disc, and that doesn't disappoint either. The accompanying booklet is very interesting with comments on each song and informative liner-notes tackling the subject of the album's near-faith. This package is a perfect display of all of Zappa's talents and is highly recommended for any real fan.

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Send comments to Kaztor (BETA) | Report this review (#29715)
Posted Friday, March 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars A radio-only 1977 release that would eventually become a triple CD box set. The material here encompasses the albums Sleep Dirt, Studio Tan, some of Joe's Garage, some rare live material, and parts of Sheik Yerbouti and Baby Snakes. The musicianship on these songs are impeccable and the song selection is priceless. But, if you own have the albums that these songs are on, then there is no real reason to purchase this box set. I happened to have found it discounted so I took up the chance. There are a few unreleased songs here, like a remake of Regyptian Strut and Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit, but there isn't enough new material to make this set worthwile.

However, if you do not own any of the albums that these songs are on, this is a good way to obtain them without spending too much money on them. Overall, I would like to give it a 3.5/5 for sheer brilliance, but in reality, seeing as this really is a compilation of songs that are not different from their studio releases, I give it a 2.5/5.

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Send comments to Cygnus X-2 (BETA) | Report this review (#46490)
Posted Monday, September 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Finally, Läther. Everybody knows the story about this eight-sided LP, now a 3 CD box set, that Warner Bros. didn´t released in the 70´s - "too uncommercial", they said. Well. for those who have Studio Tan, Zappa in New York, Orchestral Favourites and Sleep Dirt, there are no news here. The charming of Läther is that the box is organized the way Zappa wanted in the 70´s, especially the sequence of the songs (as we can see in the booklet inside, including the line-up that played in each song of the box). The repertoire is astonishing, including some very well structured instrumentals, specially in disc two, some zappa bizarre and entertaining acts, especially in disc one, and again complex music and cartoon-like songs, like Gregory Peccary, in disc 3. The discs are heterogeneous anyway, but the idea is well organized, making each disc a unique piece, without intervals between the songs. If you get (and imagine) the album as an original release, picturing how it could be cool in the 70´s, how ambitious it would be, it´s a real pleasure to listen to it. The good thing here is that the album is not a "money-maker", it´s an original idea in it´s original form. Off course, for hardcore fans, it sounds boring, because 90% of the album is not new material. What´s the deal ? Läther is the ideal album to understand Zappa in the second part of the 70´s, with a band including Bozzio, O´Hearn, Jobson, Ruth Underwood, the Brecker brothers, George Duck, Chester, Ray White, lots of real nice musicians. That´s the reason why Läther is so important. It´s a picture of Zappa´s most ambitious, complex and creative moment. For fans still initiated, Läther is a guaranteed entertainment. For newcomers, Läther may sound too bizarre, altough fascinating. For hardcore fans, stop telling bad things about this idea and try to understand it in a an artistical way, and not in a commercial way, giving 2 or 3 stars for a gem like Läther. It´s difficult to imagine a four-LP box in 77, with all these marvelous and strange compositions. Well, it´s Zappa. Now, we can sit, put these CD´s on a player and dream on it. It works. Get it.

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Send comments to rguabiraba (BETA) | Report this review (#47070)
Posted Sunday, September 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
higgorgd@hotm
5 stars An interesting box set. I assisted to many Zappa live performances in Europe in the 70´s, specially the line-up with Bozzio, Jobson, O´Hearn and cia. This Box set is not a surprise for hardcore fans, but the compilation is exactly the original Zappa idea put together in a 3 CD Box set. I don´t agree with many reviews, that only argue that the compilation is to make money or such things. The interesting point here is that the producers organized the box set in the way Zappa wanted in the 70´s, including the songs released in albums like Studio Tan or Sleep Dirt. It´s very cool to picture this release in the late 70´s, a 4-LP set with such incredible musicianship and complexity. For those who knows the songs, get it as a storycal release, put yourself in the late 70´s. The mastering is really nice and the repertoire worth the prize. I admit it´s a fantastic piece of music by the master Zappa. See ya guys.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#47324)
Posted Monday, September 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR
Jazz-Rock/Fusion Team
2 stars This is more of a historic release than anything essential. Almost all Zappa fans know the story behind lather, Warner Brothers wouldn't let FZ release the album in this format. To get back at then, Zappa went to a radio station and played the entire album, from side 1 to side 8, straight through. Now, many years later, Lather is finally released in its intended glory.

Many of the songs here are from other albums. These albums include Zappa In New York, Studio Tan (the entire album, although presented with slightly varying structures), Sleep Dirt, and a few others. Despite this downfall there are bright spots. First, the songs from Sleep Dirt are presented without vocals, whereas the ones on Sleep Dirt had them. In my opinion, they benenfited from them greatly without the annoying vocals. Secondly, there are some previously unreleased tracks, but unfortunatly very few. One highlight of these is an early version of A Little Green Rosetta. Totally different and fantastic! Third, the bonus tracks. Again some rarites here that any Zappa enthusist should have. On the first one of these Zappa tells the story of what Lather should have been. But aside from these its nothing special about this collection, other then the fact that is presented on three CDs like originally intended.

All in all this is for the die hard Zappa fan, not the casual listener. This is also good if you want to introduce yourself to the albums mentioned above. But this is a bad starting point, IMO. Recommended to the Zappa completists.

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Send comments to Man With Hat (BETA) | Report this review (#74188)
Posted Wednesday, April 05, 2006 | Review Permalink
Chris H
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Would I really be doing anything original by repeating the story behind this album for you another time? OK why not, I'll do it. This was Frank's big huge creation of an 8-LP set, which those greedy folks at Warner Brothers scoffed at. So Frank, being about the music, takes his creation to the radio station and plays this sucker end to end in 1977, while "hosting" the radio show for the day. Got it? Good.

Do you own "Sleep Dirt", "Zappa In New York", "Orchestral Favorites", "Sheik Yerbouti" and "Studio Tan"? Well in case you were wondering this is virtually a combination of all of these albums. What is excellent and intriguing about this is that the "Sleep Dirt" vocals have been completely cut out. Also, the songs off of "Sheik..." are less of the songs you know and more of early stages recordings. Also there is limited but exciting bonus material on here including a 1993 version of "Regyptian Strut" and an alternate to "Little Green Rosetta".

This is mainly an instrumental compilation, but the big hits do have the vocals included. There are some amazing solo moments here, and then again there are some incredible jams and musician interaction during the whole of the recording. Definitely not for a Zappa first- timer, or anybody with the albums mentioned above. However, it is great if you are looking for some Zappa alternates, or to get some tracks off of those 5 albums. 3 stars.

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Send comments to Chris H (BETA) | Report this review (#116286)
Posted Saturday, March 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
darkshade
COLLABORATOR
Jazz Rock/Fusion Team
5 stars This is truly Frank Zappa's magnum opus. It encompasses everything there is to know about the man. You can't go wrong, no matter what side of Zappa you prefer. There's the late 60's psychedelia and avant-guard, great classic rock, jazz-rock/fusion, classical, guitar solos galore, and so much more. Even if you own all the 70's albums that came out of this, as I do, this is still essential because this is the way it was meant to be presented, in this order and format. There are also songs and different renditions of songs that arent on any other recording.

As for the songs themselves, The Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution here is the best version, much more focused than the Sleep Dirt version, while great because of the amazing extended solo section, can drag on a bit. Here it gets right to the point. Revised Music for Guitar and Low-Budget Orchestra and RDNZL are of course the show stoppers, with Greggary Peccary strangely but effectively ending this epic album. Everything else is pretty much the same versions, but with strange noises and sounds between most tracks. There's also a few bonus tracks which is sweet.

If this album had come out it would be up there with the other classic Zappa albums like The Grand Wazoo, Hot Rats, Apostrophe, Roxy & Elsewhere, One Size Fits All, etc... This is basically Zappa at his most creative, extreme, epic, and all around greatest. A must own for Zappa heads, Jazz-rock/fusion fans, rock fans, avant-fans, classical fans, comedy rock fans, you get the point...

Essential!

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Send comments to darkshade (BETA) | Report this review (#128331)
Posted Friday, July 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well, I have to say, this is a great place to start with Zappa. It has nearly every aspect of his music presented within. Orchestral, Jazz, Jazz fusion, hard rock, dowop, surf music(!), even some pretty proggy stuff. And plenty of humor.

As others have mentioned, this was originally intended to be released in the 70's as an 8 sided (4 LP's) album. This was something that had not been done before, and the record company was understandably reluctant. Well, in fact they flat out refused to release it, as Zappa was trying to fulfill his contract by delivering the last 4 albums as one release. So in retaliation he played the entire thing on an LA radio station and told listeners to be sure to record it all. All the material was released on future albums after that, Sleep Dirt, Studio Tan, Zappa In New York, and a few others.

Still, many of the tracks here are different from their studio versions (lyrics removed, older versions, different versions, etc.) and there are a few bonus tracks as well. For myself, I never had any of these other albums, though had heard a couple of them. It seemed like a great way to have all this music, without buying all the different albums (this was $30, but buying the individual albums would have cost quite a bit more).

As I said before, this has it all. A track by track review would take to long to write, but it's safe to say that there is lots of great music on here and a great balance of vocal and instrumental pieces. If you're like me, the instrumental material is far more enjoyable and tolerable, but I must say that this has some of his better vocal numbers as well. There are very few songs here that don't appeal to me, and quite a few I find outstanding. Considering how hit or miss Zappa can be for me, this is pretty darn good.

I realize that for the casual Zappa fan, this may not be essential. My advice is that if you have some or all of the albums this material appears on, it's safe to skip this one. If you are a Zappa fanatic, you might as well get it because there is some unreleased material and different versions of some songs. If you've never heard Zappa, this is a great place to start (though the price may be too high for some).

My rating is based on the fact that I don't have any of the albums this material appeared on and haven't heard most of them before. Had this been released when it was intended, in the form it was intended, I have no doubt it would still be considered Zappa's masterpiece (though there are so many, it's hard to be certain). Because of this, and the sheer quality and diversity of the music, I give it 5 stars. Just remember that Zappa is not really classifiable in general, and this album covers a LOT of musical ground. But I think this deserves no less than 5 stars.

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Send comments to infandous (BETA) | Report this review (#128338)
Posted Friday, July 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Läther is a 3 CD album set released in 1996 by American experimental rock artist Frank Zappa. The album was originally intented to be released as a 4 LP box-set in 1977, but Zappa´s record company at the time Warner Bros. Records refused to release Läther. Supposedly because they had doubts about the commercial potential of the project. Frank Zappa asked to be released from his contract to the record company in order to release the box-set as he intented it to sound, but unfortunately for him he had already delivered the box-set to Warner Bros. Records and as his contract with the record company was still four albums short of fulfillment he was forced to edit the Läther box-set into four individual albums. So most of the material on Studio Tan (1978), Sleep Dirt (1979), Orchestral Favorites (1979) and Zappa in New York (1978) originally comes from Läther. It should be noted here that this is Gail Zappa´s version of the story and others claim that the individual albums were made as individual albums and then later put together by Zappa to form Läther. There are also songs on Läther that would appear in other versions on Sheik Yerbouti (1979), Joe's Garage (1979) and Tinsel Town Rebellion (1981). Frank Zappa had a major dispute with Warner Bros. Records over this matter and that´s why the material on the four albums only appeared in 1978 and 1979 even though Zappa had delivered Läther to the record company in late 1976. He was so frustrated with the situation that he actually played the whole Läther box-set on Pasadena's KROQ radio station and instructing listeners to record it in December 1977. Therefore bootlegs of the box-set have been circulating and was until the release of the Rykodisc 3 CD box-set the only way you had a chance to hear Läther.

While most of the material were released on the four above mentioned albums most of the Läther versions of the songs differ a bit from the versions on the individual albums and therefore Läther is still a worthwile purchase for those who already have the individual albums. Many of the songs are also linked with snippets of mad talking and strange sound experiments in the same style as on Lumpy Gravy (1968) and as the songs appear in a different order and in another context than on the individual albums this gives the listener a very different listening experience. The songs are a mix of live and studio recordings as usual.

Disc 1:

Disc 1 starts with Re-gyptian strut which is a bombastic instrumental song and a great way to start the the album. After this song we´re treated with both avant garde classical music in Naval Aviation In Art?, silly ( sophisticated as always of course) pop songs like A Little Green Rosetta and For the Young Sophisticate as well as some great guitar soloing ( on top of what sounds like the Whole Lotta Love riff by Led Zeppelin) by Zappa in Duck Duck Goose ( which also contains a sound experiment section and an avant garde classical part) and a nice little instrumental in Down in the Dew. The hilarious and very sexually oriented songs Tryin' To Grow A Chin and Broken Hearts Are For Assholes are up next. Both telling stories of the various griefs and challenges of social interactions between humans. both songs would appear in other versions on Sheik Yerbouti. The Legend Of The Illinois Enema Bandit which would later appear on Zappa in New York shortened to The Illinois Enema Bandit is next. The great Ray White shines here with his elastic vocal performance and that guitar solo by Zappa is excellent stuff. This version is is different to the version that would appear on Zappa in New York but only slightly. The song has some of the most controversial and often critizised lyrics Zappa ever wrote. The three next songs Lemme Take You To The Beach, Revised Music For Guitar & Low Budget Orchestra and RDNZL made out side 2 of the original LP release of Studio Tan (1978) and appear here in the same order as on the LP. The CD re-release of Studio Tan has another song order. Lemme Take You To The Beach is just a great fun surf-rock song. Fast paced and with some hilarious high pitched vocals curtesy of Davey Moire. Eddie Jobson ( Curved Air, Roxy Music, UK, Jethro Tull) also appear on this song with his futuristic keyboards approach. Revised Music For Guitar & Low Budget Orchestra was never my favorite song from Zappa. I never really felt that the mix of classical music and rock worked that well in this song. It´s not bad though. The instrumental RDNZL is a great closer to disc 1 but this studio version is not up to par with earlier and later live versions of the song IMO.

Disc 2:

Honey, Don't You Want A Man Like Me? starts disc 2. It´s an absolutely hilarious song about social behaviour on a date. Lots of little quirky instrumental moments in this song in addition to the funny lyrics. The Black Page #1 ( this is the version Zappa refers to as the teen-age version on Zappa in New York) is next. This is a 2 minute studio version. It´s really nice finally to be able to hear this extremely challenging instrumental in a studio version. Up until the release of Läther, The Black Page had only appeared in live versions. Big Leg Emma is a short live r´n´b track which also appeared on Zappa in New York. Punky's Whips was censored by Warner Bros. Records and removed from Zappa in New York shortly after it´s original release. It has since been restored and appear on the CD version ( as well as newer LP versions) of that album. Here on Läther it appears in a seemingly similar version as the one on the CD version of Zappa in New York. The sound is a bit different though. But don´t shoot me here I´m not sure. Flambé which would be re-named Flambay on the Sleep Dirt appears on Läther in a short 2 minute long version. The version on Sleep Dirt is almost 5 minues long. The Purple Lagoon starts with the Approximate instrumental track but most of the song consists of soloing by sax and guitar. It´s a rather avant garde/ jamming live song and has a total playing time of 16:20 minutes. It´s not my personal favorite but those who seek adventurous playing and sound should be able to find enjoyment here. The musicianship on this track is excellent. Pedro's Dowry also appear on the Orchestral Favorites album and is classical music piece. Läther which is called I Promise Not to Come in Your Mouth on Zappa in New York appears in the exact same version on both albums just with different titles. Great little instrumental track that one IMO. Spider Of Destiny is an instrumental track which appear here in the same version as it appeared on the original LP version of Sleep Dirt ( the CD version has added female vocals). Duke Of Orchestral Prunes ends disc 2. A great orchestral version of that song. To my ears this version sounds similar to the version that appears on Orchestral Favorites.

Disc 3:

Filthy Habits which shows Zappa´s skills with feed-back is one of my all time favorite tracks from him. A dark and menacing instrumental track. Titties 'n Beer which is a hilarious song where Zappa and Terry Bozzio interact in a story about the devil, Titties, beer and pickles ( you figure it out). Titties 'n Beer appears on Läther in the same short version as the version on the original LP version of Zappa in New York. The version on the CD version of Zappa in New York is almost 2 minutes longer. The Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution was originally released on Sleep Dirt in a 13:18 minute long version but appears here in a shorter edited 8:31 minute version. It´s a bit of a shame that this great instrumental is edited like that. I like the original version better. The Adventures Of Greggery Peccery is a fantastic 20:56 minute long track. A mix between rock and classical music with added cartoon like story telling and singing. Not only is this great fun. It´s also a challenging listen and note the conceptual continuity in that song ( Billy the Mountain). This is where the original version of Läther was supposed to end but the 3 CD Rykodisc version has 4 added bonus tracks. Regyptian Strut (1993), Leather Goods, Revenge Of The Knick-Knack People and Time Is Money. Regyptian Strut (1993) has re-recorded drums and a different mix. Leather Goods is one of Zappa´s improvised live solos. It ends with the guitar solo section from Duck Duck Goose. Revenge Of The Knick-Knack People is a short avant garde piece while Time Is Money appears to be in the same version as the one of the original LP release of Sleep Dirt.

Conclusion

Läther is an excellent collection of Frank Zappa´s mid- to late seventies output and it could be a great place to start for the curious new listener as almost every style that Zappa played are represented here. Some might find it a bit too diverse though. I think Läther holds great value for both fans and the more casual listener and fully deserves a 4 star rating. The quality of material, musicianship and production is top notch. Don´t despair if you already own the albums I mentioned in the beginning of the review. As I also pointed out most of the songs appear here in slightly different versions than on the individual albums and that fact in addition to the fact the versions of the songs from Sleep Dirt which appear on Läther does not include the added female vocals from the Rykodisc CD re-issue ( the original LP release of that album did not include vocals) should make Läther a worthwile purchase even though you own the individual albums. Especially if you only own the CD versions of said albums.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#216202)
Posted Saturday, May 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

Back in the second half of the 70's, even Zappa didn't escape to the giganticism and wanted to put out a 4 vinyl set of new studio and live material, yet unreleased. Despite one or two examples that would take place a few years later, like the Godley & Crème boxset, the industry doubted of the commercial success (not without reasons) of such an ambitious project and refused Zappa the release as such. So Frank released four different album containing this material (sometimes in a different version), but in a willingly disorderly fashion, so that the concept was impossible to reassemble over the Sleep Dirt, Studio Tan, Orchestral Favorites and a live album. Note that his next big projects would be the double Sheik Yerbouti and the triple (but released in two parts) Joe's Garage. This project was finally released after Frank's death by wife Gail and some associates. The least we can say is that this set is extremely well-done and really reflects Frank's (all-too often scatological) spirits of the times and reflecting his general defiance and gratuitous provocation of the well-thinking establishment about many still taboo subjects.

The first disc starts on the splendid jazz-rock Re-Gyptian Strut (on SD), but soon digresses in Modern Classical with Aviation (on OF), the Whole Lotta Love-riffed & Lumpy Gravy influenced Duck Goose and later on the scatological Assholes and Enema pieces - the latter sounding like a killer Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush blues, once past the idiotic intro. The album finishes on a Studio Tan feast, with three tracks from its flipside, including the excellent Take You To The Beach and RDNZL. A worthy first disc, but marred by the juvenile-crappy humour.

The second disc starts on the goofy bluesy Man Like Me, then segues with a few Live In New York tracks (or their studuio version), including the then-censored challenging Funky Whips (with that famous male promise ;o)))), but it is the terrific Flambay (or Flambé from SD) that grabs all of our attention. A while later, Läther (from LiNY) is one of the Zappa proggiest fusion tune almost Canterburian as the awesome Spider Of Destiny (again from SD) is. Closing on an Orchestral Favorite piece, this second disc is much more enjoyable, because the humour segues to the music.

The third disc opens on another SD stand-out piece, the dark and brooding almost- Crimsonian Filthy Habits, but the legendary (but not in my book) misogynistic Titties piece is up next and makes a second reference to Jeff Beck. A little deceiving is the much shorter Ocean Solution (from SD), reduced from 13+ to to 8-mins, even though it remains excellent. The pièce de resistance is the sidelong suite of Greggery Peccary that's closing the set and boxset, with moments of pure bliss, but a lot of that usual dumb humour. The four bonus tracks are not essential (there is a lengthy jam) but don't hinder the album either.

Well Läther is a good set that might happily replace the 4 late-70's albums, but unfortunately the Sleep dirt album tracks are not in the original album form, so you'd have to get that one and the live one as well, if you are a completist. And reversely, if you're a Sleep Dirt aficionado (like me), you'll be tempted to get Läther, at least for the re-arranged SD pieces. I'll pass, though, as I can rent this from the library.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#292481)
Posted Thursday, July 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars It should be noted, first things first, that I heard this album, the complete presentation of Läther as originally intended (with some bonus tracks at the end), a few years after I heard the albums that contained the fallout material from that album. My attitude towards those albums wasn't overwhelmingly positive, and I stand by those reviews, on the whole.

But man, I do like Läther. There are only a few new tracks that weren't available previously (which are mostly good), as well as a few that received some reworkings, and the rest is stuff that has been covered already. And yeah, there's still some material I really don't like much: in particular, I'll never get to a point where I care much for "Punky's Whips;" "Revised Music for Guitar and Orchestra" still bores me to death, and "Pedro's Dowry" still seems like a lot of noisy classical clanging to me. All of this material works so much better on the whole than in piecemeal, though, that it's kind of astounding to me. It's really amazing what correct track placement can do: take something like "Let Me Take You to the Beach," which sounded kinda stupid as the second track on a four track album (coming out of "Greggery Peccary"), but sounds like a delightful goofy romp here. And what about "Filthy Habits," which works much better as the opener of side 7 than as the opener of an album, or especially "Regyptian Strut," which didn't have anywhere near as much impact as a mid-album track as it does as the goofily pseudo-regal/bombastic opener of this album? The only albums in Zappa's catalogue that I consider better sequenced than this one are Burnt Weeny Sandwich and You Are What You Is, and that's some mighty fine company.

It's actually really amazing how much better the Sleep Dirt material seems on here than before. One thing that helps is that "Flambay" and "Spider of Destiny" lose the incredibly stupid female vocal parts that had marred them before: here they just seem like pleasant enough jazzy interludes, fitting in well with the rest of the album. Aside from the aforementioned "Filthy Habits" and "Regyptian Strut," there's also an edited version of The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution, ditching all of the acoustic stuff at the beginning. Now don't get me wrong, I really like the acoustic opening to that track, but somehow having an instrumental driven by blazing guitar work seems perfect for the album's penultimate track.

The entirety of Studio Tan is also here, and while the second half is done grouped together, "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary" takes its place as the album's closer, and in so doing it becomes an all-time Zappa classic in my eyes. It's funny to me that, only in listening to it in the context of following an absurd amount of genre hopping, I would finally recognize that it's an incredibly sophisticated and complex track along with being an enjoyably silly one. It's the perfect capstone to the album: full of complex classical bits (not that far away from some moments in "Pedro's Dowry" or "Naval Aviation in Art," actually), full of ridiculous humor, and even boasting a great melody (the "Who is making those new brown clouds" bit) that is the perfect end to an epic listening experience.

Zappa in New York boasts quite a few entries, and only one of them ("Punky's Whips") is especially objectionable. There's an edited version of "Titties and Beer" (eliminating the moment where Zappa is reading the note from somebody in the audience), the great version of "The Illinois Enema Bandit," the great concert-ending jam ("Purple Lagoon"), the amusing "Honey Don't You Want a Man Like Me?" (which I forgot to mention in my original review), and a bunch of shorter stuff like "Big Leg Emma." It also contributes the instrumental title track, which had previously been given the unfortunate title of "I Promise Not to Come In Your Mouth" (maybe that's why I'd blocked it out; it's too bad, given that this is a really pleasant and lovely atmospheric piece). Orchestral Favorites doesn't include the redo of "Strictly Genteel," unfortunately, but it does contain the lovely "Duke of Orchestral Prunes" (in addition to "Naval Aviation" and "Pedro's Dowry"), so that helps. Sheik Yerbouti contributes some material, courtesy of "Trying to Grow a Chin" and "Broken Hearts are for Assholes" (not in the exact versions as on that album, so accusations of redundancy should at least be somewhat limited) and even Joe's Garage (reviewed below) throws in "A Little Green Rosetta" (this is completely different from the Garage version, though: it starts off sounding more like "Evelyn, a Modified Dog" than anything, before launching into a cool guitar solo that later made it to Shut Up and Play Yer Guitar).

There's also some previously unreleased material, though this doesn't make up a large portion of the album. "Duck Duck Goose" is so diverse that it's almost the rest of the album in microcosm, jumping from one of the best hard rock workouts of Zappa's career to chaotic snippets of classical bits and all sorts of weird vocal bits that almost sound more suited to the Residents. Strangely enough, it actually seems to match the title: it's like somebody's going around a circle, patting different musical bits on the head at random and letting them run around for a while until it's time for the next turn. "Down in De Dew" is a pleasant enough instrumental featuring strangely alluring, almost psychedelic guitar noises, and it's a lot of fun. And finally, "For the Young Sophisticate" is a fun blues rock romp about a guy who breaks up with a girl (voiced by Ricky Lancelotti) because of her armpit hair but decides to take her back, and which would later appear in a weaker, less striking form on Tinseltown Rebellion.

All in all, I have to say this is the most pleasant surprise in the entire Zappa catalogue. I did not have a great attitude going into this album, knowing in advance that the material was inconsistent, but it's oh so much better in this form than in the fallout albums. And you know, come to think of it, there are only three tracks here that I seriously disliked in previous albums (though their combined length is pretty long), so it's not as if I can really tack on a label of "inconsistent." It's spotty, yes, and it may drive some people crazy with how all over the place it is in style, but after all, couldn't the same accusations be leveled at The Beatles? A Zappa fan who doesn't own this is a sad Zappa fan indeed.

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Send comments to tarkus1980 (BETA) | Report this review (#329651)
Posted Monday, November 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The story of Lather has been re-hashed often enough by previous reviewers, so I'll cut to the chase. Assuming you're a bit of a Zappa fan, you might be wondering if it's worth buying a 3 disc collection, most of which has already seen the light of day on 'In New York', Studio Tan', 'Orchestral Favourites' and 'Sleep Dirt'.

The short answer is yes.

None of the albums that it was remoulded into stands up all that well - New York is a prototype for many subsequent double albums of stadium rock with smutty lyrics, great solos and unlikely time signatures; Sleep Dirt is more fusion oriented; Orchestral Favourites has a classical bent, and Studio Tan lumps together anything which didn't obviously fit on any of the other albums. Listened to as Zappa originally intended, however, you get a surprisingly coherent and engaging overview of Zappa's universe in the mid 70s. The whole thing is presented with sparkling UMRK remastered sound, an informative booklet and a handful of not strictly necessary bonus tracks, and a brief snippet of Zappa introducing the thing on his famous radio broadcast.

If you're new to Zappa, or even just this particular phase of his career, Lather is an excellent starting point. Given that most of his studio albums came in at around 35 miniutes in the 70s, and most of his double vinyls fit very comfortably onto a single CD, 3 hours of astonishingly varied music of such a consistently high standard is excellent value in anybody's book.

Recommended.

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Send comments to Syzygy (BETA) | Report this review (#384883)
Posted Saturday, January 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
5 stars If this album had been released by Warner Brothers in it's original four LP box in the seventies, I believe it would be hailed as Frank Zappa's greatest masterpiece. The album contains some of Zappa's finest work from the seventies, and a cross section of his musical styles. There are complex rock pieces, modern classical works, blues extravaganzas, and, of course, "dirty" lyrics.

To me, the best pieces are the complex ones. The album starts right out with one of these in Re-gyptian Strut. Other great examples are Revised Music For Guitar & Low Budget Orchestra and RDNZL. Special mention must be made for Patrick O'Hearn's incredible bass work on The Purple Lagoon (which also feature some amazing Brecker Brothers soloing) and The Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution. And another treat is The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary, a very funny extravaganza that sounds like it came from th "Wazoo" period of Zappa's music (and has a cameo from the great Billy The Mountain).

The poppier songs are wonderful as well, at least for those of us who can take Zappa's humor.

Most of the songs on this album were used, after the WB suits turned the boxed set down, on other albums, but here is the best place to hear them, as Frank originally intended.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#410295)
Posted Wednesday, March 02, 2011 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Around 1977 Frank approached his record label (Warner Brothers) about releasing a 4 LP set, but the label rejected him flat out. Frank would then have this 4 LP set played from beginning to end on a radio station while encouraging fans to record it.Yeah he was pissed. The songs here would end up on several albums that were released in 1978 and 1979 in "Sleep Dirt" , "Studio Tan" , "Zappa In New York" , "Orchestral Favourites" and one song on "Sheik Yerbouti". So in "Lather" we have Frank's vision finally realized, even though it took 20 years. The weird thing is that I like this set much better than the individual pieces. I know some have said that if you own the albums I mentioned above then you can take a pass on this one, but I couldn't disagree more. Maybe it's just Zappa's brilliance but this set is so well done and it's a solid 4 stars in my world. I enjoy and agree with Syzygy's thoughts on this.

Disc One is full of amazing tracks.Throughout this set we get some fantastic brass, violin, guitar, drums, keyboards and more. "Re-Egyptian Strut" has this funny intro then the music kicks in.This sounds great with the horns and percussion. Chester Thompson is on drums. "Navan Aviation In Art" is really a Chamber-like Classical piece. "A Little Green Rosetta" is good with that guitar solo before a minute. "Duck Duck Goose" opens with ripping guitar then we get a funny laugh before a minute then a fifties style vocal soundscape takes over. "Down In De Dow" sounds really good once it gets going.We then get some funny vocal tracks in "For The Young Sophisticate", "Trying To Grow A Chin", "Broken Hearts Are Assholes" and "The Legend Of The Illinois Enema". Love the narration to start the last one I mentioned. "Lemme Take You To The Beach" is too much fun. The last two tracks are excellent and serious instrumentals.

Disc Two opens with "Honey, Don't You Want A Man Like Me ?". Funny stuff. "Honey, honey hey..." "The Black Page #1" is a short complex instrumental. "Big Leg Emma" and "Punky's Whips" are both pretty funny with Terry Bozzio shining on the latter. The next six songs which takes us to the end of Disc Two are all instrumentals and man this is good. I'd especially mention "The Purple Lagoon" and "Pedro's Dowry".

Disc Three begins with "Filthy Habits" which is a top three for me. An amazing instrumental with a funny ending. "Titties And Beer" and "The Adventures Of Gregory Peccary" are pretty funny especially the latter. "The Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution" has some killer bass from Patrick O'Hearn and Frank offers up a tasteful solo as well.

"Lather" pronounced "Leather" sits proudly with all my other Zappa favourites.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#483211)
Posted Friday, July 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
The Truth
COLLABORATOR
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars I happen to be reviewing the reissue.

This might be my favorite album by Uncle Frank. I mean, there is just every part of Zappa's long discography in place here. There's the jazz fusion of Hot Rats, the comedy-rock of Joe's Garage, the downright rock of Zoot Allures and so much more.

Lather was a scrapped triple album because his record label wouldn't release it, instead releasing just a few tracks as single albums, Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt and Live in New York. What a terrible idea, this triple album (keep that in mind, that's a lot of music) keeps attention better than those three albums alone. It has something to do with the consistency of the variation, I'm sure (an oxymoron, maybe).

There are just some great tracks on here, Broken Hearts Are For Assholes, The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution and so much more. This is truly some of Frank's best material, I'm having trouble of thinking of a time when he was any more prolific and fun. I mean, he's always had fun making music, but with Lather he seems to be enjoying himself to the maximum. It is just a really great listen.

Get the reissue! Now! It is one of those lazy afternoon albums that you can sit back and enjoy with pride.

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Send comments to The Truth (BETA) | Report this review (#883372)
Posted Friday, December 28, 2012 | Review Permalink

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