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Frank Zappa Cheap Thrills album cover
2.92 | 46 ratings | 12 reviews | 7% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Boxset/Compilation, released in 1998

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. I Could Be A Star Now (0:36)
2. Catholic Girls (live) (4:04)
3. Bobby Brown Goes Down (live) (4:20)
4. You Are What You Is (4:51)
5. We Are Not Alone (3:18)
6. Cheap Thrills (2:37)
7. The Mudshark Interview (2:39)
8. Hot Plate Heaven At The... (6:40)
9. Zomby Woof (live) (5:39)
10. The Torture Never Stops (9:16)
11. Joe's Garage (live) (2:20)
12. My Guitar Wants To Kill... (3:19)
13. Going For The Money (0:12)

Total Time: 49:51

Line-up / Musicians

- Frank Zappa / synthesizer, guitar, arranger, director, vocals, producer, synclavier, drum machine
- Steve Vai / guitar
- George Duke / keyboards
- Bruce Fowler / trombone
- Marty Krystall / saxophone
Bobby Martin / keyboards, saxophone, vocals
- Don Preston / piano
- Jay Anderson / string bass
- Ed Mann / percussion, marimba, vibraphone, electronic percussion
- Chad Wackerman / drums, electric percussion
- Jimmy Carl Black / rhythm
- Ike Willis / guitar (rhythm), vocals
- Ray Collins / vocals
- Tom Fowler / bass
- Arthur Barrow / bass, guitar (rhythm), keyboards
- Captain Beefheart / harmonica, vocals
- Terry Bozzio / drums
- Napoleon Murphy Brock / saxophone
- Paul Carman / sax (Alto), sax (Baritone), sax (Soprano)
- Steve DeFuria / synclavier
- Roy Estrada / bass (electric)
- Dick Fegy / mandolin
- Walt Fowler / synthesizer, trumpet, flugelhorn
- Bunk Gardner / sax (Alto), sax (Tenor)
- Mike Keneally / synthesizer, guitar (rhythm), vocals
- Tommy Mars / keyboards, vocals
- Kurt McGettrick / clarinet, sax (Baritone), sax (bass), double bass
- David Ocker / synclavier
- Motorhead Sherwood / sax (Baritone), tambourine
- Scott Thunes / bass, bass (electric), mini moog
- Ian Underwood / sax (Alto), sax (Tenor)
- Denny Walley / slide guitar
- Ray White / guitar (rhythm), vocals
- Allan Zavod / keyboards

Releases information

Rykodisc #RCD10579

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and to Joren for the last updates
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FRANK ZAPPA Cheap Thrills ratings distribution

(46 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(7%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(16%)
Good, but non-essential (64%)
Collectors/fans only (13%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

FRANK ZAPPA Cheap Thrills reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by lor68
3 stars Well this is not the best sample of his big range of styles and is also quite heterogonous, as for the presence of live songs and those ones from the studio... but it's so much cheap that it can be the first place to start with such a small but important extract from his unforgettable career... after this one you can buy the other official studio albums, also in the double CD-format!!

Not essential, but it's anyway interesting!!

Review by daveconn
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.
Review by Chris H
3 stars Wow! For such a cheap price, this is a great way to pick up some good live versions of classic Zappa tunes. On the flip side, this doesn't really show you all of the different styles Zappa has to offer. This collection stays a little safe in terms of song complexity, by putting in live versions of "Joe's Garage", "Bobby Brown Goes Down" and "My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama". However, I did enjoy the comedic relief from the opening 0:30 track that talks about how joining the Mothers will ruin your life, and "The Mudshark Interview", which is comprised of hilarious dialogue.

Not a very good way to experience the more complex sides of Zappa, but it's great for anybody who wants to hear some good live tunes at an awesome bargain!

Review by progrules
2 stars Zappa had his peak in the early seventies, just before I got interested in (pop)music. When I started to get to know bands I heard about Zappa sometimes, occasionally heard a song of him and his band, and thought in those days it was really weird. I was suprised to find Zappa back on progarchives a few years ago. But I thought, well OK, let's check him out as well, bought a cheap specimen of this album and played it a few times. I heard enough after that. It was the Zappa I had in mind and still think it's kind of weird. And believe that's exactly what Zappa intends to do. Puzzle people with what he does, what to make of it. I always wonder what kind of musiclovers are big fans of his (music). I can't help thinking about drugs in that sense, I mean: what sane person takes this seriously ? Unless you like humour in music and like weird stuff. But I have to agree, there is also real music on this album and also: it's all I know of Zappa and of course he did a lot more than just this album. I like Zomby Woof and The Torture Never Stops somewhat, they are quite good songs. But the rest ... 2 stars.
Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Cheap thrills in fact and theory

Prog Reviewer daveconn wrote the definite review of this title in 2004, perfectly describing the purpose of this budget priced sampler in economic and humorous terms, and his observations are dead-on. To give a taste: "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." [daveconn] Read his whole review, it's priceless. And he was right. Having not owned any Zappa since the days of vinyl I have been putting off the dreadful thought of a financial commitment akin to buying a lake home, a few fine sports cars, or perhaps the 200 best RPI albums. Tough choices. So I cheated and started with a cheap sampler to wet my taste.and it did the job as the marketing team at Ryko planned that it would. Another middle-aged fall-out who will come back to the fold eventually.

As an album this is a completely unnecessary title for those who plan on getting into Zappa properly. And yet it gets my highest rating possible for a compilation (3 stars) for its fine selection of tracks and achieving its likely mission of converting that segment of the population who keep picking Zappa titles up but putting them back due to price. The strange assortment of live tracks (many heavily edited in length no doubt) flows as well as could possibly be expected, seeming to run continuously into each other creating a sort of manufactured concert experience. The balance seems to weight in the humorous direction with lots of vocals and not too many long jamming passages, though the trademark killer guitar does appear in places. Delicious irreverence and wonderful dirty talk are around many corners as we hear about what "Catholic Girls" do backstage at the Tower Theatre. We get social commentary on "Bobby Brown" and really clever wordplay on "You are what you is." The spoken word excerpts are sadly short in length but what can be expected from a collection that tries to do it all. "The Mud Shark Interview" is particularly fun as a hotel manager is pressed for the sordid details of sexual escapades with ocean creatures. A bit more rockin' comes later in the album via 10 minutes of "The Torture Never Stops" and "My guitar wants to kill your mama." The Cheap Thrills releases would seems to be a reasonable way for a FZ newbie to get a taste of things although as in the case of most compilations, it's really best to just dive into the studio albums. Ryko's sound quality is good and the fold-out insert provides detailed notes on where each of the tracks came from. Tons of good clean fun and a bit of the defiance which is what I love most about Zappa.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Cheap Thrills" is a compilation album by US experimental rock artist Frank Zappa. The album was released through Rykodisc in 1998 and is just one of many posthumous compilation albums released in the years after Zappaīs death. Call them cash-ins or whatever you want, but some of them are actually decent entries into Zappaīs vast discography (even though itīs like dipping your toes in the ocean). "Cheap Thrills" is one such case.

"Cheap Thrills" features 13 tracks and a total playing time of 49:51 minutes. Which in my world is way too short for a compilation. Especially with an artist like Frank Zappa, where there are so many tracks to chose from (the man did release 50+ studio albums in his career and a bunch of live albums too) . Add to that the fact that 2 of those 13 tracks are very short (about half a minute long) and "The Mudshark Interview", which as the title says, is an interview with no music. So what you get on "Cheap Thrills" is actually only 10 "regular" tracks.

With only a few tracks to tell the story of Frank Zappa itīs really no surprise that the emphasis is on the more easily accessible side of Frank Zappaīs discography. Most tracks on the album are live versions taken from the "You Canīt Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 1-6" series ("Catholic Girls", "Bobby Brown Goes Down", "Zomby Woof", "The Torture Never Stops", "Joe's Garage" and "My Guitar Wants To Kill your Mama"). The instrumental "We Are Not Alone" (which is about the only surprise inclusion on the album) is taken from "The Man From Utopia (1983)", "You Are What You Is" is here in the version from "Thing-Fish (1984)" with Ike Willis talking gibberish, "Cheap Thrills" is here in the rather awful reissue version with overdubbed drums by Chad Wackermann, and the live version of "Hot Plate Heaven At The Green Hotel" is taken directly from the CD version of "Broadway The Hard Way (1988)" (that particular track is not featured on the LP version).

So there are some great tunes on this album and I would like to specifically mention the hilarious live version of "Catholic Girls" and the great live version of "Zomby Woof" as some of the highlights on the compilation. If you are a fan you probably already have all the material though and for new listeners I would recommend starting with the "Strictly Commercial (1995)" compilation instead (itīs longer, features 19 tracks, and is overall a better alternative). Thereīs nothing wrong with the material on "Cheap Thrills" though and if you want a short introduction to how some of Frank Zappaīs most accessible tracks sound this is a good place to start (just keep in mind that thereīs much more to Zappa than the material on this compilation). A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars When I bought this and it's son I was no Zappa newbie. However, I could not pass up the price and both featured songs I had not yet heard before. Most of the songs here are taken from the You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore series. "Bobby Brown..." and "Joe's Garage" has the band members trying not to laugh when they sing. Clearly they were having a great time on stage. I don't like the version of "My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama" here as much as the studio version.

The title track is from the doo-wop parody album Cruising With Reuben & The Jets. But it's the '80s version with re-recorded drums. "You Are What You Is" is the Thing-Fish version. "The Torture Never Stops" has Captain Beefheart on vocals. There's a great version of "Zomby Woof" featuring Steve Vai. The biggest surprise is "We Are Not Alone". This is taken from the 1983 album The Man From Utopia and is one of Zappa's best instrumentals, IMO. This song features sax which I don't think had been heard on a Zappa album since Grand Wazoo.

All the songs are segued in a good fashion. There are some funny non-musical moments like "I Could Be A Star Now" and "The Mudshark Interview". Overall a nice budget compilation but the next one is better. 3 stars.

Review by TCat
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
3 stars 'Cheap Thrills' was released by the Ryko label in 1998 in order to celebrate the lowering of the price point on a number of Frank Zappa's back catalogue to make it more accessible to the general public. All of the tracks on here are selected off of different albums to generate interest in his recordings. As a result, it was a big seller for the label resulting in another collection released later called 'Son of Cheap Thrills' but that is a review for another day. So, how representative was this collection to Frank's music? It has several tracks taken from the 'You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore' series, some post-'Joe's Garage' studio albums and so on.

It starts with 'I Could Be a Star Now' taken from the 'behind the scenes' style album 'Playground Psychotics', the last track on the 2nd CD to be exact. It is one of Zappa's secret recordings of Martin Lickert, Don Preston and Jeff Simmons talking about how working with Zappa ruins their career and that they would be better off working for John Mayall. It is tongue-in-cheek humor reflective of Frank's own humor and stuck on this CD to introduce the questionable nature of FZs reputation among critics and the like. It is just a short 35 second conversation.

Next is a live version of 'Catholic Girls' taken from 'You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Vol. 6' (from now on abbreviated to YCDTOSA), recorded in two different venues in February and March of 1988. It's a funny rendition with a kooky instrumental break led by a sax with whacky meters and FZ calls out 'Everybody Dance'. It's a good representation of Frank's humor on a funny song done live, but the humor might be lost on a first-timer listening to this collection. This then segues to 'Bobby Brown Goes Down' taken from YCDTOSA, Vol. 3 recorded in 1984, so the flow on the collection doesn't make a lot of sense. But first timers are going to be listening for the basic song anyway and not necessarily the 'eyebrows' from the show. This rendition is based on a reggae riff, and of course, you get the humorous lyrics, but since the secret word had to do with The Lone Ranger, so the references made in this performance won't make a lot of sense. However, it might get a first timer to explore the meaning of these references. Besides, Frank and the band keep cracking up so some of the lyrics get missed.

A studio version of 'You Are What You Is' follows, unfortunately, it's the awful version from 'Thing-Fish' and since the track is taken out of context, it won't make any sense to a first listener with the annoying Thing-Fish character inserting his stupid comments between each line. Bad choice. 'We Are Not Alone' from the studio album 'The Man from Utopia' comes next. It's an okay instrumental jazz fusion track that can give you an idea of FZ's instrumental music, at least his more accessible style. This is followed by one of the better doo-wop tracks from 'Ruben and the Jets'.

'The Mudshark Interview' is another track from Playground Psychotics which was an interview FZ did with the front office manager from The Edgewater Inn in Seattle, Washington. Frank tries to get the manager to talk about how they let guests catch fish from their hotel windows. Those familiar with the mudshark story in Zappa's mythology will get what's going on here, otherwise it seems like a useless track for a lay person beginning their foray into Zappa music. 'Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel' follows and it is a live version done in 1988 taken from 'Broadway the Hard Way'. It is a good example of how Zappa used to edit long guitar solos into the middle of recorded live tracks, so the first timer will get to hear a good Zappa solo, though it is not necessarily one of his best. 'Zombie Woof' is a live version taken from YCDTOSA, Vol. 1, recorded in 1982, with the verses done at Milan, Italy and the guitar solo recorded at London, UK, and this one is actually a good solo. The show in Milan, however, got a guitar tech fired because Steve Vai was supposed to start the song but there were no guitars ready to start off the number and it just went on without the guitar introduction. If nothing else, it's a testament to how the band and Frank were almost always ready to let the show go on at a moment's notice.

'The Torture Never Stops' comes next. It is the original version of the song performed live and sung by Captain Beefheart with the repeating guitar riff stolen from 'Mannish Boy' and the harmonica and guitar solos, all recorded live from the album YCDTOSA, Vol. 4 in a show at Austin, Texas in 1975. It's interesting they would put this version on the compilation, unless it was to try to get Zappaphiles to buy the collection, but there are no program notes, so how would they know? The performance is pretty great though. After this 9 minute version, the next track is 'Joe's Garage' performed live at Chicago in 1984 and taken from the YCDTOSA Vol. 3 album. It's a good example of the band singing and playing tightly together live and still leaving room for playing around. The live version of 'My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama' is from Universal City in California in 1984 from YCDTOSA Vol. 4. is a pretty standard recording of the track. Everything finishes up with the short field track 'Going for the Money' from Playground Psychotics which is a pretty useless track, but just finishes everything up.

I'm not sure if the collection helped sell the back catalogue albums or not, at least from the newbies checking out his music, but it probably helped the collectors decide what they were wanting to look for. I remember an employee that I worked with, that actually knew a lot about bands, but hadn't really listened to much Zappa before, bought the collection because he thought he would get a good example of his music, only came away from the ordeal even more confused than before. Whether it influenced him to buy more Zappa material or not, I'm not certain, but I know he had no idea what was going on in most of these tracks. I think most newbies would be better off getting 'Shiek Yerbouti', 'Hot Rats' or 'Waka/Jawaka' depending on what style of FZ's music they were interested in. The moral of the story is, don't go exploring FZ without someone along that knows what they are doing.

By the way, this is just a so-so collection. I don't think it accomplishes what it sets out to do and a lot of this stuff is out there in better formats or collections. At least it's cheap.

Latest members reviews

3 stars Okay, this guy has about a million albums and how can I choose one to review. I actually have only a couple of Zappas because I need to be in a certain "mood" to listen to him. When he's on he's on. When he's off.....ick. THis seems to be a good sampler of Zappa, if that is even possible to do ... (read more)

Report this review (#273788) | Posted by mohaveman | Tuesday, March 23, 2010 | Review Permanlink

2 stars This is a budget hodge podge with no cohesiveness or structure and is sketchy even as an introductory sampler. I do not think that this gives an accurate glimpse into what Zappa is to those who are interested. The record is also not composed of the proper studio versions but inferior live cuts fr ... (read more)

Report this review (#160390) | Posted by Egglord | Thursday, January 31, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars when I first decided to buy a Zappa CD, I had no idea what I was getting into. I did not know what to buy because I did not know any specific songs or albums. For other people in the same boat, this is a good and inexpensive buy. It has a mix of live and studio songs, with tons of different mu ... (read more)

Report this review (#39214) | Posted by | Monday, July 11, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I don't know if this is a best of album I do not know. Anyway not to good but not to bad either, I don't know what this album aims but I suppose an ideal for Zappa beginners, The LIVE tracks are the best by any doubt, there are some silly tracks but thats the usual in the world of Zappa. This ... (read more)

Report this review (#29650) | Posted by PROGMAN | Tuesday, March 22, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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