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Frank Zappa The Man From Utopia album cover
3.15 | 276 ratings | 13 reviews | 11% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1983

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Cocaine Decisions (3:54)
2. The Dangerous Kitchen (2:51)
3. Tink Walks Amok (3:38)
4. The Radio Is Broken (5:51)
5. Moggio (2:37)
6. The Man From Utopia Meets Mary Lou (Medley) (3:18)
7. Stick Together (3:18)
8. Sex (3:43)
9. The Jazz Discharge Party Hats (4:28)
10. We Are Not Alone (3:18)

Total Time: 36:57

Bonus track on CD editions
10. Luigi and The Wise Guys (3:24)

Line-up / Musicians

- Frank Zappa / guitar, vocals, ARP 2600 synth, Linn drum machine, arranger & producer

- Steve Vai / electric & acoustic guitars
- Ray White / guitar, vocals
- Dick Fegy / mandolin
- Bobby Martin / keyboards, sax, vocals
- Tommy Mars / keyboards
- Arthur Barrow / keyboards, bass, micro-bass, rhythm guitar
- Craig Steward / harmonica
- Marty Krystall / saxophone
- Scott Thunes / bass
- Jay Anderson / string bass
- Chad Wackerman / drums
- Vinnie Colaiuta / drums (2,9)
- Ed Mann / percussion
- Roy Estrada / vocals (incl. pachuco falsettos)
- Bob Harris / vocals (boy soprano)
- Ike Willis / vocals (baritone)

Releases information

Artwork: Gaetano Liberatore with John Vince (art direction)

LP Barking Pumpkin Records ‎- FW 38403 (1983, US)

CD Barking Pumpkin Records ‎- D2 74245 (1993, US) Remixed by Spencer Chrislu w/ a bonus track and changed running order: 1,8,3,4,10,2,6,7,9,bt,5
CD Zappa Records ‎- ZR 3866 (2012, US)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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FRANK ZAPPA The Man From Utopia ratings distribution

(276 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(11%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(24%)
Good, but non-essential (43%)
Collectors/fans only (18%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

FRANK ZAPPA The Man From Utopia reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by daveconn
2 stars Alewd, crude, non-essential interlude similar to "Zoot Allures" (which I never found that alluring). "The Man From UTOPIA" treads over familiar terrain: the science fiction spoof, the anti-"Union" speech, the neverending plea for panties, etc. Honestly, the '80s were hardly the golden age of ZAPPA, his releases aimed alternately below the belt (like this one) or over the heads of everyone (Francesco ZAPPA, Jazz From Hell). With the unpleasantness of "Cocaine Decisions" (it's just not that clever) and "The Dangerous Kitchen" (yuck!) behind, a good album does begin to emerge. The instrumentals "Tink Walks Amok" and "Moggio" are challenging and exciting, while "The Radio Is Broken" is nearly as funny as "Cheepnis." But re-hashing old themes invariably invites comparison to earlier, superior efforts. "Rudy Wants To Buy Yez A Drink" was a hoot, "Stick Together" doesn't even muster a chuckle. "The Mud Shark" was part mythology, "The Jazz Discharge Party Hats" mundane and somehow pitiful. And "SEX" is way too obvious an observation for an artist who delivered the delicious "Ms. Pinky" not too long ago. If you're prone to giggle when you hear a dirty word, then "The Man From UTOPIA" could elicit some laughs. Still, I wouldn't rank this in the top ten or twenty albums from ZAPPA, despite the presence of some A material (like the closing instrumental, "We Are Not Alone"). Frank would have done well to take his own advice this time: shut up 'n play yer guitar.
Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars We feel a small break here. It sounds a bit like "Them or us", but it is more strange. The songs are short; Zappa sings sometimes like a mentally retarded, which is a bit funny. This album was not taken seriously. There are some party songs ("Stick together", "Sex"). It often happens that Zappa sings in synchronization with the guitar! "Moggio" is an instrumental masterpiece of percussions and complex music, a bit like on "Zappa meets the mothers of prevention", and it funnily ends with a bubble explosion followed by Zappa's unbelievable dirty pig sound!

Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Frank Zappa's 1983 album titled The Man From Utopia is a bit of an underrated piece in my opinon. It's not a masterpiece by any means and it isn't even close to the best album Zappa released in the 80s. Still, though, there are some really fun pieces on it interspersed with some odd semi-sung vocal monologues that are really more random than anything else. The album does yield some nice instrumentals, though, and songs like Cocaine Decisions and SEX are fun pieces that have some fun instrumentation and vocals. But I'll get about to talking about them a bit later. This would also be the last Zappa album to have a guest appearance from one of the original Mothers of Invention in the enigmatic Roy Estrada, who provides a lead vocal in the song Luigi & The Wise Guys. What can be for certain, though, is that this album would be the last slightly above average Zappa album (excluding LSO and Perfect Stranger) until Meets the Mothers of Prevention.

The album opens with the chant of, "chop a line now" followed by some wisps of harmonica and some biting Zappa lyrics targetting the cocaine addicts in the workplace (like lawyers, doctors, etc). It's probably the most significant of all of Zappa's anti-drug pieces. Fun piece and one of the best on the album with some great backing vocals (which are wordless but give the song a humorous feel). SEX follows up Cocaine Decisions with some racous and raunchy lyrics and rollicking arena rock. Although this style of song was used on You Are What You Is, it's has a definite catchy feel that I like. Tink Walks Amok is an instrumental that has an 11/8 main theme and some great bass riffing from Scott Thunes as well as some fantastic drumming from Chad Wackerman. It's the first of three great instrumentals on the album. The Radio is Broken has some classic vocal stylings from Roy Estrada and some silly vocals from Zappa as well. Add is some zany Zappa soloing and some nice piano from Tommy Mars and you have this ridiculous piece, that despite the fun parts is a bit disappointing. We Are Not Alone is the second instrumental of the album. It has some nice saxophone from Bobby Martin as well as some great guitar work from Zappa and Steve Vai, as well as some nice call and respond play between the vibes and the guitars.

The Dangerous Kitchen and later The Jazz Discharge Party Hats, is a vocal led tune with some manic instrumentation behind it. The only problem with this song is Zappa's vocals which are too out of place for a song like and this and he tries to hard to be funny at times. The Man from Utopia Meets Mary Lou is a "medley" piece as the album describes it to be, and it's actually a fun piece. It brings memories of the song Dong Work for Yuda on Joe's Garage mainly in the vocal approach, and since that song was amazing, this song is good, but not as great as Dong Work For Yuda. Stick Together and The Jazz Discharge Party Hats are probably my least favorite pieces on the album. The first is an anti-Union piece that is Zappa at his most sniping, and the latter is essentially a continuation of the Dangerous Kitchen type song that is just preposterous and not very interesting at all. Luigi and the Wise Guys is an a capella piece with Roy Estrada getting one last moment in the spotlight with his signature Pachuco vocals with the rest of the group providing a solid backing vocal foundation. It's not the best song, but it's one of the only Zappa songs in this style. Moggio ends the album with a percussive beat that is really superb and the overall feel of the song is perfect and the musicianship is excellent.

In the end, while not even remotely close to the best Zappa album this isn't a bad effort. I like about half the songs on the album and I'm a bit disappointed with the rest, but that half fares particularly well when put up against his later works like Thing-Fish and Francesco Zappa. If you want 80s Zappa, this may be one of the albums you'll want to go to. Most people don't like this album all that much, but I think it is a solid album. 3/5.

Review by tarkus1980
2 stars This album marks the exact point where Frank completely stopped being a cutting-edge revolutionary and became a dirty old man. Somehow, hearing Frank open an album with songs about drugs ("Cocaine Decisions") and sex ("Sex") feels too much like him grasping at straws to stay relevant and 'shocking' and all that rot. These two songs aren't bad, as the former has a satisfying guitar sound and the latter has a decent riff (and its own satisfying guitar parts), but hearing Frank go "the bigger the cushion, the better the pushin'" over and over just doesn't work after hearing the glorious Puritan sensibility-tweaking of Joe's Garage and Sheik Yerbouti. Plus, Frank doesn't sound very comfortable with electronic percussion here, as he tries to use them in an identical way to how he used regular drums but that just makes the sound uncomfortably dated.

The main problem with the album, though, comes from three tracks that are among the very worst Frank had committed to tape to that point. "The Radio is Broken," "The Dangerous Kitchen" and ESPECIALLY "The Jazz Discharge Party Hats" all fall into the same category as the worst stuff on Tinseltown; Frank 'crooning' lyrics (some gross, some pointless) off-key while his backing band engages in a seemingly melodyless, directionless 'jam' that just goes NOWHERE. These three tracks combine for about fifteen minutes, and they absolutely destroy what would (despite many other weaknesses) be a mildly ok album.

On the plus side, the instrumentals, while kinda similar to stuff he'd already done, are quite good on the whole. The closing "Moggio" sounds an awful lot like an Uncle Meat outtake with 80's production, and that's not a bad thing, while "Tink Walks Amok" (a solid guitar-line with entertaining basslines and effective drumming that would have fit in well early on You Are What You Is) and especially "We Are Not Alone" (driven by a nice saxophone line and featuring a lot of cool vibe or xylophone parts) all measure up to Frank's usual standards of the past decade, and they help the rating quite a bit. Of the remaining regular songs, "Stick Together" is an extremely dull piece of light reggae, but "Mary Lou Meets the Man From Utopia" is a fun update/reimagining of the rockabilly standard "Hello Mary Lou," at least if you can tolerate the idea of 50's rock with 80's drums (which I can). And, well, I can't get myself to totally hate the bonus track "Luigi and the Wise Guys;" it's amusing to me to hear Frank making a sucessful lampoon of doo wop again, as the entire track is a ridiculous set of generic doo wop vocals singing the dumbest lyrics imaginable. Sure it's a throwaway, but there have been worse throwaways.

And unfortunately that's it. This is a very short album, much of which sucks, and pretty much none of it suggests the 'necessity' of Frank Zappa in the world of rock music at this point. The better tracks should probably be heard at some point, but if you can't hear them without having to subject yourself to the worst stuff here, you should move on.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars At very least, this album gives us one of the funniest Frank Zappa album covers ever. A muscular Zappa. on stage, crushing a stratocaster with his bare hand, while swatting away mosquitos. Great painting.

The music inside is something of a mixed bag. First, there are the simple songs. Cocaine Decisions, SEX and Stick Together have got to be some of the least funny lyrics (when trying to be funny), Zappa has written. And the songs they play over are quite boring - very strange for Zappa.

Then there are the scat lyrics. The Radio Is Broken, The Dangerous Kitchen and The Jazz Discharge Party Hats continue an experiment started on "Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch", where Zappa badly sings out a story, and the band improvises music to go along with it. Some of Steve Vai's imitation of the voice is cool, and there is a good written sectrion in The Radio Is Broken, but mostly this experiment fails.

But there are a few good songs. Tink Walks Amok, a bass workout for Art Barrow, We Are Not Alone and Moggio are all fine Zappa pieces. A medley, The Man From Utopia Meets Mary Lou, a slick blending of some old rock standards is quite fun.

Luigi & The Wise Guys, a silly a cappella piece featuring original Mother Roy Estrada, a bonus track on the CD version, is silly and forgettable.

As a Zappa album, it's not one I'd recommend for newbies, but it has some merit. Just barely three stars

Review by Tom Ozric
4 stars Zappa - 1983 - controversial at best. For a Prog-Lover as myself, I really enjoy this album. I find this genius continuing to push the boundaries of conventional pop/rock music to its outer limits. 'Cocaine Decisions' is a fun tune which speaks volumes more so in its lyric content than the music - 'Chop a line now' Zappa states instantly.......'I don't wanna know 'bout the things that you pull outta your nose, or where they goes, but if you are wasted from the stuff you're stickin' in it, I get madder every day, 'cause what you do 'n' what you say affects my life in such a way, I learn to hate it every minute'............. What more can you say ?.... Three pieces off this album are built around complex avant-garde music that backs spoken prose, showcased on the 'songs' 'The Dangerous Kitchen', 'The Radio Is Broken' and the somewhat smutty piece 'The Jazz Discharge Party Hats'. I'd say that PRIMUS' Les Claypool fell in love with much of this album. Three of the tunes here are instrumental pieces of which 'Tink Walks Amok' is a fantastic piece showing off the amazing Bass skills of Arthur Barrow. It features multi-tracked bass parts and weird time signatures (which prog-lover could resist ???). Often dismissed as a weaker album from Frank, this 'Man From Utopia' shows no desire to rest on his laurels and continues to challenge all and sundry, whether with a guitar in hand, or fly-swat, or both........
Review by J-Man
3 stars Like most other progressive rock artists from the previous two decades, Frank Zappa's output in the eighties' traditionally receives rather mixed reception; whether it's due to his increasingly obscene humor or slightly less experimental songwriting approach during this time period, albums like 1983's The Man From Utopia are usually overlooked by folks that haven't taken the time to explore his massive discography. This is a bit of a shame because, in spite of its numerous flaws, this album does a lot of things right and contains some absolutely classic Zappa tunes. The Man From Utopia ultimately isn't something I'd label as 'essential', but its highlights make it worth investigating despite some consistency issues.

The Man From Utopia is probably among the more commercial-sounding Zappa releases, with tracks like "Cocaine Decisions", "Sex", "The Man From Utopia Meets Mary Lou", and "Stick Together" coming across as pretty straightforward comedy rock. Not coincidentally, these are also my least favorite tracks - though none of these songs are unlistenable, they come across as unadventurous and juvenile. Fortunately, The Man From Utopia does contain some great instrumental tracks ("Tink Walks Amok", "We Are Not Alone", and "Moggio", the latter being one of my favorite Zappa tunes) as well as a few songs that sound unique even within his own discography. Characterized by bizarre lyrics, off-key singing, and sporadic song structure, songs like "The Radio Is Broken", "The Dangerous Kitchen", and "The Jazz Discharge Party Hats" are not for everybody, but I find them quite enjoyable and interesting. "The Jazz Discharge Party Hats" is particularly audacious, with the odd lyrics about sniffing dirty underwear (yuck!) and crazy guitar work from Steve Vai making it a lot of fun to listen to.

Across the board, the lineup on this album has to be one of Zappa's most underrated ensembles - the overall musicianship is impeccable, and this can be heard immediately on a track like "Moggio". It's unfortunate that The Man From Utopia suffers from some pretty patchy songwriting, because it has all of the right ingredients to create a classic Zappa album. Still, while this may not be the most memorable Frank Zappa release, The Man From Utopia's best tracks make it worth a purchase for any fan of the man's music.

Review by darkshade
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This review is based on the 2012 reissue.

Possibly one of the most underrated Zappa albums of the 80s, with good reason, but sometimes I'm not sure.

This album features the most Roy Estrada since the original Mothers in the 60s, but not on bass, but on vocals. They're generally funny, especially on The Radio Is Broken.

The instrumentals are fantastic, and are the kinds of tunes you hear and go "How can people rip on this album so hard?"

Well, the reason I believe people dislike this album is because of the 'meltdown' tracks. You know, like The Blue Light from Tinseltown Rebellion, or the beginning of Drowning Witch, but on the Man From Utopia, there's 3 of them. The Radio Is Broken, as I said before, is pretty funny, maybe a little too long though. I warn you, make sure you're not eating anything when you listen to The Jazz Discharge Party Hats, as the story Zappa tells is kind of gross. I personally think the meltdown tunes are funny, but it makes the album only good in small doses, which then makes you appreciate the instrumentals that much more. I'm telling you the instrumentals rival anything Frank released in the 70s.

The other songs here are stuff like Cocaine Decisions and SEX, which are simpler songs, the former is alright, and have humorous lyrics, but SEX was not necessary, though I can see how it might have raised some "eyebrows" in the early 80s. Stick Together is an alright song, but overuses the reggae rhythms that Zappa loved to use in this period. Luigi and The Wise Guys is a drum-less doo-wop song added for the CD release, with lots of Roy Estrada again. The Man From Utopia Meets Mary Lou is probably the best song on the album (not counting the amazing instrumentals), with some good vocal parts, good chorus, and some funny falsetto vocals.

In case you weren't paying attention, the album features 3 instrumentals (Tink Walks Amok, We Are Not Alone, and Moggio) which are Zappa classics, especially Moggio, which is on at least 3 or 4 live albums. These tunes show that even in the 80s, Zappa's bands were an unstoppable force that could play ANYTHING! We Are Not Alone is possibly the best song Zappa wrote in the 80s, there's something really triumphant about it, and feel-good too; that sax part is incredibly catchy. Tink Walks Amok is mostly a Arthur Barrow workout, with some great runs and slap bass coming from the man's fingers. I love that slap bass sound from Barrow, it's a big reason why I enjoy Frank's albums from Joe's Garage til the mid-80s albums.

The cover art is one of the coolest covers in the entire Zappa discography. Just plain silly, yet bad-ass.

Not for the Zappa newbie. Probably not even for the Zappa novice. But I'd say once you've gotten all or most of the essential Zappa albums, this album and a couple other 80s albums like Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch, You Are What You Is, and Mothers of Prevention should be picked up and enjoyed. Someone once said the 80s albums (both rock and classical) were more like rewards for the Zappa fan that stuck through with him through the 70s. Generally can only be appreciated by Zappa fans, but a great album nonetheless, if only for those marvelous instrumentals which make the album worth owning.

Latest members reviews

3 stars Review #157 This is a very underrated album in the Frank ZAPPA discography: it maybe doesn't contain his best or most popular songs but certainly, it includes some very entertained songs that bring back a lot from earlier albums such as "You are what you is", "Ship arriving too late", "Sheik ... (read more)

Report this review (#2638773) | Posted by Uruk_hai | Wednesday, December 1, 2021 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This album came out the year I was born. I got into Zappa when I was about 14 or so, but this is an album I always passed up at the cd stores of my youth, and only recently really sat down and listened to. I've heard that this is one of Zappa's least recommended and liked albums among fans of hi ... (read more)

Report this review (#2490658) | Posted by Deatheagle | Tuesday, January 5, 2021 | Review Permanlink

3 stars How to categorize, sumarize ou even analyze the career of a man who's done it all. It's note easy I assure you!!! This was the first FZ record I ever heard and for a guy who was only used to hear hard rock in the vein of Whitesnake and such it was quite a chock, believe me. As with most of FZ's ... (read more)

Report this review (#307083) | Posted by unarmedman | Thursday, October 28, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A very underrated gem. I simply cannot understand why this album is so criticized. A short one, itīs true, but the band here is quite nice, and the tracks are even better than in the previous album. The whole work sound more experimental, and this definition in the 80īs is quite important. The ... (read more)

Report this review (#48177) | Posted by rguabiraba | Saturday, September 24, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This is, I think, a sorely under-rated title in the Zappa catalogue. Yes, it's true that this is eclectic and even unconventional (even for Zappa), but it really isn't as bad as many would have you believe. While versions of 'Sex' and 'Cocaine Decisions' are a little lack-lustre, the humorou ... (read more)

Report this review (#30007) | Posted by | Thursday, March 10, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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