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Frank Zappa - Apostrophe (') CD (album) cover

APOSTROPHE (')

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.03 | 668 ratings

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TCat
4 stars Following on the heels of the successful album 'Over-nite Sensation', Zappa's next album 'Apostrophe (')' would turn out to be his biggest selling album. FZ was trying to make his music more accessible, so he added a lot more humor, a lot more lyrics, and some more commercial beats, while still retaining some of his usual complexity. However, where 'Over-nite Sensation' had no completely instrumental tracks, 'Apostrophe' would have one, namely the title track. There really isn't a whole lot other than that that distinguish the two, but 'Apostrophe' is a definite step forward and more interesting with more variety.

The band is more or less the same as on the previous album. In fact, most of side 1 of Apostrophe was created during the same sessions. This album was created from material that was written over a 2 ' year period, so the band lineup changes somewhat through the tracks, but, for the most part, it remains the same. This was also, in my opinion, one of FZ's most talented lineups featuring Ruth Underwood, Jean Luc-Ponty and even Tina Turner doing background vocals. Jack Bruce also helps out on the title track, but there is some controversy regarding the amount of his contribution.

The album starts out with one of Zappa's most popular songs 'Don't Eat the Yellow Snow', a song that was inspired when FZ watched a dog pee on the band's tour bus. Most people know this song is a simple humorous song, short but sweet, but in reality it is the beginning movement of a longer suite, most of which follows on this album. This flows (get it, flows?) into the next song which is a continuation of the adventures of our protagonist Eskimo Nanook. 'Nanook Rubs It' is a longer, dramatic song about an encounter with a fur trapper. Nanook rescues his favorite baby seal by rubbing yellow snow into the eyes of the fur trapper and a battle ensues. This one is based on a blues riff. We then follow the fur trapper at this point as he runs to 'St. Alphonzo's Pancake Breakfast'. The tempo is sped up again for this short ditty that was inspired by a commercial for Imperial Margarine, which the furtrapper uses to restore his sight after being blinded by yellow snow and accidentally pees on the bingo cards. The main story gets a little confusing at this point as the viewpoint of the singer/narrator shifts around and you realize it's not really a story per se anymore, but who cares? The last part of the suite is called 'Father O'blivion' who is in charge of the St. Alphonzo parish, and things get quite confusing as a masturbating leprechaun is brought into the mix. After that you are left to your own imagination as to what happens. There is actually another part to this suite that did not make it onto this album, called 'Rollo'. It is a longer song which was originally about a dog who watches his master copulate. The lyrics were pretty much abandoned when it was decided that they were too vulgar for the album, and after that, it was just completely left off the album except for the riff that serves as the introduction to 'St. Alphonzo'. By the way, there is a full live version of this suite on 'You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 1' with the instrumental version of 'Rollo' still attached if you are interested.

'Cosmik Debris' finishes up side one. This is a stand alone song about a peddler trying to sell psychedelic paraphernalia. FZ hypnotizes him and steals all of his stuff and blows the peddler's mind. There are references to the previous album which indicates that the two albums are all part of FZ theory that his music has continual continuity. The song has a sort of mysterious vibe to it reflecting the topic of the lyrics and it is all enhanced with Ruth Underwood's exceptional xylophone playing.

The next side starts with a short lyrical song in the same vein as 'CD', this one called 'Excentrifigul Forz'. I'm not exactly sure what it is about, but my guess is it's Zappa's sarcastical take on psychedelia and drugs. The track that follows is one of my favorite Zappa instrumentals and is the title track of the album. Jack Bruce is credited with the amazing bass on this track, and FZ claims that is was Bruce doing this during a jam session. Bruce however, claims that he only did the strange sound effect at the beginning that had something to do with a cello. I tend to believe Zappa's story here as FZ goes on to say that Bruce was difficult for him to improvise with because he treated the bass as a solo instrument and didn't provide the typical bass support that was expected. However, the track turned out quite amazing, even when FZ provides his guitar solo.

'Uncle Remus' is a mid-tempo song that expresses FZ's sentiment on racial slurs. Many thought that the lyrics were written by George Duke, but in reality they were written by Zappa to a tune that was written by Duke. 'Stinkfoot' is a Zappa classic that closes the album. It is a nonsensical song based upon a commercial by Dr. Scholls foot spray where a dog keels over when he brings his master's slippers. FZ provides another great solo, but the song fades out too quickly in my opinion.

Overall, this is a fairly decent album for those who want to be introduced to FZ and his music. It has no shortage of his brand of humor and also gives a sample of his instrumental music. It does not have much in the way of jazz improvisation or classical style and there is very little avant-prog material on this album, but it is quite accessible as a result. I would suggest 'Shiek Yerbouti' as a better all-around example of his music, or maybe 'Hot Rats' as a good beginner album for the instrumental improvisational style. In the end, it is an excellent 4 star album that gives you an easy entry into his style.

TCat | 4/5 |

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