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Frank Zappa - Lšther CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



4.00 | 219 ratings

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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.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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