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Frank Zappa - Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.53 | 243 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch, what a mouthful of words. This album, released in 1982, would prove to be my favorite early 80s Zappa album, mainly because of the incredible complexities that lie within each song. The album itself is made up 6 songs that yields arguably the best Zappa epic of the 80s and also one of the most technical pieces out there (Zappa said himself that the group never got the song 100% correct live and that only once did they come close). It would also yield Zappa's first and last hit single in the racous romp of Valley Girl (which his daughter Moon provided the infamous Valley Girl vocal lines). If there is one album from the 80s Zappa collection you should get, I would recommend this one, as it fares better than the rest (which range from disappointing to pretty good).

Opening with the falsetto vocals of No Not Now (you can definitely hear the Roy Estrada influence on the vocals, with falsettos galore). This song relies on the vocal parts more than the vocals, but it's a generally fun piece that is harmless more than anything else. Next up is the hit of the album, Valley Girl. Although pretty simple musically, the vocals here are the main draw. Moon Zappa improvised a bunch of dialogue that she actually had heard people talk about (in her best valley girl accent) and you can't help but laugh at the subject matter of the piece. The harmony vocals from Ike Willis, Roy Estrada, and Bob Harris are also fantastic. I Come from Nowhere is the first really complicated piece of the album, with some superb guitar from Zappa and Chad Wackerman playing some sophisticated drums. This track also has Roy Estrada singing as if he were mentally ill, which is nothing short of hilarious (as the man himself was a comedy machine). It ends the first half of the album comfortably.

The second half opens with one of Zappa's most technically challenging and dense compositions in Drowning Witch. Although beginning simply and having a lush vocal performance from mainly Ike Willis, the middle section is where everything gets crazy. The drumming on this piece is outstanding, and the rhythmic interplay between the drums and the bass guitar is nothing short of spectacular as Zappa belts out solo after solo (Steve Vai gets in on the action with his coveted 'impossible guitar parts' role in the band). I must say that this is probably the best Zappa song he wrote in the 1980s, nothing else he wrote can really top this (although there are a few contenders). Envelopes is a short jazzy instrumental that has some more superb work from the rhythm unit in Chad Wackerman and Scott Thunes (who plays on the bulk of the songs here). The album ends with the operatic and bombastic Teenage Prostitute (which was coupled with Valley Girl as the b-side of that single). It's a funny piece that has some great keyboard work from Mars and Martin, and it ends the album on a lighter note, just like it began.

So that in a word is Ship Arriving too Late to Save a Drowning Witch. It has a timeless feel and hasn't really aged at all, and still remains somewhat relevant even today. If I were to recommend one Zappa album from the 80s, this would probably be it (although there are a few albums that are contenders along with this one). If you want fun pieces that will make you laugh, this era of Zappa will definitely fit that bill. 4/5

Cygnus X-2 | 4/5 |


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