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Frank Zappa - The Man From Utopia CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.15 | 252 ratings

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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.

J-Man | 3/5 |


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