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


Frank Zappa



3.15 | 252 ratings

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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.

darkshade | 4/5 |


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