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Frank Zappa - Zappa Picks  - By Jonathan Fishman Of Phish CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.94 | 10 ratings

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3 stars This is a collection of Frank Zappa songs collected by Jon Fishman who is the drummer from Phish. Jon has his own warped sense of humor and belongs to another band that does satirical and humorous sketches and is quite inspired by Zappa's works. He is a pretty amazing drummer in his own right and proves that he knows what he is doing when Phish plays their own long jam songs. He is part of that gel that keeps that band at it's best. In the program notes of this album, Jon tells about the influence of these songs that he has picked and FZ's music in general.

This is a pretty decent collection and a lot of the selections are songs that don't appear on a lot of albums or were rarely heard. The collection starts out with a pair from "Apostrophe (')" which is one of FZ's most popular albums. The first one is a short vocal selection that is the track that leads on to the title track from the original album. It seems to be a strange one to start out with, but you discover early on here how amazing FZ's solos can be. This 2nd track is actually from a jamming session that included Jack Bruce from the band "Cream". Zappa mentioned in an interview that Bruce was hard to work with and that he was always busy.

Next up are 2 selections from the live Mother's album "Just Another Band from L.A." These tracks feature Flo and Eddie, the most obnoxious duo from any of FZ's line ups. "Magdelena" is a strange story involving incest and a Canadian family, but when asked where the story came from, it was said that it is just a song. Not a very good representation of Zappa's music, but I guess it shows the immaturity of the Flo and Eddie years. "Dog Breath" is another one that is rarely seen (just like the previous track), but this time, it's a better song. The rare thing about this version of the track is it contains the original lyrics, where usually this selection is instrumental.

Next you get 3 tracks from the excellent live album "Roxy & Elsewhere". "Cheepnis" is a rare track that only appears on one other live album, but this is the best version of it. It's a song that pays homage or makes fun of B-movie horror films. Good and rare song. "Son of Orange County" is also the version with lyrics, but is mostly a great guitar solo. "More Trouble Every Day" is an updated version of the "Freak Out!" song and is a much better version than the original. The Roxy sessions included two drummers and that is really apparent on this track. This is probably why Fishman was impressed with these tracks from that album. It seems most of the tracks on this collection have some impressive drumming.

"Keep it Greasey" is from "Joe's Garage" and takes on a different meaning when taken out of context as it is here. It spotlights a great guitar solo taken from a live version of "City of Tiny Lights". Then from "The Grand Wazoo" you get the mostly instrumental rarity called "For Calvin" which has a long backstory that I won't get in to right now. This track has a long avant-jazz instrumental passage from one of the best Zappa line-ups.

The next three tracks are from the excellent album "Sheik Yerbouti". The three tracks are actually one long guitar solo bookended by two short field recording tracks. The main track is called "Rat Tomago" and is actually a guitar solo taken from a live recording of "The Torture Never Stops". Again it is easy to hear why Fishman picked this one. Terry Bozzio is playing in what FZ called "a frenzy" which is something FZ always tried to reign in because of his extensive use of cymbals.

Next from "Waka/Jawaka" is the only version of "One Shot Deal" that I have heard. I absolutely love this song. It is one of the most out-of-place songs in Zappa's extensive compositions and sound like almost nothing else in his catalog of music. There is an almost avant-garde country sound to this track and it has an amazing steel guitar solo performed by "Sneaky Pete" Kleinow. Then from "Overnite Sensation" is the popular track "I'm the Slime" that features Tina Turner and the Ike-ettes singing the chorus. Last of all is the great "Sofa #2" track taken from "One Size Fits All". It is an appropriate closer.

Most of these selections are great, but they seem to lose something when taken out of context. All of the different line-ups represented here don't seem to flow together as well as they do when they are listened to on their rightful albums. But, I think the common thread here for the most part is the amazing drum work on most of the tracks and the sense of humor present throughout. Again, some of it changes meaning when taken out of context, but that is the danger you face with a compilation, which in most cases, only really flow well when you know what the compilation is trying to focus on. They mean something to the great Jon Fishman, so in that respect, they are very important. But to the regular listener, there isn't much in common overall. I have to give this a 3 star rating, even though there are some awesome tracks here, they just seem to lose their power when taken out of context.

TCat | 3/5 |


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