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Frank Zappa - Lumpy Gravy CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.19 | 385 ratings

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Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer
2 stars This early release by Zappa is a combination of quirky instrumentals, usually cycling between bright bouncy rhythms, and jarring textural pieces that are moody or dark. Instrumentation favors strings and horns and percussion, such as vibraphone. In addition, nearly half of the album is made of bizarre conversation snippets that are sometimes banal, sometimes funny, or sometimes crazy.

The music is totally scattershot; there is no structure, no sense of individual "song," and no real direction. Lumpy Gravy is like stream of conscious weirdness that transitions every minute or so. Since each part is 15 minutes, you can see that this makes for a ton of variety, and that it will also kill any chance that you'd want to play Lumpy Gravy when you have company over. Sometimes sections are played at increased speeds, backwards, upside down, and every other weird way that Zappa and his production group could imagine.

Part 1 begins with this combination of elements, giving way to a fast paced and dramatic pacing at the half-way point, sounding sort of like the score to a dramatic sound track. We then transition into a conversation about a guy working at a gas station, snorting sounds, a lush string arrangement, then a murder-mystery style score.

Part 2 gives us four minutes of more bizarre dialogue, moving to scary string textures, woodwind wanderings, a discussion about the music of pigs and horse manes, and a preview of "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance," to be heard on Zappa's next release.

So what to make of all this? While it would be unfair to judge Lumpy Gravy as being a poor release, I do think that this level of weirdness doesn't help create a memorable or exciting album. We're Only In It For The Money is weird, and I gave it 5 stars. Lumpy Gravy comes across as being weird more for weirdness' sake. The end result isn't captivating enough to draw the listener in as anything more than a novelty. It entertains, but not in the long term, because none of the musical moments or compositions are given breathing room or hooks or riffs or anything really, to help them stick with you. It's a fine snapshot of '60's avant garde, but is probably not going to change your life.

This makes Lumpy Gravy entertaining in the short term, and probably very important to Zappa's development, but not an album that will receive much play in your collection. It's important to note that Zappa doesn't sing or play on the album, which may disappoint or surprise those coming from his more approachable albums. This is the kind of album that will make your girl-friend or wife leave the room. Sometimes that may not be such a bad thing after all.

Songwriting: 2 - Instrumental Performances: 3 - Lyrics/Vocals: NA - Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

Prog Leviathan | 2/5 |


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