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Frank Zappa - Son Of Cheep Thrills CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



2.98 | 31 ratings

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3 stars Frank Zappa's 2nd budget compilation and companion album to 1998's 'Cheap Thrills', this time called 'Son of Cheep Thrills', released a year later, is a similar package to it's 'father' in that it contains quite a kaleidoscope of Zappa styles. I consider it a little bit better than the first in that it does contain some lesser known tracks, but also demonstrates Zappa's wide variety of styles. Since the first collection was such a big seller, this one was pretty much designed the same way, with 11 tracks that span 40 minutes. This time, all of the tracks are album versions. The trick is, how do you make all of these styles work together? Maybe that shouldn't matter, but it does. If they don't flow well, then these tracks (taken out of their album context) might not make a lot of sense to the average, non-Zappa-fied listener.

It starts off safely enough, with the rock/doo-wop classic 'WPLJ' from the album 'Burnt Weeny Sandwich'. This is a good selection and stands alone quite well. Recorded in 1969, it features the Mothers classic line up with 'Flo & Eddie'. 'Twenty Small Cigars' from 'Chunga's Revenge' also recorded in 1969, is a soulful, jazzy instrumental that sounds like something from an old movie with a strong European feel. This makes a sudden transition to a cartoon-ish feel as it flows into another instrumental, this one a little more in the avant-jazz style, with 'The Legend of the Golden Arches' from 'Uncle Meat'. This version starts with the theme from 'Pound for a Brown', moves to variations of the 'Uncle Meat Theme' and ends with Suzy Creamcheese's voice. This one might seem a bit chopped up for first-time listeners, but demonstrates how Zappa would paste music together from different sessions to make a single track. We stay in 1969 for these first three tracks.

There is a sudden change in style and sound as the very odd choice 'Ya Honza' from the 1984 album 'Them or Us' comes next, which is mostly reversed sections of the older tracks 'Sofa' and 'Lonely Little Girl' played at a slower tempo against a constant moderate beat and guitar loop going forward. It's over 6 minutes long, and probably didn't win Zappa any new listeners. The whole point of this track was Frank's way of giving the middle finger to those religious leaders that claimed satanic messages were hidden in rock music when you played it backwards, hence the reason why it was played backwards slowly on this track , to make it sound like the devil. There is a cool guitar solo at least on the last part of it. Next, in contrast, comes one of my favorite Zappa tracks 'It Just Might Be a One-Shot Deal' from 'Waka/Jawaka' released in 1972. This track features a lot of things including guest vocalists Janet Ferguson and the excellent slide guitar solo from Tony Duran and a Hawaiian guitar from Jeff Simmons. The instrumental break has a country-fied sound, something that was totally out of character for a Zappa record, but it is quite an amazing sound which is bookended by some really off-kilter, extreme avant- progression on each end of the solo. Excellent track that shows Zappa's genius. This flows almost seamlessly into the live version of another doo-wop style song 'Love of My Life' from 'Tinsel Town Rebellion' recorded in 1980, and features some crazy falsetto vocals from Ike Willis.

Next is the sarcastic track 'Disco Boy', again in the live version from the 'Baby Snakes' concert soundtrack, so this version is faster than the original studio album version, and that's okay because it makes the usually annoying track go by faster and makes it a bit more appealing. This version was recorded in 1977. This is followed by 'Night School', the first track from the mostly synclavier album 'Jazz From Hell', released in 1986. This is one of the better tracks from one of the better synclavier albums, so it works out quite well as a track on this compilation. It is a great example of his more computer-generated style, which Zappa created because he wanted his instrumental compositions like this to be heard as perfectly as possible, and it was always difficult for bands and orchestras to play it completely to his liking. This then moves to 'Sinister Footwear' 2nd Mvt.' In a live version taken from the 1991 album 'Make a Jazz Noise Here'. This one features the full band playing one of his more orchestral pieces. It's a bit avant-garde, but still quite melodic, and has a more jazz-feel to it than the original version since jazz instruments are used in place of an orchestra. The studio version of this track was made more as a backing for a guitar solo (on the Them or Us album), while this one is played more by the brass instruments. Again, this is another great example of Zappa's instrumental music, and is a welcome addition to the collection.

This flows almost naturally into 'The Idiot Bastard Son' also in a live version taken from 'You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 2' from a concert in Helsinki in 1974. The original version comes from the album 'We're Only In It For the Money'. The track probably makes very little sense to the casual listener. The last track is 'What's New in Baltimore', the version from 'Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention' in a version that is pasted together from several different shows recorded in the last few months of 1981. The track is the perfect closer for a compilation from Zappa as it ends the collection on a great guitar solo backed up by Steve Vai and Ray White.

The collection seems to be thought out a lot better than the first one, but there are a couple of odd choices here nonetheless, like 'Ya Honza' and 'The Idiot Bastard Son'. There are other tracks that would have worked much better on a collection, but, since it is a budget recording, I guess it was felt that they could have a few 'lesser' tracks, and also, the addition of some lesser-known tracks might have influenced some more rabid fans to purchase the collection. Whatever the reasoning, it does have quite a variety of styles here, and it gives you a little taste of Zappa's unpredictable and varied styles. Of course, for a Zappa fan, nothing beats the tracks in their originally intended settings, but the collection is still well representative of his music.

TCat | 3/5 |


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