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Frank Zappa Zoot Allures album cover
3.73 | 497 ratings | 30 reviews | 20% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1976

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Wind Up Workin' In A... (2:29)
2. Black Napkins (Live *) (4:15)
3. The Torture Never Stops (9:45)
4. Ms. Pinky (3:40)
5. Find Her Finer (4:07)
6. Friendly Little Finger (4:17)
7. Wonderful Wino (3:38)
8. Zoot Allures (4:12)
9. Disco Boy (5:09)

* Recorded in Osaka, Japan, Feb. 1976.

Total Time: 41:32

Line-up / Musicians

- Frank Zappa / guitar, bass, synth (1,4,5,9), keyboards, lead & backing vocals, producer

- Davey Moire / lead (1) & backing (9) vocals
- Ruben Ladron de Guevara / backing vocals (5)
- Sparkie Barker / backing vocals (9)
- Andre Lewis / organ (2), backing vocals (2,5,9)
- Ruth Underwood / synth (4,6), marimba (6,8)
- Napoleon Murphy Brock / sax & vocals (2)
- Don Vliet / harmonica (5)
- Lu Ann Neil / harp (8)
- Roy Estrada / bass & vocals (2), backing vocals (4,5,9)
- Dave Parlato / bass (8)
- Terry Bozzio / drums, backing vocals (5,9)

Releases information

Artwork: Cal Schenkel with Gary Heery (photo)

LP Warner Bros. Records - BS 2970 (1976, US)

CD Rykodisc - RCD 10160 (1990, US) Remastered by Bob Stone
CD Zappa Records - ZR 3855 (2012, US) Mastered by Bob Ludwig from original 1976 Analog Master

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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FRANK ZAPPA Zoot Allures ratings distribution

(497 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(20%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(50%)
Good, but non-essential (25%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

FRANK ZAPPA Zoot Allures reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This record contains very good pieces. "Black Napkins" is one of the most elaborated guitar solo with full of wah wah effect played with feeling. The song "Zoot Allures" has guitar parts full of drunken tremolo, with a full bottom bass! "The Torture Never Stops" presents a women screaming like she's having a sadomaso orgasm. "Wind Up Working In A Gaz Station" is very addictive with its girlish voice. The songs are sometimes dirty (the sound), but this ZAPPA's album is definitely a good one!
Review by daveconn
3 stars "Zoot Allures" introduced what would become familiar themes for ZAPPA over the next decade: lascivious subject matter, social satire aimed at the disco generation, and blistering guitar showcases served atop arrangements of revved-up jazz/funk. Honestly, this is the least interesting chapter in Frank's discography, save maybe for the endless guitar solos made available in the twilight of his career (shut up and pay me the money). Of course there are flashes of brilliance, like the drugged-out Dalek distortion on Frank's guitar in "Black Napkins" or the neatly conceived narrative of "Wonderful Wino" (foreshadowing the succinct and splendid Joe's Garage). But there are missteps -- wide ones -- like the endless nonsense of "The Torture Never Stops" or the shrill "Disco Boy" (the album's second single, following the sleepy but pleasant "Find Her Finer"). Frank would soon finetune the sexual innuendo; "Ms. Pinky" is already funny, but songs like "Jewish Princess" and "Crew Slut" suggest a refinement of the sleaze factor that functions better in ZAPPA's musical milieu. I'd also slip the opening "Wind Up Workin' In A Gas Station" into the plus column, since it's one of the first examples of the complicated funk arrangements that would become a ZAPPA hallmark ("Fine Girl", "No Not Now", etc.). It's hard to believe that the sublime ""Zoot Allures"" (featuring the sort of tuned-down whammy distortion that Adrian Belew would soon appropriate for himself) and the stupid "Disco Boy" were aimed at the same audience, but then ZAPPA always had cultivated a childish, self-destructive element to his art. "Zoot Allures" remains popular with many fans, but it's disheartening to hear ZAPPA assume the persona of the prince of potty jokes, in effect abdicating one throne for another.
Review by James Lee
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Zoot Allures" is back on track (if you can call it that) after the slight disappointment of "Bongo Fury". Okay, starting the album with the wearing redundancies of the funky garage-band-toned "Wind Up Working in a Gas Station" may turn off some listeners, but it's actually fun for as long as you can stand it. Yet another staggeringly impressive guitar showcase, "Black Napkins" later turned up on one of the "Shut Up" compilations and also serves as a pretty good snapshot of Bozzio's skills. "The Torture" is a dark, creeping blues which betrays the lingering Beefheart influence, and should also appeal greatly to fans of Nick Cave and Tom Waits (or even fans of Frank's wife's orgasms). "Ms. Pinky" has an interesting fuzzed-out groove and a cool harmonica sound, but Zappa's 'funny sex songs' are better represented by "Find Her Finer", with the classic "I am the Slime" voiceover style and a slick and slimy pop feel. "Friendly Little Finger" has a great eastern-toned intro and then some blazing soloing- it may not really go anywhere (what's the brass section all about?), but it's still a minor treat. Often underestimated by Zappa fans, "Wonderful Wino" is a great little song, although the "Playground Psychotics" version is superior. "Zoot Allures" is another choice track, with lovely bungee bends of the tremolo bar over an understated jazz backing. "Disco Boy" is a perfect song to bridge the stylistic gap between "200 Motels" and "Sheik Yerbouti", and a darn funny take on the blow-dried club scene of the 70s. Among ZAPPA's many releases, there are a number of obvious oddballs and detours ("Francesco Zappa", "Ruben and the Jets", "Jazz From Hell") but also plenty of albums that clearly trace his development from one period to another. "Zoot Allures" is typical of the late-70s transitional albums; plenty of dumb sex jokes, but also some killer guitar and worthwhile songs. Not the overall excellence of the earlier "Overnight Sensation" or the soon-to-come "Joe's Garage", but a tasty chunk of meat to chew on in the meantime.
Review by Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
4 stars Wow, this album is really different for Zappa. Very toned down. No more vibes, horns, and the such dominating parts of songs, although these do appear although slightly. This album sticks to the usual guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard aspect of music. Much more of a rock album. However, I still believe that this is still a great album. (Just a note: I find it funny how this album, being stripped to the minimum, and Studio Tan, with everything under the sun on it, follow one another)

Now for the review: The album starts strong with Wind Up Working....I love the vocal performance on this one. Also, the song provides a certain amount of humor on this album. Next is the stunning Black Napkins. A great Zappa solo is presented here. Also, a note that the drumming is exceptional as well. Beautiful piece. Next is the strange, dark, erie, and fantastic The Torture Never Stops. I absolutly love the vocal and lyrics to this song. Very well done. Also, love the mood set up by the lack of music and the erie piano (if that's it) notes in the background. My only complaint is i would have prefered more guitar work and less woman. But, it still works great. The next three songs, show off the sexual conotation of Zappa's work, Minus Friendly Little Finger which is an instramental and only sexual in name. Wonderful Wino follows. A good song, nothing fantastic, although funny at times. Following this is the magestic Zoot Allures. I love the intro to this song. Wonderful guitar at all times. One of his better instramentals. Finishing off the album is Disco Boy. An odd song about one man's stuggle to get some. Funny at times, but again not a stellar song.

All in all, this is a solid record. Some really good moments (WPWIAGS, Zoot Allures, Black Napkins, TTNS) and some average outings (FHF, Disco Boy). A must of Zappaists and a good addition to the rest of the world. Recommended.

Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After the one-off experiment and collaboration with his long time friend Captain Beefheart, Zappa returned to the studio and came out of it with this album. Although originally titled Night of the Iron Sausage, the name would eventually settle on Zoot Allures, although Night of the Iron Sausage does get a lyrical reference. This is probably one of the more stripped down Zappa albums as there aren't any grandiose orchestrations or horn sections, but a more simplistic approach with mainly guitars, drums, bass, and keyboards. In fact, this may be one of the most guitar oriented Zappa albums ever released (besides of course, to the Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar trilogy and the album Guitar). Most of the songs on this album are considerably strong and most of them are live favorites and were played by Zappa is essentially every tour that followed.

The album opens with the short and concise Wind Up Workin' in a Gas Station, which is a humorous piece with some great vocals and rhythmic work. Next up is the superb instrumental Black Napkins, which would become one of Zappa's most popular guitar solo instrumentals (with Watermelon in Easter Hay being another one, for example). It has a superb main theme from the guitar as well as some great work from Bozzio on the drums. The Torture Never Stops would become another Zappa live favorite and would eventually get a reworking as The Torchum Never Stops on the colossal disappointment that was Thing-Fish. This version, though, while great and fun, doesn't really match up to the numerous live incarnations there are of it (which is benefitted by an extended solo section that is a highlight of Zappa's incredible guitar stylings). Despite that, though, there are some humourous lyrics and a nice overall feel (which is desolate and full of isolation to say the least).

Ms. Pinky is a song about a very special girl (and her "sister" would get a cameo in the film Baby Snakes as the blow up doll used in many various encounters with Roy Estrada). It's a fun and harmless piece that has some fun backing vocals from Estrada and some nice synthesizer work from Ruth Underwood. Find Her Finer is another fun piece with a nice overall feel and riff to it as well as some humorous lyrics and vocals from Zappa (and like The Torture Never Stops would get live versions that would surpass the studio version). Friendly Little Finger and Wonderful Wino are more or less throwaway pieces and are pretty forgettable, but they aren't really that bad and they add a bit more to the humor of the album. Zoot Allures is revered as one of the best Zappa instrumentals ever. The catchy main riff and the great breakdown solo sections are perfect for a studio piece (and it's not too long and to the point), and like a few other tracks on the album is a better song live. The closer of the album is Disco Boy, Zappa's stab at the disco culture. It has a bluesy guitar riff and some nice bass synthesizer notes as well as some humorous lyrics and laidback vocals from Zappa. And like three other tracks that I mentioned earlier, the live version of this song found on the Baby Snakes soundtrack is a lot better, although I'm quite fond of this version of it, as it is more raw.

In the end, Zoot Allures or Night of the Iron Sausage, whatever you want to call it, is one of the better mid/late 70s Zappa experiments and has some essential tracks on it for all Zappa fans. While it's not his best album, it certainly was a great listen and I think any fan of guitar oriented rock and some great avant-garde stylings will find comfort in this album. Me? I thought it was fantastic, but not a masterpiece in the least bit. 4/5.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars "Zoot Allures" is about as stripped down and bare bones as you'll see with a Frank Zappa record. Gone are the Jazz elements were so used to, and in place of that are more straight forward Rock songs. Oh, of course the humour is still here, and some of Frank's best guitar playing along with it.

"Wind Up Workin In A Gas Station" is an uptempo track opening with a drum roll from Bozzio. This is a funny song with high pitched vocals and some fantastic guitar playing. "Black Napkins" opens with a bluesy guitar solo that just goes on and on. Nice. More passionate guitar and some sax later. "The Torture Never Stops" is the longest song with Zappa playing guitar, bass and keys and Bozzio on drums. A two man show. Not a big fan of this one with the woman sceaming and moaning. "Ms. Pinky" features heavy guitar and deep vocals. This is a catchy song with some great guitar.

"Find Her Finer" is another one i'm not a fan of. So no comment. "Friendly Little Finger" opens with marimba from Ruth Underwood, and the rest of the song is dominated with some amazing guitar and some incredible drumming. "Wonderful Wino" opens with heavy guitar, and is just too funny. "Zoot Allures" has a different atmosphere than the other songs. This is lighter and uplifting with even some harp making an appearance. "Disco Boy" is making fun of disco, I get more out of the lyrics than the music on this one. Funny. I think "Friendly Little Finger" is my favourite, but there are a few at the top of the list.

3.5 stars, but easily 4 stars without the two songs I don't like.

Review by Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Apparently Zappa said that Zoot Allures was his atempt to make a straight Rock record. To be honest I don't think Zappa was ever capable of making a straight Rock record but I can see where he's coming from as around half the album is by Zappa's standards fairly accessible Rock music albeit laced with the great man's sense of humour. It's basically a Zappa solo record as he plays most of the instruments, though not Drums which are supplied by the superb Terry Bozzio. Other musicians/vocalists make the occasional appearance though here and there.

Wind Up Working in a Gas Station opens, a short track at only two and a half minutes, it's one of the aforementioned straight Rock moments with falsetto vocals supplied by Davey Moire complimenting Zappa's own. Though decent enough, much better is following instrumental Black Napkins which is actually a live recording with all audience noise removed. It features a classic Zappa guitar solo, one of his very best in my opinion. The Torture Never Stops is a slow sleazy number with Zappa on vocals and orgasmic squeals supplied by an undisclosed female. Amusingly with reference to this Zappa states in the liner notes that he was director of recreational activities. At almost ten minutes it does outstay its welcome a little though.

Back to the Rock with Ms Pinky, an amusing track, Ms Pinky being a rubber sex doll. Find Her Finer has a nice slow groove to it and is followed by another excellent instrumental, Friendly Little Finger with more fantastic guitar from Zappa and Bozzio is also excellent on Drums. Ruth Underwoods Marimba adds a bit of colour to the start of the track also. This segues into the riffy Wonderful Wino, ultimately though one of the least satisfying tracks on the album.

Instrumental and title track Zoot Allures is generally highly regarded amongst Zappa fans, again featuring his distinctive guitar well to the fore. It's a slowish piece, held in check beautifully by Bozzio and an album highlight. Last but not least Disco Boy has Zappa having a go at, you guessed it Disco boy's, the Disco movement being in it's prime at the time of this albums release. It's another straight Rock number and an excellent album closer; great fun!

This was the very first Zappa album I ever bought on its release in 1976 and I've always had a soft spot for it. It's an excellent album though he's done better but it's fairly accessible and would make a good introduction for someone wanting to check him out.

Review by 1800iareyay
3 stars After a string of fusion albums and some more commercial (for him) records, Frank stripped his sound down to its bare bones and released Zoot Allures. Much of the album is focused squarely on Frank's guitar skills rather than really highlighting the band like the bulk of Frank's output. Nevertheless, the lyrics here are some of Frank's most accessibly humorous, always dirty but not as intentionally overly salacious and/or full of confusing overarching concepts.

The album opens with Wind Up Workin' in a Gas Station, a short little number with some funny lyrics and some strange yet ultimately enjoyable vocals. Next up is Black Napkins, which is one of Frank's finest guitar solos. It would be reworked on the Shut Up and Play Your Guitar set, but this is a perfectly concise, focused number. The Torture Never Stops is the only tune that really harks back to the Zappa sound we're more used to; it has a great interplay between Frank and Bozzio, hilarious lyrics, and a wonderful mood. It does, however, pale in comparison to a number of the many live versions of this tune. Ms. Pinky is a marvelously dirty tune and always makes me chuckle. Frank's guitar has a very 70s metal sound in this tune.

Find Her Finer is a rather weak track. To be honest, I really can't talk about it because every time I listen to it I forget it instantly. The suggestively titled instrumental Friendly Little Finger is much more enjoyable, with more great guitar work and some terrific percussion from Terry and Ruth. Wonderful Wino is another forgettable number that isn't bad but is simply dull. Zoot Allures is rather light compared to the hard rock of the rest of the album, and it's probably the best tune on here (The Torture Never Stops might have swayed me, but I prefer live versions more, so in the context of this album the title track is better). Like Black Napkins, it is wonderfully focused, but this tune shows off more than just Frank. The album ends with Disco Boy, a fairly good lyrical attack on disco but merely decent musically. Perhaps that's just a joke on the lack of musicality in disco.

Overall, this is a more than solid album, but Frank's albums tend to challenge us as listeners. Even when they don't, they make full use of the immense level of talent that he drafts. Here, however, it's all about Frank. That's certainly not a bad thing; his Shut Up N Play Your Guitar albums are some of his best, but this is gives us glimpses of his band's talent only to cut away before things properly gel. Great guitar work, and some Zappa classics, but it leaves me wanting.

Grade: C+

Review by LiquidEternity
3 stars Though not one of Zappa's more popular albums here on this site, Zoot Allures is nonetheless a normal release for Zappa: some amazingly unique and incredibly performed songs mixed in with some particularly unimpressive and average tunes.

Another piece of the mess that was originally supposed to be Lather, Zoot Allures looks on paper like a mostly not progressive album. What with Zappa's Sheik Yerbouti and other releases around the same time featuring mostly shorter, more commercial tracks, such a fear would be warranted. However, the track lengths belie the actual progression of this album. For starters, the first three tracks all segue together perfectly, and not just like completely unrelated songs stuck together with clever interludes. Three of the songs on this album are instrumentals, so fans of Frank's legendary guitar licks will not be disappointed. The lyrical content is somewhat focused on his (by this point) usual corny and twisted sense of humor, though a few of the tracks that do have lyrics are not written in this way. In the end, Zoot Allures is one of the later Zappa releases to be pretty good, as not long after the release of this album his quality began to rapidly drop for the most part.

The album opens with Wind Up Workin' in a Gas Station, a commercial, straightforward rocker with falsetto vocals that dissolve into creative rounds towards the end. There is not much to this song, but it fades away quickly into the open guitar of Black Napkins. The album's first instrumental, Black Napkins is basically a guitar solo, jamming and moving this way and that until in the middle section odd effects make up a very interesting melody. On the whole, it is upbeat and clever, and then without much warning it drops off into The Torture Never Stops with a dark bass line and a slow, horrifying mood. Yes, the song deals with torture, and Frank's deep vocals add a disturbing air to it. And despite it being almost ten minutes long, there is little variation or even soloing in it--that happens in the live versions instead. The last song on the first side is Ms. Pinky, a catchy song built on a distinctive distorted guitar riff. This song features a unique mixture of harmonica, creepy vocal lines, and electronic sounds more present than in Zappa's previous releases.

The second side begins with Find Her Finer, another song focusing on sexual lyrics and commercialism. There is not much to say about this one. Very average for Zappa. However, thankfully, Friendly Little Finger soon enters the picture. Hearkening back to the complexity of the One Size Fits All or Roxy & Elsewhere days, this song is an instrumental once more focused primarily on the guitar solo. Nevertheless, a burning bass line makes this song a standout track not just on the album but in general regards to Zappa's discography. The wind-down of this track is legendary, especially with the sudden insertion of triumphant horns that throw the next track straight away into the speakers. However, Wonderful Wino is another straightforward commercial Zappa tune, catchy but unremarkable. The concluding solo almost saves the tune, if it weren't for the next song, Zoot Allures. The title track here hearkens back to the classic early 70s Zappa clean sound with a melodic and gentle guitar lead. There is really no solo until the final minute, and though the song does become more complex eventually, the majority of it is unconventionally mellow. Disco Boy is a popular one of his songs, catchy and commercial and featuring some awkward falsetto voices that add to the humor. The groove here is palpable, but as far as Zappa songs go, this one has very little new to offer.

Any fan of Zappa will enjoy this album, though I would not recommend beginning here. Rather, check out One Size Fits All and work your way chronologically forward into the Lather pieces. Zoot Allures has plenty to offer and some to ignore, but on the whole it is a fairly good release.

Review by The Quiet One
3 stars Not Quite Alluring Actually...

Zoot Allures is another solo album by Frank in which the quality of it overall can be questioned if it's really Zappa who composed all this. On this album Frank, unfortunately, decided to play most of the instruments in most of the songs, with the exception of the drums which are played by Terry Bozzio all-through. So do not expect a tight band or even a ''band'' at all. Despite all of that, Zoot Allures still is mentioned in the time of recommending Zappa albums

With Over-Nite Sensation, Zappa decided to choose a more rock-oriented path however still including jazzy leanings and a very tight band. Well, Zoot Allures is when Zappa decided to get rid of the jazzy touches and the complex song-writing. That left just the rock substance around with his amazing guitar abilities.

So Zoot Allures is almost in it's entirety filled with plain simple rock songs, beginning with the intro track, Wind Up Workin' in a Gas Station, which is a boring repetitive rock song. The addition of annoying vocalists makes it even worse; a feature which Zappa will heavily use in future late 70's and early 80's releases

Then there's Ms. Pinky, Find Her Finer and Wonderful Wino which have a very catchy chorus as well as rhythm, yet they´re very simple songs for Zappa standards. Incredibly enough, Zappa knows how to do some very enjoyable mainstream songs, which is another thing which surprises me even more about this genius.

The final song of the album, is another stinker as the opener, called Disco Boy. Another rock based song with again some annoying vocals which drag down most of the song. The structure once again is simple and by no means entertaining for the Zappa fan who enjoys his classic unique stuff, however those who enjoy Sheik Yerbouti and his early 80's albums might get a better kick out of these comical songs.

Obviously the reason why Zoot Allures is recommended is not because of that side of the album, if not the remaining tunes which have Frank's one-of-a-kind guitar style glowing in three different ways. Black Napkins having Zappa's unmatchable note-selection which is truly sublime.

Then there's Friendly Little Finger. Zappa on this tune offers a more ferocious approach with heavier bites leaving place also to Bozzio.

Finally there's the very promising title track. It's a terrific instrumental which once again showcases Zappa's capability on the guitar but also shows his capability as a composer, something this album was lacking. A very delicate tune, which unfortunately leaves a bit to desire since it only lasts 4 minutes.

The Torture Never Stops is the only track I've still haven't mentioned and that's because it doesn't belong either to the straight-forward comic rock or the solo spots of Frank's guitar. However, that doesn't mean it belongs to the complex jazzy stuff of Frank neither his wacky avant-garde stuff. Actually, The Torture Never Stops is an odd song by Frank in which the composition while it lasts 10 minutes, it's purely based on a very simple rhythm made by Terry's drums and Frank's bass. But it's such a grabbing rhythm with simple but fitting keyboards plus Frank's spooky voice, you really can't stop listening to it. Great long simple rock song, which doesn't seem long at all.

Conclusion: A very accessible Zappa album that's for sure. This is not the definite turning-point to the totally straight-forward rock band with Zappa's humor getting kind of boring and even annoying, but still it's a trace of what was to come, which in albums like Sheik Yerbouti or Tinsel Town Rebellion it would be definite for a certain lapse of time.

Recommended only if you're a Zappa fan and are looking for some of his most acclaimed guitar work, even if one half of the album is non-Zappa like. Those who are looking for his virtuosity as a song-writer, put this way below in the buy-list and purchase either The Grand Wazoo or Zappa in New York or other of his classic works. Don't get me wrong, I love it, but it's really just a mix of average rock songs and some stand-outs, which in the end I'll have to round the 2.5 stars up because I think there are some other Zappa albums which truly deserve the 2 stars, and besides the standouts in here are not any standouts.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Many have tried, even my beloved other half, but so far, nobody has succeeded in convincing me of Zappa's genius. Of course he's a great guitar performer, an entertainer even, a playful lyricist and maybe even a great composer but it all very much passes me by untouched, just like most jazz-rock does.

So, hardly a surprise that I can stomach this album best of all. As everybody has pointed out already it's Zappa in a stripped down rock mood, with easy digestible songs and even some catchy riffs that you can hum along with. It's probably not his best album but it's the best introduction that you can have, especially if you're looking from a prog-rock side.

Review by Prog Leviathan
2 stars This down-and-dirty Zappa album features Frank playing striped-down, bottom heavy, and "conventional" tunes. While I think it's safe to say that everytime Frank sneezed something creative came out of him... this album shows that it wasn't necessarily a good thing.

For every cool moment in Zoot Allures there are just as many that made me roll my eyes. "Wind Up Workin'..." is fun but trite, "Black Napkins" is an awesome solo and nothing else, "Torture Never Stops" never stops (and only barely begins), etc. While I found something amusing about all the songs (except "Find Her Finer", which is terrible), I found nothing to like, which to me says that Zoot Allures is an experiment that misfired. Gone is the dense complexity and playful instrumentals, being replaced with a crass directness. I understand that some of this album is satire, but that doesn't excuse poorly conceived songwriting.

While more "approachable" than other Zappa records because of Frank's heavy guitar sound, this one certainly isn't on par with his greats.

Songwriting: 2 Instrumental Performances: 4 Lyrics/Vocals: 2 Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

Review by tarkus1980
4 stars It's a low ****, but a **** rating nonetheless, and a pretty fun one at that. It's a far, far less "sophisticated" album than OSFA, but it's not hard to tell that that's exactly what Zappa wanted. The busy big-band jazz-prog overtones of the last couple of albums are almost completely gone; the instrumentation is very stripped-down, and almost all performed by Zappa himself (drums excepted). The hyperactive genre and society mockeries of yore also make a significant return, this time updated for the age of New Wave and the like. Not a lot of the individual songs stand out as classics, and in fact a good half of the album can be considered "slight" (which isn't the same as bad, mind you) by Zappa standards, but as a whole the album works.

Of the album's nine tracks, four stand out to me as Zappa classics. First is the opening "Wind up Working in a Gas Station," a "straightup" (haha) rocker that must have been a total shock to fans who were especially enamored of, say, "Inca Roads" from the year before. The base form of it may be different, though, but the hyper rhythm changes are totally familiar sounding; this may be Zappa taking on a "simpler" form, but he hasn't suddenly gone stupid, and the sense of disdain for "commoners" is still totally there (first line: "This here song might offend you some. If it does, it's because you're dumb."). On a broader level, this is the first serious manifestation of the approach that would dominate a good portion of You Are What You Is, and given how much I enjoy that album, this song can't help but give me a smile.

The second big highlight is the "epic" "The Torture Never Stops," which basically trumps every "shocking", decadent, Alice Cooper-style track made in the era. It was all I could do to not fall down laughing when I heard the first lines, "Flies all green and buzzin', in this dungeon of despair," delivered in an absolutely spot-on faux-sleazy manner that reduces all torture and S&M themes and practices to the goofiness they are. The seemingly endless female moans are a perfect icing on the cake; those sure don't sound like screams of agony to me! (The fact that these orgasmic noises are made by Zappa's wife makes it all the funnier). Is it overlong? Of course it's overlong! It's also thoroughly irreverant and genre- destroying; it's one of those instances where excessive length is a definite asset.

Anyway, the third significant highlight is the grumbly, intermittently rocking Wonderful Wino. Frank eschews singing for his creepy spoken mode a la "I'm the Slime," and it works in this case; I'm not sure any vocal melody would have been able to properly convey the gross nature of lines like, "I lost control of my body functions, on the road ahead at the ladies front lawn. I'm so ashamed, but I'm a wino man; I can't help myself." The fourth highlight, then, is a slam of the then upcoming disco culture, courtesy of the incredibly catchy "Disco Boy," complete with hilarious falsetto vocals in the chorus. It's all about a prototypical, brainless attendee of a disco club who has hopes of getting lucky and who totally strikes out. Check out this delightful line about the aftermath : "Disco Boy, no one understands, but thank THE LORD that you still got hands to help you do that jerkin' that'll blot out yer Disco Sorrow!" Welcome back, Frank, welcome back.

Of the remaining five, my favorite is probably "Find Her Finer," which seems to be about wrapping women up until you have your way with them (!!!), but the heavily distorted bassline of "Ms. Pinky" is kinda attractive (though there really isn't anything else interesting about the song), and the instrumental title track is pretty lovely (Frank's guitar has an awfully nice tone in that one). The (seemingly) lengthy wankfest "Black Napkins" could be done without (it's a rather dull "soulful" standard blues passage, with none of Frank's regular eccentricities), and while "Friendly Little Finger" is at least more energetic, it's so messy that I can't get into it.

Overall, then, there's a good amount of relatively non-descript stuff to be found, but most of it is quite tolerable, and the best stuff is a hoot. It's a slight tossoff for Frank, but it's an enjoyable one, and well worth a cheap pickup.

Review by Warthur
2 stars One of Zappa's more commercially minded releases, Zoot Allures could at points be mistaken for a mainstream heavy guitar rock album if it weren't for the zany lyrics and the jazz-funk influences. The production on the album sounds a little off on all the versions I've heard, Zappa's guitar playing too often descends into empty showboating, and the material is some of his most simplistic and irritating for years.

Particularly irksome songs include The Torture Never Stops, which is appropriately titled because it goes on forever, and Disco Boy - a particularly annoying number because whilst it caters to smug rockist Zappa fans who consider themselves to be above musical genres they consider to be inferior, it ends up being just as crass, tepid and shallow as the worst excesses of the genre it lampoons. Miss Pinky and Wind Up Workin' In a Gas Station are probably the best songs in that they are catchy, amusing, and don't last too long, but even then they're hardly Zappa's top-shelf material.

I'd suggest Zappa was holding back the best stuff for the Lather set, except I've never been impressed by most of that stuff either in the context of Lather or as the separate albums (with the honourable exception of Zappa In New York). I suppose even geniuses like Zappa must run out of ideas eventually, but great googly moogly it's hard to listen to it happening.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This album is something of an anomaly in Frank Zappa's catalog. On all but two of the songs, Frank plays guitar, bass and keyboards. Terry Bozzio plays drums, and other favorites add tracks (Ruth Underwood, Roy Estrada and "Donnie" (van) Vliet, among others) to fill out the music. So among his seventies albums, this is more of a solo album than any.

Zappa proves himself to be a fair keyboardist. Although none of the keyboards stand out as great, they don't detract from the music either. And he tends to stay somewhat low key on the bass as well. The one place his bass stands out is on Friendly Little Finger, where Zappa is soloing on bass and guitar at the same time, with spectacular results.

The two guitar solo pieces are also outstanding. Black Napkins became one of Frank's signature guitar solos, and Zoot Allures is beautiful as well.

The other songs are all the funny, scatological songs that appeal to the teenager inside of us. And The Torture Never Stops, a concert favorite was first released on this album.

Not a masterpiece, but a wonderful album in Zappa's huge discography.

Review by stefro
4 stars Whilst maybe not in the same exulted class of true Zappa classics such as 'Joe's Garage', 'Overnite Sensation' or 'Apostrophe'(or a million others) 1976's 'Zoot Allures' still features it's fair share of stand-out moments. One of his rockiest albums, 'Zoot Allures' is notable for blending Zappa's rock 'n' roll proclivities with the savage satirical asides that characterized his 1970s output. Here, we have songs attacking the then burgeoning disco phenomenon('Disco Boy'), a stand-out live guitar solo piece('Black Napkins') and the darkly brilliant nine-minute opus 'The Torture Never Stops', a track seemingly about the darker side of human sexual nature. Shot through with it's creators usual attention-to-detail, his staggeringly sophisticated instrumental passages and that unusual psychedelic hue that only Zappa could concoct, 'Zoot Allures' is another fine entry into the sprawling Zappa canon. Once again, several listens are needed to truly capture all that is happening, and even then surprusing new elements can always be found on further explorations. Although not a stone-cold Zappa classic, 'Zoot Allures' still has more to offer that most other rock 'n' roll groups do in their entire careers. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012
Review by b_olariu
3 stars The follower of One size fits all from 1976 Zoot allures is to me a let down after excellent previous release. No more jazz fusion/progressive rock elements here, the straight rock parts are present here combined with his satirical and humorous in same time lyrics, most intresting tune to me is black napkin, the rest are only ok, nothing special about, maybe is to laid back in some places. Terry Bozzio is on drums here has some good chops but eventualy he will brake grounds only later on as one of the most influencial drumer , starting with UK. A good album but no more then 3 stars to me.
Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars This is the Zappa band stripped down mostly to a rock quartet (and a quintet in some cases). There is no jazz or orchestral music here, it's all rock. It's also probably Zappa's darkest album. There are several concert classics that seen their first light of day on this (mostly) studio album.

I remember the first time I heard this album, I bought it looking for something that I though was as good as "Sheik Yerbouti", and bought this as the follow up, even though it was released 3 years earlier. I was disappointed. I've grown to appreciate it a little more now, but I still don't consider it one of my favorite Zappa albums. I think this is some of Zappa's worst vocals and he sings lead vocals on all but 2 of the songs (those songs are instrumentals). His vocals are kept subdued and kind of whisper-y so to me he just sounds like a grumpy pervert. The rest of the music is pretty good, but it is very dark, except for "Wind Up Workin" and "Disco Boy" which are a little more "cheery" I guess. The best tracks on this album are the instrumentals, and it's because of them that this is an excellent recording. If it was a completely vocal album like "You Are What You Is" then it would have been just as bad as that terrible album.

"Wind up Workin at a Gas Station" is one of the few tracks with several vocal styles which you tend to find on some of Zappa's better albums. The vocals are similar to doo wop harmonies, but this is not a doo wop song, so, there you go. Next is one of Zappa's best guitar pieces called "Black Napkins" I love this song and find it always tends to produce the best solos out of all of Zappa's instrumentals. It was named after the color of the napkins at a Thanksgiving dinner that Zappa attended where he describes the turkey as so full of preservatives that you could see them gleaming and some beat up cranberry material. The black napkins where the final stroke to the ridiculous dinner. But at least the song is great.....This song is actually a live performance in Osaka Japan on 2/3/76.

"The Torture Never Stops" is the first studio version recorded of the concert staple that is on an innumerable amount of live recordings out there. This version has the screaming girls on it who are actually Gail (Zappa's wife) and a friend. Zappa gets all the credit for this one except for the drum. This version has the keyboards more to the front than the concert performances tend to have, but still has a guitar solo, though more subdued than most of the concert performances. After that is the funny song about a blow up doll named "Ms. Pinky"

Side 2 starts out with "Find Her Finer" which I find annoying. Then we get another outstanding instrumental. First is "Friendly Little Finger" which involves the best full band line-up in Zappa's career and the only non-rock song on here, more of a jazz fusion with a guitar solo type track. The basic track was recorded in concert at Hofstra University on 10/26/1975 with FZ, Roy Estrada on bass, Terry Bozzio on drums, and the amazing Ruth Underwood on percussion and synthesizer. The brass section was recorded at a different time and place, 2 years before at Bolic Sound in Inglewood with Ian Underwood on Sax, Bruce Fowler on trombone and Sal Marquez on trumpet on 6/1/1973. Frank used his technique of xenochrony where he takes a studio recording and edits in a solo or section from a completely different source or song, usually live in Zappa's case, and combines it all together, usually in songs that have tricky rhythms.

Next is another vocal about an alcoholic which I don't care for either. Then is the title track which is another excellent instrumental in the same vein as the one on side 1 which is also a huge concert staple. This one was recorded completely in studio. It all ends with the slightly brighter "Disco Boy" which is the single from the album and one of Zappa's most popular satirical takes on the disco movement.

This album was originally supposed to be a double album and included other Zappa greats like "Sleep Dirt", "The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution" and several others that appeared on other albums. The addition of those songs would have helped strengthen this album. One other song called "Night of the Iron Sausage" was also supposed to be part of the double album but it was never released. It was reportedly a very long guitar solo. Not sure how that would have added or taken away from the album.

So, the vocal tracks are disappointing here, but the instrumentals are stellar. That leaves me with a split decision on this album. I totally respect FZ's music and enjoy the humor on most of his comedy tracks, but I can't rate this album at 5 stars when I hate the vocal tracks. The instrumentals however are so good that it actually raises this from a 2 star album to 4 stars. That's how good they are.....and are actually essential tracks. So 4 stars here. Get it for the instrumentals.

Review by Neu!mann
3 stars Frank Zappa's 1976 album is one of the more perplexing items in his mammoth (and, 25-years after his death, still expanding) discography, presenting yet another composite of studio and live tracks, condensed from an aborted two-disc project and with a grab-bag of backup musicians enlisted to fill the various gaps. Even the cover portrait is misleading, showing the touring band assembled after the album was completed (so don't expect to hear Eddie Jobson anywhere on the record).

It must have been difficult for Zappa to maintain his habit of Conceptual Continuity with such a mix-and-match, scattershot production. But the end results are surprisingly coherent, evenly spread across a collection of (mostly) shorter songs: if not for the nearly 10-minute slow burn of "The Torture Never Stops", the album would have fallen well below the 30-minute margin.

The economical, entirely instrumental title track is an obvious highlight, despite the long, unresolved fade-out. According to the official Frank Zappa website, he considered it one of his three signature what were the other two? Not "Disco Boy", closing the album on a sour note of now-dated social misanthropy. And certainly not "The Torture Never Stops", a concert favorite better suited to the stage, with plenty of room allowed for live instrumental vamping. In a studio environment it sounds a bit inhibited, and the eerie background wailing (by Zappa's wife, Gail) is more suggestive of the fake sex tape that led to Zappa's arrest in a 1965 Cucamonga vice-squad sting.

Here and elsewhere Zappa's lead vocals are curiously and very closely miked, delivered at just above a whisper. It was probably unintended, but the result is very effective alongside the atypically basic and often quite aggressive rock 'n' roll heard throughout the album. Clearly more effort was spent on the words than on the musical arrangements: one reason perhaps why the instrumental tracks stand out.

Expect to be entertained, not challenged. At his best, Frank Zappa will usually do both.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Zoot Allures" is an album release by US, California based rock artist Frank Zappa. The album was released through Warner Bros. Records in October 1976. It's the successor to the 1975 "Bongo Fury" collaboration album with Captain Beefheart. "Zoot Allures" was originally meant to be released through the DiscReet Records label, but Herb Cohen (Zappa's then manager/business partner and co-owner of DiscReet Records) and Zappa had a falling out (which ended in a lawsuit), and the album was therefore released through Warner Bros. Records. It would be Zappa's only release through the label, as he would also experience great trouble with that label and their business methods resulting in one of the longest release breaks of his career, as his next release "Zappa in New York" wasn't released until March 1978 (through the DiscReet Records label, although still distributed though Warner Bros. Records).

Many of Zappa's albums consist of both studio and live recordings recorded at various locations and times (sometimes combined on the same track), and that's also the case on "Zoot Allures", although most tracks on the album were actually recorded in May-June of 1976 at the Record Plant Studios on Los Angeles. There are three exceptions on the album. The first is "Wonderful Wino", which is a track that Zappa co-wrote with former Mothers of Invention bassist Jeff Simmons, and which in its original version was featured on the latter's 1969 solo album "Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up". The version of "Wonderful Wino" included on "Zoot Allures" was recorded in 1972/1973. The second exception is "Friendly Little Finger", which was recorded partially in 1973 and finished in October 1975. The last exception is the instrumental "Black Napkins", which is a live recording from Osaka, Japan from February 1976.

Most of the basic tracks (bass, guitars, drums, vocals, keyboards) which were recorded at the Record Plant Studios, were recorded by the duo of Frank Zappa and Terry Bozzio. The latter recorded all drum tracks, and the former recorded everything else. The album however does feature quite a few guest appearances by Zappa regulars like Ruth and Ian Underwood, Roy Estrada, Captain Beefheart, and Bruce Fowler.

In usual Frank Zappa mode "Zoot Allures" is a stylistically eclectic release. It's one of Frank Zappa's more easily accessible and humourous releases and tracks like "Wind Up Workin' in a Gas Station", "Ms. Pinky", "Wonderful Wino", and "Disco Boy" are all both funny and a little silly (in a good way). In the other end of the spectrum are the two instrumentals "Black Napkins" and the title track, which both feature a darker and more melancholic sound. The same can be said about "The Torture Never Stops", which is a long atmospheric track with some thought provoking lyrics.

"Zoot Allures" features a warm, organic, and detailed sound production, which suits the material perfectly and upon conclusion it's a good quality release by Frank Zappa. It's not among his most standout releases nor among his best, but it's still highly entertaining and filled to the brim with excellent musicianship, adventurous songwriting ideas, and strong production values. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Review #151 As I said in my review about "One size fits all", in 1975 Frank ZAPPA finally got a stable line-up of musicians; unfortunately, this didn't last long. "Zoot allures" was the first ZAPPA album in which George DUKE didn't play since 1969 and further from Ruth UNDERWOOD and Napoleon ... (read more)

Report this review (#2636651) | Posted by Uruk_hai | Wednesday, November 24, 2021 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is my go-to Zappa disc. Everything Frank does well, he does on Zoot Allures and all in under 40 minutes, no less. The funny stuff, the complicated stuff, the guitar solo stuff and the lascivious lyrical stuff all present and accounted for (though not his orchestral dalliances) on these two ho ... (read more)

Report this review (#207796) | Posted by Steven in Atlanta | Thursday, March 19, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Probably one of the most underrated Zappa albums - is it because it was released between Apostrophe (') and One Size Fits All ? I found Zoot Allures (name inspired by the french 'Zut alors !') very good, even if the second side is largerly weak than the first - I don't like Wonderful Wino and ... (read more)

Report this review (#163467) | Posted by Zardoz | Saturday, March 8, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This was the first Zappa album I ever bought, and what an introduction. The album opens with "Wind Up Workin In a Gas Station", a song with the classic Zappa feel and a great funk/soul edge to it, and some excellent backing vocals. The next track (and personally my favourite Zappa instrumental) is ... (read more)

Report this review (#146613) | Posted by cynthiasmallet | Tuesday, October 23, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Essential for anyone. It's not exactly the most progressive in Zappa's collection, but it's a work of genius nonetheless. A straight-up rock record with typical Zappa humor, nailing every idiot and their mother, building off weird road stories, lots of perverse BDSM howls, and a deep sound. No ke ... (read more)

Report this review (#118510) | Posted by Indiciplinary | Monday, April 16, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is one of the first Frank Zappa albums I have heard, it played a large part in helping me to discover his genious, it kicks off with what is really the only song that is meant to be comical in a bouncy, energetic way, "Wind Up Working In A Gas Station" it's followed by "Black Napkins" whi ... (read more)

Report this review (#113325) | Posted by Matt Dickens | Friday, February 23, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I'd describe "Zoot Allures" as a smooth and funny record. It kicks off with the energetic "Wind Up Working In A Gas Station" but It quickly switch to a smoother and surprisingly sensual sound with "Black Napkins", a very emotional solo from Zappa. "The Torture Never Stops" continues in the same v ... (read more)

Report this review (#98400) | Posted by drgrowl | Sunday, November 12, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Awesome Zappa record, with Bozzio, O´Hearn and Zappa playing very complex rock´n roll music. I like the obscenity here, the hilarious Bozzio vocals and many dirty, very dirty lyrics. Considering that this album contains fantastic Zappa guitar work, very angry drums overtures and quite nice bas ... (read more)

Report this review (#47325) | Posted by | Monday, September 19, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A serious Zappa album again. Zoot came after Bongo Fury, an excentric live album with the hilarious Beefheart, an album far from the funky´n hard Roxy & Elsewhere. This time Zappa bring a new studio line-up, with the highlights beeing Terry Bozzio and Patrick O´Hearn, both terrific musicians. ... (read more)

Report this review (#47100) | Posted by rguabiraba | Sunday, September 18, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars It's one of the best album by FZ. A lot of instrumetals, good vocals and (of couse) rock'n'roll!!! That abum is the reason of my love to FZ. As photographer, I like very much such wonderful cover. To my deep regret I almost alone in my opinion. ... ... ... ... ... ... (read more)

Report this review (#35841) | Posted by | Thursday, June 9, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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