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FRANK ZAPPA

RIO/Avant-Prog • United States


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Frank Zappa biography
Frank Vincent ZAPPA - December 12, 1940 (Baltimore, USA) / December 4, 1993 (Los Angeles, USA)

When he was 10 years old, he moved to California with his parents. The first instrument he played was the drums. At that time, Frank ZAPPA really liked rhythm and blues music. But in 1954, ZAPPA found a copy of "The Complete Works Of Edgar Varèse, Vol. One". He was fascinated by the 'weird' avant-garde pieces and it was probably also ZAPPA's first encounter with atonal compositions, something that would later reappear in his own music. During high school, he played in several garage bands, but he didn't write rock and roll music himself until his early twenties. He began writing classical music at 18. Some of his early compositions he wrote for the B-films "The World's Greatest Sinner" and "Run Home Slow" (written by his high school English teacher). You can find the theme from "Run Home Slow" on the "The Lost Episodes" and "The Mystery Disc". From 1962 'til 1964, ZAPPA wrote several songs for different bands (You can find those songs on "Cucamonga" and "For Collectors Only"). In 1964 ZAPPA entered THE SOUL GIANTS. He renamed the band THE MOTHERS (which was a subtle abbreviation of 'motherfuckers') and soon after the band caught the attention of producer Tom Wilson. THE MOTHERS were contracted by the Verve-division of MGM and after they had changed their name into THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION (to satisfy some MGM Records executives, who thought the other name was too provocative), they released 'Freak Out!', the second double-album ever (after Bob DYLAN's "Blonde On Blonde") and also what is said to be the first concept album ever. This milestone contained a strange mix of rhythm and blues, satyrical lyrics and avant-garde dissonance. With this first edition of THE MOTHERS, Frank ZAPPA recorded a number of progressive rock masterpieces. All of his records from the sixties are fantastic, except for "Cruising With Ruben & The Jets", which is a satiric tribute to doo-wop music. Worth mentioning is the fabulous "We're Only In It For The Money", on which ZAPPA ridicules the hippie-culture in general, and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" from THE BEATLES in particular. The entire sleeve of "We're Only In It For The Money" is a parody on that record. On August 20, 1969, ZAPPA disbanded THE MOTHERS. The most important members of the early MOTHERS OF INVENTION had been Frank ZAPPA (guitar, vocals, much more) Ray COLLINS (vocals), Jimmy Carl BLACK (the ind...
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FRANK ZAPPA discography


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FRANK ZAPPA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.92 | 649 ratings
The Mothers Of Invention: Freak Out!
1966
4.05 | 533 ratings
The Mothers Of Invention: Absolutely Free
1967
3.19 | 388 ratings
Lumpy Gravy
1968
4.10 | 667 ratings
The Mothers Of Invention: We're Only In It For The Money
1968
2.79 | 281 ratings
The Mothers Of Invention: Cruising With Ruben & The Jets
1968
4.06 | 526 ratings
The Mothers Of Invention: Uncle Meat
1969
4.34 | 1625 ratings
Hot Rats
1969
3.90 | 431 ratings
The Mothers Of Invention: Burnt Weeny Sandwich
1970
3.77 | 429 ratings
The Mothers Of Invention: Weasels Ripped My Flesh
1970
3.40 | 343 ratings
Chunga's Revenge
1970
3.08 | 229 ratings
200 Motels
1971
3.93 | 510 ratings
Waka / Jawaka
1972
4.32 | 963 ratings
The Grand Wazoo
1972
4.01 | 622 ratings
The Mothers Of Invention: Over-Nite Sensation
1973
4.03 | 686 ratings
Apostrophe (')
1974
4.30 | 960 ratings
The Mothers Of Invention: One Size Fits All
1975
3.73 | 426 ratings
Zoot Allures
1976
3.75 | 280 ratings
Studio Tan
1978
3.61 | 288 ratings
Sleep Dirt
1979
3.89 | 505 ratings
Sheik Yerbouti
1979
4.15 | 533 ratings
Joe's Garage, Act I
1979
3.98 | 426 ratings
Joe's Garage, Acts II & III
1979
3.66 | 286 ratings
You Are What You Is
1981
3.58 | 257 ratings
Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch
1982
3.15 | 237 ratings
The Man From Utopia
1983
3.10 | 117 ratings
London Symphony Orchestra Vol. I
1983
3.28 | 191 ratings
Them Or Us
1984
2.43 | 154 ratings
Thing-Fish
1984
2.58 | 134 ratings
Francesco Zappa
1984
3.51 | 125 ratings
Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger
1984
3.24 | 145 ratings
Frank Zappa Meets The Mothers Of Prevention
1985
3.43 | 229 ratings
Jazz From Hell
1986
2.94 | 89 ratings
London Symphony Orchestra Vol. II
1987
3.78 | 134 ratings
Civilization Phaze III
1994
3.33 | 92 ratings
The Lost Episodes
1996
3.98 | 198 ratings
Läther
1996
3.18 | 55 ratings
Everything Is Healing Nicely [aka: EIHN]
1999
2.96 | 50 ratings
Joe's Corsage
2004
1.85 | 54 ratings
Joe's Domage
2004
2.35 | 41 ratings
Joe's XMasage
2005
3.49 | 45 ratings
Feeding The Monkies At Ma Maison
2011
2.94 | 32 ratings
Joe's Camouflage
2014
3.98 | 66 ratings
Dance Me This
2015

FRANK ZAPPA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.23 | 166 ratings
Fillmore East, June 1971
1971
3.18 | 152 ratings
Just Another Band From L.A.
1972
4.39 | 333 ratings
Roxy & Elsewhere
1974
3.56 | 224 ratings
Bongo Fury
1975
4.24 | 261 ratings
Zappa In New York
1978
3.34 | 157 ratings
Orchestral Favorites
1979
3.10 | 164 ratings
Tinsel Town Rebellion
1981
3.27 | 98 ratings
Baby Snakes
1983
3.59 | 86 ratings
Does Humor Belong In Music?
1986
3.62 | 131 ratings
Broadway The Hard Way
1988
3.42 | 122 ratings
Guitar
1988
4.03 | 128 ratings
You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 1
1988
4.54 | 211 ratings
You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 2
1988
3.63 | 106 ratings
You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 3
1989
3.56 | 98 ratings
You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 4
1991
4.36 | 194 ratings
The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life
1991
4.41 | 148 ratings
Make A Jazz Noise Here
1991
3.76 | 38 ratings
Piquantique - Stockholm 1973
1991
2.42 | 26 ratings
As An Am
1991
3.39 | 27 ratings
The Ark
1991
2.72 | 23 ratings
Freaks & Motherfuckers!
1991
2.46 | 27 ratings
Unmitigated Audacity
1991
2.18 | 27 ratings
Anyway The Wind Blows
1991
2.84 | 26 ratings
'Tis The Season To Be Jelly
1991
2.42 | 24 ratings
Saarbrucken 1978
1991
1.52 | 18 ratings
At The Circus
1992
1.96 | 17 ratings
Conceptual Continuity
1992
2.81 | 50 ratings
Playground Psychotics
1992
3.67 | 86 ratings
You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 5
1992
3.86 | 86 ratings
You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 6
1992
2.35 | 19 ratings
Disconnected Synapses
1992
3.04 | 19 ratings
Electric Aunt Jemima
1992
3.15 | 15 ratings
Our Man In Nirvana
1992
3.61 | 16 ratings
Swiss Cheese / Fire!
1992
2.38 | 15 ratings
Tengo Na Minchia Tanta
1992
3.89 | 127 ratings
The Yellow Shark
1993
3.24 | 79 ratings
Ahead Of Their Time
1993
3.94 | 60 ratings
FZ:OZ
2002
3.87 | 36 ratings
Halloween (DVD-Audio)
2003
3.99 | 73 ratings
Imaginary Diseases
2006
3.51 | 68 ratings
Trance-Fusion
2006
4.12 | 64 ratings
Buffalo
2007
4.15 | 78 ratings
Wazoo
2007
3.65 | 47 ratings
The Dub Room Special!
2007
3.63 | 45 ratings
One Shot Deal
2008
3.17 | 31 ratings
Joe's Menage
2008
4.19 | 54 ratings
Philly '76
2009
4.32 | 66 ratings
Hammersmith Odeon
2010
3.82 | 37 ratings
Carnegie Hall
2011
3.17 | 41 ratings
Finer Moments
2012
3.36 | 36 ratings
Road Tapes - Venue #1
2012
4.57 | 51 ratings
Road Tapes - Venue #2
2013
4.55 | 33 ratings
A Token Of His Extreme
2013
4.57 | 44 ratings
Roxy By Proxy
2014
3.50 | 8 ratings
200 Motels The Suites
2015
4.45 | 11 ratings
Roxy: The Sountrack
2015
3.08 | 6 ratings
Little Dots
2016
3.60 | 10 ratings
Chicago '78
2016
2.33 | 14 ratings
Road Tapes - Venue #3
2016
4.16 | 13 ratings
Halloween 77
2017
4.50 | 14 ratings
The Roxy Performances
2018
3.29 | 5 ratings
Halloween 73
2019

FRANK ZAPPA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

2.85 | 56 ratings
200 Motels (The Movie)
1971
3.40 | 25 ratings
Uncle Meat (Video)
1988
2.77 | 61 ratings
Does Humor Belong In Music?
2003
4.10 | 80 ratings
Baby Snakes
2003
4.19 | 33 ratings
QuAUDIOPHILIAc (DVD-Audio)
2004
4.00 | 44 ratings
The Dub Room Special!
2005
3.95 | 20 ratings
A Token Of His Extreme
2005
4.16 | 43 ratings
Apostrophe (') Over-Nite Sensation
2007
4.56 | 44 ratings
Zappa In Barcelona
2007
3.33 | 9 ratings
Tratto dal filmato 'A Token Of His Extreme'
2007
4.15 | 22 ratings
The Torture Never Stops
2008
3.14 | 7 ratings
Live In Paris 1980
2008
3.21 | 10 ratings
Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention: In the 1960's
2009
4.07 | 20 ratings
A Token Of His Extreme
2013
4.44 | 24 ratings
Roxy: The Movie
2015

FRANK ZAPPA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.71 | 39 ratings
Mothermania: The Best Of The Mothers
1969
2.09 | 3 ratings
Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention
1975
3.73 | 60 ratings
Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar
1981
4.15 | 53 ratings
Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar Some More
1981
3.87 | 46 ratings
Return Of The Son Of Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar
1981
3.94 | 103 ratings
Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar (The Box Set)
1982
3.88 | 8 ratings
The Old Masters, Box One
1985
2.89 | 19 ratings
We're Only In It For The Money / Lumpy Gravy
1985
3.67 | 6 ratings
The Old Masters, Box Two
1986
3.50 | 7 ratings
The Old Masters, Box Three
1987
3.64 | 122 ratings
Joe's Garage, Acts I, II & III
1987
4.12 | 22 ratings
You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Sampler
1988
4.09 | 11 ratings
Beat The Boots 1
1991
2.00 | 1 ratings
Cucamonga Years - The Early Works of Frank Zappa (1962-1964)
1991
4.00 | 9 ratings
Beat The Boots 2
1992
3.28 | 42 ratings
London Symphony Orchestra Vol. I & II
1995
3.24 | 57 ratings
Strictly Commercial
1995
3.75 | 32 ratings
Frank Zappa Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa: A Memorial Tribute
1996
4.09 | 26 ratings
Strictly Genteel
1997
3.26 | 30 ratings
Have I Offended Someone?
1997
2.92 | 46 ratings
Cheap Thrills
1998
2.05 | 54 ratings
The Mystery Disc
1998
2.11 | 18 ratings
Cucamonga (1962 - 1964)
1998
2.96 | 29 ratings
Son Of Cheep Thrills
1999
4.54 | 11 ratings
Zappa Picks - By Larry LaLonde Of Primus
2002
3.92 | 10 ratings
Zappa Picks - By Jonathan Fishman Of Phish
2002
4.73 | 18 ratings
Threesome No. 1
2002
4.53 | 18 ratings
Threesome No. 2
2002
2.67 | 9 ratings
For Collectors Only
2003
2.83 | 20 ratings
The Best of Frank Zappa
2004
3.40 | 37 ratings
The Making Of Freak Out! Project/Object
2006
3.59 | 22 ratings
The Lumpy Money Project/Object
2009
0.00 | 0 ratings
Beat the Boots III
2009
3.14 | 21 ratings
Greasy Love Songs
2010
4.00 | 15 ratings
Understanding America
2012
0.00 | 0 ratings
ZAPPAtite (Frank Zappa's Tastiest Tracks)
2016
3.83 | 10 ratings
The Crux Of The Biscuit
2016
3.75 | 9 ratings
Frank Zappa For President
2016
4.50 | 4 ratings
Meat Light: The Uncle Meat Project/Object Audio Documentary
2016
2.91 | 3 ratings
The Guitar World According To Frank Zappa
2019
0.00 | 0 ratings
Zappa in New York (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)
2019
4.50 | 2 ratings
Orchestral Favorites (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)
2019
0.00 | 0 ratings
Under the Covers (The Songs He Didn't Write)
2019
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Hot Rats Sessions
2019

FRANK ZAPPA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.89 | 9 ratings
How Could I Be Such a Fool?
1966
4.42 | 12 ratings
Trouble Comin' Every Day
1966
3.80 | 10 ratings
It Can't Happen Here
1966
3.73 | 13 ratings
Big Leg Emma
1967
4.13 | 8 ratings
My Guitar
1969
3.59 | 25 ratings
Peaches en Regalia
1970
3.38 | 8 ratings
Tell Me You Love Me
1970
4.00 | 6 ratings
WPLJ
1970
2.00 | 1 ratings
Tears Began To Fall
1971
0.00 | 0 ratings
Magic Fingers
1971
0.00 | 0 ratings
What Will This Evening Bring Me This Morning?
1972
4.22 | 9 ratings
Cletus Awreetus - Awrightus
1972
3.20 | 12 ratings
Montana
1973
2.82 | 13 ratings
Don't Eat The Yellow Snow
1974
3.50 | 2 ratings
Cosmik Debris
1974
5.00 | 1 ratings
Du Bist Mein Sofa
1975
3.17 | 6 ratings
Find Her Finer
1976
4.00 | 1 ratings
Disco Boy
1976
3.93 | 14 ratings
Bobby Brown
1979
4.17 | 12 ratings
Joe's Garage
1979
3.32 | 12 ratings
Dancin Fool
1979
3.60 | 15 ratings
I Don't Wanna Get Drafted 12''
1980
3.50 | 6 ratings
Stick It Out
1980
3.80 | 5 ratings
Goblin Girl (picture)
1981
2.85 | 12 ratings
Valley Girl
1981
4.00 | 1 ratings
Love Of My Life
1981
4.00 | 4 ratings
Harder Than Your Husband
1981
5.00 | 3 ratings
Cocaine Decisions
1983
3.50 | 2 ratings
The Man From Utopia Meets Mary Lou
1983
2.60 | 5 ratings
Rare Meat - Early Productions Of Frank Zappa 12''
1983
3.40 | 5 ratings
Baby Take Your Teeth Out
1984
4.00 | 1 ratings
True Glove
1984
4.64 | 14 ratings
Peaches En Regalia (longpack)
1987
4.45 | 11 ratings
Montana (Whipping Floss)
1988
4.63 | 8 ratings
Zomby Woof
1988
3.21 | 10 ratings
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
1988
2.09 | 3 ratings
You Can't Do That On the Radio Anymore
1990
3.11 | 9 ratings
Stairway To Heaven 12''
1991
3.91 | 3 ratings
Clean American Version
1995
3.87 | 4 ratings
Kill Ugly Radio Some More
1995
3.67 | 3 ratings
Kill Ugly Radio
1995
3.33 | 3 ratings
Return Of The Son Of Kill Ugly Radio
1995
4.40 | 5 ratings
Zomby Woof (longpack)
1998
2.33 | 3 ratings
Penguin in Bondage/The little known story of the Mothers of Invention
2011
5.00 | 1 ratings
I'm The Slime
2013
0.00 | 0 ratings
Don't Eat The Yellow Snow / Down In De Dew
2014
2.00 | 2 ratings
200 Motels Overture
2015

FRANK ZAPPA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Mothers Of Invention: Freak Out! by ZAPPA, FRANK album cover Studio Album, 1966
3.92 | 649 ratings

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The Mothers Of Invention: Freak Out!
Frank Zappa RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by The Anders

5 stars Along with the compilation The Lost Episodes which consists of mostly previously unreleased recordings, Freak Out was my introduction to the world of Frank Zappa (I copied it from CD to a cassette tape and bought The Lost Episodes on CD in 1997 when I was 13 years old).

I tend to favour the 1960's Mothers of Invention over Zappa's later work. I do like some of his later work which, by the way, seems to be more well known and appreciated by more people. Still, his early music, though musically elaborate, often has an anarchistic mood that is somehow missing in his later, more jazzy and more technically perfect productions with cream-of-the-crop musicians. His early creations sound more causal and spontanous to me, almost a bit punky, not to mention that they have it all: pop, rock, elaborate compositions with advanced harmonics and elements of both jazz and contemporary classical music, doo wop, avant-garde, musique concrete, weird sonic freak shows and witty satire. And they are funny as hell.

The good thing is, it is not just weird and funny for the sake of cheap laughs. There is a lot of seriousness behind it all: rebelliousness, criticism of society, and especially great compositional craftsmanship. You can be humorous and dead serious at the same time, and Frank Zappa is an obvious example of that.

The tone of Freak Out is set already in the first number, "Hungry Freaks Daddy". The verse is based on a groove which perhaps resembles the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" a bit too much, but it is quickly clear that it has much more to offer. Apart from unusual instruments such as marimba and kazoo there's a surprising change of harmonic mode with the title phrase: From a mostly bluesy verse, the title phrase surprises with the non-functional iii-ii-V-ii progression, and a melody line paralleling the bass note at a fifth. Not exactly a usual musical pattern to the average pop listener. Similar patterns can be found in songs such as "Ain't Got No Heart", "I'm Not Satisfied" and "You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here" (the latter contains an especially hilarious use of the kazoo).

Then there is the harsh society criticism in songs like "Hungry Freaks Daddy": "Mister America walk on by / the schools that do not teach / Mister Amercia walk on by / the minds that won't be reached". The tone is equally direct in "Trouble Every Day" which - on a musical level - is more traditionally bluesy. I don't really know why that had to be the lead single from the album. The most radical song is perhaps "Who Are the Brain Police" with its sinister, unstable harmonic structure and especially the instrumental middle section after the second verse.

At other times the album is using pop banality but deconstructing it. "Wowie Zowie" could have been a simple love song, but then there are lyrics such as "I don't even care if you brush your teeth". "Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder" is a break up song to a traditional vamp progression (I-vi-IV-V), but with a grotesque doo-wop choir in the background and a remarkably unsentimental lyric. "Motherly Love" turns out to be about groupies whereas "Amyway the Wind Blows" is perhaps the most conventional song on the album. Zappa sarcastically writes in the cover notes: "If I hadn't got divorced, this trivial piece of nonsense would never have been recorded. It is included in this collection because, in a nutshell, kids, it is... how shall I say it?... it is intellectually and emotionally accessible for you".

The tracks where Freak Out lives up to its name the most are the last two, "Help I'm a Rock" (the last part is sometimes listed as a separate track, "It Can't Happen Here") and "The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet". While I really enjoy these tracks for their complete craziness, it is harder to describe them from a musical point of view. In any case, the "It can't happen here" section is extremely funny ("Whoooo... could imagine... that they would freak out in Minnesota.... Mi-mi-mi-mi-minesota" etc.).

The best part of the album is however the... if I may say so... "real songs" which make up the first two sides and the beginning of side three. The compositional qualities are astonishing. It is never just weird, there is a lot of beauty in even the most elaborate chords and melody lines, and there is often a pop sensibility to it. Also the production deserves praise. It clearly goes further than most pop/rock had done up to this point with orchestral arrangements and unusual instruments. This high level of professionalism is however counterpointed by the anarchistic and sometimes purposely off-key singing, mostly by lead singer Ray Collins and with Zappa often singing backing vocals (perhaps most striking in the intro of "Who Are the Brain Police"). But once again the balance between humour and seriousness is a big attraction of the album.

 Feeding The Monkies At Ma Maison by ZAPPA, FRANK album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.49 | 45 ratings

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Feeding The Monkies At Ma Maison
Frank Zappa RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars This album, which is #90 in the list of official Zappa releases, was released (posthumously, of course) by the Zappa Family Trust. However, it was recorded by Zappa around 1986 and was meant to be a 3-track vinyl album released at that time, but never was. The music is all performed by Frank on his synclavier, which he used more and more extensively in his later years. The instrument provided Frank a way to hear the 'impossible music' that resided in his head, music that he deemed impossible to play by a human-based orchestra/band. It was also an instrument that was becoming more and more complex and useful, allowing him to record longer and more complex compositions as its memory capacity grew larger through the years and its sound became better.

In the case of this album, Gail Zappa and Joe Travers decided to finally release this album in 2011 much to the joy of Zappa- aficionados everywhere. Imagine how happy they were to get new music from their hero. Gail and Joe decided to add two more tracks to the album (the last two on the track listing for the CD), thus actually making the album a 'compilation' in their reckoning. Since Frank planned on releasing this as an original album, I think it is best to consider it an original recording, however, and just think of the last two tracks as bonus tracks. Either way, all 5 tracks are performed on the synclavier (with a guest appearance from Moon Unit).

The first track, the 20-minute title track, is original to this album and hasn't appeared in any form any where else prior to its release. Trying to describe this music is a bit tough as it is very complex. This (and pretty much everything on the album) is quite avant-garde and dense with no real traditional melody as you might expect in some of Zappa's more rock or jazz influenced tracks. This one is considered the more 'classical-influenced' style of music, with what might seem like random, orchestrated sounds to the untrained Zappa-listener, but in reality, it is all structured usually by certain sets of rules that are not easily apparent. If you like the music from albums like 'Jazz from Hell' or 'Civilization Phaze III', then you will like this. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you might want to approach this with caution. It does take some time to adjust your 'ear' to this style of music.

Speaking of 'Civilization Phaze III', the next 2 tracks, 'Buffalo Voice' and 'Secular Humanism' originally appeared on that album. However, they were both edited for that album. Now, for the first time, you get to hear the complete versions of these tracks, the former runs over 11 minutes, the latter is over 6 minutes. They both have some interesting vocalizations with Frank's vocalist of choice, Moon Unit Zappa. I'm pretty certain he must add some of his own vocalizations in the later one, which also seems to have more of a humorous edge to it. With all of the vocal manipulations, you will be reminded of something Mike Patton would do.

The last two tracks are the 'bonus tracks' that were added by Gail and Joe. It starts with the shortest track on the album, 'Worms From Hell'. Most of this one is exclusive to this album, but about 30 seconds of it was used for the introduction to the video release 'Video From Hell' released in 1987. Since the track is over 5 minutes, most of it is original to this album. This one is a little more traditionally structured than the previous tracks with some repeating riffs, but really not by much. It also seems to be more lighthearted, but it's still quite complex. The last track is the 2nd fully original track on the album, the 11 minute 'Samba Funk', a track the mixes bizarre complexity with some off-beat percussion.

Strangely enough, I find this music quite intriguing. It did take me some time to get to that point though, I will admit. It's not something that I tend to listen to a lot as I have to be in the right mood for it, but when I am, I find it full of color and moods. I can even make sense out of it which makes it even more interesting. One thing for sure, the sound of this and some of the latter synclavier albums is much better than those that came earlier, and that also helps. The sound is more dynamic and realistic, not as choppy as the albums produced that way from earlier years.

This is definitely not for everyone. As I said earlier, I have to be in the right mood to listen to this, and it's much more complex that 'Jazz From Hell', but more along the lines of 'Civilization Phaze III', but without the intelligible spoken word sections. This is definitely not one for first-time Zappa listeners, and probably even for many Zappa fans, but it is intriguing nonetheless, and it is well constructed and produced. I can easily give it 4 stars for its complexity, but I know there will be many out there that won't be able to listen to it at all, so I think 4 stars is fair enough.

 The Mothers Of Invention: Weasels Ripped My Flesh by ZAPPA, FRANK album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.77 | 429 ratings

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The Mothers Of Invention: Weasels Ripped My Flesh
Frank Zappa RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by NickCrimsonII

3 stars This albums is downright weird. But weird in a good way, I guess. Computed mainly of live recordings (that can be either more stiffly assembled, or experimentational and avant-garde tracks that make little sense, using interesting time signatures, instruments and techniques). The album goes along with 'Burnt Weeny Sandwich' which is more composition-oriented, while this one is the naughty brother who does whatever he wants and no one knows why. Different influences were taken, different sound were created, some more pleasing, others disturbing and somewhat unlistenable. But above all, the album is good. It's interesting to hear what they were trying to do with this one, the free improvisation moment, the jazzier moments, and the nonsensical ones work in a crazy way, and one would need a couple of listens to actually start enjoying this studio/live album.
 Sheik Yerbouti by ZAPPA, FRANK album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.89 | 505 ratings

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Sheik Yerbouti
Frank Zappa RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

5 stars "Martian Love Secrets". Those were the words that Zappa claimed he saw on a toilet paper dispenser in a restroom (Steve Vai said it was actually on the wall) at the Record Plant, the studio where Zappa was recording at the time. That was going to be the title of this album, or at least, it was the working title for quite a while during the process. Then, Lynn Goldsmith, the photographer for the album cover, convinced the reluctant Frank to wear a sheik head-dress, she took pictures, suggested that since the album had some parodies of disco music, it should be called "Shiek Yer Bootie", and the name stuck, though it ended up being stylized and spelled a little differently. And so, Frank's most popular album (to that point anyway) was born.

"Sheik Yerbouti" is one of my all time favorite albums ever, and it was my first real introduction to Zappa. While attending a concert for a mostly unknown band (at the time at least), the roadies played this album over the loud speakers, and I fell for it right away. Suddenly, this band called "Van Halen" that I had 2nd row seats to but whom I knew very little about, was starting to sound like a great idea after all. Of course, the band came out and blew everyone away, and David Lee Roth was pretty much jumping off the stage and singing in the audience, but I will always remember that night more because that was where my love for Zappa began.

So what makes this album so great, other than it is a sentimental favorite? Well, it is one of Zappa's funniest and most engaging of them all. Though it is hard to tell, most of the album is live. However, the songs that are on it were never presented on an album before, and with all the overdubs and etc. on the finished product, it is very hard to tell. The production is so slick, you would never know, and the tracks flow from one to the other almost seamlessly. All of the tracks work so well together, and the track line up is virtually perfect.

The band involved on this album is one of the best line-ups also. Even though some of the personnel changes from one song to another, it is still pretty solid. It wasn't at the time, but now it all seems like a who's who supergroup of artists: Adrian Belew, Tommy Mars, Peter Wolf, Patrick O'Hearn, Terry Bozzio and others are on almost every track. Belew later said that most of the tracks were actually soundchecks, and that is believable seeing that the audience is only heard on a few of them.

The album starts off with "I Have Been In You" which is a satirical take on Peter Frampton's "I'm In You", which was a big hit at the time. The basic track here comes from the Hammersmith Odeon in London on January 25, 1978 and this is also the case with the first four tracks (though some were recorded on the 27th). Of course, you get Zappa's irreverent lyrics that poke fun at Frampton's lyrics. The next track is "Flakes" which is about the plumbers' union and also has a section with Adrian Belew imitating Bob Dylan. Again, hilarious lyrics and an engaging, progressive sound make this one stand out. More hilarity follows with "Broken Hearts are for Assholes" which features some more progressive sound and changing meters. "I'm So Cute" makes fun of sexy rock stars and their egos, but has a definite punk sound to it as it was lampooning punk music.

"Jones Crusher" (recorded at The Palladium in NYC on October 31, 1977) shouldn't take a lot of imagination to know what this track is about. However, one non-English reporter was a bit confused when she asked if the song was about Zappa's hatred for cult leader Jim Jones. Of course, Frank had to explain it had to do with strong vaginal muscles, to which she replied "Oh?.Well that's very different". The following track is just some group banter and noises about one of the road managers that committed suicide and connects the next track "Rat Tomago", which is a guitar solo taken from a performance of "The Torture Never Stops" performed in Berlin on February 15, 1978. The title of the track comes from the name of a drawing from Ahmet Zappa that he made and named when he was a child which Frank found quite amusing. The track was nominated for a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition. After another short, connecting track featuring more banter, "Bobby Brown" comes next, and of course it is the main reason the album was such a big seller. The track was a single and was the label's (CBS) biggest hit in history in Scandinavia. Funny, irreverent lyrics made this one nearly impossible to play on the radio in the US. Since it was made long before the artist of the same name became popular, so it has nothing to do with him, but more to do with self-pleasuring devices. "Rubber Shirt" is another instrumental which originally comes from 3 different solos, a guitar, the bass, and the drums, which Frank edited together making the separate tracks work with each other. O'Hearn's bass solo comes from an overdub used on the "Inca Roads" track. The 3 instruments playing on this track were never played together, but they sound like they were.

Another instrumental follows with "The Sheik Yerbouti Tango" which is from the guitar solo taken from the performance of "The Little House I Used to Live In" in Berlin on Feb. 15, 1978, another complex little ditty. This is followed by "Baby Snakes", a song with many different meanings sung by Zappa and Tommy Mars. "Tryin' to Grow a Chin" is another silly track that uses a riff and quote from a song by The Velveteens called "Dog Patch Creeper". Then there is the ever popular concert staple "City of Tiny Lights", a song about drug dependence and the crazy mind trips that accompany it, sung by Adrian Belew. This is always one of my favorites in concert as it always seems to inspire amazing guitar solos from Frank. This track was actually used many times in concert before being premiered on this album.

More fun follows in the disco satire "Dancin' Fool" and the kooky "Jewish Princess" which continues to offend people. The very interesting "Wild Love" is one of Frank's oddest tracks. I find it interesting the way he takes musical clichés from disco music here and then incorporate them into a complex and entertaining song. The album couldn't end better than the blistering "Yo' Mama", with silly lyrics and a killer, cinematic guitar solo, one of Zappa's best. It is said the lyrics were written about two of his band members, one had previously been ousted and the other was still active, but it is not certain who they were. Like most of the tracks here, the vocal sections were recorded at the usual Hammersmith Odeon, but the guitar solo was performed in Germany on Feb 25, 1978 using a four-track recording system and also utilizing many overdubs. In any event, it turned out a perfect ending for a perfect Zappa album.

This is definitely one of Frank's albums that could be considered a perfect entry point for his music. There is a lot of crude humor, excellent instrumentals and guitar solos, band field recordings, great melodies and it still has room for complex experimental weirdness. I know that when I heard it, I just had to dive in feet first to all of his discography. But don't think that all of his albums are going to be like this because Zappa was complex and dynamic. For me, I just had to understand what made this guy click, and it was after listening and becoming familiar with his music and his life, that I started to understand it all. Frank Zappa is not a musician that you come to appreciate over night, it takes a lot of commitment and interest in his music, motives, and mind to "get it". But in this album, you get to hear some of his complexities, yet be completely entertained at the same time. Definitely one of his best and most important albums, Sheik Yerbouti is one that I would consider recommended listening for those wanting to get to know Frank's music, especially from the more commercial side. But you better be prepared because this isn't for the faint of heart or for the easily offended.

 Hot Rats by ZAPPA, FRANK album cover Studio Album, 1969
4.34 | 1625 ratings

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Hot Rats
Frank Zappa RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by progtime1234567

5 stars FRANK ZAPPA took me a minute to get used to and now that I have I now realize how great his music is. A while back I tried to listen to this album but I could not get myself to lime him. Now that I have I finally understand why he is so great.

Hot Rats is Frank's greatest album because it shows off all that is great about his music. The guitar solos, the jazz rhythms, the odd, avant-garde side to it, and the overall humor that Zappa has become known for. This album while it may take a few to get into, and being one of Zappa's less accessible albums, is a must listen for any fan of prog rock.

 Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch by ZAPPA, FRANK album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.58 | 257 ratings

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Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch
Frank Zappa RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

5 stars One of the most intriguing things about Frank Zappa was the unpredictable ways he would take his music. It always seemed he found a certain sound or style and then he would take that style and work it until he bled it dry of any possibilities. During the early 80s, while all the 70s bands were adjusting their sound to try to fit in with the new sound, Zappa was pushing that sound to the extreme limit and then throwing it into a blender and making it sound like something completely different by mixing it with other forms and styles. His 1982 'studio' album 'Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch' is a perfect example of taking a style and stretching it to its boundaries so it comes out as something completely different when its done. It ended up being one of the most unpredictable albums he did.

The interesting thing about the entire album is, he knew it was going to be a single album, and he also knew what material was going to be on one half of it. It ended up being side two of the album with 'Drowning Witch', 'Envelopes' and 'Teenage Prostitute'. The other three songs got worked out later, but made up side one. I imagine that the first two 'pop' songs were chosen to start off the record in order to help boost sales and also to get the younger crowd interested so that they would listen to the rest of the record which had Frank's more complex compositions on it. Frank used humor and pop music to lure people into listening to his 'serious' music.

Starting with what was inspired by an actual Mongolian song, 'No Not Now' is the first of the pop songs. Roy Estrada does the vocals on it, and Zappa layered Estrada's vocals to sound like he's singing with a goofy male choir with harmonies and all. The song ends up feeling rather thick with the layered vocals, but it has a really nice, catchy bass line. Arthur Barrow plays the bass, and learned the bass line 8 measures at a time. Zappa would hum it to him and he would play it, and they would record it as they went. The problem I have with some of Zappa's songs from this period is that the lyrics can be overly repetitive, especially at the close of the track, and they seem to go on to infinity with that obnoxious falsetto and melody. There is a good element of humor in there though, especially poking fun at Donnie and Marie Osmond, their Hawiian Punch commercials and Utahan's love for string beans. (Fun fact #1: Utah consumes more string beans per capita than any other state.) 'Valley Girl' is Zappa's biggest hit single of course, with his daughter Moon Unit Zappa singing lead vocals. Yep, it's hilarious and in '82, the radio stations played endlessly, so it did tend to get annoying. The end of this track also utilizes over- repetition at the end, but Moon's characterization is spot on. Both songs could have been shortened down a minute though to cut out the repetition. But why would I question Zappa? Moon's monologue makes the track though, and also gave Frank a huge hit. (Fun fact #2: 5 different monologues were recorded and Frank took out the best parts of each and melded them together for the final product.)

'I Come From Nowhere', according to Frank, is about people who smile too much. Roy Estrada is singing the vocals with the odd lounge-jazz style that totally contrasts the heavy rock sound of the track. Of course, the vocals are in a different meter than the rest of the instruments, that's what give it the strange sound. This is definitely a world of difference between the pop songs and the rest of the album. The track was created mostly one track at a time, starting with a drum track, and everything else added on top of it all. Same this with the wild guitar solo. (Fun fact #3: Frank hardly ever likes to put studio guitar solos on his albums, and usually uses solos from live concerts when he adds a solo on his studio songs. However, this solo was recorded in studio.) Frank took two hours of soloing material that was done in-studio before he finally got a sound he liked. The track eventually fades out on the solo.

'Drowning Witch' and the rest of the album is taken from several live performances all added together. The track starts with a standard sounding chorus, but soon Frank slips into a improvised sounding sing-song, narration style, again almost with a lounge-jazz style during the singing, with several meters and varying tempos working against each other. After a jazzy interlude with the band, Frank slips into a long guitar solo. (Fun fact #4: Frank claims that this track comes from fifteen different live shows.) The crazy thing with this one is, that it goes totally against the usual formula for improvised solos, even for Frank, in that the foundation that supports the solo is almost as complex as the solo. The several edits factor in key and modal changes. It's no wonder that Frank says this song is difficult to play correctly on stage. About halfway through, there is another instrumental interlude that bridges the track to a second guitar solo, with a completely different feel, but also very complex.

The preceeding track goes right into the next track 'Envelopes', a two minute atonal instrumental that was originally intended to be played by two amplified keyboards with rhythm section accompaniment, but as with most of Zappa's music, it was too difficult to play, and the original version was never released. (Fan fact #?: The original recording was done with Mark and Howard, [the Flo and Eddie team from the Mothers of Invention in the late 60s] along with George Duke, but they couldn't get it right according to Frank, so it was never released.) The album has the rock band version of this complex composition. The original also had lyrics, but this version doesn't. It is being played live here and is not edited or cut, so what you are hearing is the unbelievable performance of this difficult track. The album ends with 'Teen-age Prostitute' performed at Santan Monica Civic Auditorium in Dec of 1981. It features a rare performance where Lisa Popeil sings the operatic lead vocals. Again, this is a complex track sounding like a wild opera about the title character, with a James Bond style instrumental interlude. Expect the crazy Zappa hyjinx.

Many people didn't know what to make of this album when it came out. Remember, many of the purchasers of the album were probably expecting more songs like 'Valley Girl', and ended up getting this very avant-garde album instead. That must have been some surprise to a lot of virgin ears at the time. Anyway, annoying repetition aside, if you pay attention to 98% of the album, you have a real complex recording here that really showcases Frank's talent, not just as a guitar player, but more as a composer. This music may sound quite alien to most people, but you are hearing Zappa at his inventive best. The 2nd half of the album seems to go by in a chaotic whirlwind, and you definitely won't catch much of the genius behind it all until you listen to it several times and seek to understand what an amazing musician Frank Zappa was. Once you understand what goes into Frank's music, and the amazing talent of his band, you can't help but give this 5 stars, even with the annoying repetition at the end of the first 2 tracks.

 Halloween 73 by ZAPPA, FRANK album cover Live, 2019
3.29 | 5 ratings

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Halloween 73
Frank Zappa RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by kurtrongey

3 stars Two full Zappa shows with the crazy-greatest line-up he ever had. Then there's a rehearsal disc taped a week before that's a great microscope into how this configuration worked together to stuff Zappa's musical frameworks full of funny and fascinating detail. Most of this material with this band is already well-served, but there are really cool highlights like the 20+ minute Farther O'Blivion suite with Greggery Peccary segments incorporated in. For as great as this is, I find myself being conservative with the rating. There are several tracks here that I'll file away in the memory banks to listen to again, but with such quantities of quality Zappa live material at our fingertips, this release as a whole can be hesitantly filed in the non-essentials.
 Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar Some More by ZAPPA, FRANK album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1981
4.15 | 53 ratings

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Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar Some More
Frank Zappa RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

5 stars When Frank Zappa put together the guitar solos that would appear on the 3 LP series, he never thought they were going to be as well received as they were, so they were originally only available through mail order. What ended up happening was that they were so popular with the critics and fans, that it would eventually lead to the separate LPs to be released together in a box set and also inspired several other guitar-solo albums in the years to come. These are all showcases of Frank's guitar talent, not for humorous purposes or to show off the talents of other band members. People that come into this listening for funny moments will be disappointed, but they will also not be people who understand the depth of Zappa's talent, that there is more than just crude humor in his music. There is also a serious side, and that side has a lot of heart and soul. You can be a fan of his humorous music without being a fan of his serious music, classical or rock, and that goes both ways, but you can't be a Frank Zappa fan unless you understand and appreciate all sides, like them or not.

Collection #2 in this original series was called "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar Some More". There really isn't anything that separates the second collection from the first except for the actual solos. It's just a continuation of the same idea, most of the tracks were guitar solos that were edited out of a longer live performance. Frank would improvise a different way each time, even when the same song was played in a different concert, so each time you would get a unique performance. He took what he thought was some of his best performances and segued them all together into these collections. Unfortunately, due to a printing error, the early copies mixed up the titles so that the first two albums titles were switched, which ended up causing some confusion.

This collection begins with the humorously named "Variations on the Carlos Santana Secret Chord Progression". The story behind the title on this one comes from an idea by Arthur Barrow (bass player for Zappa during this time) during a show where Santana was the opening act. Barrow said maybe they should do a "Santana" take off using the riff from "Evil Ways" that goes from a G minor to C chord, and Zappa thought they should do it in "City of Tiny Lights". Much to everyone's surprise, Frank did that the same night. He was so impressed with that idea and the solo, that he put that solo as the opening track on this collection. The show that it comes from is at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium during the late show on December 11, 1980. On this solo, Zappa uses a technique where you fret the notes with your left hand and fret them with the pick in your right hand, which he learned from Jim Gordon. He ended up calling it the Bulgarian Bagpipe technique, which he also uses in the next track "Gee, I Like Your Pants", which is a solo from the performance of "Inca Roads" at London on February 18, 1979. In this solo, Frank suddenly decides to play the melody to Wooly Bully except a quarter note off played at half the speed of the band's foundation.

The basic idea for "Canarsie" comes from a jam session at Warren Cuccurullo's (plays the electric sitar on this track) house with some friends. This performance comes from Hammersmith Odeon in London on February 19, 1979 with overdubs done in studio. The sitar and Zappa's technique makes for a unique sound and style, one that only could be done in a Zappa solo. "Ship Ahoy" is a name that Zappa used for a unique sounding solo that he did in many venues, each time sounding different, but always using a voltage control filter. This give the guitar an echoing and almost "nasal" effect that sounds really great. This track is taken from an extended coda from "Zoot Allures" at Osaka Japan on February 3, 1976. He uses this solo on the "Lather" album for the track "A Little Green Rosetta" and also under the same name with some overdubs on the album "Quaudiophiliac". Dweezil also used in on the collection he put together "Frank Zappa Plays the Music of Frank Zappa".

"The Deathless Horsie" is one of Zappa's more beautiful solos which uses a consistent yet complex vibe riff which he solos over in a different meter. This performance is again from the Hammersmith Odeon on February 19, 1979. Similar sounding solos under the same name are also on the "Halloween" and "You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 1" live albums, but are different performances, the former being added on to the performance of "Black Napkins". This is a personal favorite of mine. The next track is the title track "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar Some More". This one is a guitar solo taken from the performance of "Inca Roads" at the same venue one day earlier during the early show. Once you know the source of this guitar solo, you can easily pick out the "Inca Roads" theme that Zappa builds off of at the beginning of this track and alludes to throughout the solo.

The last track on this collection is "Pink Napkins", taken from the guitar solo of "Black Napkins", again at the Hammersmith Odeon, but this time a few years earlier on February 17, 1977. The engineer on this track was listed only as Alan P. who many thought was Alan Parsons for several years. Even though Alan Parsons did take outside engineering gigs at the time, he couldn't remember this particular concert. Later, it was determined it was actually Alan Perkins, who worked for the studio at the time (just an interesting side note). Again, knowing the source of the guitar solo gives a point of reference, and makes it all more interesting in my opinion. This is a nice, mellow sounding track, and you can hear the vamp from "Black Napkins" through it all.

I find that these guitar albums become much more interesting when you know the source. The tracks start to sound more individual giving them a personality. I also feel there is a lot more of this individuality in this collection than the first. Writing these reviews, I hope that it will also help shed some light on these albums, making them easier to listen to and appreciate. Bringing back the history of each track of this album gives it a new life, and learning these things helped me enjoy it much more in that the album is not just "one solo after another", but are actually individual songs with different personalities. Then you start to understand how amazing Frank Zappa was not only in his musicianship, but in his versatility, even in his guitar solos. Out of all of his guitar solo albums, this one is my favorite.

 Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar by ZAPPA, FRANK album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1981
3.73 | 60 ratings

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Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar
Frank Zappa RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars Frank Zappa had this crazy idea that he wanted to create an album of just guitar solos taken from some of his favorite performances. He ended up culling enough material that he thought was great enough for 3 albums. The first of these albums was called "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar" which contains 7 tracks that, in the end, were mixed so that they flow from one track to another. Yet, it is still easy to discern one track from another mostly because of the changes in rhythm and texture of the song. Zappa wanted these albums to be for guitar-fetishists, no words, no tune, no lyrics, just one guitar solo after another.

These solos are not "stand-alone" tracks, at least not originally. Each one is edited out of a longer performance, usually of a song that Zappa fans would be familiar with if they heard the entire performance. For example, the first track on this album is called "five-five-FIVE", but it is just the guitar solo edited out from a performance of "Conehead" performed at Hammersmith Odeon in London on February 19, 1979. The title of the track as it appears on this collection comes from the fact that the meter that it is played in is 5/8, 5/8, 5/4. Zappa suggests that you count it like this: "One two one two three, one two one two three, one-and two-and three-and four-and five-and" repeat.

Continuing on with the album, the next track is called "Hog Heaven" which is the guitar solos from performances of "Easy Meat", the first part in Tulsa, OK on October 18, 1980 and the 2nd part from an unidentified place. At the end of this track, you can hear conversation, and you will hear that from time to time. When asked about that, Zappa said that he decided to add those little exchanges because he felt the record felt too flat without them. The title track "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar" is the solo from "Inca Roads" performed at Hammersmith Odeon in London of February 17, 1979.

One of the exceptions to the formula of editing the guitar solos out of existing performances is on the track "While You Were Out". Zappa always said it was hard to play a guitar solo in studio because he doesn't feel inspired so much in that setting. This particular track was however, recorded in studio with Warren Cucurullo on rhythm guitar and a drum track that already existed, recorded by Vinnie Colaiuta. Strangely enough, I find this one the best track on the album because it seems to be the most diverse from the others. It definitely has a unique sound and feel to it. The track titles "While You Were Art II" from the "Jazz from Hell" album was supposed to be a transcribed version of this track made for orchestra, but it didn't quite work out right, so the title was changed on the Jazz from Hell album.

"Treacherous Cretins" probably comes from a performance of "Inca Roads" though it most definitely comes from the concert at Hammersmith Odeon on February 17, 1979 and also contains overdubs recorded in studio on May of the same year. It has a definite reggae beat to it all the way through, which lays a great foundation for Zappa to solo over. "Heavy Duty Judy" was the inspiration for the jam of the same name from the album "The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life". However, the performance heard here is recorded at Berkeley Community Theater on December 5, 1980, so this was recorded 8 years before the version heard on "The Best Band?.". I'm not sure if this came from the performance of another track or if it is just a jam. The last track (and longest one) is called "Soup 'n Old Clothes" and comes from the guitar solo that was part of the performance of "Illinois Enema Bandit" at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on December 11, 1980.

Out of this album came two other follow up albums based on the same formula. There are plenty of Zappa-philes that want to just hear nothing but the amazing guitar solos by their hero. Frank got that one right, and always seemed to know what kept his fans going. Some may think these guitar heavy albums are a bit too much, too technical and heavy, but the more you listen, the more you appreciate them. The fact that Frank kept this album down to 35 minutes probably meant that in the back of his mind that sometimes too much of a good thing can be too much. Anyway, there is no denying his talent, and he is definitely one of the best. I prefer the albums with more variety on them, especially the ones more influenced by jazz and the inclusion of other players, but sometimes, you are just in the mood for Zappa's guitar. There is also the fact that this album is very well edited and mixed, without that choppy feeling that some of his heavily edited albums can have.

 Sleep Dirt by ZAPPA, FRANK album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.61 | 288 ratings

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Sleep Dirt
Frank Zappa RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

3 stars

Frank Zappa continues to be the most misunderstood person in rock music, and his album "Sleep Dirt" continues to be one of the most misunderstood albums in his discography. It seems that there are conflicting stories out there about this album that is causing a lot of confusion, and I hope this review will help clear things up.

The Story of "Sleep Dirt"

"Sleep Dirt" came into being because of the now famous lawsuit with Warner Bros. that plagued Zappa and his music during the last half of the 1970s. For those that don't know the story, Warner Bros. (WB) demanded more albums from Zappa than what he was legally obligated to give them. This dispute came about because Zappa had given them a 4 disc album called "Lather" and WB rejected it because they thought they couldn't market a 4 disc album. So, to be nice, Zappa made 4 individual albums with material that came from these 4 discs: "Zappa in New York", "Studio Tan", "Sleep Dirt" and "Orchestral Favourites".

WB released "Zappa in New York", but then insisted that Zappa still owed them 4 more albums. Frustrated, Zappa then tried to release "Lather" on another label and WB sued, so he had to put that project on ice. WB grew impatient and in 78 and 79, released the other 3 albums without Zappa's consent. The label also commissioned album art that Zappa didn't approve, and the recordings were taken from the tapes that Zappa had provided WB without any overdubs or other studio enhancements. The sound was not up to Zappa's standards, plus the songs were taken out of sequence and other tracks were used that were intended for the shelved albums.

"Sleep Dirt" ended up getting the blunt end of the deal. First of all, Zappa wanted to call the album "Hot Rats III". Second, only two of the tracks that appear on this album were intended for this album; "Flambay" and "The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution". The other 5 tracks were meant to be used on "Lather". WB took the liberty to use the shelved tracks and released the record without vocals that were intended to be added before the music was released. Hence, the original LP version does not have vocals, but the tracks are all instrumental. When the CD was reissued in 1991, the vocals (sung by Thana Harris) were overdubbed in along with drums by Chad Wackerman, and this turned into a completely different album. Thirdly, as I mentioned before, WB used the master tapes without Zappa's consent. Zappa had the dolby versions of the tracks, but was not part of the production process since WB released the album without his okay.

In other words, if Zappa had his way, and if these 4 albums had been released as originally intended, we would have had an epic 4-disc album that showcased most of Zappa's styles. Instead, we ended up with 3 albums that were sort of sub-par, yet interestingly enough, still attest to Zappa's brilliance in music, just not as well as they should have. We would have also had what would probably have ended up being an excellent album called "Hot Rats III", which, by the way, would have sounded very little like what "Sleep Dirt" ended up being. As far as "Lather" is concerned, it was released later posthumously.

The main reason for explaining all of that is to clear up the reasons why this album is so strange and inconsistent, it originally wasn't supposed to be an album. But, this is what we ended up with. So, if you own an original vinyl, you probably have the all-instrumental versions of the tracks. If you own a CD after 2012, you have overdubbed vocals and drums. Either way, Zappa didn't have any say in the final production of this album.

Now let's get on with the tracks, because they all have stories of their own.

Track by Track History and Analysis

The album begins with "Filthy Habits" (7:33), a track that, in his live shows, Zappa used as part of the famous "Poodle" routine which was made up of "Stink-Foot", "Poodle Lecture", "Dirty Love" and finally "Filthy Habits". This track was originally intended to be on another Zappa-shelved 2 disc project that was to be called "The Night of the Iron Sausage". The album that was released in its place was "Zoot Allures" which was a single album and this track was left off of that album. This track also shows up on the posthumous "Lather" as it was intended, in a shorter version (6:02). This instrumental features Zappa on guitar and keys, Dave Parlato on bass and Terry Bozzio on drums. The edits on "Lather" come at 2:59 ? 3:07 and at 4:49 ? 6:04 in case you were interested. This is a dark and moderately slow instrumental featuring Zappa's moaning and whining guitar work. Completely recorded in-studio in 1976, it is a bit dissonant and quite heavy.

"Flambay (4:54)" is one of the vocal numbers. Since the vocals were added in later editions, it is apparent that this must be a part of some other idea in Zappa's head that didn't quite come to fruition as he would have liked. This track was part of a longer comedy sketch type opera that has become known as the "Hunchentoot" comedy. The tracks included on "Sleep Dirt" are out of order from their appearance in the comedy, and, of course, is not the entire story. The vocal numbers in the CD version are from the character named "Drakma, The Queen of Cosmic Greed". Again, WB released this unfinished and out of sequence, but at least Zappa was able to get Bob Harris' wife Thana Harris to sing the somewhat goofy operatic parts. The music is definitely of the avant-garde style, is done in a sort of dramatic way, as it would have been in the sketch. The track was basically recorded in 1974 with the overdubs added much later. Along with Harris and Wackerman, we have George Duke on keys, Patrick O'Hearn on bass, Ruth Underwood on percussion and if you have the LP, Chester Thompson on drums. On its own, it doesn't make much sense, but with the explanation above, it might make a bit more sense, but taken out of context, it just doesn't seem to fit with what Zappa intended. If you have the original LP, then it just sounds like a complex instrumental, which in my opinion, is better. The version on "Lather" is called "Flambe" and is cut to 2:05 with the vocals removed.

The following track "Spider of Destiny" (2:33) is another vocal taken from this comedy sketch. It has the same lineup as the previous track except Zappa contributes some guitar to it.

"Regyptian Strut" (4:12) was intended for the "Lather" album, but again was place on WB's "Sleep Dirt" album. It is thankfully an instrumental which starts with it's regal introduction and then showcases the band. The versions on "Sleep Dirt" CD and "Lather" are the same. The "Sleep Dirt" LP has Chester Thompson's drums while the 1995 CD has Chad Wackerman's overdubbed drums, but all other issues are the same as the original LP. Other than that, you get Zappa on percussion, George Duke on keys, Bruce Fowler on brass, James "Birdlegs" Youmans on bass, and the excellent Ruth Underwood on percussion.

"Time Is Money" (2:47) is the last of the vocal tracks. It pretty much has the same line-up as the other vocal tracks. It also makes a reference to the "Sofa" from past Zappa hijinx that Zappaphiles with understand, but other than that, it just doesn't stand on it's own the way WB used it.

"Sleep Dirt" (3:21) is one of the very few examples of an acoustic guitar solo recorded in studio by Frank Zappa, which he admits is one of his best in-studio examples. He complained that he never got a good in-studio guitar solo except for this one. The only other person along for this track is James "Birdlegs" Youmans playing acoustic rhythm guitar. At the end of this quite amazing piece of solo work is some banter between Zappa and Birdlegs when Zappa called him out on the tempo and he complained that his fingers got stuck. This unfortunately brought a premature end to the track.

The album ends with a track that was intended for the Hot Rats III album, "The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution" (13:15). This one involves some very interesting guitar from Zappa where he tuned his guitar strings all independent of each other, sort of similar to the sound heard on some Captain Beefheart tracks. I won't go into details because only a guitar player would appreciate it, but it results in a very interesting sound. You almost would believe that Zappa sped up the guitar part on the recording as he was known to do that, but that is not the case. At 7 minutes, Zappa changes to a guitar tuned "normally". The original intention of this track was to edit it down to 5:32, which is how it appears on the "Lather" release. The "Lather" release skips the first 4:43 minutes, then edits out a short 4 second section at the 7:30 mark. The line-up for this amazing instrumental that shows off Zappa's skills is FZ on guitar and synth, Patrick O'Hearn on string and electric bass, and Terry Bozzio on drums.

In Summary

So, that long spiel will hopefully clear up some questions on this odd album. It is actually a mixture of various tracks that were available that were meant for other projects and released by a greedy record label against Zappa's will. Obviously, all of these tracks would have been better off if kept in their original formats and then finalized by Zappa as most of the rest of his music was. All in all, it's not a bad album, especially if you get the version of it without the vocals. When they are added, they are out of place and completely inconsistent with the rest of the album, and it is no wonder that people listen to this album with a big question mark over their heads. But this is what we are now stuck with, and if you mostly ignore the vocal tracks, it's quite good, a bit more avant-garde than most of his "rock" albums, but I still enjoy it and own the original vinyl. That is how I would suggest you get this album. Or get the "Lather" album.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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