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Frank Zappa

The Ms. Magazine Man of the Year, 20 Years Running

Introduction
Freak Out!
Absolutely Free
Lumpy Gravy
We're Only In It For The Money
Cruisin' with Ruben and the Jets
Uncle Meat
Hot Rats
Burnt Weeny Sandwich
Weasels Ripped My Flesh
Chunga's Revenge
200 Motels
Fillmore East June '71
Just Another Band From LA
Waka Jawaka
Grand Wazoo
Overnite Sensation
Apostrophe (')
Roxy and Elsewhere
One Size Fits All
    ... and more to follow...

Frank Zappa was a guy who simply couldn't shut up.  He was like a kid who'd just gotten a tape recorder and spent every second of every day putting down anything that popped into his head, thinking it was hilariously genius and needed not only to be preserved on magnetic tape forever, but also played back to friends, relatives, milkmen, random passers-by, and anyone else within earshot.  The guy who was forever recording his farts, or trying to create an electric guitar out of an old transistor radio, a roll of aluminum foil, and sbout fifteen gallons of solder, or singing showtunes in some Looney Tunes voice and cracking up like he'd just given a wedgie to the Pope or something. You know, not the class clown, but the dude not even the freaks and weirdos could understand. It was exactly this childish inability to color within the lines and  self-edit that both sealed Frank Zappa's commercial failure and formed an unbreakable bond with a certain group of insane fanatics who hung on his every note. The man attracts and repulses with equally irresistible force - The man's a master guitar player who often spends too much time talking to actually play. He writes extraordinarily complex music that often just comes across like a poorly organized in-joke. He's never met a musical form he didn't try to master, from free-jazz to doo wop to modern classical to electronic music, and he's never met a musical form he didn't then try to wad up into a little Zappa ball, filtered through his perverse sensibilities and stripped of most of what made it distinct in the first place. He's diverse stylistically, but a whole lot of his stuff sounds EXACTLY THE SAME AS ITSELF. He's fun, but he's irritating.  He's intellectual but revels in the retarded.  He's a satirist that likes to write lots of sexist fucking songs that liked to put down women and their warm, wet, inviting woo woos. He defined the very freak-culture he later spent albums savagely attacking.  He gathered groups of some of the most instrumentally accomplished musicians available and lorded over them, quashing a lot of their creative sensibilities. He loved orchestration but hated orchestras.  He was a modern classical composer who preached against becoming a modern classical composer, telling students to get their real estate licenses instead. He eschewed drugs and alcohol but smoked like a Turkish air traffic controller until it put him in an early grave. He bravely stood up against the phoniness of the Grammy Awards but was equally dismissive of even his own audience.  Hell, he even began to disown the earliest and most popular sections of his back catalogue and the band that played them.

Well, whatever the fuck he was trying to do, I can only assume Frank did it, and did it exactly how he wanted to, because there's absolutely no way to tell otherwise. He liked to pull out a term every once in awhile when talking about his musical legacy, and that was 'conceptual continuity', meaning that each of his releases was actually part of a larger composition that embodied his entire body of work. A 70+ CD concept album, if you will. Granted, there's quite a bit of cross referencing between albums from the same time period - characters reappear from album to album (Suzy Creamcheese, etc.) and some stories are interconnected. But to claim that you actually composed something in 1967 with an eye on what you might compose in 1987 sounds, if not horrendously difficult, if not nearly impossible, at least like George Lucas taken to a ridiculous extreme. Especially when you consider that no one could usually understand what Frank was blathering about most of the time anyway. Still, I guess it's a question for future generations to mull over in their own free time, that of how much of Frank's work actually follows the same themes, concepts, and compositional motifs. Whatever it is, I think this is just Frank covering his ass whenever anyone levels the charge at him that all of his stuff, when you strip away all the orchestras and Synclaviers and bad jokes and shit, is simply an amalgamation of 20th century classical music, bebop, doo wop, and acid rock. Still...how many people do you know that play an amalgamation of 20th century classical music, bebop, doo wop, and acid rock?

Zappa is important, however, and there's no denying the man was an Innovator with a capital Vader. From introducing the concept album, extended running times, wacky cover art, acid guitar soloing, tape collages, humor, jazz-rock, electronics, and modern-classical into the fertile crescent that was pop music in 1966, the man had almost a supernatural tendency towards original ideas that were later taken to heart by many in the rock vanguard some years after Frank did 'em. Even more have yet to be incorporated, and some probably never will due to sheer impossibility. Frank's bands (though arguments occur over which was the best) were some of the tightest outfits this side of the JB's, adjusting to Frank's subtle control via hand gestures, always musically literate (a rare thing in modern popular music) and talented beyond belief. As I mentioned, though, Frank has little room for collaboration, preferring to keep his deck stacked with capable, intelligent performers rather than creative foils. In short, most of the ideas short of the solos come straight from the noggin' of Sir Frank, which lends a certain numbing monotony of tone to just about everything ever made under the Zappa name. The man has opinions, lots and lots of them, and some of them are pretty well-formulated. The guy just doesn't have much emotion, and tends to discount emotion in his work, even musically. His overall tone is one of sarcasm and mockery, but often in a soulless and mean-spirited way. Hell, I'm not saying the guy couldn't imitate 'soul' or 'sincerity' or 'corniness', but he sure couldn't generate it. It's as if the real Frank Zappa is so buried underneath layers and layers of sarcastic body armor and weirdness that he's only let out for short periods in the deepest space of a guitar solo or classical instrumental. Otherwise we get 'Frank', alternately provocative and annoying as fuck, who only seems to be truly passionate about, first and foremost, his defense of freedom of expression, for which his career is one huge testament, and may be his biggest achievement. Then there's also his contention that most 'art' is so dumbed-down and commercialized as to be nothing more than just another personal-grooming product, and the fact that unions are awful, horrible things that prevent his symphonies from being performed. Hrm...oh, and he doesn't seem too happy about love and sex, (and, therefore, women) either.

Frank Zappa was a classical fiend from way back, especially worshipping Edgar Varese (even going so far as to call the guy on the phone and talk to his wife, and later in life, give lectures and issue albums of the man's work) before discovering pop music, especially doo-wop, about which he became also became obsessed. He collected some thousands of old 45's of the shit, being particularly drawn to the weirder stuff on the really obscure old labels. He taught himself guitar and began playing professionally at 15, and within several years had started his own recording studio and made several movie soundtracks with original compositions. It was around this time he was caught in a pornography sting and was sentenced to jail time on obscenity charges stemming from a moronic situation in which an undercover LAPD officer paid him to make a porno, which ended up being just Frank and some female friend moaning on an audio tape. Frank lost the studio and 10 days of his life, but was not far from the next step - the formation of his first real band, the Mothers. Frank was there for the foundation of a freak scene in Los Angeles that combined musicians, artists, and  sundry random weirdos who made up the audience for the Mothers. Though long-haired, wackily-dressed, and of generally strange temperament, they were diametrically opposed to the neighboring San Francisco hippie scene, which they found elitist and stifling artistically. (In fact, as a side note, the Grateful Dead only really cracked themselves up good after spending a few months in LA...prior to that they'd been a pretty conventional, if ugly, R&B band with long solos. After visiting LA, they were fucked up for good.) LA was far more satirical and bizarre, and somehow completely unconnected to any other freak movements developing at the time. Still, record labels saw how many records budding young longhairs bought and began to snatch up these newfangled 'freak bands' by the handful.

The Mothers of Invention (renamed out of record company concern over signing a band that could easily be jokingly dubbed 'the motherfuckers') were signed to MCA Records, who had recently also picked up the Velvet Underground on their Verve jazz label, and were quick to enter the studio to make their first album, 1966's groundbreaking Freak Out! It was a double LP of all-new material (the first ever in rock history), had almost no love songs (or singles whatsoever), had a bunch of crazy kazoos and sound effects, and pretty much started a revolution in record making. Frank then watched as people took some of his easier ideas and created a musical counterculture out of it. Thing was, Zappa hated the idea of art being turned into fashion, a sincere expression turned into a costume, which was exactly what he saw happening. He lashed out with We're Only In It For The Money, a withering attack on the hippies and their figureheads, namely the Beatles and their Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.  He had found an audience drawn to his manic acid guitar-based live jamming and trippy, pot-goofy flights of fancy, and decided to see how far he could take them before they got sick and left. Between 1968 and 1971, he recorded noise albums (Lumpy Gravy), mostly-instrumental jazz-rock albums (Hot Rats), a doo-wop tribute (Cruising with Ruben and the Jets), a great live album (Burnt Weeny Sandwich), a couple of lame live albums (Weasels Ripped My Flesh, Fillmore East: June 1971), a soundtrack to an awful movie (200 Motels), and, um...a couple of other things, too. During this time he'd had no hit songs to rekindle the interest that Money, Absolutely Free, and Freak Out! had garnered him, and so was 99.9% assured that anyone who bought his records and came to his shows was a Zappa fanatic who agreed with most anything he said. He'd successfully purged most of the hippies, anyway.

The remainder of the 1970's were a time of stagnation and normalization for Frank, who spent much of late 1971 and early 1972 recovering from falling off a stage after being attacked by a crazed audience member which resulted in Zappa breaking several bones and finding his voice had been permanently lowered by damage to his voice box. He retired the Mothers of Invention, entered into a jazz-rock phase, then a hard rock one. By the early 80's, his 'conventional' albums had become rote (though his live shows continued to amaze), so he branched out into producing more modern classical pieces that inevitably resulted in disappointment for Frank, who was as disillusioned in the current state of the classical music biz as he was in the popular music one. In the early 80's he pretty much decided to pick up his toys and go home, preferring to compose huge numbers of pieces using his Synclavier (one of the first digital synths and the one performer he ever met that never demanded union scale) to any further exploration of the orchestra. He continued to release new studio and live material, and satisfied his rabid fanbase by filling up albums full of old guitar solos and live performances. By the time he was diagnosed with prostate cancer (ironically falling victim to his one and only chemical vice - his lifelong addiction to smoking) in the late 80's, he had finally reached some level of satisfaction with almost all of the different factions of his musical career. He'd stopped touring, found an orchestra eager to tackle his classical stuff, filled a Synclavier full of other stuff, and had managed to retain a certain level of success that allowed him to pursue whatever whims he had.

Reviewing Frank Zappa is sorta like deciding to sit down and read the entire works of Leo Tolstoy from beginning to end - you know you probably should do it to maintain at least a minimal level of respectability, especially when part of your selling point to to be 'exhaustive', people you respect have been able to do it, so you don't want to be left out, and you know there's tons of good stuff in there...but holy fuck! Does there have to be so much to wade through? You know, I'll admit it right now, I considered reviewing some catalogue lightweights before taking on Sir Francis (not his real name), you know, people like Syd Barrett (3 albums) or Janis Joplin (4 studio albums, maybe 5 other live and miscellaneous albums), but I started listening to my Zappa albums and just couldn't resist. Still, just to tell you the extent of Zappa's maniacal output, in just under 30 years the man released something like 70 albums (I'm counting by hand, so don't string me up if that number isn't right), and I own damn near all of them thanks to my good friends in the Russian piracy business.  You know, an MP3 disc, properly encoded, can fit about 8 or 9 normal-length CD's.  My Frank collection takes up ten of those discs. Yaiii! Needless to say, I'll be splitting up my Zappa reviews into three or more sections over the next, ohhh, several presidential administrations.  I mean, I want to be able to listen to something else sometime this year. Anyway, allegedly I have EVERYTHING this man has made readily available, but only when I actually start sifting through this crap intensively will I know that for sure.  

 


Freak Out! - Video Arts 1966

Frank Zappa and the Mothers must've sounded like they'd dropped onto the surface of the earth from planet Weird when this came out in 1966. Hell, the world was still rocked by the idea that the Beach Boys had written a song with 'God' in the title and John Lennon had had the gall to speak the truth and decry the fact that the Beatles were more of a cultural influence among the youth than Jesus Christ (what no one realizes is that fucking Frankie Valli was probably more of a cultural influence than Jesus Christ, too, just to pick a random and ridiculous example), and now here's a long haired (really long-haired, not mop-topped) half-Sicilian dude spouting lyrics like 'Mr. America walk on by...your schools that do not teach' and lines like 'I'm not black, but there's a whole lots of times I wish I weren't white.' Whoo! Someone call the Selma, Alabama PD to come in and crack some heads, already!

Listen, I don't think the cultural impact of Freak Out! can be gauged. Literally. I don't think it can because I think probably 6 people in the whole country understood it when it came out.  Now, of course, with the advantage of 40 years of hindsight and ears unclouded by quantities of THC that could power the Eastern Seaboard for a good couple of weeks, it's easy to hear that what Frank was doing was really just as great as we remember it. Freak Out! takes its genetics from the R&B and doo-wop that Frank had been playing around since the beginning of the Sixties, and didn't necessarily represent the rootless kind of music that would show up on Absolutely Free and, especially, We're Only In It For The Money, which helps in the accessibility department for the uninitiated (hell, I've heard probably 20-25 Zappa records at the time of this review and I still feel 'uninitiated'...isn't that retarded?) There's less reliance on noise collages and other random stupidity, except for a sick propensity for kazoo abuse. Kazoos, like accordions and harmoniums (harmoniae?), follow a simple rule for me: the less, the better, and none is best of all. I can count on zero fingers the number of times I've said to myself, 'You know what this song needs? Some fucking kazoo! And you know what I should do tomorrow? Donate all my life's savings to the Christian Right and go join the army in Iraq so I can further the inevitable march of civilization towards Armageddon in which all the crack babies like Pat Robertson will get to receive eternal salvation and all the heathen idiots like my wife and child will burn in hell! Sounds good to me! But first, some fucking Zima and pecan pie!' But Zappa doesn't care what you and I think, so he goes about ruining the wacko go-go riff of 'Hungry Freaks Daddy' and, well, continues to suck ass on 'You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here' with some badly placed kazoo.  The other wacky touches are easier to handle: lazy nonsinging on 'Hungry Freaks' (though calling what Zappa does 'singing' is almost always a mistake...the man either talks or he intones, take your choice), the murderous screams that bust into 'Who Are the Brain Police' (which I love), the icepick fuzztone guitar tones, the tape manipulations, the moans...you know, what would soon be known as 'Zappa As Usual'.

He also picks his targets wisely, not nailing himself down to time and place quite as much as on Money. Here he deflates the Latino/Sweathop vocal style used by the 'sensitive' jock loverboys who used to populate Zappa's high school on the doo-wop tribute 'Go Cry On Someone Else's Shoulder' ('I bought a new pair of khakis just for you, baby!') He also blows up Brit Invasion pop by making a classic Brit Invasion tune in 'You Didn't Try to Call Me', complete with Tom Jones horns. My favorite track is not a send-up at all, though, but just a nasty slice of hard blooze called 'Trouble Every Day' (yes, I'm as predictable as a Harlem Globetrotters game, but at least I have some kind of ethos, nihilist) that lays down a wicked combination of 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' and White Light/White Heat Velvet Underground trance rock (check out that drumbeat, man!) while Zappa rips up the bad juju that lay under the surface of California...the cops, the ugliness, the rot, the fake shell of prosperity.

Freak Out!, at times is extremely pop oriented. Partially, this is because Zappa hasn't developed his compositional skills to create complicated melodies yet. Most of his melodies sound like children's chants, ('neener neener neeeeeener!) or, for those of you who can't remember childhood, kinda like Piper at the Gates of Dawn Pink Floyd, which was heavily influenced by this record, no doubt. Well, the first 12 tracks, at least. The latter quarter of the album is where the avant pulls up its guard and the going begins to get wide. 'Trouble Every Day' is trancey, but 'Help I'm A Rock' is just catatonic...a bunch of random chanting over a clockwork collection of guitar and drums, as splintery as can be imagined. It's either hilarious, boring, or just disturbing (yes, more random screaming here, too), depending on your mindset at the time, and is probably one of the main reasons why people just assumed Frank Zappa was a heavy drug user when he most assuredly wasn't. Hell, what else can you say about a line like 'Help I'ma Rock! Help I'ma Cop! AAAAAGGGHHGHGHGH!!!!', we're only people with a somewhat limited number of explanations available for a song that sounds like this. The most irritating moments come with the meter/tapespeed manipulations of 'It Can't Happen Here', and while some folks find 'The Return of the Son of the Monster Magnet' to be irredeemable and juvenile, I think it's pretty groovy when compared to the really unlistenable collage/noise shit that would follow from Frank (and others...I'm lookin' at YOU, Mr. and Mrs. Ono Lennon!) in the next several years. At least this one's got a tricky groove going on for several minutes, and all the white noise, bleeps, and blurps seem to follow some sort of internal logic. I dunno if 12 minutes of similar screaming and hollering is called for, necessarily, but hey...first attempts at true weirdness in the not-quite-cool year of 1966 need to be applauded. It took some huevos to make this shit happen when it did.

So yeah, pretty listenable, accessible, and interesting debut from the man that would go on to take sections of this album and remake and retard them for the next twenty-odd years. It sets the tone and introduces us to the ground rules for most every Zappa album that followed, and while there's just enough bridges to normal, everyday, non-Zappa music to provide a nice transition, there's enough going on here that no one has ever tried again. And enough acid-wit commentary to overcome whatever sneaking feelings you might have that this album isn't as weird as it's supposed to be. Just you wait, Mr. Pumpkinhead.

Capn's Final Word: Like, you're having your Sixties and everything seems reasonably smooth. La-di-da-di-da....BOOOOMMM!!!!!!

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Ron      Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Zappa died from cancer of the Prostate NOT of the lung.  Prostate cancer may be affected by smoking tobacco - but there is no definite or proven link as yet.  Freak Out! is, of course, an A+ just because NOBODY but nobody else was doing this sh*t in 1966!!

(Capn's Response: Okay, okay, I fixed my historical error, but that little quip about the lack of links between smoking and prostate cancer sure sounds like three packs a day talking.)

Alan Brooks  kerry_prez@yahoo.com     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: I'd like to review everything FZ on your site from 'Freak Out' to 'One Size Fits All' (and the later releases, too) but will have this first comment say it all: ALL of Zappa's more than seventy or eighty albums get a A+ from me, even the 'Beat The Boots' series . It's not necessarily that the music is good, I don't listen to FZ for pretty music. But each FZ disc is a lesson in music appreciation, and IMO all the lyrics are worth listening to. You can't level the charge FZ ever wrote an insincere love-lyric, can you? Giving Zappa an A+ for each & every one of his releases is my idiosyncracy, I honestly like all the FZ albums I have to the point of A+, and though I don't play some of them frequently, when I do the insight of his (and when I say 'his' you know right away who is meant, that's how he towers above anybody he worked with) lyrics is appreciated more & more. I'd like to go down in history-- or herstory-- as FZ's most enchanted fan, but have too much company for that honor, as every week more & more discover a composer who not only spoke his mind ALWAYS (not merely some of the time as most of us do), but could read and write music, and could play guitar pretty well, to boot. Who did Vlaclav Havel summon in 1990 after the Velvet Revolution? Take a guess.

Mike     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: In terms of pure subversion, this album makes most other albums look like milk-and-apple-pie '50's Republicans.

This album's liner notes are so good that, for once, I really would recommend buying the album instead of downloading it. Sheer comic genius.

The songs are so ahead of their time that we may still be catching up. Almost nobody understood this when it came out. It's still innovative today. For me, this is still Frank's biggest accomplishment..."Freak Out!" is a truly extraordinary, and totally hilarious, rock album. It's also one of the few Zappa albums that doesn't consist of the genre known as "Zappa Music." Instead, this is Zappa's take on rock and actually rocking, for once, while brilliantly mixing it up with so many bizarre tricks that the word genius is fully merited.

What does this album sound like?

Imagine: a couple assorted members of the best "Nuggets" bands, an orchestra with Brian Wilson and Stockhausen as co-conductors, Lenny Bruce as the lyricist, and a bunch of glue-sniffing retards on the mic. Then make the resulting mixture shocking, innovative, listenable, and insanely fun. To me, that's "Freak Out!" But your definition may be different. It still may be Zappa's finest hour.
 


Absolutely Free - Video Arts 1967

Frank's followup ratchets up the odd factor to teeth-gritting levels, which most likely ended up with everyone on the West Coast thinking Frank Zappa was an acid guru like those idiots in San Francisco, when in actuality he was just a wacked-out retard like those idiots in Quebec. Fer one thing, the guy's apparently aligned himself with a sort of counterculture, or at least he sho don't like square folks like your dad or the guy who runs the condom factory down the street, you know, the people who get up early and go to work and somehow rise 'n' VACATION DOWN AT THE GULFA MEXICO-WOWO! EOOW YEH!! or whatever. He calls them 'Plastic People', somehow drawing a distinction between them and himself, or him and his fans, except he says something like 'You don't think I'm talking about you, but I am'.  And he also, um...makes the astute observation that normal people who wear suits and mow lawns and pick boogers and stuff would like nothing more than to cover their 13 year old daughters with chocolate syrup and writhe around under the covers with them when Mommy's gone to an orchid convention. Aha! I knew it! Isn't it a shame that both of President Bush's girls are now beyond the ripe age? Aw, man...no wonder the guy insists on raining down holy hell on Babylonian countries that look at him sideways...he's not had any incest hoohoo in almost a decade! Man, I'm sure he wishes he NEVER quit drinkin'!

No really, the whole, like, last third of the album is devoted to 'Brown Shoes Don't Make It', which is just about enough to make your skin crawl off your scalp and go hitchhiking off to a place where they don't tolerate this kind of dirty talk (Oklahoma), wherein Frank pulls out the nastiest little cobwebs from the dankest recesses of his moustache and shakes them out on the kitchen table right in the middle of the lasagna...'IF SHE WERE MY DAUGHTER, I'D.....' 'What wouldja do, Daddy?' 'IF SHE WERE MY DAUGHTER, IIII'D.....' 'What wouldja do, Daddy?'

The first side is similarly dominated by the 'Duke of Prunes' and 'Call Any Vegetable' suites, the both of them being jazz-rock tweedle-thons with some pretty freaking funny lyrics about, you know, food. Food and sex. It think the instrumental jam 'Invocation' part is fooking arseome what with those saxophones mixing it up with the acid/folk-rock guitar solos, and also love the yodelin' 'Rutabaga' part because it reminds me of 'Tumblin' Tumbleweeds', which could also apply to just about any yodeling south of the time I had hot dirty sex with that Austrian exchange student during my Zoology field trip. Because I rolled over on a nest of scorpions! And I was yodeling! Me!

But hey! Lots of the rest of the album is dedicated to little snippet-songs that don't have a whole lot of connection to doo-wop or be-bop or IHOP or Lee Iacocca or anything...they're just failed (mostly) little attempts at more pop interpretations. 'America Drinks' and 'America Drinks and Goes Home' serve to tie the final few songs together as a suite against the suits, or something like that. Suzy Creamcheese gets a song dedicated to her (it was Frank's ex-girlfriend, I think), 'Big Leg Emma' is stupid filler that doesn't even sound different, the 'Duke of Prunes' keeps mentioning this piece of fruit trying to get some lovin' in his go-kart. I mean, do you get the idea yet? Ostensibly 'acid rock', with lots of schizoid collage-effects that whip through the tracks like an ADD kid with a thousand-channel TV remote control and a stomach full of Cocoa Puffs. But there's, oddly, a narrative string that ties at least the first side together, and I think this one has a whole helluva lot more 'concept' than Freak Out! Songwise, it's not scorin' as high, there's way too much filler in the middle, but those big-hitters nearly pull it off. There's plenty of musical development to go around, though...these guys sure couldn't sing, but they can already play convincingly when they concentrate on it.

Capn's Final Word: Something tells me this is on the darker side of anything I've reviewed so far. Dark humor? Hrm....

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Alan Brooks      Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: This a mighty fine recording, Son. I didn't like it at first, but ever-time I listen to it I like it mo'. So run down to yer local music shop an' buy ABSOLUTELY FREE. If the shop is closed, take a crowbar and pry the door open-- but remember, my real name is Jack B. Nimble.

 


Lumpy Gravy - Video Arts 1968

Originally released as a Frank Zappa solo album, nowadays this is essentially a 30-minute bonus track on the end of We're Only In It Because Frank Zappa Tells Us To Be, and since you're already gonna have to come coughing up with the added Yarbles to purchase the other disc anyway, count this as a freebee and go away with a warm feeling in your stomach. Or, well, actually buy the damn thing individually from one of your less reputable used-LP slingers for, like, $35 and wish you had a spine and a fucking CD player. Because paying money for this thing alone is sort of like realising you've finally bought all of the Jo Jo Gunne albums or polished off an entire pound baggie of Twizzlers (and I'm not speaking from experience here)...you have a small feeling of accomplishment followed by hours of painful wretching, crawling from houseplant to houseplant, trying to make it to the toilet stall without staining the carpet.

Hey! But Lumpy Gravy is interesting! Random little snip-snaps of conversation, old overdub tapes, random door slams, screaming, some orchestral nonsense that I bet was inspired by some crusty old Central European alcoholic who died poor and alone. Hey! Sound-tracky hoo hoo and random percussion ickyickick! Hey! I taught my daughter to say 'frog' and when she says it, it sounds like a perfectly pronounced 'fuck!' Or, she's just saying 'fuck' because I'm just a trashy, lazy waste of carbon compounds who says 'fuck' around my impressionable young daughter all the time! Hey! Parts of this sound like my junior high school band unpacking their instruments and trying to impress the budding young 13 year old girls with how many things we can whack at the same time! Hey! Modern classical is a term used as a prop by people who can't create an original melody! Free jazz is a term used by heavy drug users to explain why they can no longer remember the scales they've been playing for decades! Hey! Hear Frank talk about rotating old cars and girlfriends in equal measure, hear someone describing their particular explanationof why the water turns black (out of sympathy, and not the formation of amines as bacteria eat the sugars and acids in urine, which is what I read in the SAT study guide ten years ago!) Wish it was over so you can go and do something else! When it finishes, wish you hadn't heard that one guy laugh like a crazy insane person who hides razor blades between layers of his skin and makes pipebombs out of old screen doors, ground chickpeas, and gallon upon gallon of recalled Jolt Cola about three minutes through the second part!

What's absolutely freaky about Lumpy Gravy is that, when it's done, I seriously wish there were more of it. In the Grand 70-CD Album of 'Mr. Conceptual Continuity' Zappa, this must serve the same person as, like, 'Igor's Boogie' does on Burnt Weenie Sandwich, to serve as a segue between Freak Out! and Absolutely Free, which sorta served as the 'introduction', and Money and the rest. It also showed that fucking Jefferson Airplane and fucking John and Yoko didn't have some sort of copyright on tapeweirdness, and that Frank was cool enough to have at least a large part of it contain bits of music he'd written. Music, of course, used in the loosest sense of the world 'wanky orchestral bullshit'. So I have about as much emotional connection to this album as I do to a bottle of Simoniz, at least I can appreciate the chemist's hours of work that went into it.

Capn's Final Word: Almost exactly thirty minutes of randomized tape cuttings strung together in a sometimes interesting, sometimes offensive way. Hell, describing this thing is like trying to write a travelogue about France by sending five minutes in a Paris toilet stall.

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We're Only In It For The Money - Video Arts 1968

This is probably Zappa's most well-known album, certainly the only one I was able to pick out of a lineup for a large portion of my idiotic Led Zeppelin-obsessed teen years. Of course I'd never heard it, but I'd heard all about it, about how much of a great satire it was, how it totally took the piss outta the whole counterculture movement that Zappa first broke ground on two years before. In fact, I heard so much about it that I decided once and for all that this album could be nowhere as good as those fucking boomer rock writers had described it, I decided it outright at age, like, 16, and went on to try and track down the motherfucking Metamorphosis album for like 3 years. And ya know what? I was right. There's a whole fuckload of satirical jabs at idiots who grew their hair long and went to the Haight for three weeks and got the crabs and went back home to Mommy and Daddy and slept for 48 hours straight and thought they'd somehow advanced the state of mankind rather than just had a ridiculous fieldtrip. Oh, he rips those plastic people right apart on tracks like 'Who Needs the Peace Corps?' and 'Take Your Clothes Off While You Dance'. You still with me?!? Fucking hippies, yeah! Goddamn wussy pacifistic rich-boy patchouli-sniffin' rich kids! Down with them fake freaks! But also lays it to cops ('Concentration Moon') and parents ('Mom and Dad'). Yeah, parents blow it! Goddamn unloving, hippocritical gene-donors, made us just like we are, morons like them! Yeah, you still wit', me, Clamoring Masses?!? Right On! March through the streets! Grit teeth! Fucking break windows and shit at the thought of all those cops and hippies and parents ruining shit for the few of us people who think for themselves! What about women?!? Oooh, those stupid women who are either whores or hung-up frigid cows! Down with the women...they ain't good for nothin' if you can't sleep with 'em and be DAMN SURE they aren't gonna sleep with anyone else!

Who's with me?!?

Right on, brother?

No? Well YOU MUST BE A FAG, THEN!

Thus is Zappa's viewpoint on life. Okay, so he doesn't make that last jump on this album (but just you wait, Thing-Fish virgins!) Please repeat throughout the next several dozen albums, mixing in random amounts of poop jokes and long-ass guitar solos that sound good for two seconds but sooner or later eat tunnels through your brain tissue where things like Trigonometry and where you hid your checkbook used to be stored. Okay, now I can stop reviewing fucking Zappa and move on to easier targets like John Coltrane and the Carter Family.

Or not, but sometimes it comes close. Musically, if you liked the first two, yer gonna dig Money, but there's a lot more 'wit' on this one. And the sad thing is, the 'wit' is already getting old. Everything is big, broad primary colors when dealing with Zappa's particular worldview, and about as much real heart as what beats inside Dick Cheney's scarred chest. Now, I happen to think this one is saved by the music, but really the music isn't showin' too much development, y'know? Zappa's still too afraid to make his Mothers jack out another wicky Westsaiiid jazz rock movement, preferring to keep on his 'Sixties Rock With Weird Chord Intervals' trip that pretty much sounds like what any hep cats who'd ever taken a theory lesson were doing in 1968. He just covered it up with a bunch of echoey whispers and screechy, scratchy noises to show everyone that he was still edgier than your Small Faces or your Electric Prunes of the world. I mean, of course there's some moments that make you wonder why he isn't trying harder with the musical side of things, which include just about every time the fuzztone comes on. Oh, and on 'Mother People', which is the only point on here where he actually writes something that describes himself rather than everyone who falls within his ire over a pop-screamer group of septuplets and quadtriplets and 4 over 3 and paradiddles and everything else the fucking drumline was always chattering about when they weren't throwing bass-drum mallets at each other's crotches and hitting on the scrawny blonde freshmen flute players. But most often, he's musically rehashing what he already topped way back on Freak Out!, he's just so interested in telling us how he feels about this whole Age of Sears-Catalog Flair Pants and 'I think my hair's really getting good in the back' bandwagon-jumping. Oh yeah! There's more instrumental avant-garde stuff, which always seems to involve high piano keys being tinkled quickly, whistle noises, and stuff being chucked around the recording booth to see what it might sound like! And I can stand about two minutes of it before I begin to wonder when exactly I'll get to review Hot Rats again.

Maybe I'm being too much of a hardon about it, but Zappa's not really doing anything groundbreaking other than bucking the 'counterculture unity' trend that had begun to infest the longhairs in 1967-8 and putting a bunch of sped-up tape loops on the ends of his albums. He simply doesn't write too many good songs (rather, he writes memorable ones, and I say that because I can remember just about every line of this album after hearing it, like, half a dozen times) and while I keep looking for more underneath all his yakkity-yak lyrics, like I found on the first two Mothers albums, instead I realize that there really ain't that much there down there. Listen once, laugh and nod in recognition of a time and place of society you either can't remember or weren't alive for, listen again for the music, listen for a third time and wish you had a Zappa album with more playing on it.

Capn's Final Word: Zappa gets literal, the music suffers, and all the brainless moron rock writers who always had a sneaking suspicion the psychedelic rock movement wasn't really all that great but were too terrified to rock the boat by themselves get to load up their typewriters with ammunition.

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ddickson@rice.edu

Haven't yet listened to Freak Out!--maybe it's better than this.  Dunno.  But I can honestly say this is the first underground album that really, really blew me away.  The fact that most of the individual songs aren't musically "groundbreaking" is hardly the point.  What no one seems to mention when they discuss this album--and I include fans in that category--is that every track segues into the next without a pause, far more seamlessly than Sgt. Pepper did.  Frequently, you have to be looking at the CD counter to realize which track you're on.  Believe it or not, that makes a difference.  The album itself is certainly groundbreaking in that respect; it represents one of the first "one long song" LPs four years pre-Thick as a Brick.  None of these tracks are MEANT to stand on their own; you either have to listen to it all in one go or not at all.  I think a lot of the people who review it are dealing with burned copies, which automatically insert a two-second break
between the songs.  The Russian pirated copy almost certainly does that--it did, at least, on every rap album I bought over there.
 

Randy Doak  junkdrum@aol.com   Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Cap'n, I've been reading your reviews the last week or so during a down period at work and getting a huge kick out of your writing style. If only your musical taste and knowledge were up to writing ability, you might even be able to secure some gainful employment as a rock critic. (just kidding) WOIIFTM is one muthafucka of an album. Nobody could dress up beautiful melodies so ugly as Zappa does here.  This is really the only record you need from Zappa's 60's period. It sums up and improves upon everything that came before and very much clarified Zappa's attitude regarding the whole flower power thing.  I'm an old fart who's here to tell ya, 1n 1968 this was definatley not old.  The whole piece is much better edited than Freak Out or Uncle Meat and has much better songs than on Absolutley Free. Any record sporting the lyrics "Whizzing and pasting and pooting through the day, Johnny helping Kenny, helping burn his poots away"  is ok in my book.  Hey my hair's getting good in the back.
 


Cruising with Ruben and the Jets - Video Arts 1968

Standing as the only Zappa album I was able to predict completely before putting it on (besides, maybe, the Guitar-solo albums), Cruising is exactly what everyone ever describes for you, a totally unironic doo-wop influenced album of short love songs. What they don't tell you is that instead of sounding like the Orioles or the Five Freshmen, or even, as some of you might imagine, like the doo-wop-but-still-odd tracks on Freak Out!, this sounds like fucking Sha-Na-Na. White idiots who can't harmonize stroke their pomade fetish into forty-summin' minutes that make waiting for the dentist's drill to strike blood-vessel gold in a great gush of warm, coppery love seem like heaven. Frank was obviously a huge fan of this stuff (as it's just about the only thing in his musical career besides modern classical and endless guitar masturbation that he doesn't approach with an assload of sarcasm so big it makes Craig Kilborn seem like Romper Room) but I wouldn't say he's built to write the shit. The thing is, at this point in his career I'm not sure what he is built to write. Or maybe, just maybe, these songs are actually pretty good, and it's just the fact that nobody except for the sax player has any clue as to how to play this stuff.  This sounds like a mediocre heavy metal band featuring a middle-aged record executive with a small penis trying to perform rap songs! Or a long-past-prime former melodic genius taking his time off from endless nostalgic world tours to try and make an electronic album! What unbelievable concepts, Mister Kotter! Eh, I suppose we'll figure it out together before it chokes us and our not-bottomless wallets to death. (hey, you know what? The entire Zappa catalog on MP3 cost me just over, like 30 bucks from the high school-aged entrepreneur running the CD-rack down fin the tunnel next to Nevsky Prospect Metro Station there in St. Petersburg, Russia. Can you imagine if I actually bought all this shit in a normal store like people with a shred of respect for copyright law are forced to do? I shudder at the thought. I'm just glad my Dad taught me the power of Getting Mine before he taught me any lessons about Respecting the Law. And I married me a wife who couldn't give a frigging frig in a frigstorm about the 'moral cost of engaging in music piracy'. Doncha wish you were as free to flaunt the laws of society as me? Now if my telephone didn't double-click like that, I'd be set for life.) Hey, did I forget to end the pre-parenthetical sentence. Hrm... How bout this: Frank Zappa is only good when he shuts up!

Okay, this album pretty much sucks for anyone not fascinated with the idea of what happens when Frank Zappa takes something seriously, even if it's something as uninteresting as a badly written simulation of a 50's doodlly-wop song recorded by a bunch of old dropouts who could probably play the entire recorded works of Lester Young backwards but don't know the first fucking thing about groove and swing. Not to mention soul and conviction, which Zappa doesn't even seem to wish he had. A nostalgic trip that mustn't have been much fun for the Mothers, who sound like their trying to avoid being hit in the eyeballs with large metal slide rules after blowing a harmony note somewhere. Aw, shit. I'd better take my opportunity and cut this shit short. Who cares about Cruising with Ruben and the Jets, anyway? No one ever took acid to it, no teenage hormone-case ever popped a boner to it, and I promise you that no black people ever did the buttock-wiggle to it, either.

Capn's Final Word: Simulated soulfulness, which is kind of like how dressing up your elderly great grandfather in a leather micro-mini, a chiffon halter, and some fuck-me pumps is like simulated femininity. Maybe they should've simulated some interest in the project first.

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Gage paranoidwarpig@aol.com     Your Rating: B-
Any Short Comments?: I think you misinterpret the albums intentions, dramatically so in fact. In your first sentence you say that it's an unironic doo-wop album, which is entirely untrue. Just look at the liner notes, drenched in irony and parody. The whole album was explained by Frank Zappa himself as being both a tribute and a satire of doo-wop, the culmination of his live-hate relationship with it. In it there are hilariously stupid lyrics, silly vocals, puposely messy/awkward instrumentation, and tongue-in-cheek "pachuco monologues" (the likes of which can also be found at the end of "WPLJ" on his Burnt Weeny Sandwich album). There are also chord changes you'd never find on a doo-wop album and Stravinsky quotations strewn about, bearing the unmistakable Zappa touch.

Ultimately, the music is enjoyable, and the concept hilarious, but I think the concept  sort of overshadows the music itself at times, so I only give it a B- in comparison to the masterpieces he was making during this time in his carreer.


Uncle Meat - Video Arts 1969..

Mmmm...Cruisin' With Ruben and Clay Aiken for Dick heralded the end of the 60's Mothers of Invention band as we'd known them, and marked the beginning of the Frank the 'Musician' Period where his albums were dominated by food references, disgusting cover collages, and lots and lots of wildly difficult free-jazz-rock charts. Though Zappa would return to his stupid lyrics in the future, his next several albums would be dominated pretty hard by his obsession with his blazing jam--jazz-rock and the many wicked ways he can weave melodies out of his herky time signatures.  When I first heard Uncle Meat, I almost equated it to Lumpy Gravy in that all I heard was a bunch of random jam stuff, some spoken dialogue, and lots of noises that sound like nasal passages being cleared within mere millimeters of the hottest microphone ever created. SSSNSNSSNSNNNNANANRRRRRRRRRKKLLLLKLKLKLLL!!!!!!!!! about covers what that might sound like. There's the short review, all done and complete and ready to upload onto my bulging Geocities account except for the fact that I forgot to mention that the 18 or so minutes of free-jazz stuff at the end that makes up the six parts of 'King Kong' pretty much rules the school like a pool of drool in my book, and my book happens to be Barney Has a Snack (Every Carnivore Has To Snap Sometime).

Of course I have to say more than THAT, or my name would have to be Wilson or Allroy, and my buttocks are MUCH too free of anal herpes warts to be either of them! Only cool idiots like George Starostin and myself write reviews THIS stupid-long and manage to stay on track most of the entire time. Except when I bitch about not having enough time to myself or George reviews a mid-80's Bad Company album and his little Russky linguist mind snaps into tiny little pieces like George Wendt's Speedo. So here 'tis...After polluting my office with this damn thing like three dozen times in the past few days, I realize that this album is devoted over to, first off, soundtrack music again, and secondly, that huge jam thing on the back end. Now, my version of Uncle Meat is the merciful single-disc (double LP, though) that lacks the dialogue tracks that are supposed to destroy most people's good opinion of this record, but I still think a lot of the non-instrumental sections can be completely axed. 'The Voice of Cheese'? 'Our Bizarre Relationship'? That's just that actress with the nasty, lazy, drugged-up voice talking about herself and her relationship with Frank and how she's such a dirty fucking chick. Wow! That's neither funny nor interesting, and WE GET TO HEAR THIS KIND OF SHIT ON EVERY SINGLE FRANK ZAPPA ALBUM FROM HERE ON OUT!! So, anyway, here's more of it...enjoy. Don't poke your eye out or use while sleeping. I give Frank a little credit for including 'If We'd All Been Living in California', which features one of the Mothers bitching about how little they're working and how broke he is, and Frank's rather lame reply. Heh! So maybe a little commercial success would've helped smooth out some of the nastier wrinkles in this particular nugget of Zappa history, huh?

Umm, what else is there on this shitty first half I have to describe to you?  A messy live deconstruction of 'Louie Louie', which is something like Zappa's fourteenth parody on this one damn song already, and the audience just KEEPS CLAPPING like they just heard fucking 'Strawberry Fields Forever' for the first time or something. A bunch of little instrumental soundtrack vignettes lasting between one and two minutes, of which I like 'Uncle Meat', 'Dog Breath' and their respective 'Variations' most of all because of their generally happy nature and solid melodies, but can enjoy just about everything else that doesn't include talking. There aren't many lyrics here (for which I'm relieved), and what lyrics are here are only supposed to make sense to the bandmembers themselves, anyway, kind of like Rush lyrics. But, man, who needs lyrics when the second side rips up the paper moon like it does? Starting with 'Ian Underwood Whips It Out' (and he does! And wiggles his sax-pinkies like a regular Ornette Coleman, too! And somehow continues making a complete joke out of his life just like Gary Coleman! And plays in a bunch of really shitty movie roles where he chews scenery like no one since Lionel Barrymore like Gary Oldman!) and continuing on through 'Mr. Green Genes', 'Project X', 'Cruising For Burgers', and the massive 'King Kong' dingo-dongo, the band puts together it's best sequence of recordings so far. The real interest lies in Frank's uncanny use of contrasting instrumental colors to create a texture for the ear that yer brain may not know what to do with, but it sure likes them melodies! Except when it's atonal, and then it just thinks things are exciting! Go brain, go! You know exactly what you're supposed to do with THIS one, now don't you?

Hey, now! 'Make a million digital copies and email them to random members of the populace in hopes of a new world order based on freedom, peace, and equality' ISN'T the RIGHT ANSWER!!! The right answer?

'Pat Sajak ate all the superglue, that's why the dog is having convulsions!'


Capn's Final Word: Shows just what that darn Mother band can do...finally.

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Hot Rats - Video Arts 1969

Pulling it all together on a jazz-rock milestone, Frank Zappa makes it work on Hot Rats, his second solo album without the Mothers. When placed up against my personal tastes and distastes (I like melody! I like rippin' solos! I like it when bands sound chaotic but are actually fine-tuned! I like bands that sound fine-tuned when they're fine-tuned!) (I don't much like jokes in music because they're only funny once! I don't like being preached to! I don't like funny noises for the sake of making funny noises!), Hot Rats is the one place in the Zappa catalog where I really feel like I'm making any effort at enjoyment AT ALL. I just love the fucking thing all the way through, lengthy improvisations or no, wankiness or no. Never before, and I mean NEVER ONCE before now has Frank shown the composition skills he's able to whip out and wave around the joint like he does here, whether he's writing for group as orchestra ('Peaches En Regalia', 'Son of Mr. Green Genes') group as insane improv machine ('The Gumbo Variations') or his own solo guitar ('Willie the Pimp'), he hits wieners out of the park using only his guts, and the fact that he's not afraid to let his songs go unencumbered by voice-over bullshit and stupid jokes. Moreover, though Uncle Meat had definite flashes of 6-gigawatt brilliance, it always seemed a bit too calculated at the wrong times. Not so on Hot Rats, where the band sounds fresh and excited even when practiced, prepped, and primped down to the very millisecond by Herr Direktor Zappa on the three arranged tracks. And it all comes from top down, because Frank has never sounded more interested in simply playing music before, and his solos grind up to new heights as a result, especially on the tone-setting 'Willie the Pimp'. I don't even feel like Frank's wanking very much of the time, because the man, at least this time around, has a knack for creating spontaneously combusting melody lines rather than simple pinkie-wagging pyro-twiddles. This of course was back when he wasn't afraid to let his background keep it interesting as he flies through his modal jams, which helps immensely, not like later on when the band was kept to a strict three-chord maximum or it was out on the street on their ass and no kiss goodbye. Nah, this is about love and respect for the instruments and the folks who play them, without a lot of miscellaneous fucking around with noise and/or atonalities, and while Zappa inbreds may balk at the idea of Frank sounding so...so....harmonious, I wouldn't even feel bad about introducing folks to improvisational instrumental rock through use of this album, which is a big reason why it gets a full A+. I think it's great for everybody.

Captain Beefheart takes guest vocals on 'Pimp' for like two minutes, but otherwise this is a mum affair. Oh, and speaking of guests, we have future Little Feat guitarist, and all-around nasal dustbowl Lowell George hangin' around on, like, one track. For even more reason to check it out, Zappa even manages to push some emotional buttons here and there, like some of the shifts in tone on 'It Must Be a Camel' that make me imagine what it might've been like if the Byrds could have jammed as well as they wrote songs. The other soloists (most notably Ian Underwood, but also including Jean-Luc Ponty and Don 'Sugarcane' Harris on string lessons) aren't gonna be mentioned individually, but I'll leave it this way...there's some of the best violin soloing I've ever heard on this record, whoever happens to be doing it.

Uncle Meat may have represented a new phase in Frank Zappa's career, but Hot Rats defines it...Zappa's gotten serious, and it was about time, too. He was able to crumple the mustard on his own a lot more effectively than when lashed to the Mothers, who were rapidly on their way out the door by 1969. Frank didn't let them go quickly, and ended up working with parts of them in the future, but for all intents and purposes, the era of New Mothers Music was over before Hot Rats. Frank was to indulge his new jazz-rock mentality for a few Mothers-related live-compilation albums more, but it would be quite some time until he created another studio gem like Hot Rats.

Capn's Final Word: Far ranging, strident jazz-rock goodness that could teach a thing or two to the conservatory guys. Just enough roughage to keep it going back in time.

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J     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: when i'm havin problems with improv, I just pop in this little baby and ideas just come back.

 

jesse markowitz  radiohead174@frontiernet.net   Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: oh baby, i'll go exactly with what that guy above me just said. Zappa and Underwood are right up there with Coltrane as the jazz makers I love the most. And for any saxophone improvers, just pop in that 5th track and there you go, hundreds of new ideas that you want to store in some sort of vault. So you can get them again. That kind of a vault.

One of my favorite albums.
 

Kris Grebneralk      Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: And, by all manner of things Godly, is this a good 'un. When I first bought this album, I liked the odd track or two, but on the whole it struck me as jazzy meandering. Of course, once I removed the penisbun from the cockdog, I realised that it was one lean son of a female canine. Son Of Mr. Green Genes is the song that I play to all those who are uninitiated in the world of Zappa, regardless of their musical (and sexual) preference.

 
Mike     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Where Frank shows the world that he's not just an asshole and that he is, in fact, a total genius when he focuses on instrumental music. Zappa at his absolute instrumental finest for 47 minutes. Pure brilliance in practically every respect. The one retread is "Son of Mr. Green Genes," but it's way better here than it was on "Uncle Meat." Frank doesn't sing once, although Captain Beefheart (yay!) sings on "Willie The Pimp." A perfect fit, both for the bluesiness of the song and for the lyrics, which are really just about the sounds of words, and there was no singer more about the sound of words than Captain Beefheart. Plus Frank plays one of the best extended guitar solos on record. Look - stop reading this drivel right now and go out and buy it. You'll be happy you did. Jazz-rock improv in a style never done before, and of the highest quality. Not fusion by any stretch of the imagination, though - Jazz-Rock. "The Gumbo Variations," man...One more thing: Sugarcane Harris is playing on "Willie The Pimp" and "The Gumbo Variations" and Jean-Luc Ponty plays on "It Must Be A Camel."

 


Burnt Weeny Sandwich - Video Arts 1970

Frank was a man of Big, Fat, Sweaty, Impolite, Stinking-Breathed, Armpit-Fungused, Septic-Ulcered, Poor-Spelling, Knock-Kneed, Hunchbacked, Bad-Driving Ideas. Ideas so outlandish that they Demand to See Capitalization (if not completion). He was a lightning rod of the damn things throughout his career, but they never seemed to work out quite as planned because of a conglomeration of record-company interference and the simple fact that Frank has an attention span like a 9-ounce crack baby. Burnt Weeny Sandwich was part of one of his first Frankensteins, the Mothers Retrospective concept, a set of never-before-seen Mothers of Invention live and studio recordings released just following the breakup of the band that was supposed to stretch out to 9 LP's or something like that, but he only got through two of 'em before losing interest and starting up his Second Stupid Idea, the 200 Motels opera/movie/orchestra/soundtrack thingy. Luckily, Burnt Weeny Sandwich sounds like it was created from equal parts Uncle Meat and Hot Rats (i.e., first-rate jazz-rock with monstrous soloing from guitar, saxophone, and, of course, thar 'lectric twangar! Maybe a little more 'composed' rather than 'free form', but still improve-charged enough to make Return to Forever sound like a Brian Eno ambient album.) rather than a bunch of idiotic yakking and 'high-larious' lyrics that grow ever so tiresome about halfway through listen number two. But these melodies, these can be digested and restudied over years and years of idiotic, blind devotion to the Great God Zappa.  All Hail the Sicilian Note Freak!

Ooh, man, all those feelings of instrumental opiate-rush I got from Hot Rats come right back to me once the acid guitar growl of 'Theme to Burnt Weeny Sandwich' rips it in...at times I forgot I had on Zappa altogether and thought I might've switched out with some previously unheard Allman Brothers studio jam from the Idlewild South period. Zappa's guitar solos continue to be more melodic and explorative than exploitative, subtle, ruminative, but very taut and directed at the same time. Call it a bias, but I love this kind of shit, especially when there's all this random percussion underpinning everything and...I'll admit it, making me envision a weeny crackling in the frying pan. 'Burnt Weeny' is the obvious centerpiece of the plastic, since it's bookended by two layers (pieces of bread?) of something called 'Holiday in Berlin', which threatens to be random (all the orchestral randomness is taken up by the two very short 'Igor's Boogie' interludes, neither of which is irritating, and neither of which is pointless. Wotta trick, man!) but ends up being a live instrumental reconditioning of 'Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance's melody with lots of additional parts and some very strong soloing of the non-showoffy quality. The major extended piece is 'The Little House I Used to Live In' and its companion piano intro 'Aybe Sea', which sound more like soundtrack compositions than jazz-rock launchpads. But never is either one boring (or, at least, not for very long), and I'd even go so far as to say that 'Aybe Sea' is about as close to beauty as Frank was able to get...for once his mixture of conventional and wacky harmonies build into something that seems to trump 'evocative' music and it's trivial emotional content, suggesting something a lot deeper. Maybe he just got lucky, but this section of music (right up from the beginning of 'Aybe Sea' to the electrification of 'Little House') proves quite clearly what Frank is capable of, but apparently chooses not to engage in with most of his 'compositional' works. And you think this guy is hard to review because of the size of his catalogue?

Okay, so I just thought about this: 'Theme From Burnt Weeny Sandwich' is packaged inside 'Holiday in Berlin', which is incompletely packaged inside 'Igor's Boogie', and the whole album is packaged inside two doo-wop tunes about as consequential as SST Records at the Grammy Awards, 'WPLJ' and 'Valerie' (dude, are these covers? On one hand, I've never heard of these before and it's hard to think of a 50's band writing an ode to 'White Port and Lemon Juice', but on the other hand it's also hard to think of Frank writing an ode to White Port and Lemon Juice, unless that ode was to a time somebody puked up a bunch of it on a groupie's face, and that's apparently not what this one's about). I literally works on so many levels! It's like an onion! Or Conrad's Heart of Darkness! Or a sub-normal episode of Bosom Buddies! It's like when I idiotically put two or three parentheticals inside each other rather than doing the normal thing and writing out separate sentences! Man, who knew Frank Zappa was such a deep, philosophically centered kind-of-guy?

Okay, so he's not, but he can write some tunes, man! Frank makes a third great album, short on concept but long on the great melodies and sharp musicianship that are heightened by, not working in spite of, the unconventional meters and chord sequences. Zappa is on this album and Hot Rats before it, exactly what he's desired to be - a musician that can be taken seriously from a pop, classical, or improvisational point of view. He's done away with a lot of what made him irritating (i.e., the 'laffs' and the preaching) and kept what And not an audible kazoo in the entire bunch...

Capn's Final Word: More laid back, a little lighthearted, but just as sharp as that brand new Ginsu. The instrumental fantasia rolls on.

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Weasels Ripped My Flesh - Video Arts 1970

The last two albums being apparently too much on the beige side for Mr. Insane Cackle himself, the Mothma's second post-breakup retrospective album shows a more caustic, more screamingly 'avant garde' (as in 'This is AVANT GARDE, Motherfuckers! We're here to make your TEAR DUCTS BLEED and your SPEAKER CONES LOOSEN!!') side of the jazz/classical equation Frank'd been dicking with since halfway through Uncle Meat. At least the guy sorta warns us of the less-than-listenable nature of a lot of Weasels Ripped My Flesh by giving us his creepiest-ever album cover of a guy getting the closest shave a man can get without simply whacking his own head off with a table saw. This isn't going to be just another Krazy Kollage album (you know, Burnt Weeny and Uncle Meat had those tons-o-junk collage album photos with the robots and the mannequin fingers and all that nonsense), and while there's still plenty of cool sections that manage to come out over the course of the album, there's enough straight-up razor weirdness to turn off anyone who hasn't 'tuned in' to Frank's particular malfunction, that he'd rather stop playing than concede he doesn't know how to deliver the killing blow. The noisy shit, however unpleasant, seems to follow itself to something resembling a point, but for some reason the 'melodic' sections fall flat. There seems to be more dicking around than usual when the band plays it safer, a lot more solos end up staring at a brick wall, a lot more sections degenerating into 'the horns will save us! the horns will save us!' pointlessness than we've seen on the last few albums. Hell, though, if you've made it this far, Weasels Ripped My Flesh isn't going to turn you off or anything. It may be less well-organized than, say, the performances on Burnt Weeny, but the band is just as freakishly telepathic as it's always been and there's still no one that sounds like this in the seven known continents...except for maybe Miles Davis live band from the same time, and their improv shit pretty much revels in pointlessness, as long as it's got a motherfucking James Brown beat to perch on top of. Nah, there's a very rewarding originality of tonality (an innovation of intonation? a freshness of funk? a uniqueness of ukulele?) on Weasels that makes it sound like, despite a lot of stuff which sounds like noisy dicking about, there's some thought behind it all. Plus, none of the really offensive sections lasts very long at all, so what's there to complain about which wasn't true on the first three Mothers records, huh?

Plus, there's a rippin' funk-rock song included here called 'My Guitar Wants to Kill Yo' Mama' that's one of my favorite song-titles of all time, and some pretty rippin examples of Frank Zappa workin' the acoustic guitar, a rarity to be sure. I think Lowell George plays on it too, but who cares about that who isn't a big, fat, racist, mullet-haired, Calvin-pissing-on-Chevy, gun-rack-totin' redneck hick who happens to like introspective and soul-influenced Southern rock? Dare I say, not myself...

Listen, whoever picks up Weasels as their first Zappa purchase is gonna get what they deserve, but folks who are patient and wait until the time is right and the calluses on the eardrums have thickened to a point at which nails can be driven into the sides of the head without pain or loss of hearing, and hearing the voice of uber-ugly American man-hating comic Kathy Griffin no longer causes immediate projectile-heaving, it might be the right time for Weasels Ripped. Hell, or you can just make an edit and have yourself a nice EP without anything that wouldn't even have three bars of music that might hurt your elementary school music teacher's feelings.

Capn's Final Word: Like an ice cream cone with glass shards, alternately sweet and painful, but still somehow worth all the bloodstains on your shirt. Huh?

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Mike    Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: This is one of Frank's last really worthwhile albums. I personally like all the "songs" on here (more like collected stage improvs), and think that it isn't really pointless - there seems to be a definite element of a show being put on. Zappa was more than a little fond of the theater of the absurd, and all of these things are exactly that: absurd. Well, except for "Oh No/The Orange County Lumber Truck," which sounds pretty serious to me...

Hey, what's with that comment about '70's Miles Davis? He was *on fire* during that time! Don't diss stuff like "On The Corner" and "Get Up With It"!

 


Chunga's Revenge - Video Arts 1970

Zappa took an undeniable step down when he decided to hire former Turtles vocalists Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (heretofore known as Flo and Eddie, or The Phosphorescent Rat and Eddie for those of you not into the whole brevity thing. The only things these two ever had going for them were decent harmony vocals and the ability to make Frank think their teenage-boy dirty-joke shtick was worth putting up onstage. Yup, the guys are a coupla yuks-a-minute practical jokesters given over to lengthy skits that usually degenerate into random screaming and lots of moronic discussions of wieners and pee-pee holes and how awfully funny they are when coupled with an antisocial dislike of the female of the species. HIGH-LAR-YUS HIGHJINKS ensue when these two get going on their scatological shit-eating jokester trip, especially when they get REALLY worked up and begin YELLING over the band, trying to drown them out with their endless, pointless, unfunny bullshit. Luckily, the band was still able to play like all get-out, but things really took a hard left for Shitsville when these two airbags took over, and I haven't even mentioned their inability to sing on-key yet, either. We'll get to that, we'll get to that. Just suffice it to say that every last fibre of my being rebels against the very idea of Flo and Eddie, who not only took the brilliant Fusion Frank away from us, but also dragged the band down to a level where they pretty much couldn't even play for all the sexist, boring yadda-yadda going on. They were only to last in the band about a year or so, but Frank insisted on releasing about 10 million live albums from this period regardless, so we have plenty of chances to direct our white-hot magma-like hate at 'em. Ready?? Fire!!

Chunga, thanks be, is still mostly a Frank-run show, and is still about 75% instrumental, and almost all live, too. The problem is that Frank's decided since the breakup of the Mothers that he wants to abandon fusion completely and begin playing hick-lickin' hard rock like the 70's kids all like to take downers and space out in their headphones to. So Chunga's revenge has lots of growly action that almost resembles Southern Rock minus the attitude, hooks, or varied influences. Kinda sounds like Molly Hatchet, if you want me to get all good 'n' gory about it. And he packs in the solos, in case there was any doubt...and sometimes they're able to save things altogether. I certainly can't tell what the backing musicians are trying to accomplish on 'Transylvania Boogie', but Frank's solo continues the calculus of the known universe he started on Hot Rats. '20 Small Cigars' is the jazziest number of the bunch, sneaky and slimy in the Burnt Weeny vein (no, not the vein in your wiener), and a nice morsel of sweet, fully formed composition that moves into a really chaotic and misconceived one that's three times as long. This is 'Nancy and Mary Music', which comes complete with another classic sax freakout, a nasty mistake of a drum solo, and some 'scat' percussion nonsense which reminds us Frank is still a big fan of people doing retarded things with their mouths in front of the microphone. It's structure that is sadly lacking from this record. It's as if on Chunga, Frank has taken such a backseat to his new vocalists and his desire to solo that there's no structure whatsoever...nothing to 'write', as it were. I feel like there was more composing being done in five minutes of Hot Rats than this entire album. The jazz rock on display here is nowhere near as good as on his Mothers albums.

But it's better than the *ralph!* blues rock numbers on here, which chew the prostate right outta the center of this record and spit it across the stage in a splash of fluids. Simply sickening, macho shit like the overcooked chest-thumping, ass-scratching 'Tell Me You Love Me' displays the band's 'appeal' - Frank abusing his wah pedal on a reheated riff while Flo and Eddie climb all over each other like a couple of wild dogs trying to reach a piece of meat. They don’t harmonize...they murderize. This and 'Road Ladies' may be Neanderthal slimeball shit, but it ain't nothin' when compared to when Flo and Eddie try to crank up the hee-haws like on 'Would You Go All the Way For The USA?', and, especially 'Rudy Wants To Buy Yez A Drink'. The first one is about USO girls being forced to have sex with Army trolls to prove their patriotism! Wow, they've offended anyone who ever served in uniform OR has a penis in the same song! And it's totally not funny whatsoever! In fact, it makes me feel MORE right-wing sympathy than the little I usually do (Leon Trotsky), simply in reflexive reactionary disgust! 'Rudy' is also about as funny as advertising free showers in front of a theatre screening Shindler's List, but this time the target is another one of Frank's obsessions - the musician's trade union. And he rhymes 'howdy doody' with 'call me Rudy' and makes strident attempts at linking union reps with Mafia violence, and the whole thing makes me break out in a rash not seen since the last time I went to a free tequila party at a 'non-selective' fraternity house. Ugly, irritating, and offensive, especially when you consider what Frank traded out for the 'privilege' of having these two jive honkies front his band.

 Capn's Final Word:  Enough of a fusion hangover to save it from worthlessness, but the worthlessness has still eaten large gaping holes through the structure.

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Wardo  wardwhi@cdw.com      Your Rating: B-
Any Short Comments?: I agree completely -- Flo & Eddie arrived, and that's where I got off. I can only handle so many jobs about blow jobs and male rape before I get bored. There are a few moments scattered over the next 20 years (Uncle Remus, and instrumentals like Zoot Allures, Watermelon in Easter Hay and so on) that I can enjoy, but Chunga is the cutoff. You hit the nail on the head. Again. Keep up the great work!

Mike     Your Rating: B-
Any Short Comments?: A B- really is the appropriate rating for this album. Sadly, this is where Frank takes a swan dive off the precipitous artistic heights he had previously scaled and decides to start dragging the rest of his previously sterling career through a sea of nearly undiluted muck. After this, not much mattered. "Apostrophe," "Over-Nite Sensation," and "Broadway The Hard Way" (which had his best funny political lyrics since the '60's) all ranged from good to having good moments. But mostly it sucks from here on out.

This one has some good songs too. The title track is a fascinating fusion jam, and Ian Underwood's electric alto sax is so weird that I always like a listen. "20 Small Cigars" and "The Nancy and Mary Music" are also great to listen to.

But The Phlorescent Leech and Eddie (that's what Flo and Eddie got credited as) just fuck it all to hell. I don't think they were doing this practical-joke stuff on their own and managed to make Frank think it was funny. I think it was all Frank, and this was just his way of making himself feel superior/smarter to the pop market. You can tell I have some bones to pick about Frank, but I'll wrap this up, and say this album is the breaking point for me with Frank.
 


200 Motels - Rykodisc 1971

Godawful disgusting bad double-length (an hour and a half!! God's knees!!) movie soundtrack to Frank's big film of the same name, and the lowest moment of the already mostly-despicable Flo and Eddie period. It was out of print forever, and there's no wonder why. This is what I call a 'one shot' record, meaning I gave the goddamn thing one chance and I don't want to give it a second one. Ever. I'm only subjecting myself to it's particular brand of Jamaican genital rusty fork torture a second time because I, CapnMarvel, respect my reader( ) enough to warn him off this brand of poison. If I can save just one person from wasting a good thirty bucks on buying this ripoff pit of camel squirt, I will have done my job today. Aw man, I tell you I almost quit reviewing Zappa because I couldn't stand the thought of making it through this rusty bucket of orchestral honks, awful jokes, and 'parodies' of movie music a second time.

 Now, as for anal-lysis, 200 Motels is like a primer for all the reasons I HATE Frank Zappa (as opposed to Hot Rats, which is all the reasons I like him, at least all of the ones I've identified so far), all in one place, for a REALLY LONG TIME. It's made up of thirty four tracks, the majority being less than two minutes long, ala Freak Out! (but Christ, please don't think I'm comparing that album to this one...I'm just trying for an example, is all), and a couple of normal-length 'songs' that wouldn't even have made it onto a shit-dick album like Just Another Band From LA.. Let's go ahead and dismiss the short stuff altogether...the vast majority of it is more Symphonic Fun, to be translated as 'bashing shit while some of the members play three bars of something that sounds like incidental soundtrack music to Cinderella, then the track finishes'. It's not fun, it's not musical, and it's not even as easy to follow along with as listening to Berlioz's Faust on a malfunctioning CD. There's dialogue, mostly about stupid patter that probably wouldn't make any sense even if coupled with some visuals. There's one or two moments of good dialogue, but I'm fucked if I'm gonna search through an hour and a half of the fucking Munchkin Choir just to find them.  

So that leaves us with the 'songs', which are like the unrestrained minds of Flo and Eddie gone wild on half a gallon of soup made from liquid meth and KY Jelly and allowed to rape and humiliate half the Eastern seaboard in a weekend of. But the laffs never stop friends, beit from former Mother Jimmy Carl Black (the Punjab of the Group) hicking it up as a redneck cowboy on 'Lonesome Cowboy Burt', or the female-bashing 'Half a Dozen Provocative Squats', which features the following bit of fair-play goodness:

 Half a dozen provocative squats!
Out of the shower, she squeezes her spots;
Brushes her teeth;
Shoots a deodorant spray up her twat . . .
(It's getting her, getting her
Hot--Oh-woh-woh-woh-woh-woh)
She's just twenty-four
And she can't get off,

Last dude to do her
Got in and got soft;
She blew it,
And laughed in his face, yeah!
Face, yeah!
Yeah

Oh, man, should I call Bob Dylan and tell him he can retire now, or should you? Is this what Zappa fanatics love so much about this motherfucker, or what? Apparently not, because the Flo and Eddie version of this band is probably one of the most universally panned, even more than the mid-80's group that sounded like a poor man's Van Halen. Things pretty much go down from there, through a lengthy and pointless section dealing with stealing towels from motels, and on to 'Penis Dimension', which features side-splitting lines that would sound childish and hateful to a 12 year old masturbation addict. Which, for all intents and purposes, is what Flo and Eddie were. Coupla assholes, if ya ask me. Let's just forget the rest of this shitstorm exists, huh? I'm losing my good nature here in my office trying to last through this thing. Hell, I don't even like the 12-minute closer 'Strictly Genteel', either. I think it sounds like Broadway, and that, my friends, is probably the most insulting thing of all...

Capn's Final Word: For the number of times I wish I were dead during one album, 200 Motels takes the cake.

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Adrian Denning     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: When I first heard the album, I thought it was the worst piece of s**t i'd heard in my entire life. As i'd once been of the opinion just such an album would therefore be utterly cool to heard, in a masochistic sense, I listened again. Didn't change my mind much - but I kept listening for some reason. More than any other Zappa album, '200 Motels' is both the most extreme and ultimately, the most rewarding. A definite 'A' from me!

 

Alan Brooks     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: C'mon Cap'n-- you just want to keep this album all to yourself, don't you? Well, the secret is out.

 

Andreas     Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: Granted the sound quality is awfull (it was lousy on the LP and on the CD), but I really like this one.  Took me a while to appreciate it, though.  I really like the split personality aspect, mixing orchestral music with the Flo & Eddie slapstick.  "Strictly Genteel" is a great tune.  Seeing the movie is not crucial to appreciating the album.  Even some of the groupie-themed stuff actually has some nice music ("What will this evening...")

 


Live at Fillmore East, June 1971 - Video Arts

Ungh. I'm listening to it now, but am too drunk on Bloody Marys to write a whole review. Is a five liner enough? More musical than Just Another Band From LA, but when the mouths open, twice as offensive. Flo and Eddie need nine grams in the skull. They do 'Happy Together', and it's funny to hear Frank do straight background vocals, but after shit like 'Bwana Dik', who gives a Dennis Kucinich? They motherfucking talk about groupies until the Fillmore audience actually starts tearing the place down rather than wait for it to be closed by Bill Graham. They tell the 'Mud Shark' story (Zeppelin's John Bonham fishes off the balcony of a Seattle hotel, catches a small mud shark, and proceeds to insert parts of it in a groupies hoo hoo). They talk about convincing groupies they have a hit on the chart. There's some good guitar playing on 'Willie the  Pimp', meaning the boys don't jabber like electrofied chipmunks over the jammy parts, and the old tunes are treated with a shred of respect. Still, there's five acres of You Can't Do That On Stage records waiting to be purchased...what for do you need MORE Flo and Eddie for, huh?

Capn's Final Word: Pass the bottle.

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Just Another Band From L.A. - Video Arts 1971

Better than 200 Motels, but only about like dying from getting caught in a wood chipper might be preferable than being eaten alive by three dozen starving mongoose. This one is live again, live Flo and Eddie again, live Flo and Eddie telling endless stories again, and not at all funny again. While the last one was outright offensive, this one's just numbingly dull, like a trip to your distant cousin's house to sit and be polite while they tell stories about even more distant cousins and their boring problems while eating horrible food and smelling the rotten dog who has decided YOU will be his BRAND NEW FRIEND until you either leave or are forced to kill him and burn his stinking corpse right on the kitchen table in protest. I mean, these guys get on a kick, man, and this time it's Los Angeles, and they can't fucking shut up about it. Not like they can be reasonably expected to shut up anyway, but this time their obsession is mundane trivia about their hometown. The first side, especially, is really intended for folks who have nothing better to do than to listen to Flo and Eddie spin out a long, disjointed, and not-at-all interesting story about a mountain that can talk and do shit. They make fun of traveling. They mention parts of Los Angeles. They say 'fuck'. They hoodle-e-hoo and wakka-wakka for minutes on end. They scream. They yell. The bands fucks off behind them, playing little scraps of notes too thin and under-developed to be called 'skeletal', and the whole thing smacks of being made up on the spot to fill up time. Live, it may have made a shred of sense, but on disc it's like someone reading you the Yellow Pages, if that someone were the MOST ANNOYING FUCKING TWO PEOPLE TO EVER WALK THE FUCKING EARTH.  

The second half makes less sense than the first, if that's possible, and apparently it is. The band runs out of things to do while Flo and Eddie continue their nonstop spouting off, which either takes the 'narrative' form we've already discussed, or the 'let's outscreech each other' singing style that smacks of too much ego, not enough stage monitors, and as much musical talent as the average coffee table. Flo and Eddie? Maybe they could put on a good attempt at singing when they were winging their way through 'Happy Together' and some poorly chosen mid-sixties folk rock covers, but onstage with Frank they're about as appealing as 'Ave Maria' as duetted by Ozzy Osbourne and Jack Klugman. Listen, folks who grew up in a particular area around Los Angeles who like to hear particular stores namechecked on an album made 35 years ago may get a nostalgic kick out of the likes of 'Eddie, Are You Kidding?' and the retardation of 'Call Any Vegetable', which refer to particular dry cleaners and hamburger joints around different LA-area suburbs, but I don't, and I don't think many other folks do, either. Listen, I really don't doubt that Frank's band was still able to cut it during this period, but these albums are simply not about music whatsoever...they're about stage gimmickry and Flo and Eddie's 'mouth noises', as Frank would put it. Perhaps Frank doesn't put much stock in what a vocalist does up there, but only a real block of cheese would consider Flo and Eddie a more fitting front for the Zappa Experience than, say, Ray Collins (or, for that matter, Phil Collins...). They dominate, they're no fun, and they squash Frank's input to a small number of half-aborted solos. And anyway, if I'm gonna listen to a Frank album for the funnies, I'll put on either Freak Out! or Absolutely Free, and if I want to be 'scandalized', I'll put on Joe's Garage. The rest of the time, I wants to hear PLAYING. What do YOU buy a Frank Zappa album for?

Aw well, Frank got hurled into an orchestra pit during one of his 'concerts' by a goon who was pissed because his girlfriend 'loved' Zappa, which resulted in him getting a bunch of his bones broken, but not before burning down that joint in Switzerland with Ian Paice and half a pack of road flares, kicking the Pope in the crotch, begging a prostitute for a freebee, finally weaning himself from breastfeeding, and rediscovering jazz fusion. All in a week's work for Frank, I'm afraid.

Capn's Final Word: Flo and Eddie are simply not funny, ever. Zappa's dead end.

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Mike   Your Rating: D
Any Short Comments?: For once, Christgau did have the best thing to say about something.

Frank Zappa - Just Another Band From L.A.

"You said it, Frank. I didn't."

Nice. 


Waka/Jawaka - Video Arts 1972

Well, following his flying leap off a tall stage in late 1971, Frank reclused himself to heal and ruminate on his wicked ways, taking a few months away from the record-making biz in his longest pause from action to date. While he was, understandably, not too keen on touring any time soon, he soon grew sick of listening to his leg-pins creak and decided to make some more music-intense stuff like we hadn't seen since the Antichrist and His Drinking Buddy were allowed to infiltrate the Mothers of Invention. Well, the spectre of Flo and Eddie was gone for good, and in fact the Mothers were dead and buried as well. Not that anyone missed 'em...the band, whatever the lineup, had pretty much been a musical non-entity on new material ever since the Uncle Meat album. Having a couple of chatterbox blowhard lead singers'll do that to a band, you know? Anyway, Zappa came back from his injuries changed...not only had his pitch been lowered by damage to his voicebox, he came back more calculated, less willing to take wild potshots at individual targets, and less willing to skirt the edge musically. As groundbreaking leaps into unknown territort, Frank's 70's work wouldn't hold a candle to his best 60's stuff, which seemed to insinuate layer after layer of original invention. The 70's work was like a slightly perverted cross between Little Feat and Tony Williams' Lifetime, still pretty far from what plays on Main Street, certainly, but no longer flicking boogers on the Establishment, either.

Waka/Jawaka was Frank's first steps back out in the world, and they're safe ones. He's in firm jazz-rock territory, his guitar backed up by a new pack of fools willing to para the diddles for a little groupie action on the back end, and they're just as good as the usual instrumentalists he picks out. The album is dominated by two extended pieces, 'Big Swifty' on the first side and 'Waka/Jawaka' on the second. I actually prefer 'Waka/Jawaka' because I dig it when the band shifts back and forth between straight swingtime and more complicated pastures, and I like the parts that sound like 70's TV cop-drama montage chase scene music. 'Swifty' is more fusion-y in the strictest Miles Davis sense, sometimes dark and foreboding and sometimes merely flat. Hell, both of these songs have flat sections, and neither of them comes near topping the similar material on Hot Rats (which fucking tore, solos, heads, and all), but I like them both and find myself impressed as always by the drummers and horn players Zappa's able to cobble together on a moment's notice. You think guys like this would be happy playing that Just Another Band From LA bullshit stand-up comedy bit? Just like James Brown liked to do instrumental albums from time to time to show off the power of the Flames and JB's, Frank likes to run his Mothers and Fuckers out around the block to see what their envelope is, too. So maybe there's no Ian Underwood to whip the Johnson out of the hat here, but Aynsley Dunbar is a motherfucker of a good drummer (best Zappa's had so far, as much as I can tell), and Sal Marquez does a decent enough Davis impersonation while Frank attempts John McLaughlin in the potboiling fifth minute of 'Swifty', by far my favorite moment on the record. 

There two vocal tracks included solely to make this album thirty six minutes in length rather than twenty eight, and they're both throwaways of the pleasant but unnecessary type. Compared with some of the more upstanding parts of the two jams, the stilted swing of 'Your Mouth' sounds positively preschool, and new lead George Duke has a fair soul voice but isn't really charismatic or distinctive enough to keep your attention over the loud-ass female backup singers. There's a nice pedal slide solo in 'It Might Just Be A One Shot Deal' (as if there's any other kind...pedal steels are like blowjobs in my book. There's never really a bad time for 'em, and sometimes they're just what the doctor ordered.), as well as some 'experimental' sections that appear to be going through the motions for the benefit of old fans more than any real desire to push boundaries. Oh, and it morphs into a blues-cliche section that just sucks it, but this stuff is like seven minutes long...after living through the crimes-against-humanity committed by the Milsevic and Ceacescu lineup, surviving two pleasant fillerish tunes should be a piece of cake. Experimentation isn't really on the menu of this second edition of the Hot Rats. If anything, this is the most straight-up album Frank's made so far of any kind. Just good playin', that's all. Hell, maybe you'll think all the jazz-fusion stuff is boring. You certainly have the right to think that, but I'm pretty happy to have something solid like Waka/Jawaka to prove that Frank's still got his heart in it.

Capn's Final Word: Miles Davis-influenced jazz fusion that doesn't beat the material Frank did when he wasn't copying Jack Shit, but is still darn fine.

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The Grand Wazoo - Video Arts 1973

The companion piece to Wanky/Jankly, this one is similarly jazz-leaned, though with a bigger band and busier sound.  It swings a helluva lot more, too, reminding me more of Miles Davis' mid- to late-60's transitional 'electric bop' albums that sprinkled in little, easily ignored bits of electrification rather than the full-on ragin' Cajun doo-raga cooked up on his early 70's records like On the Corner. The long 'n' short of it is that W/J was a lot more jazzy-rock, and Grand Wazoo is more 'jazz fusion', as in jazz players playing rocky jazz music rather than rock players playing jazzy rock music. Get it? Well, neither do I, and since I had, like, three hours of sleep last night due to a faulty body clock, I'll trust that you understood that better than me. Eh, and if you didn't, what's gonna happen, anyway? You write me an angry Reader Comment that takes me a month and a half to post? Heh...I hold all the cards here, Pancho! Anyway, this is a rock album, I guess, and there's enough toys around to remind you of the fact, like slide guitar and envelope filters.  Parts of the middle of the big-ol' title track sound like the Allman Brothers more than anything: venomous slide guitar, swingin' organ, beer belches, 'FREEEEEEEEEEE BIRRRRDDDDD!!!!!' and all. (Hey. Funny aside here: There was a fad there in the carefree days of the pre-Fascist takeover of this country, when folks would yell out 'WHIPPING POST!!!!' at concerts, making like that famous Allman Brothers Live at Fillmore East heckler asshole guy. Most bands ignored it, but I read somewhere that Frank would then actually PLAY it, although I'm sure he didn't play it RIGHT. Heh...that's pretty high humor, if'n ya ask me....) The plunger-wah-wah Harmon mute trumpet solo section (yeah, motherfuckers I played the fucking horn, man!!!!) that follows frequently enters wanky territory untempered by the background folks doing anything but listen to the drummer hit his cymbals a bunch of fucking times. As a piece of writing, 'Wazoo' isn't anywhere as satisfying for me as the big boinging boobies that frame Waka/Jawaka, I don't think the playing is as inspired, and it doesn't rock as much. But when it's on, I think it's fine.

The rest of Wazoo is a similarly disappointing reapplication of the same fifteen coats of boring W/J's shorter tracks struck us with. If I wasn't wild about 'em last time, I'm sure not gonna love 'em this time around because it's got more groovy cover art. 'For Calvin' is wacky-as-usual, which has now become a sheer drag for Zappa. Whenever he's not playing and/or composing, meaning whenever he's simply 'letting things happen' ala Uncle Meat, I could probably drive nails into pine boards with how quick my forehead slaps into my desktop in sleepitude, it's so damned dull. Like David Carradine in Kung Fu, baby! Man, that show used to be on reruns on Saturday afternoons when I was a kid, and I never could understand why all Chinese people were bald. Women too! Were they just born that way, or was it used for strange sexual rites my 5-year old mind couldn't yet encompass? Or did they just use each other's heads for bowling balls whenever they ran out of real ones? Christ, I'm tired...I'm not making one horsepucky of sense here. And speaking of horsepucky...what's with hot actresses having to ugly themselves up to get Oscar nominations? Is it like how everyone who ever plays a retard gets a nomination? (Sean Penn in I Am Sam, Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, Jessica Tandy in Driving Miss Daisy) If I wanted to see chicks that were supposed to be all hot look extremely ugly, I'd either turn on Sex and the City (what a fucking rotten piece of nasty that show is...Christ, is that what American women aspire to?) or go out to the local goddamn Wal Mart and hang around the snack aisle for a few minutes. Cheeee-rist. Scarlet Johansson looks fucking edible for two hours in Lost in Translation and she doesn't even get a nomination, but there's plenty of room for Charlize Theron and seventy-odd pounds of latex and motherfucking Diane Keaton. If there's a woman who's driven more men to homosexuality than Barbara Bush and Hilary Rodham Clinton combined, it's fucking Diane Keaton.

Okay, so this album's a bunch of jazz noises that sounds grabbed from random parts of Miles Davis' post 1960 career mixed with random parts of Blood, Sweat and Tears', only worse. Frank Zappa was something less than inspired this time around as it often sounds like more of a solo album for his trumpet player than anything truly Zappa. He later dismissed this album and Wacky Wall Walker out of hand, sniffing that they were 'big in Scandinavia' or something.  If that sounds interesting, you must be a fag. Or just a guy who likes jazz music, which is funny because I'd think all your time would be spent stuffing fugelhorns up your liberally greased-up 'orchestra pit'.

Capn's Final Word: Zappa's big horny jazz-band excursion fails to impress or insult.

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Overnite Sensation - Video Arts 1973

Frank's first studio album with vocals since 1970's Chunga's Revenge, and his first album with vocals where he sings most of them since, sheeeeit, like We're Only In It to Fuck the Monkees? Jesus! He's only the guy with the fucking name on the cover, man! If I were wanting to buy an album with George Duke singing lead, I'd buy a George Duke album. (If I wanted to buy an album with Flo and Eddie singing lead on it, I'd split the difference and just shoot myself in the head) I want to hear Frank doing the same ol' stupid, sexist, offensive lyrics, not some nameless lackey! Speaking of lackeys, if you listen reeeeeeaaaalllll close, you'll be able to notice that the background singers on Sensation are none other than Tina Turner and the Ikettes!  Which is pretty fucking hilarious when you realize the future Aunty Entity and pantyhose model is singing lines like 'Reety-awrighty, he da ZOMBY WOOF', plus probably getting the shit beat out of her by that orchestra pit (ahh! 'conceptual continuity' at work, my friends!) husband of hers, Ike.  Okay, so maybe not that funny. But then again, neither is this album.

Not real good, either. This is essentially Chunga's Revenge minus Flo and Eddie (okay, so that warrants a sigh of relief) and much of the ideas, replacing them with horns and synthesizers and some pretty conventional sounding musical shit that Frank must've been able to dash off in one particularly extended trip to the shitter. The only tunes of consequence are 'I'm the Slime', where Zappa whispers out a nasty attack on television (not undeserved, though) in his 'Central Scrutinizer' voice he'd later wear the fuck out of on Joe's Garage over a fonky, fonky groove that'd make Funkadelic wake up and take notice, and maybe 'Zomby Woof', a stupidly over the top song about having a 'Zomby Woof' hiding behind your eyes. Yet that's an entertaining one, while the other 'over-the-top' songs to be found are just fucking idiotic. 'Fifty-Fifty' features vocals by Ricky Lancelotti that sound more like a three-pack-a-day smoker unsuccessfully clearing their trachea of old filters and various gallons of tar and phlegm while talking about being 'ka-poot' and 'not cute'. Awww, whatever. Enough of this shit from Zappa and I've become immune. He'd best be providing me with some cool melody or groove or other, because the solos alone haven't cut it since Hot Rats and the lyrics haven't made it since Absolutely Free. Being 'wacky' just ain't gonna flip my Ford Explorer, if you 'Squiggy' my 'Lenny' and I think you do. The over-the-toppedness don't stop there, though. He's got a song about 'Dirty Love', actually containing a fair groove and some cool lines, that destroys any coolness in a little puff of smoke when it 'climaxes' with the antagonist (a female!) receiving oral pleasure from a poodle, which it described by the lines 'THE POODLE BITES! THE POODLE CHEWS IT!' repeated over and over until Frank finishes his guitar solo, or thirteen hours, whichever comes first. Fucking STUPID, but not even as bad as 'Dinah Moe Humm', another extended song wherein Frank bets a girl 40 bucks he can't make her orgasm, and then is only able to succeed by having sex with her retarded sister right next to her. Whatever. The thing is, musically, Phish took their entire first decade of material from this song alone. You heard Phish, right? Their unison-line, faux-funky, doopy doo white-boy jitterbug music? It comes from fucking 'Dinah Moe Humm', even the laid-back, Vermont-ite, hemp-eating nonsinging, straight from this song! Man! Except Phish wrote songs about mice getting lost in the forest and Zappa wrote his about 'applying circular motion to her sugar plum'. Hey, that's not funny, that's just REALLY REALLY JUVENILE! Oh, but Frank gets serious again on the last one by writing a six-minute tune that sounds almost exactly like 'Dinah Moe Humm' about moving to Montana and becoming a Dental Floss Tycoon. Yeah, like I ought to take this guy seriously anymore. And I think charging $18.99 for a Pink CD is completely justified. And I think Ellen DeGeneres is the funniest thing since Caddyshack. And I think eating handfuls of lukewarm, salted, buttered pecans is something that wouldn't make me puke my guts out so hard neighborhood dogs would howl in sympathy at my pain.

Capn's Final Word: Frank substitutes dirty tricks and dirty jokes for decent songs, though his band pulls it together at times.

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Apostrophe - Video Arts 1974

Finally, something decent from the mind of Minolta, except the title symbol sure looks like a woman's Oval of Hors d'Oeurve doesn't it? Well, all that stupid lockerroom humor is pretty much shoved aside by a good dose of stupid toilet humor, with which Apostrophe sold a gazillion and became Zappa's biggest record ever, at least until that one with 'Valley Girl' on it. Of course, the kids like songs about pee, and you gotta give in to one lowest common denominator or another...either you write songs about peepees and dog tinkle or you write songs about love and devotion Either way yer selling out, man. Okay, well, anyhow, here we're presented with the story of Nanook the Eskimo, and his fateful encounter with the fur trapper bent on hitting his favorite baby seal over the head with a lead filled snowshoe in plain sight of ol' Nook, who ain't too happy about the turn of events. Needless to say, conflict ensues, along with much hilarity involving rubbing yellow snow and doggy-doo snowcones in each others' eyes, finding a cure in the form of some really great pancakes, then seeking out cosmic redemption with a faulty guru with a newspaper on his head before jamming with Jack Bruce and getting really smelly feet and finally ending up with more poodles biting and chewing on it. Eh? Well, if you didn't get it, I'm certainly not going to explain it to you. Maybe you should reevaluate your intelligence and masculinity against that which is required of the average Frank Zappa listener, and then ask yourself...do you really want to be AVERAGE? Or do you aspire to something grander, that which awaits the person who devotes his LIFE and FREE TIME to figuring out just what the fuck Frank Zappa was trying to tell us with The Yellow Snow Suite.

Or you can just shrug and say 'I dunno'. which is cool with me, too. Umm...wanna get some tacos?

Trying to figure out what Zappa's on about is more effort than I've got left in my good nature reserves. I will say this, though: this story doesn't bother me, and the minute it begins to lose its narrative thread irretrievably ('round about the time the pancakes come into play), it starts to rev up musically. Generally, Apostrophe is a huge improvement over Francis' recent work, it's the most memorable work he's put out since the 60's, and parts are even slightly he-he funny. Well, maybe not really, but it's certainly got more wit than a lot of the non-instrumental horsesnot Zappa'd been releasing, for sure. Musically, it really ain't much more than your average Zappa stage-banter skit dealy-bop with a couple of added solo sections, but I sure would rather listen to Zappa spin cute little lines about crossing the tundra and making cute references to the poodles of yore than to find some new way of pigeonholing anyone not lucky enough to be a male as either a frigid mouse or a skanky whore. I dunno, maybe girls weren't so great back in the 1970's, but I'd doubt that having looked at the pages of a 1976 Penthouse I bought several years ago. Maybe a little unsettling in the personal shaving regard, but no less likely to want to start a Fortune 500 company, go naked skydiving, cook a four course Tuscan feast, and then make sweet fuck on the living room couch until the OU basketball game comes on, when it's time to go do the taxes and knit a sweater. Just with natural boobs. Now isn't that what we all want in a woman?

Okay, whatever. There's more interesting excursions into Funkadelic territory here with 'Cosmik Debris'. Doesn't that even share a song title with the ol' Delics? I can't remember, other than some brain cell refugee of the last binge drinking episode is crying out in it's little brain cell voice that it's true. Aww, man, I gotta stop huffing that compressed air I keep to keep my PC monitor free of dust and dried sperm and try to conserve whatever brain cells I have left. If I'm not careful, I'll torch my Z cells just like that woman in The Man with Two Brains and will end up having to have sex with Steve Martin. Eeew!

When he's not funkin' up the funk chute with his big honkin' funker, he's jamming it out with Jack Bruce on the rockin' San Francisco instrumental 'Apostrophe', a man who has never gotten over losing the lead guitar player tryout in Cream to Eric Clapton. Dude, play some low notes every once in awhile. That's why it's called a bass and not a fart noise machine. No, really, there may be a bass playing somewhere, allegedly by Jack Bruce, formerly of Cream and his own junkie-haven solo band, but effectively there's no t one iota of bass sound on this song, there's just a fuzzed out mess of tangled melody lines made from Jack and Frank that goes from playing a darn sneaky riff to some derivative Jefferson Airplane-sounding jam-band smoke. I half love it and half hate it, and there's absolutely no reason it's included here other than to include a rockin' piece so the fans don't smash this album as 'too weak', which it otherwise is. There's not much rockin' (or anything else) going on during the first side, which is to be expected because Zappa's in blabbermouth, make-the-music-fit-the-lyrics mode, and the second side has its doo-wop soul takeoff 'Uncle Remus', it's blues reduction 'Stinkfoot' (which mostly sucks the chrome right off my Buick, you know?), and I still can't figure out what to make of 'Excentrifugal Force' other than there's so little attempt at producing an original melody, or any melodic structure at all, that I wonder why Frank didn't just leave this as a synth-noise track, which he so obviously wanted to. Commercial pressures, I guess. That's what happens when you start releasing albums that go to Number 28 and all, you start selling out faster than Republican Senate candidates at a gun lobby rally.

So, yeah, Apostrophe's a mess, but so was Absolutely Free. Okay, so this is no Jack Kennedy, but I'm proud to say it's MY nominee for Best Frank Zappa Album of 1974 from the Dog Piss Party. A few more records like this one and Frank can rule the world again, or at least rule the Dr. Demento show with more songs about urine-soaked snow. Today Pittsburgh, tomorrow THE WORLD!!

Capn's Final Word: It's silly, it's juvenile, its about as well organized as a Chilean presidential election, but it works. A silk purse from a sow's arsehole?

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Roxy and Elsewhere - Video Arts 1974

Dude, more live album stuff from Frank, but for those of you a little reticent of stepping into another big, steaming pile of Fillmore '71 or rolling around in the stinking, rotting puddle that was Just Another Band From L.A., take heart. This one's got a lot more emphasis on the band's James Brown-like dime-stopping, heart-throbbing musical shifts and soloing than jokes about poop and 30 minute songs about mountains, though Frank still prefers to fill his albums with more Saturday Night Live than Saturday Night Fever, if you 'download' my 'Windows 2000 source code', and I think you do. Hey, the skits here aren't any funnier than they ever are, but I gotta admit I smiled when I first heard the one about smoking a high school diploma to get high, and breathed easily when I found out 'Penguin in Bondage' was only going to get a short spoken word intro treatment and then become a good song with an irritating chorus ('A Penguin in Bondage, boing! OH YEAH! OH YEAHHRRGHH!! OH YARHGEHDH!!') rather than get a bad intro section before becoming a long irritating song with an irritating chorus, which is how it usually works out with these things. Have you gotten the drift yet that Frank Zappa's about as consistent as the Los Angeles Police Department's race record and has murdered about just as many black people? He just keeps firing shit at the audience, at random, just to see what sticks, and then doesn't ever fire that same shit again. Now, hell, I'm now gonna contradict myself (as opposed to contra-Dicking myself, just so's y' know. President Nixon was really good at doing that, by the way. I think he was on some sort of Olympic squad for it or something.) and say that without the boring vocal sections, the instrumental ones just wouldn't have the same rip'n'snort that they do here. Maybe that's why many people claim Roxy is some of Frank's best recorded live work - to me, a claim akin to saying Thief is the best Tangerine Dream album or Mexico is the best James Michener book. Is it really humanly possible to test all that's available and make a judgement? And can we trust the sanity of anyone who completes this test? Why not just eat a taco instead?) Frank gets nostalgic for cheap old monster movies on 'Cheepnis', and shows his appreciation by staging a rockband simulation of one, this time once again starring that goddamn Overnite Sensation poodle (fucking continuity again), he's got his penguin in bondage, he's got his nothing with his college degree, and those are the three jokes on the album. Har.

Dude, all I knows is that Roxy and Elsewhere TEARS IT UP on the instrumental parts, which is exactly what I'm going to be skipping ahead to the next time I have a chance to put this album on, which'll be sometime in 2012 maybe. Or right after I finish my 1910 Fruitgum Compant reviews, whichever comes first. The good part cranks up with 'Village of the Sun', which is probably one of the first totally normal Zappa pop songs I can remember hearing since the Ruben and the Jets album. It's not a love song, sure (I think it's about LA, but I could be wrong there) but that soulful vocal by George Duke sure makes it sound fit for ol' AM radio, though. And the best part is that it delightfully morphs, rather than just lurching, into 'Echidna's Arf (Of You)', which is given a right tear by the heavily studio-enhanced band. 'Don't You Ever Wash That Thing' follows, and sounds even more studio enhanced, but who cares? Count it as a continuation of the Grand Wazoo album if you don’t like the idea of them fixing up the live tapes in the studio. Hell, with Frank, what's to say what IS live and what ISN'T, or even what year certain shit was recorded. The drums on this record could very well be from 1979, the guitar solo from 1989, and some horns done with the Synclavier in 1984. Only the booklet says 1974, and I wouldn't be trusting that, now would I? Not with the state the world economy and the Catholic Church is in, I'm not. 'Son of Orange County' is another NORMAL song, another great one (I could live without the monkey noises on the chorus, of course, but if I were to exclude every Frank Zappa album that has a monkey noise on it, I'd only have like 38 rather than 79 of 'em), and one of Frank's more moving guitar solos full of lonnnnggggg, messy passages that tumble and soar, fucking right on. 'More Trouble Every Day' don't sound like the one I remember, but I still like it, and 'Be Bop Tango' wraps up the album in a Waka/Jawaka way: lots of swinging pure jazz, lots of trumpet soloing, some stupid audience participation dance sections that don't make any sense without the visuals, and lots and lots of reasons to dig Zappa the instrumentalist.

Now, with editing (not overdubbing), this album could've reached an A-, but I just ain't seeing it as of yet. The skits lose their lemony shine after just a couple of go-arounds, the studio polish is a bit unnerving and sometimes too easily recognized, and there's some dead wood throughout. But hell, there's also enough heavy jamming, complete with wah guitar, that my impression of this album is very positive. You could certainly pick worse places to get your Initial Taste of Zappa, but this has got to be one of the better balanced ones. Balanced between the funny/serious, balanced between the vocal and instrumental, and between the accessible and noisy. Maybe, on Zappa's terms, it IS one of his best.

Capn's Final Word: Strong instrumentals outweigh rather flimsy hardy-har. Still better when he keeps his yap shut.

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One Size Fits All - Video Arts 1975

So, would you rather have your mid-70's Zappa juvenile and disgusting, or boring and pointless? One Size is like Overnite Sensation minus the pussy and bestiality jokes, except boringer. After several, and by sever I mean at least a fucking dozen or so, trips through this album and all I take out of it is the fact that Zappa's learned how to use an envelope filter on 'Inca Roads' (sort of an automatic wah-wah, but different), and that lead singer Chester Thompson mistakenly thinks he's just taken the vocals job for Steely Dan.  In fact, there's a super-Dan flavor to this entire mess, what with all the jazzy hard rock flim-flam and smoooooooth white boy cokehead vocalizing going on, but then I release that Steely Dan, at least most of the time, knew how to produce melodies in addition to fancy chord sequences.  Frank's done continued down the road started with his Waka/Jawaka and Grand Wazoo albums, pushing ever closer to toothless lite-jazz stylings more suited to a department store lingerie section than a freak out in a burnt out LA basement. 'Inca Roads', particularly, seems to exist only to give Frank and George Duke the chance to flash their new guitar- and synthtones while acting just as smarmy as the least respectable mid-70's technique-rockers like Jeff Beck and such.  The ensemble writing is now so flowery and convoluted as to be sickeningly sweet, and lacks drive and the gripping coherence that made Zappa's best jazz-rock material so yummy to the tummy.  As I said, it's all completely inoffensive and a good deal more accessible for the unsuspecting Eagles fan who wanders into such things blind, but for us folks whose Zappa club memberships have now gotten silver and gold stars attached, it's about as satisfying as shotgunning a Sharp's. 

The better moments here either recall glories far, far in the past (like 'Po-jama People' and ol' 'Plastic People' from Absolutely Free...hell, couldn't he at least have added another adjective or used a synonym for 'People'? Dammit, it wouldn't be so obvious he's running out of ideas if he'd named it 'Hitlerite Po-Jama Folks') or are so innocuous and inoffensively musical, like 'Sofa #1' and '2', which, for the life of me, remind me of some bombastic Elton John passages from the likes of Brown Dirt Cowboy. Zappa sounding like Elton John? Hell, I guess its not THAT much of a stretch....they both use big chords and big bands, and their lyrics are similarly incongruous, but man...I wonder how Frank would've reacted to that kind of comparison, eh? There's a bit more heavy-rockin' on One Size than what we're used to hearing, lots of distorted guitars and big, slabby horn charts, but it all seems wasted since Frank insists on keeping everything from rocking out. 'Florentine Pogen' doesn't work as a Frank Zappa tune because it sounds too normal, but suffers through so many tempo and time changes as to stifle any rocking groove that might pop up for air from time to time. 'San Ber'dino' is Frank doing roots rock, but as awfully as he ever does since he's opposed, on a genetic level, to playing in straight 4/4 time that good roots-rocking demands. It all comes across like Grand Funk put through a blender, and before your revisionist, ironic 90's motherfucker self decides that sounds cool, I'd like to remind you that Grand Funk usually SUCKED LIKE A CRACKHEAD HOWLER MONKEY.

Perhaps he was attempting to 'reach out' to his newfound audience who fell in love with songs about pee and girls who couldn't come, but I think he was running dry. This album is distressingly slickified and glossified, when all it really needed was a few more weeks spent churning up some more memorable melodies. I mean, hell, if I want to listen to mid-70's rock like this, I'll go elsewhere...to someone who can really ROCK (Aerosmith), really get SMARMY (Steely Dan), really SUCK A GOOD COCK (Linda Ronstadt), really SELL ME SOME GOOD DRUGS (Fabian), CHANGE THE OIL IN MY CAR (Lobo), or BEAT THE FUCK OUT OF THAT FAG IN THE SAILOR'S CAP (Tennille). I'm just simply not going to go here.

Capn's Final Word: Frank gets strictly commercial, but we discover he ain't got it in him.

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Victor     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Chester Thompson ain't the lead singer! He's the drummer! ;)
The singers are: Napoleon Murphy Brock, Frank Zappa and George Duke.

fliprollem  fliprollem@yahoo.com   Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Zappa's apex, the ultimate demonstration of his rock/orchestral compositional skills.  Yeah, i could do without a couple of the numbers, but damn it, Marge, "Inca Roads" is a flippin' masterpiece.

Matt      Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: And here is where we come to a BIG disagreement.....

Sorry Capn, but I have to strongly disagree with this one.  This album kicks butt from front to back, not one weak track on here.  I frankly don't know if this is Zappa's best since I haven't heard any of his output after 1975, but I throughly enjoy almost every minute of One Size Fits All.  The best song is, of course, the immortal Inca Roads, which has arguably the best guitar solo Zappa ever put on tape.  Can't Afford No Shoes is another winner, a sort of half tough blues rocking, half trademark Zappa weirdness song that's rather short but still funny (although it pokes fun at homeless people).  Other strong numbers include San Berdino, both of the Sofas (the latter featuring Frank singing in German), Po-jama People (featuring another awesome solo courtesy of Frank) the humurous interlude Evelyn, A Modified Dog, and Florentine Pogen.  I'm not a huge fan of Andy; it's alright, but fairly weak compared to the rest of the record and is the only song preventing this from being an A+.  Still, this is one of the best Zappa albums front to back that I've heard so far from the guy, so it gets an A from me.  Highly recommended.

shniggens     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: May be the most accessible Zappa album besides "You Are What You Is".  Inca Roads . . . a masterpiece for sure.

 


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