Frank Zappa: Classic or Dud?

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He's hardly ever been mentioned here, but in my humble opinion Frank Zappa was one of the towering figures in late-twentieth century American music. He was an impeccable, perfectionistic musician responsible for some of the most amazing and ahead-of-its-time music. From his first album ("Freak Out" in 1966) to his sadly-early death in 1993, he continually pushed the musical envelope throughout amazingly prolific career, combining elements of rock, jazz, avant-garde music concrete and even modern classical music (Varèse, Stravinsky, von Webern, etc.). Lyrically, Zappa was one of the most amazingly astute social commentators on American life (God, what a field day he would have had a _field day_ with the imbecile Chimp in the White House now!)

On the other hand, some contend that Zappa was a musical con-artist, a pretentious artiste peddling scatological, misanthropic lyrics. Or, as one of my friends put it, "Zappa fans are just pretentious Dead Heads."

So, what do you think?

Tadeusz Suchodolski, Monday, 14 May 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I own a couple of albums and know some hardcore fans -- generally, though, I find him easier to regard than to enjoy. I won't doubt his compositional range, but even so.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 14 May 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

the fact that he would have a _field day_ with george w. just proves zappa's tendency for cheap, easy humour. that said, his music is often gleefully hilarious and i thoroughly love 'apostrophe' to the point that i'm just now regretting leaving it off my forty albums. every song on that is fantastic.

ethan, Monday, 14 May 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Weird that this should come up because I've just been contemplating Zappa again after picking up used copies of You Are What You Is and One Size Fits All the other day. I'd have to say classic just because he release so much good stuff, mostly in the early days. One Size Fits All fits this, as do the aforementioned Apostrophe (though I preferred Overnite Sensation just a bit more, it's pretty close), Freak Out, Absolutely Free, Hot Rats, Lumpy Gravy and We're Only In it For the Money...virtually no filler on any of these.

On the other hand, stuff released in the late seventies and through the eighties was often fairly puzzling. Musically speaking, it was incredibly well-played, and the lyrics had a bitter sting to them that you couldn't help but admire a good chunk of the time. By this time, though, he got into a really nasty groove that went past obvious satire to the point where you weren't quite sure that he wasn't being serious anymore: how many times can you release an album filled to the gills with songs about big breasts, blow jobs, drugs, and various other degeneracies until any claims to satire are dismissed? In a lot of ways it became a one-note dirty joke, and while it remained clever it became redundant and increasingly transparent. Moments of brilliance were still there: Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch was actually quite solid if you jettisoned the novelty hit single. The Yellow Shark proved that the man knew how to compose music (though Jazz From Hell had already proved that, it was a bit on the sterile side). More than anything, this became a period where Zappa was more notable just for the sheer amount of product he cranked out. That's not enough to change my vote, though. Still classic.

Sean Carruthers, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

You know, Zappa is a classic to me, but not as *holy crap* amazing as I once thought. People really give him too much credit for his weird music. To me, it seems natural to write that sort of crap. It comes from not being able to focus very well, or not wanting to bother, perhaps as a sort of gimmick! You'll notice his stripped down songs on "Zoot Allures", "Freak Out" and "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" are booooring. He's not very good at writing real (what most people would consider "normal") songs. "Cheapnis" is one exception, though it is full of weird changes and "humorous" subject matter, it does feel like a good rock song.

If you bother to learn how to write music, write a big, run-on sentence like Zappa did so you can just sit back and hire super-professional musicians to play it later, as a challenge to their virtuosity and a feather in all of your caps! And then mix and match your paragraphs, so you never have to start a new book (since it's such a mess to begin with) and have people call your entire body of work a brilliant intertwined "concept"!

Music that is composeurish is rather dull, unless it is actually goodlike Mozart, Vivaldi or Beethoven, when the orchestration is so good, you don't notice the minutia unless you concentrate and are then blown away on a whole different level. Zappa falls way short of that. Everything is "hey, listen to this little weird thing" *insert cowbell rattle followed by kazoo*. (This reminds me of Metallica, by the way; I can hear the metronome ticking in the background. That's bad music! Is that supposed to be emotion? Hmmm...)

I prefer the Grateful Dead to most Zappa, with the exception of "Apostrophe" & "Sheik Yerbouti". Some others that are okay, but by no means what the fans make it out to be, are "The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life", "Yellow Shark", "Joe's Garage" and "You Are What You Is". I also have "Live At The Ritz" (or something?) that I never listen to. It is some of the most boring shit I own, except for the one track "I Am The Slime" which I don't have on any other recording... Which album has "Zombie Woof"? That'sa good one, actually.

Anyway, I think what I'm trying to say is that it's a lot harder to make a cohesive song that has some emotion rather than filling a music sheet with black dots and having Steve Vai and Anton Figg play it for you while you play composer genius. The main guy from Jethro Tull is like that, too, but I think he actually has a reason to be, since it's not 1/2 just free improvisation and studio overdubs.

Of course, if you are a fan of his music, you'll be ridiculously offended by the notion that he's nota super genius, even if you have no musical knowledge or skill yourself as a source to draw upon for judgement, and tell me to piss off or something for daring to compare my unfamous non-music-reading sensibilities to the god of avant garde. He definitely gets tons of points for being first. Who knows if I would be able to lay on a couch, imagining constantly changing music patterns if he hadn't shown me how (or did he)? I do it all the time, but it drives me nuts because songs that wander off into insanity are boring. Playing simple and well is difficult. I think Zappa released too much of too little value (except to those fanatics of course). But, I still think he's a classic for the good stuff he did put out and for trying to do something interesting (even if not really very funny at all, just weird and kinda perverted) with music.

, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

'zomby woof' and 'i am the slime' are on the same album, 'overnite sensation', which is really great. buy it.

hey, nobody's mentioned 'hot rats' yet, perhaps his greatest album?

ethan, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I did! One of my faves of the early period.

Sean Carruthers, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

There is (or was recently) an article on The Wire website by a writer who really hated Zappa, and I had never heard anybody who really hated him before. While I really like a lot of stuff like "Weasels Ripped My Flesh", "Uncle Meat", "Apostrophe", and even some parts of "Sheik Yerbouti", a lot of the criticisms hit home for me. He really did end up being a lot of the things he parodied. Too bad, really.

Oh, check out his autobiography. It's got some good laughs. Spoo!

Dave M., Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I think Hot Rats is boring.

Interestingly I don't really feel qualified to respond to this thread any more, despite owning a load of Zappa. I haven't listened to any of it in more than a year.

I think my favorites used to be Apostrophe'/Overnite Sensation (esp. "Montana" - "I think I'll raise me up some DENNIL FLOSS"), the guitar box (esp. the track with the bouzouki), parts of Joe's Garage (mostly for the guitar sound, cf. 'Watermelon in Easter Hay', and because I get an enormous kick out of hearing the Ceeeeentral Scrooooaaaatinizer), One Size Fits All, much of Zoot Allures and Lather (I get an infantile kick out of the Stravinsky namedrop on "Titties 'n' Beer", but that's just a perk).

Josh, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Utter, utter, utter, utter...dud. One of the most overrated artists of all time. Penman's excellent hatchet-job in The Wire has already been mentioned, he's say it all, have nothing to add.

Omar, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Was it him who named his kid 'Moon Unit'? If so, dud.

DG, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Total DUD - "the single most untalented man in rock" or whatever it was Lou Reed once said (tho' I notice Louis kissed and made up once FZ was safely brown bread...) Ugly, unfunny lyrics, pointless musicianly grandstanding, total lack of quality control, etc. etc. Tiny bonus points for 'Trout Mask Replica', Wild Man Fischer, the alb cover to 'Weasels Ripped My Flesh', the first side of Hot Rats and the title 'Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue'. And that's it.

Andrew L, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

IT'S THE BLIMP 2 -

- following the awesome tribute night to zappa and beefheart at THE CLUNY - where was the fuckin' WIRE ? - another night is planned on thursday 17th may at newcastle arts centre - featuring ex- zappa/beefheart drummer jimmy carl black and the muffin men, zoviet france, hounds of the hill and many others - zappa and beefheart classics fucked over bigstyle - like susan george in straw dogs !

geordie racer, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

i'm not really into the idea of zappa. too much 'virtuosity' and 'cleverness'. and from the early 70s onwards, i'm imagining too many guitar twiddlybits?

but. having said that, Peaches In Regalia is very good, doesn't seem forced like a lot of his stuff (although the rest of Hot Rats is booring)

Absolutely Free is 'wacky' and 'clever' and 'over the top', but on that album it actually works very well, is a great album

everything else i'm kind of indifferent to.

what was the teddy & his patches thing, erm, Suzy Creamcheese? that was good.

gareth, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Actually, Moon Unit still happily calls herself Moon Unit — ditto Dweezil, ditto Achmed — which points up the absolutely least dud side of Zappa: his happy personal life, relationship with kids etc (compare/contrast Zowie Bowie = Joey Jones, or whatever). Plus she was central to the only FZ artefact I've unforcedly actually liked (as opposed to guardedly "appreciated"): the Valley Girl single.

Tadeusz says astute, but I've never thought FZ was over-and-above astute — just, y'know, run-of-the-mill astute. Never heard an FZ commentary that I hadn't already heard elsewhere (not nec. heard elsewhere in pop /rock, but in Letterman or Alex Cockburn, or just somewhere... ): I think the prob. is he NEVER turned his laser-eye on himself and the wackness of his dreams/fears. "Astute" somewhat excepted, all the good words TS uses are true — but (to me) so what. FZ is just too guarded, so that's how he makes me.

mark s, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Wow, this place moves fast. Set this thread up a week ago, and it's at the bottom of the heap already. Hmmm.

Anyway, my own thoughts: I tend to like Zappa's earlier stuff most (just about everything he did with the Mothers of Invention), plus a great deal of his late seventies/early eighties post-Mothers stuff. Faves would have to be Apostrophe (as someone upthread said, so gleeful), Freak Out!, Hot Rats, Joe's Garage, and Läther (because it's so over-the-top, has all of the best bits from Sheikh Yerbouti and Orchestral Favorites, and that cow on the cover with the Zappa goatee-and-beard). Guilty favorites would be Sheikh Yerbouti (great pop songs and awesome guitarwork mixed with pure wank and pointlessly stupid lyrics) and Thing Fish (mainly because it brings together everything that was good and was bad about Zappa). Largely agree that he tapered off towards the end, when he was releasing albums largely because he could (and because he'd gotten that damn Synclavier doing music by himself, without anyone or anything to keep him or his sketchier ideas in check).

As for the astuteness -- I guess some of that's from my having read a lot of his interviews as well as his autobiography. His lyrics are a grab-bag of the funny, the astute, the obscene and the flat-out stupid ... even he admitted that a lot of his lyrics and plots (esp. Joe's Garage) were stupid.

Tadeusz Suchodolski, Monday, 21 May 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

one year passes...
Can I just say quickly that Zappa is cod weirdo pseudo-freak out obscurist balderdash for muso's with no soul to wank over whilst the rest of us bite our tongues whilst searching frantically for a tune or vibe to grip. Insincere rubbish written by someone who had a deep musical understanding but not the wit to realise it.

'Hot Rats' is good though, and is it 'Suzy Cream Cheese' (?). Actually, Zap ain't so bad. I mean the guy did twiddle the knobs on 'Troutmask' right? It's just he's so fucking odd; but for the sake of being odd, you know. Whereas with Loonheart, you know that he is genuinely fucking out there, Zappa is always trying so damn hard.

With this is mind: Dud.

Roger Fascist, Monday, 29 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

how could you not like frank? he looks like a hippie. Classic for that.

JUlio Desouza, Monday, 29 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Disclaimer: I have a very spotty knowledge of Frank Zappa's catalogue, and most of what I have heard has been heard over the radio or while visiting friends. I have a sense of frustration with Zappa. He seems to have all of this talent of some sort, but why does he choose to make so much awful music with it? His social commentary doesn't impress me too much, though I guess it meant more when I was in high school. The scatological stuff I've heard (e.g. Joe's Garage) bores me. Still, like many non-fans above, I have some favorite songs. I like "You Are What You Is," the song, quite a bit. I like some of what I have heard from Freakout. More dud than classic, to me, but I haven't heard enough to make a serious judgment. (I've heard enough to know that I'm not interested enough to want to spend money on any of his CDs though.)

DeRayMi, Monday, 29 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

True story: about 12 years ago I exchanged a series of tapes with a work colleague / fellow music lover (like you do). At first, he couldn't get his head around rap at all, but the Public Enemy stuff clicked with him and he suddenly got really excited about hip hop. Turning to his own collection to try and find a parallel, he came up with ... a Zappa mixtape! (which I've still got)

Jeff W, Monday, 29 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I recently bought "Strictly Commerical: The Best of Frank Zappa" mostly because I've had "Let's Make The Water Turn Black" in my head since I first heard it. Quite disappointed with the rest of the album and the version of LMTWTB is different from the one I heard which was instrumental with trumpets replacing the singing and was impossibly ace. The rest of his stuff is hit and miss. I rode home stoned the other day with "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" on my walkman and found myself laughing uncontrollably hard at the lyrics. Listneing back the next day, I found it hard to see why they were so funny at the time.

dog latin, Sunday, 4 August 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

four years pass...

So... Nobody here has a sense of humor unless they're STONED??

All of you hate fun and sweet sweet guitar solos. REVIVE!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssjVez9UA4w

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ew3Dq82Q1bQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCG4Caw7IIc

Andi Mags, Monday, 28 May 2007 04:34 (eleven years ago) Permalink

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_i_HVBD9ks

Alternate '73 version of Montana with better video quality but lower sound. KILLER solo.

Andi Mags, Monday, 28 May 2007 04:50 (eleven years ago) Permalink

ahhhhh thanks

cutty, Monday, 28 May 2007 04:50 (eleven years ago) Permalink

whoa i just clicked on that "last zappa interview" video--really sad

cutty, Monday, 28 May 2007 04:53 (eleven years ago) Permalink

fuckin ian underwood!

cutty, Monday, 28 May 2007 04:57 (eleven years ago) Permalink

I haven't brought myself to watch that yet, but there are 5 sections of the Zappa bio from BBC on there too, which I highly recommend.

Andi Mags, Monday, 28 May 2007 05:11 (eleven years ago) Permalink

That video of "You are what you is" made the 8 year old me extremely nauseous when it originally aired.

Sparkle Motion, Monday, 28 May 2007 16:08 (eleven years ago) Permalink

four years pass...

I just read about this morning--no recollection of it playing any festivals here, and I can't find a listing on IMDB.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7figLnhYZ44

clemenza, Sunday, 4 March 2012 13:48 (six years ago) Permalink

”both” is the answer to the this thread

the wild eyed boy from soundcloud (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Sunday, 4 March 2012 18:41 (six years ago) Permalink

haha, otm

Steamtable Willie (WmC), Sunday, 4 March 2012 19:49 (six years ago) Permalink

So much material that there are extremes of both.

c'est ne pas un car wash (snoball), Sunday, 4 March 2012 20:59 (six years ago) Permalink

three months pass...

Full catalogue to be reissued by Universal this year, apparently including some new mastering jobs. (By Joe Travers? No details given.)

My first question is whether Gail and the ZFT retains the right to keep on mining the extensive vaults and putting stuff out themselves.

Biff Wellington (WmC), Tuesday, 12 June 2012 21:30 (six years ago) Permalink

hmmm, i seem to recall that the mixes of a lot of those 90s reissues had been futzed w/ by Zappa? wonder if these are the "original" mixes or whatever.

tylerw, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 21:43 (six years ago) Permalink

RIP Rykodisc.

Electro-Shock Rory (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 12 June 2012 21:47 (six years ago) Permalink

I hope they're the "unfutzed" versions.

EZ Snappin, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 21:50 (six years ago) Permalink

I dunno - the original version of "We're Only In It For the Money" is pretty horrible, really

frogbs, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 21:53 (six years ago) Permalink

sonically, I mean

frogbs, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 21:54 (six years ago) Permalink

Would like somebody to explain me the difference between remixing and remastering in the context of this news. When FZ did the CD releases of Ruben and the Jets and WOIIFTM with new bass & drum tracks, it's safe to say he did new mixes. There are fairly radical differences in LP and CD mixes of Hot Rats. But I imagine that most of the CD catalogue consisted of digital transfer of the original vinyl masters, right, without much fiddling around?

Biff Wellington (WmC), Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:06 (six years ago) Permalink

You have it right, Remastering is tracking down the best possible format of the final mixes of an album (in Zappa's case probably 1/2 or 1/4 inch analog tape reels and adding equalisation and/or compression & limiting to get the best overall sound and dynamics onto whichever format the recording is going to end up on. Of course the potential abuse of the process is a big issue in the digital age.

Remixing is loading the original unmixed master tapes onto whatever the relevant playback machine would be and repeating the process of mixing the album from scratch.

MaresNest, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:15 (six years ago) Permalink

The regular cds of Freak Out have a bunch of digital echo Frank added in the 80s. The reissue entitled MOFO has the og mix.

Electro-Shock Rory (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:18 (six years ago) Permalink

I remember reading that he apparently dicked about with recordings other than Hot Rats and WOIIFTM too, that's where the UMRK Approved master tag came in.

MaresNest, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:19 (six years ago) Permalink

I dunno - the original version of "We're Only In It For the Money" is pretty horrible, really

the version on cd with added slap bass is a whole new level of awful though

zappi, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:38 (six years ago) Permalink

hmmm, i seem to recall that the mixes of a lot of those 90s reissues had been futzed w/ by Zappa? wonder if these are the "original" mixes or whatever.

"futzed" is putting it mildly.

Reissues

In 1984, Zappa prepared a remix of Cruising with Ruben & the Jets for its compact disc reissue and the vinyl box set The Old Masters I. The remix featured new rhythm tracks recorded by bassist Arthur Barrow and drummer Chad Wackerman, much as the 1984 remix of We're Only in It for the Money had featured. Zappa stated "The master tapes for Ruben and the Jets were in better shape, but since I liked the results on We're Only in it For the Money, I decided to do it on Ruben too. But those are the only two albums on which the original performances were replaced. I thought the important thing was the material itself."[2]

After the remixing was announced, a $13 million lawsuit was filed against Zappa by Jimmy Carl Black, Bunk Gardner and Don Preston, who were later joined by Ray Collins, Art Tripp and Motorhead Sherwood, increasing the claim to $16.4 million, stating that they had received no royalties from Zappa since 1969.[2]

In 2009, the original mix of the album was released as part of a compilation entitled Greasy Love Songs.[6]

Tarfumes The Escape Goat, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:40 (six years ago) Permalink

zappa was so nuts about that sort of thing, it seems. i remember reading something about the creation of "shut and play your guitar" (i think) where he would put guitar solos from, say, 1974 into a recording from 1981.

tylerw, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:43 (six years ago) Permalink

He would lift guitar tracks from live recordings and drop them into studio based stuff, he did a whole track by layering elements from different recordings, Tink Runs Amok? He called it Xenochrony iirc.

MaresNest, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:51 (six years ago) Permalink

XENOCHRONY! Exciting. Bands that never were.

tylerw, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:53 (six years ago) Permalink

"Rubber Shirt," from Sheik Yerbouti:

SPECIAL NOTE: The bass part is extracted from
a four track master of a performance from Goteborg,
Sweden 1974 which I had Patrick O"Hearn overdub on
a medium tempo guitar solo track in 4/4. The noted
chosen were more or less specified during the overdub
session, and so it was not completely an improvised
"bass solo." A year and a half later, the bass track was
peeled off the Swedish master and transferred to one
track of another studio 24 track master for a slow song
in 11/4. The result of this experimental re-synchronization
(the same technique was used on the Zoot Allures
album in "Friendly Little Finger") is the piece you are
listening to. All of the sensitive, interesting interplay
between the bass and drums never actually happened ...
also note, the guitar solo section of the song "Yo' Mama"
on side four was done the same way.

One of my favorite Sheik Yerbouti tracks.

Biff Wellington (WmC), Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:59 (six years ago) Permalink

I was just to talking to a big Zappaphile firend of mine, and he mentioned that some of the other "futzing" was undoing vintage edit jobs done to fit lp time constraints. He cited these two (and was only partially wrong):

Wiki on Hot Rats:

In 1987 Zappa remixed Hot Rats for re-issue on Compact Disc. "Willie the Pimp" is edited differently during the introduction and guitar solo. "The Gumbo Variations" has 4 minutes of additional material including an introduction and guitar and saxophone solo sections which were cut from the vinyl LP version. Piano and flute which were buried the LP mix of "Little Umbrellas" are prominent on the CD. Other differences include significant changes to the overall ambiance and dynamic range. The original mix was reissued in 2009 as a limited edition audiophile LP by Classic Records.

Wiki on Weasels...:

The CD version of the album features different versions of "Didja Get Any Onya?" and "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask", which featured music edited out of the LP versions. Some of this extra music was used (in a different studio recording) as the backing track for "The Blimp" on the Captain Beefheart album Trout Mask Replica, produced by Frank Zappa.

Electro-Shock Rory (C. Grisso/McCain), Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:16 (six years ago) Permalink

the version on cd with added slap bass is a whole new level of awful though

― zappi

I was trying to youtube some songs off it a few years back, and the only versions that came up were from this, which I hadn't been aware of before, and I was seriously appalled. Especially since the original WOIIFTM is one of my all-time faves.

I wish to incorporate disco into my small business (chap), Wednesday, 13 June 2012 12:04 (six years ago) Permalink

I never bought any censored music as far as I know (a few albums, like Fear of a Black Planet, bleep out words once in a while as I think an affectation), but I was once prevented from buying an album thanks to the parental advisory sticker. It was Fishbone's "The Reality of My Surroundings," which means I was ... 16? Old enough to buy a fucking Fishbone CD. But the person working at the mall record store (weirdly, I think I was in the mall food court that day for lunch during a school field trip, possibly in DC) wouldn't do it. So I went somewhere else and bought it.

I bet Fishbone was into Frank Zappa.

Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 1 October 2017 13:34 (nine months ago) Permalink

I bet Fishbone was into Frank Zappa.

In Joe Carducci's book Rock and the Pop Narcotic, he says he never listened to Fishbone because someone described them to him as "like a band with seven Zappas in it."

grawlix (unperson), Sunday, 1 October 2017 13:56 (nine months ago) Permalink

That's funny. Though obviously the band was really just an updated P-Funk. Certainly George Clinton was just as scatological and sexual as Zappa.

Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 1 October 2017 14:49 (nine months ago) Permalink

"... P-Funk were basically an arty retro band, mixing 1965 James Brown revivalism with 1967 Frank Zappa stupidity." - Chuck Eddy, The Accidental Evolution of Rock 'n' Roll

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Sunday, 1 October 2017 15:03 (nine months ago) Permalink

I guess I don't hear that much P Funk in Fishbone

Universal LULU Nation (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Sunday, 1 October 2017 15:19 (nine months ago) Permalink

Patton feels like he was influenced by Zappa but he doesn't really come out and say it...

Week of Wonders (Ross), Sunday, 1 October 2017 15:51 (nine months ago) Permalink

I hate to disappoint everyone, but this thread inspired me to get on spotify and check out the various vault releases from the past 15 years or so, and there's a lot of great stuff on there

Moodles, Monday, 2 October 2017 04:50 (nine months ago) Permalink

which ones specifically

never bothered with the posthumous releases because there are just so many of them and I'm still like 20 discs short of having everything he did while he was alive, but I'm sure there are some gems in there

frogbs, Monday, 2 October 2017 12:46 (nine months ago) Permalink

The Audio documentary series are great if you like the idea of extrapolated versions of Lumpy Gravy, Uncle Meat etc:

MaresNest, Monday, 2 October 2017 14:52 (nine months ago) Permalink

Yeah, was enjoying the uncle meat one last night

Moodles, Monday, 2 October 2017 15:06 (nine months ago) Permalink

Also caught some good tracks on the Carnegie hall one and Chicago 78. You are definitely going to encounter the usual obnoxious songs on these, but there are also lots of great performances, sound quality is excellent, and there's also plenty of unusual versions of familiar songs. I've only just started digging in to these, but was pretty happy with what I heard. I do have a high tolerance for a lot of this stuff, so keep that in mind.

Moodles, Monday, 2 October 2017 15:10 (nine months ago) Permalink

and there's also plenty of unusual versions of familiar songs.

that's great, this is definitely one of my favorite things that Zappa does

frogbs, Monday, 2 October 2017 15:13 (nine months ago) Permalink

Listening to a cool live version of "The Grand Wazoo" from Zappa Wazoo. Pretty faithful to album version, but I've never heard any other performances of this song.

Overall, I'm just surprised that there's so much quality material still out there, especially from certain band configurations that hadn't had much exposure in the past. I had kind of assumed that the YCDTOSA series basically captured all the good stuff, and anything left would be sub-par.

Moodles, Monday, 2 October 2017 15:25 (nine months ago) Permalink

"... P-Funk were basically an arty retro band, mixing 1965 James Brown revivalism with 1967 Frank Zappa stupidity." - Chuck Eddy, The Accidental Evolution of Rock 'n' Roll

iirc Chuck always went hard on this connection (esp re: "Jimmy's Got a Little Bit of Bitch in Him") but idk, Clinton has never copped to it and he's usually pretty open about his antecedents.

Οὖτις, Monday, 2 October 2017 15:30 (nine months ago) Permalink

I think there's definitely some overlap between Parliament and Apostrophe-era Zappa. Don't know if it is a case of influences or 2 groups of talented musicians landing in a similar spot around the same time.

Moodles, Monday, 2 October 2017 15:33 (nine months ago) Permalink

The 1966 mix of Freak Out is very different from what I'm used to.

Moodles, Monday, 2 October 2017 15:58 (nine months ago) Permalink

I'm sure I read somewhere about Zappa wanting to work with P-Funk musicians. I hope the 1966 mix of "Freak Out" is better than the one I'm familiar with, it's always sounded pretty shit to me.

The Doug Walters of Crime (Tom D.), Monday, 2 October 2017 17:25 (nine months ago) Permalink

not hating on Chuck but that seems a misunderstanding of Parliament/Funkadelic's range and a vast underestimation of their talents.

she carries a torch. two torches, actually (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Monday, 2 October 2017 17:51 (nine months ago) Permalink

Yeah i figured that was obvious

Οὖτις, Monday, 2 October 2017 18:09 (nine months ago) Permalink

Yeah, totally, I just thought it was funny.

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Monday, 2 October 2017 18:32 (nine months ago) Permalink

In 1967 Zappa wasn't even that stupid yet, for a start.

Tom's Tits Experiment (Tom D.), Monday, 2 October 2017 18:34 (nine months ago) Permalink

The Suzy Creamcheese thing was a little stupid.

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Monday, 2 October 2017 18:36 (nine months ago) Permalink

I really like what I know from the 60s, though, to be clear!

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Monday, 2 October 2017 18:37 (nine months ago) Permalink

I love the overall sound of Overnite Sensation/Apostrophe (')/One Size Fits All ... really warm and bassy.

more Allegro-like (Turrican), Monday, 2 October 2017 18:46 (nine months ago) Permalink

I love Chuck's writing but he never let the facts get in the way of a good line

Universal LULU Nation (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Monday, 2 October 2017 18:57 (nine months ago) Permalink

I love the overall sound of Overnite Sensation/Apostrophe (')/One Size Fits All ... really warm and bassy.

Still need to hear a number of those 2012 remasters. I´m not an audiophile but for someone as perfectionist as Zappa I´m surprised the cd masters were never that good (even the Ryko ones that said "Zappa approved" which was just a marketing thing). The only editions of Overnite Sensation + Apostrophe(') I know where the Zappa Records version and it didn´t sound very good. Rave reviews about the 2012 edition of 'Burnt Weeny Sandwich' too.

I only bought "Shut Up..." and "Sleep Dirt" and yes they do sound great (+ the 2012 version of "Sleep Dirt" does away with the vocals).

EvR, Wednesday, 4 October 2017 07:15 (nine months ago) Permalink

The Suzy Creamcheese thing was a little stupid.

― No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r)

i'm listening to detlev glanert's "requiem for jheronimus bosch". every track starts with somebody gravely intoning "jheronimus bosch", and every time i wait for the speaker to follow up with "what's got into you?"

it never happens. probably because the piece is in dutch or something. good piece, though. kind of reminds me of the vocal bits on "200 motels".

bob lefse (rushomancy), Wednesday, 4 October 2017 12:33 (nine months ago) Permalink

one month passes...

This AV Club piece is actually pretty good. The writer starts off saying he appreciates Frank Zappa the iconoclast and smart guy, but has never clicked with the music. So he picks three albums - We're Only In It For The Money, Hot Rats, and the whole Joe's Garage trilogy - and dives in. And SPOILER he does not come away converted.

From what I can tell, most of We’re Only In It For The Money’s reputation as cutting, hippie-mocking satire seems to be tied up in a handful of songs—“Who Needs The Peace Corps?,” “Absolutely Free,” and “Flower Punk”—all of them calling out fakers dressed in beads and bells, making pilgrimages to San Francisco to “play my bongos in the dirt,” with no political opinions nor any greater aspirations than just getting stoned and becoming the road manager for a psychedelic rock band (or worse, playing in one).

...

Still, as far as comedy goes, “Peace Corps” and “Flower Punk” are basically New Yorker cartoons; any square in America could have written these same gibes about long-haired, barefoot freaks catching crabs at their love-ins. “Peace Corps” does have a pretty good line about loving everyone, even “the police as they kick the shit out of me in the street.” But mostly they’re just a taunting rundown of ’60s stereotypes that today feel as novelty-song-dated as Zappa’s similar ’80s pop screed “Valley Girl.” A lot of the “satire” seems to be just describing things.

...

But to me, today, as someone with zero investment in hearing hippies and Peter Paul And Mary taken down a peg, what I’m mostly left with is a batch of songs that largely seem designed to be irritating, a sneer directed at a culture that mostly stopped existing a year after its release. While there’s an impressive jumble of unconventional instrumentation here beneath all the dialogue snippets and backmasked squalls, with the sole exception of the silly doo-wop earworm “What’s The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?,” it almost completely eschews memorable melodies—and, you know, enjoyable songs. I just can’t imagine revisiting We’re Only In It For The Money for any sort of listening pleasure; it seems to scoff at the very idea. So... the joke is on me?

grawlix (unperson), Tuesday, 21 November 2017 12:53 (eight months ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...

I don't think FZ needs to be defended but this guy's take on We're only in it... is wrong on all levels IMHO. One of the few (only) FZ albums with a bunch of catchy melodies. "Lonely Little Girl" for instance is a classic, music and lyric wise.

licorice oratorio (baaderonixx), Thursday, 7 December 2017 13:03 (seven months ago) Permalink

yea that's just completely wrong. no "memorable melodies", what ??? god, "Absolutely Free" still pops into my head on a weekly basis, and I haven't heard the album in years. in fact that take as a whole - liking Zappa but not his music - sounds like the absolute worst take you can have on him

frogbs, Thursday, 7 December 2017 13:09 (seven months ago) Permalink

yep

WilliamC, Thursday, 7 December 2017 13:47 (seven months ago) Permalink

one month passes...

Had only heard bits and pieces from it before, but really digging this copy of Roxy & Elsewhere I got yesterday.

Never Learn To Mike Love (C. Grisso/McCain), Monday, 29 January 2018 19:36 (five months ago) Permalink

It's my favorite Zappa record. Though I'm worried the upcoming Roxy box might be too much of a good thing.

EZ Snappin, Monday, 29 January 2018 19:39 (five months ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...

just listened to Hot Rats all the way through - i have a recentish memory of mark s telling me it's no good but MAN IT IS GOOD

peaches en regalia somewhat aside (sorry zap-hedz) it is one stonking hard jam after another. some of zappa's best solo playing. and the drums! even son of mr green genes somewhat improbably becomes amazing after a typically fussy "here comes the king" intro

the gumbo variations in particular is just magisterial and stands out as ultra-funky relative to zappa's often stiff-backed steez - i can actually imagine playing it for a dancefloor

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Saturday, 17 February 2018 22:39 (five months ago) Permalink

of course there's a library music version of mr. green genes (xref: library music thread):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwhYLwrDN_w

here's a high school jazz group playing excerpts from hot rats in 1969

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2Gr1KS05qs

ziggy the ginhead (rushomancy), Saturday, 17 February 2018 22:41 (five months ago) Permalink

hot rats is great. his court appearances challenging censorship are classic as well

kolakube (Ross), Saturday, 17 February 2018 22:43 (five months ago) Permalink

just picked up an old vinyl copy of Absolutely Free to add to the collection as my son has been wanting to check out some of our old timey Zappa albums

Moodles, Saturday, 17 February 2018 22:44 (five months ago) Permalink

yeah i heard hot rats for the first time recently and was amazed by how much i dug it.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Saturday, 17 February 2018 22:44 (five months ago) Permalink

i should have put my post here!

teaching mark s a *LESSON* response one: ZAPPA

well, now they're CONNECTED and it's all right

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Saturday, 17 February 2018 22:48 (five months ago) Permalink

I heard Waka/Jawaka for the first time last week, that's another one I need to get eventually

sleeve, Saturday, 17 February 2018 22:50 (five months ago) Permalink

add Grand Wazoo to that list too, if you haven't already

Moodles, Saturday, 17 February 2018 22:57 (five months ago) Permalink

Hot Rats fans, seek out both mixes (1969, 1987) -- they're like 2 different albums, both great.

WilliamC, Saturday, 17 February 2018 23:00 (five months ago) Permalink

dont trust mark s!!

Algerian Goalkeeper (Odysseus), Saturday, 17 February 2018 23:08 (five months ago) Permalink

the vinyl mix is nice. i like the omission of the first three and a half minutes of the "gumbo variations" jam. the "little umbrellas" mix also has way more bass in it and is really good.

also worth finding: the radio ads by david ossman (firesign theatre) for the album. one of them actually has an unreleased frank zappa song ("passacaglia", track 6 of "the artisan acetate") in the background.

ziggy the ginhead (rushomancy), Saturday, 17 February 2018 23:17 (five months ago) Permalink

oh, and there's a great 12 minute jam on "sharleena" from the "hot rats" sessions closing out the "lost episodes" cd.

ziggy the ginhead (rushomancy), Saturday, 17 February 2018 23:18 (five months ago) Permalink

I've got the vinyl! never knew there was a difft version of gumbo variations

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Saturday, 17 February 2018 23:50 (five months ago) Permalink

they're all bad not good

mark s, Sunday, 18 February 2018 11:49 (five months ago) Permalink

(xp) One feels like it lasts 10 years, the other is longer.

Video reach stereo bog (Tom D.), Sunday, 18 February 2018 11:58 (five months ago) Permalink

My gateway into moderate Zappa fandom (strictly 60's MoI tbh). The drums as noted above are great and the guitar showboating actually works (eg Willie the Pimp ios pretty badass). Also love the overlooked angular jazzy closer It Must be a Camel

licorice oratorio (baaderonixx), Sunday, 18 February 2018 14:02 (five months ago) Permalink

two months pass...

classic clip

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgAF8Vu8G0w

done and dusted (Ross), Thursday, 26 April 2018 08:42 (two months ago) Permalink


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