FRANK ZAPPA


"The Lost Episodes" (Rykodisc; 1996)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

for fans
for non-fans

This CD is thirty tracks of odd. Some of this stuff dates back to 1950. When I first picked this up I wasn’t sure what to expect. “The Lost Episodes” sounds like that mixed tape we all made when we were just goofing around with the microphone on our grandparents cassette recorder. Tracks range from .11 seconds to 11 minutes, and everywhere in between.

The thing that makes this CD so interesting is that a lot of these tracks you just can’t find anywhere else. I mean, you'd have to break into Frank’s studio to recover most of these cuts. Even though "The Lost Episodes" is very quirky and doesn’t have an even flow, it’s still an interesting listen. A few cuts feel like Zappa-ish material is emerging but then the song will end and a spoken track or a story about boogers (to mention just one topic), starts. This CD runs a range from weird to peculiar and back around to bizarre. It has doo-wop, rock, stories, skits and circus music. 

If you're a Zappa fan and you don’t have this one then by all means go get it. If you are looking to start a Zappa collection then shy away from this one (for now) because there are plenty of other releases to ease you into the incredible mind of Frank Zappa.

For more information, check out http://www.frankzappa.com


"You Are What You Is" (Rykodisc; 1981)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

I’m such a fan of Steve Vai, and trying to trace his roots has led me to music I would never have thought of listening to. Because Frank Zappa was essentially before my time, I get the opportunity to go back and discover music that requires a mind instead of just two ears (I forgot to mention that a twisted mind and an open one is required also). 

Zappa has such a quirky approach to his music, and I think when I first heard him I was immediately turned off. Motley Crue, Def Leppard and Iron Maiden were my musical base for a few years. But since discovering Frank and his merry band of weirdos, I have unwrapped music that was “under the table” during my pedestrian walk through life.

Zappa has a snide way of delivering his lyrics; nobody is off limits and today’s hypocrisy would have never stood in Frank’s day -- he would have devoted an entire album to that subject. So when I listen, I have to remind myself that I’m being entertained and enlightened. I think this album isn’t as smutty as the other stuff I’ve heard from him. It has its tongue-in-cheek moments and one vile song about a girl, but it’s mostly wrought with the political satire that he is known for. While I don’t agree with everything he says there’s no denying the intelligence and passion in his messages.

I’ve seen Zappa interviewed via the web and he always had such confidence when speaking about certain subjects. His music communicates in the same fashion. Usually when I’m searching for any Frank Zappa information I tend to find the words "comedy rock" stickered to him, but Frank’s music falls under many categories, because he put so many styles into one album. Comedy rock is just one of many tags you could bestow on his music.

I have to confess, I really sought this disc out because I knew that Steve Vai played on it, but what I got was a well rounded musical experience. I’m not a huge Frank Zappa fan, and I tend to identify more with Dweezil because of the guitar aspect. But, I’m taking my time while discovering Frank’s brand of genius and I'm learning a lot as I go along.

The most outstanding cuts here are “Doreen,” “Theme From The 3rd Movement,” “Any Downer’s,” “Conehead,” and “Dumb All Over.”

Performing on "You Are What You Is" are: Frank Zappa – lead guitar and vocals; Ike Willis – rhythm guitar and vocals; Ray White – rhythm guitar and vocals; Bob Harris – boy soprano and trumpet; Steve Vai – strat abuse; Tommy Mars – keyboards; Arthur Barrow – bass and about twenty other people.

For more information, check out http://www.frankzappa.com


"Joe's Garage Act I, II & III" (Rykodisc; 1979)

Reviewed by Snidermann

Frank Zappa's release,  "Joe’s Garage Acts I ,II & III" is some of the strangest shit on the market, and I can only imagine the reaction when it was first released in 1979. Oh, how parents must have freaked to hear this bizarre stuff coming out of their kid's stereo systems!

For those not familiar with this recording, let me give you a brief synopsis of the CD. First, this is not a short release - each of the two included CDs has one full hour of music on it. The first CD opens with a Big Brother-type character called "The Central Scrutinizer" (whose voice strongly resembles the voice at any airport - "The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading only." Only here it's "it is his responsibility to enforce all the laws that haven't been passed yet." The Scrutinizer tells of a boy named Joe and all Joe wants to do is make music. However, in Zappa's twisted alternate reality, music is against the law. Joe plays his music, but is busted by the cops. And the story goes on. 

"Joe's Garage" is filled with twisted, oddball characters and an even more twisted storyline. For example, one of the characters on this CD is named L. Ron Hoover of the Church of Appliantology. Hoover deals in government sponsored sexual robots, and one is called the XQJ-37 nuclear-powered Pan-Sexual Roto-plooker (Zappa uses this word for sex) named Sy Borg. 

Because of its twisted depth, "Joe's Garage" is one strange journey that cannot be fully appreciated unless you listen to the recording in its entirety. This shit is ultra-strange and totally brilliant in its use of music, words, symbolism and downright weirdness to get his point across. Zappa was a genius, musically and storytelling-wise but sometimes his brilliance can take a little getting used to. Again, I warn you, this shit is very peculiar and none of it is really hard rock or heavy metal; in fact, some of it isn't even rock'n'roll. But, whatever it is, it is absolutely fucking brilliant.

A full 4-chainsaw rating for this masterpiece, and that was one of the easiest calls I've ever had to make.  

For more information, check out http://www.frankzappa.com.


"Apostrophe" (Rykodisc; 1974)

Reviewed by Snidermann

Frank Zappa released "Apostrophe (')" in 1974 and if you're one of those readers who don't know much about the late, great Frank Zappa, just sit back and let me tell you what I think of this very inventive musician. 

I actually did not get into Zappa until after his death in 1993, but - because of the great music he left behind - I think I have developed a pretty good feel for his unique musical style. First off, Zappa was nothing short of a guitar genius. He was a supreme storyteller, with more than a slightly twisted mind. He used jazz, classical, rock, rhythm and blues, and every other kind of musical genre around to make some of the strangest and most interesting music ever recorded. 

"Apostrophe" is a concept album unlike anything (non-Zappa, that is) I have ever heard. It starts out on the ice sheets of Alaska where a boy named Nanook witnesses the brutal murder of his favorite pet seal. To get back at the fur trapper, Nanook rubs yellow snow in the trapper's eyes, temporarily blinding him. Hence the song "Don’t Eat Yellow Snow," Zappa's first number one hit. 

"Apostrophe" follows the trapper in his quest to find a cure for his "deflected eyes." As you might guess and/or expect, this release in full of strange, killer music and off-the-wall characters. Interestingly, "Apostrophe" isn't quite as strange as some of Zappa's other releases and I hope to do more reviews of those in the future.

If you haven't experienced Frank Zappa, do yourself a favor and find the time to do it!

Check out Zappa's superior, ultra cool web site at www.zappa.com


Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Copyright © 2007 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 15 May 2016 12:09:22 -0400 .