Posts Tagged ‘Frank Zappa’

 

It wouldn’t be Halloween without a little Frank Zappa…and this year, Zappa Records and UMe are delivering once again with a frightfully entertaining new box set.

The bandleader’s New York Halloween shows were among his most anticipated as he blended his signature musical virtuosity with a heavily tongue-in-cheek dose of seasonal revelry.  The 1981 stand at the late, lamented Palladium – a once-luxurious 1927 movie palace theatre, sadly demolished in 1998 to make room for new dormitories at New York University – was particularly special to Zappa’s fans as he had curtailed the 1980 shows earlier than expected as a result of illness.  (Not to mention that there was no fall tour, and no Halloween show, in 1979.)

Halloween ’81 would be even more special, however.  Zappa had arranged for the midnight concert in front of the 3,000-capacity crowd to be recorded for both radio and television (the latter on a new channel called MTV) – reportedly the first live simulcast in cable television history.  The early show at 8 pm was filmed, too, and multimedia auteur Zappa would put that footage to good use, too, on his home video releases of The Torture Never Stops (1982) and The Dub Room Special (1983) and on the audio releases of The Dub Room Special, One Shot Deal, and the You Can’t Do That on Stage Anymore series.  This new box set, however, marks the first time audio from the concerts has been released in its entirety.

For the shows, Zappa was joined by his new band consisting of three new players – Scott Thunes on bass, Chad Wackerman, on drums and Robert Martin on keyboards – plus veterans Ray White on guitar, Ed Mann on percussion and Tommy Mars on keys.  Steve Vai, affectionally referred to by Zappa as the “Little Italian Virtuoso,” appeared on his second tour as a band member.  This unit had only been on the road for a month but played with the tightness of a seasoned troupe as they ran through Zappa’s intricate melodies both new and old.  The tour supported the September 1981 release of You Are What You Is, and a number of that double album’s songs were featured including its title track, “Teen-Age Wind,” “Doreen,” “I’m A Beautiful Guy,” “Mudd Club,” “Dumb All Over,” “Suicide Chump,” and the Halloween-apropos, double entendre-laden “Goblin Girl.”

Available on October 2nd: there are 3 shows on 6 CD, more than 7 hours of Zappa, With a mask and costume, plus a 40-page booklet with rare photos from the event by John Livzey and new liner notes by touring band member Robert Martin, Vaultmeister Joe Travers and super fan-in-attendance Gary Titone who pens a remembrance of the shows. In addition, a 1CD version titled “Halloween 81: Highlights From The Palladium, New York City,” featuring performances from all three shows along with an exclusive track, “Strictly Genteel,” from the November 1st show not included on the box set.

These ended up as the final shows Zappa ever played at the Palladium and as his penultimate Halloween concerts.  He would revive the tradition just once more at Madison Square Garden’s Felt Forum in 1984.  Halloween 81 captures Zappa and his musical cohorts in peak form.  Both the 6-CD and 1-CD iterations arrive from Zappa Records/UMe on October 2nd and can be pre-ordered .

Frank Zappa, Halloween 81 (Zappa Records/UMe)

Frank Zappa documentary

A new documentary will offer an in-depth look at the singular life and work of pioneering artist, Frank Zappa. Directed by Bill & Ted star Alex Winter (The Panama Papers, Downloaded), Zappa is set for release over Thanksgiving Weekend, via Magnolia Pictures. the film has been described as “an intimate and expansive look into the innovative life of the iconic – and iconoclastic – musician and artist.” Deadline also confirmed that the film will delve into “the private life behind the musical career that never shied away from the political turbulence of its time,” thanks to a trove of archival content.

Fans can also expect new and archival interviews from a variety of friends, family members, and collaborators, including the musician’s late widow, Gail Zappa, as well as from Mothers of Invention multi-instrumentalist Ian Underwood; guitar virtuoso Steve Vai; author, musician, actress, and Zappa-family-nanny, Pamela Des Barre; Kronos Quartet founder David Harrington; bassist Scott Thunes, and many others. The excellence of Frank Zappa with magnificent sound recorded at various venues on the 1981 tour (except for 3 tracks from Fall 1980) with some studio overdubs added at Zappa’s home recording studio.
To my information tracks from this that appear on official albums have extensive overdubs and different mixes.

“Alex Winter has created an amazing documentary,” said Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles in a statement. “Zappa is an incredibly nuanced and compelling look at the visionary iconoclast and the environment that formed him.” Winter added, “This is the most ambitious project I’ve ever worked on, with a couple years of archival preservation in addition to several years to make the film itself. This isn’t your typical music doc but rather a multi-faceted narrative that aims to bring this complex artist to life.”

More recently, Zappa’s work with his band The Mothers was celebrated in a new 4CD and digital collection of 70 unreleased live and studio recordings engineered by the then-unknown producer Roy Thomas Baker, which make up the box set’s first disc. Overseen by the Zappa Trust and produced by Ahmet Zappa and Zappa Vaultmeister, Joe Travers, The Mothers 1970 collects together more than four hours of previously unreleased performances by the heralded line-up which lasted roughly seven months in 1970.

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Captain Beefheart’s 1970 album Lick My Decals Off, Baby, is a classic album.  If you can imagine (for a moment) that ‘Trout Mask Replica’ never happened and the next in The Captain’s discography was ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby,’ the chasm between lovers and haters would be just as strong. For those who could palate ’Trout Mask Replica,’ the follow up album seems somewhat “commercial” but is still very much just as lyrically abstract and equally instrumentally adventurous. The production quality of the album is unquestionably superior to its predecessor. First, gone are the “field recordings” from the Beefheart house in Woodland Hills, CA. The entirety of this follow-up album was seemingly recorded in a proper studio…and was given enough of a budget to spend precious studio time to make sure it sounded much more than a hugger-mugger arrangement of demos/outtakes.

Perhaps it’s the simple and sublimely unique charm of it all, but the “fault” that I have discovered with ‘Trout Mask Replica’ is the fact that it feels more like a scrapbook of those nine months holed up in a claustrophobic house rather than a proper and cohesive autobiography of those times. Please don’t misinterpret those words to mean it is unworthy. After all, I am an ardent supporter and one of the faithful that applaud ‘Trout Mask Replica,’  that represents one of the most landmark recordings in Pop/Rock of the 20th century. As a matter of fact, I listened to it alongside The Mothers Of Invention ‘Uncle Meat’ in a single sitting and there is quite a bit of similarity regarding the structure of each album.

Obviously, the common denominator is Frank Zappa himself who informed the construction and flow of ‘Trout Mask Replica.’ He was able to more-or-less realize what HE THOUGHT The Captain was trying to achieve rather than allowing Beefheart to express what he truly wanted (perhaps that was impossible)…but that will never be known. However, the snippets of those “field recordings” and other shenanigans that were grooved into wax seem to be more of Zappa’s perverse nature than it does the overarching concept Beefheart had in mind.

That said, ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’ has all of the raucous, cantankerous, obstreperous and demanding music of ‘Trout Mask Replica,’ yet has a beauty, sheen and digestive quality that I don’t think Zappa ever wanted; he endeavored to make a difficult album even less surmountable by the masses…pushing the boundaries further than The Captain even wanted. ‘Lick…’ is just as free, unencumbered and freewheeling, but unlike its predecessor, possesses more structure, stability and accessibility. However, reflecting on Beefheart’s recorded output, ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby,’ is an album that (like ‘Strictly Personal’) is absolutely essential; equally as ground-breaking.

The immediate takeaway is that the songs are more succinct and the music (thanks to the production) is much more intense than the inconsistent sonics of ‘Trout Mask Replica.’ The ‘Trout Mask…’ graduates; John French (aka: Drumbo), Mark Boston (aka: Rockette Morton) and Bill Harkleroad (aka: Zoot Horn Rollo) were all on absolute FIRE for this recording. Despite all of the insanity that occurred during the recording of ‘Trout Mask Replica,’ that prepared them to achieve the “cohesiveness” on ‘Lick…’ Those three (and no disrespect to Artie Tripp whose contribution is equally significant) were nothing short of telepathic at this point.

The solo guitar piece, ‘One Rose That I Mean’ is nothing short of virtuosity. ‘Peon” is an absolute sublime bass/guitar duet that illustrates a performance between players that have spent an immense amount of time playing (fantastic and unconventional material) together. The soprano sax excursion in ’Japan Is A Dishpan’ is just as “Coltrane” as John Coltrane himself during those years where he was “searching” for something he was not able to harness within the normal bookends of traditional harmony. Well, The Captain seemed to distill that searching in the matter of just shy of three minutes.

I didn’t ever think that I would have so much to say with regard to specific tracks, but the vocals, are “in your face.” This is Beefheart at his absolute most pointed, direct, intense, focused and determined. ‘The Smithsonian Institute Blues (or the Big Dig)’ should have been the theme song to the ill-fated civil engineering disaster labeled ‘The Big Dig’ in Boston, MA as a way of expanding roadways in and out of the city to ameliorate perennial vehicle congestion. ‘The Buggy Boogie Woogie’ is absolutely an answer to our current zeitgeist.

Much like the “now assumed” controlled chaos of ‘Trout Mask Replica,’ ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’ is the Pop/Rock album that is chaos perfected. The music contained therein confirms the so-called “randomness” of the former and cements it by reproducing it to amazing detail. It ossifies that “controlled chaos;” it is thoughtful, repeatable and unable to repeat the sentiment that ultimately created the art.

‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’…’ requires and demands as much a close analysis as its predecessor (not to mention it sounds a whole lot better) and is bereft of much (if not most) of the “filler” that consumes ‘Trout Mask Replica.’ If newcomers to the Beefheart camp need to warm their toes into his most fruitful/experimental period before diving-in head first, listen to ‘Strictly Personal’ and ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’ before attempting the glorious miasma that is ‘Trout Mask Replica.’

PS – I know this sentiment might rival a lot of opinions but I appreciate having the ability to compose and share my thoughts in an open forum…all reactions welcome!

words all written by Brent Rusche July 2020.

Zappa Records/UMe will next month issue “The Mothers 1970”, a four-CD Frank Zappa box set which features 70 unreleased tracks from the short-lived 1970 line-up of the Mothers of Invention.
The band during this period last around seven months and was Aynsley Dunbar, George Duke, Ian Underwood, Jeff Simmons, and Flo & Eddie (aka Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman).

This new box set features over four hours of unreleased music, with the first CD featuring unheard studio sessions from Trident Studios in London England (with engineer Roy Thomas Baker) and the remainder offering historical live performances mostly captured by Zappa’s own tape recorder (a UHER recorder).

All recordings were sourced from their original tapes discovered in The Vault and digitally transferred and compiled by Travers in 2020. Some tracks were mixed by Craig Parker Adams and the collection was mastered by John Polito at Audio Mechanics. The Mothers line-up that included Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, is one of my favourite periods in Frank Zappa’s musical history. Howard and Mark did some amazing vocals for their group, The Turtles, and as back-up singers for Marc Bolan & T. Rex, but really stole the show when doing lead vocal harmonies (and naughty satirical dialogues with Frank) as the reincarnation of The Mothers for the 1970-1972 live performances. I loved this stuff when I was in my early teens, plus the fact that my mom and dad really hated it made it even more alluring.  Historical live performances mostly captured by Zappa’s own tape recorder.

The Mothers 1970 is presented in a clamshell box and includes a booklet and a button. It has been produced by Ahmet Zappa and Joe Travers and will be released on 26th June 2020.

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We decided to cover a song from Frank Zappa’s first album “Freak Out” released back in 1966. It’s called “Trouble Every Day” and we found it very relevant to these times which is strange and sad that after all these years we’re still on the first page! We are condemning these horrible nonsense actions against the Black Community and condemning police brutality! We need to learn more and these actions against black people need to stop right now and we need to stop it. All proceeds goes to NAACP Legal Defense Fund. We all need to listen more and learn more and if you see something that we’re doing wrong call us out and we will do better. Let’s keep fighting for Justice and Peace! Black Lives Matter! Spread the word.

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released June 6th, 2020
Lyrics – Frank Zappa

Greenway Records 2020

Frank Zappa typically performed one-of-a-kind Halloween shows starting in the ’70s. In 1974, the concerts found a home in New York City, where they remained until 1984, when Zappa staged the last Halloween show. This 1973 date — one of the few Halloween concerts to be recorded, though the 1977 one was released in 2017 — featured a new band onstage at Chicago’s Auditorium Theater.

The limited-edition box includes previously unreleased performances that total more than four and a half hours, including songs from his most recent album, Over-Nite Sensation, like “Montana,” plus cuts from 1974’s Apostrophe(‘) (“Cosmik Debris”) and older favorites (“Uncle Meat,” “The Idiot Bastard Son”).

The fourth disc includes rehearsals for the shows. There’s also a single-disc version of the set available containing 16 tracks from the box.

This is our second glimpse into Frank’s Halloween archive and this one, thankfully, does not seal away its goodies on a USB stick. Rather, four CDs and a booklet join the expected seasonal goodies (a Frankenstein mask and a pair of monster gloves) in a similarly sized mega-toy box, and the whole thing is utterly fabulous. Assuming, of course, you agree that 1973 really did mark one of Zappa’s purplest patches.  

Two full shows sprawl across the first three discs, and while there’s definitely some duplication… a little more than half the set list is revisited on both nights…  the performances themselves are utterly unique, and the between song announcements as well. Which itself isn’t as easy as it sounds… how many different ways, after all, can you find to say “thank you Cleveland, you rock.”  Especially when you’re in Chicago.

The repertoire, as usual, wanders across Zappa’s catalog, leaning away from the earliest days of Motherhood (“The Idiot Bastard Son” is the oldest song on display), but hitting most of what period scholars would say are the expected highlights – “Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing,” “Dickie’s Such an Asshole,” “Penguin in Bondage,” and a great “I’m the Slime” towards the end of disc two.

The booklet, meanwhile, stuffs forty pages with photographs, commentary and memory,  with contributions from band members Ruth Underwood and Ralph Humphrey, plus archive master Joe Travers’ customary explanation of how the album came together. A  glorious package then.

Fans can also look forward to another Zappa release before 2019 ends. The Hot Rats Sessions, due on December. 20th, includes six discs documenting one of Zappa’s best and most popular albums.

That box includes unreleased basic tracks from the recording sessions, as well as rare and unedited mixes, work mixes and other songs from Zappa’s vault.

Cruising with Ruben & the Jets is the fourth studio album by the Mothers of Invention. Released on December 2nd, 1968, on Bizarre and Verve Records with distribution by MGM Records, it was subsequently remixed by Frank Zappa and reissued independently.

As with the band’s previous three albums, it is a concept album, influenced by 1950s doo wop and rock and roll. The album’s concept deals with a fictitious Chicano doo wop band called Ruben & the Jets, the cover illustration depicts the Mothers of Invention as anthropomorphic dogs. Zappa described the album as an homage to the 1950s vocal music that he was “crazy” about. Mothers member Collins later left the Mothers of Invention, and Zappa began working on a project entitled No Commercial Potential, which included sessions that produced Cruising with Ruben & the Jets,which later produced three other albums: Lumpy Gravy, We’re Only in It for the Money and Uncle Meat.

Zappa later stated, regarding the releases Lumpy Gravy, We’re Only in It for the Money, Cruising with Ruben & the Jets andUncle Meat, “It’s all one album. All the material in the albums is organically related and if I had all the master tapes and I could take a razor blade and cut them apart and put it together again in a different order it still would make one piece of music you can listen to. Then I could take that razor blade and cut it apart and reassemble it a different way, and it still would make sense. I could do this twenty ways. The material is definitely related.

The album and its singles received some radio success, due to its doo wop sound.

Ray Collins rejoined the Mothers of Invention for the recording of the album, as his high falsetto was really suited for the recordings. According to Collins, “I brought the style of being raised in Pomona, California, being raised on the Four Aces, the Four Freshmen, Frankie Lane, Frank Sinatra and Jesse Baldwin. The early influences of R&B came into the Southern California area when I was probably in the tenth grade in high school. And I remember Peter Potter’s show, and I think I recall the first R&B tune on there was ‘Oop-Shoop’. Frank actually had more influences from the ‘real blues’, you know, like Muddy Waters, those kind of people. But I wasn’t into that in my early life. I was more of the pop culture, pop radio things, and it’s always been more of a favourite of mine than the early blues stuff

The range of material includes originals as well as standards like Chuck Berry’s “Almost Grown,” and there’s not a weak moment anywhere on the album. And as good as all of For Real! is — without a false note sounded anywhere — they save the best for last, a stomping, killer version of “All Nite Long” that definitely leaves the listener wanting more

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It’s the 40th Anniversary of “Joe’s Garage Acts II & III” – released On this day in 1979!, The album features the incredible “Watermelon In Easter Hay” -a song that Zappa identified as one of his 3 signature tunes. It’s the official FZ Release No#29. What’s your favorite track from Joe’s Garage Acts II & III?.

Two months after the release of Act I, Frank Zappa completed Joe’s Garage with the two-LP set Joe’s Garage: Acts II & III, meaning that, counting the two contractual albums Sleep Dirt and Orchestral Favorites, he released seven LPs’ worth of new material in 1979. Maybe that’s why Joe’s Garage seems so thin and thrown together, musically and dramatically, especially on its second and third sides.

“Joe’s Garage is a stupid story about how the government is going to do away with music (a prime cause of unwanted mass behavior). The album features Ike Willis as the voice of “Joe”, a stereotypical garage band youth who unwittingly journeys through the miasma of the music business. Zappa provides the voice of the “Central Scrutinizer” character—a mechanical voice that narrates the story and haunts Joe’s psyche

It’s sort of like a really cheap kind of high school play . . . the way it might have been done 20 years ago, with all the sets made out of cardboard boxes and poster paint. It’s also like those lectures that local narks used to give (where they show the pills leading to the weed leading to the needle, etc., etc.). If the plot of the story seems just a little bit preposterous, and if the idea of The Central Scruntinizer enforcing laws that haven’t been passed yet makes you giggle, just be glad you don’t live in one of the cheerful little countries where, at this very moment, music is either severely restricted . . . or, as it is in Iran, totally illegal.”. 

“Them Or Us” released in October 1984. This is official FZ Release Number 40. Featuring The Planet of My Dreams, and awesome title track instrumental!

Its opening and closing songs were not written by Zappa: “The Closer You Are”, one of those ’50s R&B tunes the man loved so much was written by Earl Lewis and Morgan Robinson and originally released by The Channels; and “Whippin’ Post”, originally performed by The Allman Brothers Band.

Crunchy guitars are found in “Ya Hozna” includes backward vocals taken from “Sofa No. 2” (from “One Size Fits All”, 1975), “Lonely Little Girl” (from We’re Only in It for the Money, 1968) and unreleased outtakes of “Valley Girl” (vocals by Moon Zappa). “Planet of My Dreams” (featuring Bob Harris on vocals) is a 1981 studio recording taken from the score of Zappa’s unrealized 1972 stage musical “Hunchentoot”, (the scenario of which was incidentally published in a book titled Them or Us released at the same time). “Be In My Video”, described as the best song on the album, pokes fun at the cliches in music videos, particularly David Bowie’s hit single “Let’s Dance”, and the MTV generation, still in its infancy stage at the time.

In between one finds the usual offensive lyrics — the cliché-ridden “In France,” the sexually explicit “Baby, Take Your Teeth Out.” “Stevie’s Spanking” (named after Steve Vai, playing guitar in it, too), arguably one of Zappa’s best straightforward rock songs from that period. “Sinister Footwear II” and “Marqueson’s Chicken” represent an ’80s update of complex instrumental pieces. (the scenario of which was incidentally published in a book titled Them or Us released at the same time).

As with other Zappa rock albums of this era, many of the tracks are sourced from live recordings. Later studio overdubs were liberally applied, although there is no mention of this on the album notes

Not only is Ya Hozna one of my favorite tracks on this album it might be among my all time favorite FZ tracks. To me it is the quintessential Zappa tune. This is one of my favorite Zappa albums . Sinister Footwear pt.2 has always been my favorite track, usually followed by Marqueson’s Chicken.

This is the first appearance of Steve Vai on album, having impressed Frank with his outstanding ability at transcribing all of the Shut Up N Play Yer Guitar albums for him, then further impressing him with his ability on guitar, leading to his description of stunt guitar player on a couple of Zappa’s albums. So lovers of guitar work will find plenty herein, the album having a copious amount of mighty lead work strewn throughout,

Very high energy. Interesting instrumental harmonies working around classic rock guitar viruosity. Amusing Zappa lyrics.

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Hot Rats was released 10th October in 1969!

“The Hot Rats Sessions” box set celebrates the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest albums in the history of recorded music, and will be released on December 20th .

The original 1969 Frank Zappa album was the first to be recorded on a prototype 16-Track Tape Machine. Self described as a “Movie For Your Ears,” it was the first solo outing for the composer and the album that put Frank Zappa on the map as a guitar player. The recording sessions produced a wealth of material that ended up being sprinkled among multiple releases during FZ’s lifetime.

The mostly-instrumental LP came on the heels of the breakup of the original Mothers of Invention, making it clear that Zappa was a force with which to be reckoned as a composer. Described by the artist as “a movie for your ears,” Hot Rats was a fusion of jazz and rock as only Zappa could create. Recorded on 16 tracks (a first for a Zappa album), it featured the producer/arranger/guitar virtuoso (who also played bass and percussion) joined by The Mothers’ Ian Underwood as well as Max Bennett, Johnny Otis, Shuggie Otis, John Guerin, Paul Humphrey, Ron Selico, Don “Sugarcane” Harris, and Jean-Luc Ponty. Don Van Vliet, a.k.a. Captain Beefheart, provided the vocals on the lone non-instrumental, “Willie The Pimp.”

The “Hot Rats” album, the 2nd solo album by American musician Frank Zappa, released on October 10th, 1969. Five of the six songs are instrumental; the other, “Willie the Pimp”, features vocals by Captain Beefheart. It was Zappa’s first recording project after the dissolution of the original Mothers of Invention. In his original sleeve notes, Zappa described the album as “a movie for your ears”. Zappa composed, arranged and produced the album himself, his primary instrument being lead guitar. The song “Peaches en Regalia” is widely recognized as a modern jazz fusion standard and is one of Zappa’s best-known songs. The colourful, psychedelic aura of the late sixties is apparent in the graphic design and photography of Hot Rats, though Zappa himself disdained the psychedelic movement. The front and back cover photos by Andee Nathanson use infrared photography and reflects Zappa’s taste for striking visual images, combined with the absurdly humorous. ecause Hot Rats largely consists of instrumental jazz-influenced compositions with extensive soloing, the music sounds very different from earlier Zappa albums, which featured satirical vocal performances with extensive use of musique concrète and editing.

This new Anniversary mammoth six disc collection documents and compiles every composition recorded during those days in July 1969, along with an abundance of rare mixes, Vault nuggets and complete basic tracks mixed from the original multi-track masters by Craig Parker Adams, and mastered by Bob Ludwig in 2019. Additional gems include images by original Hot Rats cover photographer, Andee Nathanson, session photos taken by Bill Gubbins, liner notes by Matt Groening and essays by Ian Underwood, Andee Nathanson and Vaultmeister Joe Travers. The box set also includes a Zappa Land board game in celebration of this release.

Track listing and more info here: http://bit.ly/HOTRATS50