Essential & Non-Essential Zappa

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Siegmund, Jan 9, 2018.

  1. Siegmund

    Siegmund Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Britain, Europe
    One of my new year's resolutions is to give F.Z. another concerted try: he is the only major rock artist of his era (OK, so he's not really a 'rock' artist) whose work I've struggled with.

    These are the albums I'm currently familiar with:

    Freak Out!
    Absolutely Free
    Hot Rats
    Burnt Weeny Sandwich
    Weasels Ripped My Flesh
    Chunga's Revenge
    Roxy & Elsewhere
    Sheikh Yerbouti
    Joe's Garage
    You Are What You Is
    Shut Up And Play Yer Guitar
    Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life

    Also: the first Cheap Thrills compilation

    Obvious omissions would seem to be: Uncle Meat, Grand Wazoo, Overnite Sensation and Zoot Allures. I get a bit lost in the 80s when his output seemed to double and I don't know where to begin with the posthumous releases (of which Lather seems to be the most highly rated).
  2. SurrealCereal

    SurrealCereal Forum Resident

    One Size Fits All
  3. kwf

    kwf Forum Resident

    Apostrophe (')
    Colour-Question and Siegmund like this.
  4. Tristero

    Tristero Forum Resident

    Definitely go for the newish Meat Light set (expanded Uncle Meat). That may just be Zappa's masterpiece. Apostrophe and One Size are also essential. If you're a fan of live stuff, there's no limit of goodies to choose from. I'm partial to YCDTOSA, Vol. 2, Road Tapes, Vol. 2, Imaginary Diseases and Wazoo.
  5. Siegmund

    Siegmund Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Britain, Europe
    I've just ordered the Meat Light set.
  6. Holerbot6000

    Holerbot6000 Forum Resident

    I would get Overnite Sensation. Pretty essential - one of the best examples of Zappa marrying his avant leanings to a more straight rock oriented batch of songs. So many great songs on this album.
    Ludger, boboquisp, DrBeatle and 4 others like this.
  7. Jeff Kent

    Jeff Kent Forum Resident

    Mt. Kisco, NY
    As you know Zappa's work is very broad. It's quite possible to love the early Mothers recordings, but hate his 80s work. Some people really only like his 70s bands. It's really a personal call. I love Waka Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo as well as the 'Roxy' band and the 1988 band. I'm not generally a fan of his 80s studio recordings though.
    Crimson jon and Siegmund like this.
  8. Rfreeman

    Rfreeman Forum Resident

    Lawrenceville, NJ
    Non Essential:
    Francesco Zappa
    Live stuff that does not contain unique compositions
    6 albums of guitar solos

    But I suggest getting the guitar albums and a bunch of the live albums. And you need to get both mixes of Money, Rats and Reuben. And once you've gone that far you may as well pick up Francesco too. And don't forget to pick up Jean Luc Ponty's King Kong.
    Dodoz, Chew, vince and 1 other person like this.
  9. MonkeyLizard

    MonkeyLizard I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel.

    I too, struggled at first to get into Zappa. I started with the original Mothers I believe. Can't remember exactly what I listened to, I'm sure Freak Out was among them.

    Ironically, the first Zappa album where I truly felt everything 'click' was with Cruisin' With Reuben & The Jets.
    Something about that album was just more accessible to me, and the humor became more apparent.

    From there I went and revisited the ones I had already listened to and I'm still exploring this vast territory today.

    It's often unfamiliar to the extreme and can be very off putting. It's strange, different, complex... Seemingly from another musical universe. Well it is. And like many good friends we hang onto over the years, it's something to you have get to know a little bit first, and the more familiar you become with it (that is to say you learn to speak his language) the more you can truly appreciate it. The music starts to sound more like music (and beautiful music at that) and the jokes become hilarious.

    I know this isn't exactly what you asked for, it's just a long way of saying that I was finally able to 'crack the code' with Reuben. o_O
    ciderglider and Siegmund like this.
  10. bobc

    bobc Bluesman

    Don't forget Cruising With Ruben & The Jets. That's my favourite except for Hot Rats.
    ArpMoog, Daryl M, unclesalty and 2 others like this.
  11. Bubbly Waves

    Bubbly Waves Person

    If you don't have Lumpy Gravy yet, that's one to look into. Läther is good, and so are the 4 individual albums it was created with: Zappa in New York, Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt, and Orchestral Favorites. Apostrophe ('), like others have mentioned, is definitely an essential. I also recommend his last two projects, The Yellow Shark and Civilization Phase III.

    His posthumous albums are easier to navigate once you figure out what you like and get a handle on the albums he released in his lifetime.
    Siegmund likes this.
  12. 93curr

    93curr Senior Member

    Freak Out!
    Absolutely Free
    We're Only In It For The Money
    Lumpy Gravy
    Cruising With Ruben & The Jets
    Uncle Meat
    Hot Rats
    Burnt Weeny Sandwich
    Weasels Ripped My Flesh
    The Grand Wazoo
    Roxy & Elsewhere
    One Size Fits All
    Studio Tan
    The London Symphony Orchestra
    The Perfect Stranger
    Jazz From Hell
    You Can't Do That 2
    Ahead Of Their Time
    The Yellow Shark
    Civilization Phaze III
    Make A Jazz Noise Here
    Piquantique Stockholm 1973
    The Ark
    Electric Aunt Jemima
    Everything Is Healing Nicely
    Imaginary Diseases
    Hammersmith Odeon
    Feeding The Monkies At Ma Maison
    Carnegie Hall
    Finer Moments
    Finlandia Hall Helsinki
    Kerrisdale Arena Vancouver BC
    Dance Me This
    Tyrone Guthrie Theatre Minneapolis
    Little Dots

    not really essential, but still fun:
    Chunga's Revenge
    Fillmore East - June 1971
    Just Another Band From L.A.
    Over-Nite Sensation
    Bongo Fury
    Zappa In New York
    Sleep Dirt
    Sheik Yerbouti
    Orchestral Favorites
    Joe's Garage
    Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar
    Ship Arriving Too Late
    Them Or Us
    You Can't Do That 1
    You Can't Do That 4
    You Can't Do That 5
    Broadway The Hard Way
    Playground Psychotics
    The Best Band You Never Heard
    Disconnected Synapses
    Swiss Cheese
    Conceptual Continuity
    'Tis The Season To Be Jelly
    One Shot Deal
    Philly 76
    The Crux Of The Biscuit
    Chicago 78
    Halloween 1977

    will try your patience if you're not a hardcore fan:
    20o Motels
    Zoot Allures
    Tinseltown Rebellion
    You Are What You Is
    The Man From Utopia
    Francesco Zappa
    Mystery Disc
    Meets The Mothers Of Prevention
    Does Humor Belong In Music?
    You Can't Do That 3
    You Can't Do That 6
    As An Am
    Freaks & Mofos
    Unmitigated Audacity
    At The Circus
    Any Way The Wind Blows
    Saarbrucken 1978
    Tengo Na Minchia Tanta
    Joe's Corsage
    The Lost Episodes
    Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa
    Halloween (1978)
    Joe's Domage
    Joe's Xmasage
    Joe's Menage
    Joe's Camoflage
    200 Motels: The Suites
    FZ For President
  13. bobc

    bobc Bluesman

    Cruising With Reuben is my favourite, or, maybe a close second after Hot Rats.
    Jazzmonkie and Siegmund like this.
  14. overdrivethree

    overdrivethree Forum Resident

    There was no one album that neatly summarizes what FZ was about. If I had to pick one that came closest, that would be One Size Fits All.

    Pros: one of his best bands, good mix of his studio and live production chops, more or less good-natured humor in the lyrics.

    Cons: no social/political commentary, which is an important side to FZ, like it or not. Doesn't get into the orchestral side.
    Instant Dharma, Rfreeman and Siegmund like this.
  15. Siegmund

    Siegmund Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Britain, Europe
    Oddly enough, it was YAWYI that instigated my recent Zappa splurge. Isn't Zoot Allures generally well regarded?
  16. LandHorses

    LandHorses Forum Resident

    New Joisey
    I personally love the Flo & Eddie albums..........Fillmore East, Just Another Band From L.A., and the 200 Motels soundtrack.........but I'm in the sort-of minority.

    Bongo Fury is another personal favorite.........that was my life changing introduction to both Zappa and Capt. Beefheart.
  17. Terrapin Station

    Terrapin Station Forum Resident

    NYC Man
    Rather than "essential/non-essential"--because we're all going to have different ideas about that (well, aside from the approach of whether you've got the most infamous/iconic stuff . . . and you're missing some of that, especially Uncle Meat, Apostrophe and Overnite Sensation), my suggestion (like always pretty much) is to explore based on what's connecting the strongest with you. Explore the other albums similar to the stuff you're digging the most first. We can guide you on what albums those are if you want to go that route.

    Just as an aside, I'm not a big fan of Lather. I've explained this in detail before. It's not that I don't like the music. It's that I don't buy the Lather story and in my opinion the Lather tracks work better on the albums as they were originally released. Lather will still be essential eventually if you become a Zappa fanatic, because it's different enough--mix-wise, plus some unique tracks--but I'd recommend getting Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt, Zappa in New York and Orchestral Favorites separately first.
    chrisblower and Siegmund like this.
  18. overdrivethree

    overdrivethree Forum Resident

    Läther probably does sum up most of what he was about - but it's pretty sprawling and, even for FZ, there's not much context holding it together.

    Then there's whole debate about whether it was intended to be the single monolithic product it was, or if its contents were really meant to be spread across various albums.
    Siegmund likes this.
  19. Terrapin Station

    Terrapin Station Forum Resident

    NYC Man
    So for example, if you're really digging You Are What You Is, (and Joe's Garage and Sheik Yerbouti are indicators here, too), I'd recommend moving next along the track of Them or Us, The Man from Utopia, Apostrophe, Overnite Sensation, Zoot Allures, Tinseltown Rebellion, etc. (there are others in that vein, but I don't want to give you too many--that's already six more) Now, you might get tired of just hearing stuff in the same mode, but just pick up a couple until you start to want something different, and then move to the next mode that you're digging, and we can give you similar ones to whatever it is. (Assuming there are similar ones . . . Zappa does have a few odd albums that are more or less one-offs stylistically.)
    Siegmund likes this.
  20. Rfreeman

    Rfreeman Forum Resident

    Lawrenceville, NJ
    If I had to pick one that would be it. If I had to pick 5 I would add Hot Rats, You Are What You Is, Joe's Garage, and Make A Jazz Noise Here.
    Siegmund likes this.
  21. mmars982

    mmars982 Forum Resident

    Pittsburgh, PA
    Zoot Allures is one of my personal favorites, but I don't see it mentioned as much when discussions like this come up. It kind of sticks out from his other releases. A little more of a hard rocker than his other albums.

    I think overall, your original list is pretty good, along with the 'obvious omissions' you already mentioned.
    Holy Diver likes this.
  22. Denim Chicken

    Denim Chicken Forum Resident

    Bakersfield, CA
    For me everything from the 70s is essential. My two favorites are Grand Wazoo and Roxy and Elsewhere.

    Over-Nite Sensation and Sheik Yerbouti are the ones that made me a fan.
    MikeManaic61 likes this.
  23. yarbles

    yarbles Too sick to pray

    I always thought so. Black Napkins? Torture Never Stops? Ms Pinky? I'd call them essential.
    Guss2, kendo, T'mershi Duween and 2 others like this.
  24. wildstar

    wildstar Forum Resident

    ontario, canada
    My comprehensive/exhaustive list of all of the truly inessential Zappa titles:

    'Francesco Zappa'

    Not that I actually yet own everything else, but I do have the ambition to eventually have it all, aside from that one title. ZERO interest in it.
    Rfreeman likes this.
  25. John Fell

    John Fell Forum Survivor

    I really like the guitar albums. His solos are musical enough to stand alone.

Share This Page