Getting into Frank Zappa

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by englishbob, Nov 10, 2017.

  1. jeddy

    jeddy Forum Resident

    I suggest UNCLE MEAT

    ..and BONGO FURY if you want to rock
  2. babaluma

    babaluma Forum Resident

    Another addition to the You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore series I will ad is vol 2 "The Helsinki Concert" which features a brilliant concert from 1974. More fusion and funk feel but still with some humour and madness.
  3. jeddy

    jeddy Forum Resident

    Lather encapsulates everything about his music "mid period"

    Uncle Meat encapsulates everything about his music "early period"

    Both are masterpieces.
    rufus t firefly and sbeaupre like this.
  4. babaluma

    babaluma Forum Resident

    Some songs I really like, if you enjoy as well you can track down the albums themselves.

    Help I'm a Rock
    The Grand Wazoo
    Florentine Pogen
    Orange County Lumber Truck
    The Torture Never Stops
    Wind Up Workin' in a Gas Station
    Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy
    Revised Music for Guitar & Low-Budget Orchestra
    Trouble Everyday
  5. Yes Läther is an amazing showcase of several aspects of Zappa's thing, if one's already sure of his love for FZ.

    But the OP said he's mainly interested in vinyl versions. Is this one available yet... somewhere?
    englishbob likes this.
  6. Malinky

    Malinky Forum Resident

    Zappa was an amazingly talented guitarist and musical arranger, I WOULD love his music except for one thing....His FILTHY mouth!
    I always find myself thinking that this would be a great musical experience if it was not for the constant juvenile lyrics about `Titties` and `Anal sex`.

    If you are getting into Zappa then also get into his pal....CAPTAIN BEEFHEART.....I would recommend the album `Clear Spot` as a good entry point.
    Siegmund likes this.
  7. timriepe

    timriepe Well-Known Member

    Eastern, NC
    I have turned into a huge Zappa fan in the last few years. I originally heard "Apostrophe" and "Overnight Sensation" and I definitely recommend those albums to start (The new Zappa reissues rival if not better the original Discreet pressings in my experience). If you dig that stuff you must check out "Roxy and Elsewhere" and "One Size Fits All" and I know you are mainly interested in vinyl but the DVD/CD "A Token Of His Extreme" is my favorite live document of his. After that I would Recommend diving into the jazz fusion trio of records "Hot Rats" "Waka Jawaka" and "The Grand Wazoo". Then I would backtrack to the 60s Mothers albums in order to appreciate the transition to "Uncle Meat" like others have said Lather is the ultimate mid period album..hopefully it is reissued on vinyl soon! I think the split up albums of what was originally supposed to be released on Lather are inferior and do not flow nearly as well or give the material the extra oomph it needs. The best Late 70s album is "Joes Garage" the band is insane and there are actually some beautiful musical moments like the song "Watermelon in Easter Hay". I also Recommend the "Shut Up And Play Your Guitar" box set on vinyl! It is great!
  8. englishbob

    englishbob Its a s*** business Thread Starter

    Kent, England
    Thanks for the recommendations, I have been checking few albums on Spotify this afternoon.

    Quite a lot of them sound Parliament / Funkadelic in-places, which ain't a bad thing!
  9. lschwart

    lschwart Senior Member

    Richmond, VA
    From earlier threads for your reading pleasure (with some updates):

    The "top 10" recommended Zappa list I’d offer to a new listener would depend a bit on what it is they were interested in with Zappa. For me, it's all about the instrumental compositions and the guitar solos, but other people like the satire best, or the politics, or the whimsy, or the affection for LA R&B, and still others are in it for the sex and excrement jokes.

    Just about all of this is on display on the sprawling 3 disk set called I (which is also beautifully mastered for CD--and the original CD version had some nice bonus material). It's Zappa's mid-to-late 70s magnum opus, and it will give you a pretty good idea of what most of mid-to-late career Zappa is like. The music is terrific all the way through (especially, for me, the instrumental stuff and the solos), but the songs are pretty good, too, although I find much of the content a little wearying after a while. The satire is ungenerous for the most part, and the sex and the whimsy just get boring to me quickly, often before a given song is even over. But it's a better set of songs than you’ll find on some other records, and you might find things you like. Some of it is smart and carefully observed--and some of it (some) is even pretty funny.

    What's missing from that set is a taste of the earlier versions of the Mothers of Invention and the more specifically classical material (or the versions of various compositions arranged for classical ensembles) and the synclavier compositions.

    For the early Zappa, the best places to start from my perspective are with We're Only in it for the Money and Burnt Weenie Sandwich. The former is the best piece of satire Zappa ever wrote, and it's a seamless suite of sung and spoken words, sound effects, and music. The later disk is more about the music and has some of Zappa's best early compositions, many of them with a jazz/prog rock feel (and there are also some great DooWop bits). I think it’s all both rewarding and accessible. Hot Rats expands that jazz/prog strain in the same accessible direction. Uncle Meat, which for me is the masterpiece of the early period, pushes more in an avant garde direction, but I wouldn't avoid it for that reason. There are some fairly out-there bits, but a lot of it is the same mix of jazz, rock, and doowop. If you like this stuff, then Weasels Ripped my Flesh should come next. Freak Out is an important document in a lot of ways, but it's more like a “happening” than a record of fully realized music, and the set of R&B parodies are on the weak side to my ears. Absolutely Free is for me a dry run for what get's realized more fully on We're Only in it for the Money. But if you like that later album, you'll like it's predecessor very much, too.

    Between this early material and Lather, are the Flo and Eddie version of the Mothers (best bits are Chunga's Revenge and Just Another Band from LA), the great, largish jazz-influenced ensembles that made The Grand Wazoo and Waka Jawaka (along with the smaller Petite Wazoo, version--live sets for both versions of this ensemble are now available: Wazoo, Imaginary Diseases, Little Dots), and the amazing bands with George Duke on keyboards that made a series of live and studio records in the early to mid 70's. Go for the Flo and Eddie records if you want more sex and whimsy. The Wazoo and Waka stuff is the closest Zappa ever came to straight jazz (with elements of rock and avant garde classical), although it's not really quite jazz, but something all his own. The George Duke band records are terrific, but a mixed bag of great music, along with songs you may or may not want to listen to more than once. Apostrophe is heavy on whimsy, and it’s the studio disk I like best from this period. Overnite Sensation is heavier on sex and One Size Fits All has more interesting music. The whole shebang of what a version of this band could do in concert--with amazing instrumental performances--can be found on Vol. 2 of You Can't do that on Stage Anymore (subtitled, "The Helsinki Concert"). There are also the Roxy sets, A Token of his Extreme, and Road Tapes #2 for more tastes of that version of this band could do live.

    For the classical side of Zappa, the best place to look is The Yellow Shark, where late in his career, and as he was dying, Zappa found a classical ensemble in complete synch with his musical vision. The best synclavier material can be found on Jazz From Hell, and selections of beautifully played classical pieces (conducted by Pierre Boulez) and another handful of terrific synclavier stuff can be found on The Perfect Stranger. I also love the music on Civilization Phaze III, but the some of the random spoken-word bits can sometimes get in the way (same is true of the early work, Lumpy Gravy, which is available in its released form as a hybrid classical, rock/pop, sound collage work, well as in an early, more purely classical ensemble version, on the archival Lump Money set with other outtakes from the original sessions for that album and for We're Only in it for the Money and the mono version of that album, too).

    The best place for guitar solos, if you like the solos you hear on Lather and elsewhere, is Shut Up and Play Your Guitar. The later Guitar is also great, and has a beautiful version of a beautiful guitar piece called Watermelon in Easter Hay, but it's less varied and mostly missing the fantastic percussion work of Vinnie Colaiuta. This is true also of the even later Trans-Fusion.

    So, those are my recommendations for ways in. Take the path that seems most congenial to you (there's more of everything along each path). It's rare to find people who like all of what Zappa did equally, but a lot of people fall in love with particular strains.

  10. Holy Diver

    Holy Diver Forum Resident

    I started with Apostrophe (').
    englishbob likes this.
  11. Jama

    Jama Forum Resident

    Toronto, ON
    I've introduced a few people to Zappa through Joe's Garage, he was introduced to me through Apostrophe. Both are great introductions, Apostrophe is a bit easier to digest.
    englishbob likes this.
  12. Start at Freak out! and get them all in the order they were released.
  13. Malinky

    Malinky Forum Resident

    FLO AND EDDIE... are Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman who were in the Zappa band as `THE FLORESCENT LEECH AND EDDIE`.
    They were also known as `THE TURTLES`
    Here is a great clip that has the Zappa influence all over it.........

  14. vince

    vince Stan Ricker's son-in-law

    ...My EARS are BURNING!:uhhuh:
    lschwart likes this.
  15. costerdock

    costerdock Forum Resident

    Prescott, AZ, USA
    Good luck - I've tried over and over and just cannot get into it. If only there were albums w/o all the silly jokes and stories.
  16. joepepitone

    joepepitone It's money for dope, money for rope

    Pretty soon the OP will be starting a thread titled "Getting out of Zappa".
  17. I missed that caveat. Läther does not appear to be available on vinyl.
  18. My first Frank exposure in the mid-late 70s:
    Zoot Allures
    Overnight Sensation
    Roxy and Elsewhere
    Freak Out
    Hot Rats
    Holy Diver likes this.
  19. dlokazip

    dlokazip Forum Transient

    Austin, TX, USA
    Guitar is more for the hardcore fans, although I would recommend the "Sexually Harrassment In The Workplace"/"Watermelon In Easter Hay" CD3 to newbies. At this point, Guitar is probably cheaper, though.

    Among the guitar albums, Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar remains the best first purchase..

    Since you asked:

    Over-nite Sensation
    Roxy & Elsewhere
    One Size Fits All
    Uncle Meat
    Hot Rats
    Lumpy Gravy
    Joe's Garage
    Frank Zappa Meets The Mothers Of Prevention

    The new pressings are sublime. In many cases, they surpass the originals. You should not hesitate to get them if you want to stick with vinyl. We're Only In It For The Money may be the only exception, but good luck finding an original in good condition for a reasonable price.

    (I've got the new pressings of Roxy and Lumpy Gravy. They sound great!)

    Sounds like you're on your way.
    englishbob likes this.
  20. Terrapin Station

    Terrapin Station Forum Resident

    NYC Man
    I'm not really a Lather fan in that (a) I don't buy the Lather story--I don't believe there is any way that it wasn't originally the separate albums that were released on DiscReet, and (b) I think those tracks work best in the context of the original albums. (I believe that Zappa only concocted the combined album story in order to have a good excuse to broadcast all of that material on the radio when he was pissed off at Warner Bros.)

    Of course, Lather is a handy way to get the tracks from those four albums at one go, and Lather is also essential for us Zappa fanatics because of (i) the handful of tracks unique to it and (ii) the different mixes of the DiscReet tracks, but I think it's better to hear them separated first.

    Re where to start with Zappa, if we're not talking about someone who is going to be committed to picking up every release no matter what--and that's quite a task with Zappa, what I generally do is make recommendations based on what I know about the person's tastes. I think it's best to start with stuff the most similar to what they already like, and then branch out from there. Since the TC already knows some Roxy-era band stuff and likes it, I'd recommend starting with that band first--so Roxy and Elsewhere, One Size Fits All, You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore #2, A Token of His Extreme, etc., and then branch out to the stuff immediately surrounding it, probably going to the slightly earlier stuff first--so Waka/Jawaka, The Grand Wazoo, Wazoo (the posthumous live release of the Grand Wazoo band), Imaginary Diseases, Little Dots, Road Tapes Venue 2, etc., although you might want to skip some of the posthumous stuff and just focus on the official releases that Zappa put out first, but I'd still gradually branch out, in chronological order, in both directions, going backwards and forwards, from the Roxy band if you're digging that stuff already.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2017
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  21. CBS 65780

    CBS 65780 "Could I do one more immediately?"

    Dublin, Ireland
    Hot Rats (solo)
    Freak Out! (Mothers)

    That'll work for starters.
    Marc Perman, PCM7027 and englishbob like this.
  22. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    In anticipation of that:
    Francesco Zappa
    Uncle Meat
    (Get the Ryno version, just for the dialog tracks!)
    Congress Shall Make No Law
    , for the work of Roy Estrada (then, Google him)
    Playground Psychotics (yards and yards of taped conversation on tour busses, capped by the session with John Lennon's band, one part entitled, "A Small Eternity With Yoko Ono")
    bluesbro likes this.
  23. Hot Ptah

    Hot Ptah Forum Resident

    Kansas City, MO
    And soon every Zappa album is listed.
    Synthfreek likes this.
  24. joepepitone

    joepepitone It's money for dope, money for rope

    Of course, the OP can always cheat :hide: , like I did a year or so ago :hide: and buy this...this probably saved me mucho $$$$.

    englishbob likes this.
  25. CBS 65780

    CBS 65780 "Could I do one more immediately?"

    Dublin, Ireland
    "How much money you make peddling this stuff, Mr. Zappa?"
    "Millions of dollars."
    "Uh huh ... ?"
    "Millions of dollars, Mr. Lofton".

    Etc. The Crossfire footage. At about 7.47.
    Never fails to cheer me up!

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