The Lost Episodes
Brilliant musicianship, intricate compositions, biological humor, rock, jazz, blues, classical and doo-wop -- everything the world finds so charming (or infuriating) about the music of Frank Zappa -- it's all there in The Lost Episodes. Frank Zappa personally compiled this collection of studio rarities, alternate versions, and unreleased tracks as one of his last projects -- not only as a way of paying tribute to many of the people who had affected his life but also as a gesture of appreciation to his fans. Assembled as a kind of after-hours project over 18 months in 1992 and 1993, The Lost Episodes includes 30 tracks spanning 1958-1972, with short detours to 1980 and 1992. Tracks of particular note include "Ronny's Booger Story" and "Kenny's Booger Story," which shed new light on the (ahem) incidents which inspired "Let's Make the Water Turn Black," an early, jazz samba arrangement of "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance," "Lil' Clanton Shuffle," a blues jam left off 1969's Hot Rats which features Sugar Cane Harris on violin, original recordings of such Zappa gems as "RDNZL" and "Inca Roads," the 1980 single version of "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted," and five tracks featuring the vocal stylings of Don Van Vliet (aka Captain Beefheart) including one of the earliest Zappa-Beefheart studio collaborations, "Tiger Roach." TLE's cover art is by Gabor Csupo, founder of Klasky-Csupo Animation, the people who originally animated The Simpsons and now bring you Duckman and Rugrats. Packaged in a deluxe slipcase, the album is accompanied by a 52-page booklet with extensive liner notes by music journalist Rip Rense, including detailed commentary about each song derived from interviews with Zappa, engineer Spencer Chrislu, and a plethora of FZ's musical associates including Vliet, Ruth Underwood, Terry Bozzio, and James "Motorhead" Sherwood. Both Rense and Csupo contributed to this package at Zappa's request. From his early rock combos of the late 50's to the primitive early-60's Studio Z era, through the state-of-the-art Utility Muffin Research Kitchen to just about anywhere else FZ ever turned on a tape recorder, The Lost Episodes is an autobiographical glimpse behind the scenes of Zappa's long and varied recording career and a fascinating look at one of "popular music's most brilliant -- and daunting -- figures" (Chicago Sun-Times). If you want to know the story of the time Zappa shared a stage with Louis Armstrong, if you want to hear FZ's Clio Award-winning music for a 1967 Luden's Cough Drop commercial, or if you simply want to know the meaning of the word "eructation," The Lost Episodes is the disc you need. Featured Musicians:Captain Beefheart, Ruth Underwood, Terry Bozzio, James "Motorhead" Sherwood.

FreeThe second Mothers Of Invention album, originally released in 1967, continues Zappa's musical combo of rock/satire/jazz/doo-wop and more. With society at large still reeling from the assault of FREAK OUT!, Zappa went a few steps further with "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" and "Plastic People" -- two of his most pointed satirical pieces, and concert standards for many years to come; as was the cheerful surrealism of "Call Any Vegetable."

The Mothers consisted of Jimmy Carl Black, Ray Collins, Roy Estrada, Bunk Gardner, Billy Mundi, Don Preston and Motorhead Sherwood -- heard here in all their glory. At the time of ABSOLUTELY FREE's release, Zappa and company made a stab at hit-singledom with a seven-inch release of two otherwise-unavailable tracks, "Why Don'tcha Do Me Right?" and "Big Leg Emma," both of which are included here. Featured Musicians: Don Preston, Jimmy Carl Black, Bunk Gardner, Ray Collins, Roy Estrada

Does Humor Belong In Music
The second Mothers Of Invention album, originally released in 1967, continues Zappa's musical combo of rock/satire/jazz/doo-wop and more. With society at large still reeling from the assault of FREAK OUT!, Zappa went a few steps further with "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" and "Plastic People" -- two of his most pointed satirical pieces, and concert standards for many years to come; as was the cheerful surrealism of "Call Any Vegetable." The Mothers consisted of Jimmy Carl Black, Ray Collins, Roy Estrada, Bunk Gardner, Billy Mundi, Don Preston and Motorhead Sherwood -- heard here in all their glory. At the time of ABSOLUTELY FREE's release, Zappa and company made a stab at hit-singledom with a seven-inch release of two otherwise-unavailable tracks, "Why Don'tcha Do Me Right?" and "Big Leg Emma," both of which are included here.
Featured Musicians: Ray White, Ike Willis, Scott Thunes, Chad Wackerman, Dweezil

Fillmore East, June 1971

"A turning point for the Mother's esthetic, where sardonic barbs gave way to Flo and Eddie's silly routines. Zappa knew his audience however, and the jughead theater was embraced by many. Those who were concerned only with the music were sated too. Ornery nuggets like 'Lonesome Electric Turkey' kept pace with the band's most exploratory work of the time." -- Jim MacNie This is the one that everybody who went to high school in the early '70s just had to own. The Mothers played the Fillmore shortly before it closed its doors in 1971. Much of this album is given to an oral, so to speak, history of good old rock'n'roll decadence by Professors Flo & Eddie. It's the story of an Unnamed Rock Band, the Edgewater Inn, the young ladies they find there and an unsuspecting saltwater creature -- that's right, you heard right, the secret word was "Mud Shark". The notorious groupie routine "Do You Like My New Car?" gives maximum innuendo for the buck and its punchline is a letter-perfect rendition of "Happy Together," Flo & Eddie's old hit with the Turtles. This may be the closest thing to an outright comedy album that FZ ever released, but the brilliant instrumental seques (including snippets of "Little House I Used to Live In" and "Willie the Pimp") aren't to be overlooked. Featured Musicians: Flo & Eddie, Ian Underwood, Don Preston, Aynsley Dunbar

Freak Out!
The Greenwich Meridian from which all Zappa navigations begin. Originally released in 1966, it's the first Mothers of Invention record & just possibly the first rock "concept" album -- it purportedly inspired Paul McCartney to start writing SGT. PEPPER. A consciousness-raiser, now with 2 Lps on 1 CD.

Just try to imagine the '60s (or the world, for that matter) without "Hungry Freaks, Daddy," "Who Are the Brain Police," or "Trouble Every Day," the latter a concert fave well into the '80s. The big finale, "Return of the Son of Monster Magnet," is also here in all its dissonant glory. Featured Musicians: Ray Collins, Jimmy Carl Black, Roy Estrada


You want more solos, you got 'em. Lots of 'em. This double-CD follow-up to SHUT UP 'N' PLAY YER GUITAR compiles live recordings of FZ guitar solos collected from 1979-1984. At the time Zappa's live solos were the most unpredictable parts of his shows; they would appear as bridges between familiar numbers and vary greatly in style and content from night to night. Thus FZ's live tapes would yield a wealth of once-ever solos, the best of which would be worked into his albums. Some of these solos were used extensively on JOE'S GARAGE, while GUITAR collects the solos that FZ felt would stand best on their own. This wall-to-wall guitar showcase brought Zappa his 6th Grammy nomination, for "Best Rock Instrumental Performance." Among the highlights are the bluesy "Sexual Harassment in the Workplace"; the self-explanatory "In-a-Gadda-Stravinsky" (yes, that's Igor meets Iron Butterfly); the suitably grisly "Republicans," the slide-guitar driving "For Duane" (excerpted from a live version of "Whippin' Post"), the reggaefied "Too Ugly for Show Business," and more. The usual impeccable cast of support players is also on hand.

Hot Rats
'Jazz isn't dead,' Zappa's famous aphorism goes, 'it just smells funny.' Indeed Hot Rats (some think of as a missing link between Miles and Steely Dan) waxes as deliciously pungent as a rare Stilton even during the immaculate strains of 'Peaches En Regalia' and 'Little Umbrellas.' Perhaps it's the Brian Wilson-on-acid orchestrations, or the precision with which the band negotiates FZ's square-peg-in-a-round-hole rhythms." -- Ted Greenwald
This is probably the first FZ album that Most-Folks-Who-Don't-Even-Like-Frank Zappa ever bought, and the one that began to establish him as a virtuoso musician and composer. Mostly instrumental with Captain Beefheart providing off-color commentary on Willie The Pimp's "twenny dollah bill." After dropping a few hints on UNCLE MEAT, this was where FZ began to pursue jazz/rock composition in earnest; and "Peaches En Regalia" remains a strong contender for the catchiest tune in his whole catalogue. Backed by the impressive likes of Sugarcane Harris and Jean-Luc Ponty, he delivers the first full-scale demonstrations of his guitar prowess. Of special interest: "The Gumbo Variations" originally had to be edited to fit on a vinyl record; and is now restored to its 17-minute entirety. Featured Musicians:Frank Zappa, Ian Underwood, Sugar Cane Harris, Captain Beefheart, Jean-Luc Ponty, Shuggy Otis

Jazz From Hell

Perhaps the first INSTRUMENTAL album to be removed from Wal-Mart's shelves for unacceptable lyric content, this was also 1987's Grammy winner for Best Rock Instrumental Album. Having gotten his hands on a Synclavier for the first time, FZ was finally able to compose any damn thing he pleased without having to worry about whether human players would be able to handle it. Along with fiendishly complicated pieces like "While You Were Art II" and the title track, the result was also some fun-and-frantic moments like "Night School" and "G-Spot Tornado." For anti-electronic purists there's also "St. Etienne," a majestic guitar piece recorded live in 1984.

Joe's Garage

"It was easy to admire Zappa -- for his musicianship, his humor, and his honesty. It was hard to feel a lot of affection for him, his fierceness discouraged sentimentality. Which is why I really took a shine to Joe's Garage. For all the fun that record poked at a hopeless rock 'n' roll band, you felt that Zappa had a soft spot in his heart for them. That album made me wonder if Frank didn't care about all the characters he wrote about more than he let on." -- Bill Flanagan The Government censors rock music in its entirety in this sprawling musical saga. Eastern Europe took this lesson in censorship to heart when it was released. This is the complete set to scrutinize in the safety of your own home, made all the more timely with the rising of conservatism in the land of the free (still going strong as of this writing). Among the targets of Zappa's satire are religious cults, conservative morality, sexual fetishists and the band Toto. The first disc includes such Zappa standards as the title track, "Catholic Girls" and "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?". The plot thickens in the second and third acts, which include the outrageous "Stick It Out," "A Token of My Extreme" and many awesome guitar solos including the classic "Watermelon In Easter Hay". Originally released in 1979. 3 LPs on 2 CDs. Featured Musicians: Warren Cucurullo, Ike Willis, Ed Mann, Dale Bozzio, Terry Bozzio

Just Another Band From L.A.

Released in the wake of FILLMORE EAST, this is the next installment of FZ's adventures with ex-Turtles vocalists Flo & Eddie, and marked the debut of the time-honored catchphrase "Eddie, Are You Kidding?" Recorded live in the summer of 1971, at Pauley Pavillion, UCLA, this was orginally released in mid- 1972. Along with "Eddie" (about an infamous LA clothing establishment) and "Magdalene," JUST ANOTHER BAND FROM L.A. includes the 24-minute opus "Billy The Mountain," an ambitious mini-opera that took FZ's surrealism to new peaks, so to speak. Featured Musicians: Flo & Eddie, Aynsley Dunbar, Ian Underwood, Jim Pons, Don Preston

Ahead of Their Time

Ahead of their time? No kidding. Another archival release, from 1993, this documents the early Mothers Of Invention as they perform live, along with members of The BBC Symphony Orchestra, at London's Royal Festival Hall in October of 1968.

FZ spent some time in court dodging archaic British obscenity laws as a result of these very shows, so listen with some respect. Featured Musicians: Ian Underwood, Bunk Gardner, Motorhead Sherwood, Roy Estrada, Don Preston, Artie Tripp, Jimmy Carl Black

London Symphony Orchestra Vol. I & II

Something magnificent to move the air in your room around. FZ's compositions performed by the LSO, conducted by the now-well-known Kent Nagano. These are some of the most intricate compositions in all of Zappadom; even with the LSO working at full strength, FZ has noted that it took many hundreds of tape splices to get the pieces just right. Along with the grandeur of "Bogus Pomp" (much-expanded from its original appearance on ORCHESTRAL FAVORITES), there's the rich melodicism of "Sad Jane" and the many musical nooks and crannies of "Mo 'n' Herb's Vacation." Tracks from this session were originally scattered among two vinyl albums and one CD. This new and expanded edition includes all the LSO tracks on 2 CDs. Other highlights include "Strictly Genteel" (also reworked from ORCHESTRAL FAVORITES) and "Bob In Dacron." Featured Musicians: Kent Nagano conducting the 102-piece London Symphony Orchestra

Lumpy Gravy

Is this Phase Two of WE'RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY? Is this "a curiously inconsistent piece which started out to be a ballet, but probably didn't make it?" Well, it's FZ's first orchestral composition album, recorded with a 50-piece orchestra and a few stray Mothers, and the birthplace of "conceptual continuity." The musical themes serve as a starting point for future work. Includes career guidance and secret clues from the voices inside the piano. LUMPY GRAVY has been restored to its original 1968 mix; sounding just like it did then -- but better, of course.

Make A Jazz Noise Here

Originally released in '91, the third title culled from the 1988 tour. A double live CD, this one includes such classic Zappa compositions as "King Kong," "The Black Page," "Dupree's Paradise" and "Strictly Genteel," as well as pieces from Bartok and Stravinsky. For good measure there's a still-topical improvised vocal piece, "Star Wars Won't Work." True to its title, this disc spotlights the instrumental side of the 1988 band, in some ways the most accomplished group Zappa ever had. Combining some familiar names from previous bands (bassist Scott Thunes, drummer Chad Wackerman) with a few new faces (guitarist Mike Keneally, later to emerge as a promising pop songwriter), the band's main feature was a five-piece horn section, which handled a mind-boggling supply of original and cover material; while the size and expense of the band lost FZ a bundle of cash on the road. Featured Musicians: Ike Willis, Mike Keneally, Bobby Martin, Walt Fowler, Bruce Fowler, Ed Mann, Scott Thunes, Chad Wackerman

Meets The Mothers of Prevention

In 1985 Frank Zappa was called in to testify at the Parents Music Resource Center's hearings to censor rock music lyrics. Little did Al and Tipper Gore know that they'd wind up as unwitting guest vocalists (along with Senators Danforth, Hollings and Trible and the Rev. Jeff Ling) on the next Zappa album. This set is highlighted by "Porn Wars," Zappa's snarling response to the PMRC hearings, where taped testimony from the trials is manipulated through Zappa's synclavier to take on frightening overtones; in one memorable moment, a chorus of Congressional voices is transformed into pig grunts. Even without conventional lyrics, this piece gives the lie to any critics who felt Zappa was losing his satirical edge. This was Zappa's last studio album to feature vocals, and includes such pointed pieces as "Yo Cats" (a dig at conservatory-trained jazz musicians) and "We're Turning Again" (which looks cynically at the '60s coming back into fashion). For lighter moments there's a handful of instrumentals, which mark the catchier side of Zappa's work on the Synclavier. . Featured Musicians: Steve Vai, Ike Willis, Chad Wackerman, Ed Mann

One Size Fits All

The fourth FZ release in a row to reach the Top 50, this is a mix of studio and live tracks (some from the production of FZ's TV special A TOKEN OF HIS EXTREME). Another whitewater excursion to the apogee of rock/jazz/satirical fusion, with a terrific band including keyboardist George Duke, drummer Chester Thompson (later of Genesis), and percussionist Ruth Underwood. Lyric approach ranges from the topical, recession-era "Can't Afford No Shoes," to the giddily surreal "Sofa No. 1 and 2;" plus the obligatory display of instrumental wizardry on "Inca Roads." Other track highlights: "San Ber'dino," Florentine Pogen," and "Po-Jama People." Originally released in 1975. ONE SIZE FITS ALL is also available on Gold CD in the AU20 format. The AU20 trademark distinguishes enhanced audiophile editions of 20-bit digital masters replicated on 24K gold CDs. All releases in the AU20 series are converted to digital from the original master tapes, include all artwork from the original albums, and are individually numbered.. Featured Musicians: George Duke, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Chester Thompson, Ruth Underwood

Orchestral Favorites

The third album to be released which was made up of material originally intended for the unreleased box set LATHER, initially released in 1979. In contrast to the assortment of material on SLEEP DIRT and STUDIO TAN, this album includes some of Zappa's more ambitious pieces. Recorded live at UCLA's Royce Hall in 1975, with Michael Zearott conducting the orchestra. This all-instrumental set laid the groundwork for later explorations such as LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA and THE YELLOW SHARK. Includes "Strictly Genteel," "Bogus Pomp" and "Duke Of Prunes." Featured Musicians: Michael Zearott--Conductor, Terry Bozzio

Over-nite Sensation

Yes, this is the one with "Dinah-Moe Humm" on it....The first of a series of FZ's rock-jazz-guitar-horn-reed recordings to thrill hundreds of thousands of turntables worldwide and stun Rock Monsters everywhere until they were un-concho. "Montana" worked dental floss into the collective consciousness; "I'm the Slime" said all that needed saying about TV, and "Dirty Love" introduced those immortal sentiments, "the poodle chews it." Lest you think this one's all yuks, the Mothers at the time included the likes of George Duke, Jean-Luc Ponty and Ian Underwood." Featured Musicians: George Duke, Jean Luc Ponty, Ian Underwood

Playground Psychotics

You wanted more old Mothers, you got 'em: This "archival" double CD, originally released in 1992, features performances and assorted dialogue snippets from the early 70s version of The Mothers, recorded onstage at NYC's Fillmore East, UCLA's Pauley Pavilion and The Rainbow Theatre in London, and offstage in various locales. This was the Flo & Eddie version of the band, with the ex-Turtles lending their quintessential California harmonies to some of the Mothers' funniest moments as well as their most straight-ahead rockers. Of special interest is the John Lennon & Yoko Ono guest appearance at The Fillmore in 1971. It had been Lennon's first onstage appearance in nearly two years and his last for a long while, performing the blues standard "Well (Baby Please Don't Go)" and a long jam during which Yoko was tied up in a sack. This performance was heard in excerpted form on Lennon/Ono's album SOMETIME IN NEW YORK CITY; now it can finally be heard in context. Featured Musicians: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Flo & Eddie, Jim Pons, Don Preston, Ian Underwood, Aynsley Dunbar

Apostrophe (')

"Strange as it seems, Apostrophe' was Zappa's biggest hit, owing to the unlikely top-20 single, "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow." At the time it seemed like Zappa-taking-it-easy ('strictly from commercial' in fact) but after twenty years you can still hum "St. Alphonzo's Pancake Breakfast" and "Cosmik Debris." Frank used jokes to slip into your subconscious and then raised his musical tent in there." -- Bill Flanagan. FZ's first gold album, thanks to the success of "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow," this is the companion(with Overnight Sensation) Rock Monster survival guide. A revved-up python bootful of songs and stories that will kick your ear on its ass. "Stink-Foot" and "Cosmik Debris" raised a few eyebrows while taking their place as permament Zappa standards. You know the songs, but listen to the musical gymnastics the band gyrates below them; and note that the players include such notables as Jack Bruce, Jean-Luc Ponty, Aynsley Dunbar, George Duke and Ruth and Ian Underwood. Originally released in 1974. Apostrophe' is also available on Gold CD in the AU20 format. The AU20 trademark distinguishes enhanced audiophile editions of 20-bit digital masters replicated on 24K gold CDs. All releases in the AU20 series are converted to digital from the original master tapes, include all artwork from the original albums, and are individually numbered. Featured Musicians: George Duke, Sugar Cane Harris, Jean-Luc Ponty, Ruth Underwood, Jack Bruce, Aynsley Dunbar, Ian Underwood

Roxy & Elsewhere

Recorded live at LA's Roxy in 1973 (and elsewhere in May of 74), originally released as a double album (now on one CD) in the summer of 74. This band had instrumental prowess to spare (mallet percussionist Ruth Underwood has some especially dazzling moments), and struck a good balance between Zappa's sharp wit and his jazz-inspired experiments. Track highlights include "Penguin In Bondage," "Cheepnis" (which has been remixed for this release) and "Be-Bop Tango." From Goldmine -- "Presenting Zappa as a funny, sharp-tongued master of ceremonies and mixing his caustic humor with increasingly complicated musical structures, it was a model of the kind of shows and albums Zappa would be doing over the next decade." Featured Musicians: Frank Zappa, George Duke, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Ruth Underwood, Ralph Humphrey, Chester Thompson,Tom Fowler, Bruce Fowler, Walt Fowler

Sheik Yerbouti

Frank goes to the disco, loves your nails, and comes back with a genuine hit single, "Dancin' Fool." Not to mention the Number One hit, "Bobby Brown Goes Down" -- okay, it was Number One only in Norway, since most US stations were too timid to play it. Zappa's band on this one includes drummer Terry Bozzio, keyboardist Tommy Mars, and the then-unknown Adrian Belew, who not only plays guitar but does his best Dylan imitation on "Flakes." Also here are the notorious "Jewish Princess," the definitive romantic treatise "Broken Hearts Are for Assholes"; and "I Have Been in You," a parody of Peter Frampton. Featured Musicians: Adrian Belew, Terry Bozzio

Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch

Who'd have thunk it: FZ was listening to his daughter Moon imitate some of the "valley girls" she'd encountered in high school, and asked her to put that unique monologue on tape. Matching Moon's efforts with a catchy little tune composed for the occasion, FZ scored an honest-to-God hit single (#32 on the singles chart, his highest-ever charting single in America), and a national trend of sorts. "Valley Girl" also garnered FZ his second Grammy nomination, for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. This was one of the very few single-vinyl albums that FZ released during the later part of his career, but the six tracks cover a variety of ground, from the instrumental workouts on the title track to the operatic "Teenage Prostitute," one of the overlooked comedic gems of the Zappa catalogue. Featured Musicians: Moon Zappa, Steve Vai, Scott Thunes, Patrick O'Hearn, Chad Wackerman, Roy Estrada, Ike Willis

Shut Up 'n' Play Yer Guitar
100% guitar solos. The Rosetta Stone for axe players. Everyone else will be illuminated by the blindly exquisite improvised compositions, mostly culled from live performances 1979-80. A 3-CD box set with artwork that recreates the original 3-LP package. Backed by a host of different bands, Zappa makes his instrument express stuff more blasphemous than any mere words could convey. "Five-Five-Five" and "Hog Heaven" draw his most brutal and metallic tones; "Ship Ahoy" puts Zappa's distorto-funk shuffle over a cooking rhythm section. "Canarsie" lays Zappa's sinuous SG against bizarre rhythm passages featuring Warren Cucurullo's sitar. "Treacherous Cretins" finds him soloing over a reggae riff; "Variations on the Carlos Santana Secret Chord Progression" lives up to its title with the band aping a Latin percussive groove; "Beat It With Your Fist" is two minutes of maximum-velocity metal. But there's also some prettier moments here, like the reflective "Pink Napkins" and "Canard du Jour," an improvised duet with FZ on bouzouki and Jean-Luc Ponty on violin. Originally released only by mail-order, SHUT UP became one of the more popular Zappa items and promoted a two-disc sequel, GUITAR.

Sleep Dirt

First released in 1979, one of three albums (with STUDIO TAN and ORCHESTRAL FAVORITES) made up of material originally intended for the unreleased box set LATHER. The box set would have completed his Warner Brothers' contract, but they let the albums trickle out separately with minimal packaging or promotion. Hence the original release was unauthorized by FZ and went out-of-print in a hurry; it's now here in fully Zappa-approved form. Material, recorded between 1974-1976, also includes some songs from the unstaged FZ science fiction musical HUNCHENTOOT. Track highlights: "Regyptian Strut" and "The Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution." Featured Musicians: Terry Bozzio, Chester Thompson, George Duke, Ruth Underwood, Patrick O'Hearn

Studio Tan

Originally released in 1978, one of three albums (with SLEEP DIRT and ORCHESTRAL FAVORITES) comprised of material originally intended for the unreleased box set LATHER, recorded between 1974-1976. This material was originally lost in Zappa's contractural disputes with Warner Brothers; it's now here in fully-authorized form. This album's centerpiece is "The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary," a 24-plus minute mini-opera (written in 1972) that's a sequel of sorts to "Billy the Mountain" on JUST ANOTHER BAND FROM L.A. Also here is "Lemme Take You to the Beach," the closest thing to a Jan & Dean song that FZ ever wrote. Featured Musicians: George Duke, Chester Thompson, Tom Fowler, Bruce Fowler

The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life

Yes, this is the one with "Stairway to Heaven" on it. It's the second release from the '88 tour, a double live CD originally released in 91. Also heard on MAKE A JAZZ NOISE HERE and BROADWAY THE HARD WAY, this band featured a five-piece horn section and was perhaps the most versatile and technically accomplished touring band that FZ ever had. This is demonstrated in the boggling range of material heard on this album. The recordings are from performances and soundchecks, and feature old favorites and premiere recordings. Along with the deranged version of "Stairway" (FZ claimed he'd never heard the original version!), there's an equally deconstructed "Ring of Fire" and a live cover of "Bolero" -- yes, the Ravel one. There's also a "Jimmy Swaggart medley" including "Lonesome Cowboy Burt," "More Trouble Every Day" and "Penguin In Bondage;" with new lyrics inspired by Swaggart's sexual misadventures. Featured Musicians: Ike Willis, Mike Keneally, Walt Fowler, Bruce Fowler, Ed Mann (percussion), Scott Thunes, Chad Wackerman

The Grand Wazoo

This 1972 album continues the mostly-instrumental, jazz-rock thread of Zappa's work, which began with HOT RATS and continued with WAKA/JAWAKA. It's a big-band setting this time, with lots of improvisation, with big brass, woodwind and percussion sections. Sal Marquez, in particular, shines on trumpet. Zappa-philes will also recognize names like Aynsley Dunbar, Don Preston and George Duke. The five lengthy tracks include the witty "Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus," the intricate title track, the rock-edged "For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers)," and the more lyrical "Blessed Relief." Packaging includes a Zappa narrative that gives these tracks their conceptual continuity. Zappa was temporarily giving his satirical side a breather (it would return in due time on OVER-NITE SENSATION) and making some of his more ambitious, if often overlooked, instrumental work. Featured Musicians: Sal Marquez, George Duke, Aynsley Dunbar

The Man From Utopia

Studio and live tracks (circa 1980-82). One of Zappa's more joke-heavy albums, this one's highlights include the music-biz scrutinizer "Cocaine Decisions" and the tale of band horseplay, "The Jazz Discharge Party Hats." A pair of instrumentals is here too, including "Tink Walks Amok" (featuring Arthur "Tink" Barrow on bass) and "We Are Not Alone." Illustration gracing the cover is from Italian cartoonist Tanino Liberatore. Featured Musicians: Steve Vai, Chad Wackerman, Scott Thunes, Arthur Barrow, Ike Willis.

The Yellow Shark

The 26-member Ensemble Modern perform FZ's "most-humanly-impossible-to-play" compositions. Piano duets, string quintets and small ballets. Simply exquisite; with a 60-page booklet to explain it all. Originally released in 1993, it stayed on the classical chart for most of `94. Includes the tracks "Outrage At Valdez," "None Of The Above," and " Welcome To The United States"; plus new arrangements of some of the most fiendishly difficult pieces from FZ's back catalogue and even a "greatest hit" or two (some would pick this as the definitive version of "Dog Breath Variations"). Sadly, this was the last album released by FZ during his lifetime. Featured Musicians: The Ensemble Modern

Them or Us

Originally released as a double album of UMRK studio recordings in 1984, THEM OR US is now on one CD. One of the more diverse of the later Zappa albums, the set includes everything from a pair of '50s doo-wop homages ("Sharleena" and "The Closer You Are"), to a straight-faced cover of the Allman Brothers' "Whippin' Post," to a backhanded salute to rock's latest trend ("Be In My Video"). Other humorous moments include "Stevie's Spanking," a recounting of guitarist Steve Vai's bedroom adventures; and "In France," where the scatological lyrics are handled by Johnny Guitar Watson. Some of Zappa's better rock instrumentals are here as well. The title track finds him soloing away with only bass and drums for accompaniment; while "Sinister Footwear II" is an intricate, multi-keyboard arrangement of a section of his ballet of the same name. Less characteristic is "Ya Hozna," which pairs a funky bassline with hypnotic, tape-reverse vocals -- doubtlessly a response to the "backwards masking" flapdoodle of the time. Featured Musicians: Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Chad Wackerman, Scott Thunes, George Duke, Patrick O'Hearn, Steve Vai, Ike Willis, Roy Estrada, Arthur Barrow, Dweezil Zappa, Moon Zappa.


Originally released as 3 LPs (now on 2 CDs) in 1984, THING-FISH is an outrageous, hilarious savage parody of a Broadway show that was controversial enough to bring FZ more major label trouble (scheduled to be distributed by MCA, they objected to the content, so he contracted with Capitol for distribution). Ike Willis stars in the title role, Terry and Dale Bozzio fill the roles of Harry and Rhonda, the hapless audience members who are abused by the actors on stage, Johnny "Guitar" Watson as Brown Moses, Napoleon Murphy Brock as the Evil Prince. Never actually staged (but hey, it's never too late), the play draws music from previous Zappa discs (mostly YOU ARE WHAT YOU IS), along with a stack of numbers that weren't heard elsewhere. And the plot? Well, the evil government's trying to weed out the population through the use of a doctored cologne, a race of mutant "Mammy Nuns" develops in response, Terry Bozzio enters as the ultimate whiny white guy; the whole crew pays a visit to the Mudd Club, and Dale Bozzio, in what may be the height of her career to date, does unspeakable things with her briefcase. Critics who objected to Zappa's sexual/scatological humor had a field day with this one. But the cultists rejoiced; and some even took to showing up at Zappa concerts in their own Thing-Fish outfits. Featured Musicians: Ike Willis, Terry Bozzio, Dale Bozzio, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Johnny "Guitar" Watson

Tinsel Town Rebellion

Originally released in 1981 as a double (mostly) live album, now on one CD. At this time FZ began to appropriate punk rock for his own satiric purposes, and the title track takes an hilariously vicious look at the spoiled-brat punk bands that had begun to proliferate on the Sunset Strip. Sexual buffoonery was also one of his favorite topics here, in such pointed numbers as "Fine Girl," "Easy Meat," "Bamboozled By Love." There's some good audience-interaction bits here as well, including one where he successfully solicits panties from female fans. Featured Musicians: Ike Willis, Warren Cucurullo, Ray White, Steve Vai

Uncle Meat

A crucial turning point in Motherdom, this started as the soundtrack to the movie that was completed decades later. Just when Zappa's fans had digested the vicious satire of WE'RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY and the doo-wop homages of RUBEN & THE JETS, he gave them a mostly-instrumental album that highlighted the jazz-rock leanings and increasing virtuosity of the early Mothers. The album's finale, the adventurous but appealing instrumental suite "King Kong," convinced a few skeptical ears that Zappa wasn't so scary after all. As a whole, UNCLE MEAT illustrates FZ's masterful production techniques, and his ability to appropriate all sorts of popular music and have his way with it as well. Doo-wop rears its head on "Cruisin' For Burgers" and "Electric Aunt Jemima;" and the groupies-turned recording artists the GTO's make their debut on "Our Bizarre Relationship." And of course, it wouldn't be a serious, jazz-influenced Mothers album without a little "Louie Louie." This double CD has been augmented with a full 45 minutes of extra dialogue and stuff from the film. Primer mi carucha, brodie knobs and spinners, fake I.D.s, khaki maple buckwheats and King Kong in excelsis. Featured Musicians: Ian Underwood, Don Preston, Bunk Gardner, Jimmy Carl Black

Waka / Jawaka

Originally released in 1972, this might be considered the middle installment of a mostly-instrumental jazz-rock trilogy, with HOT RATS and THE GRAND WAZOO. Having temporarily retired the Mothers of Invention name, Zappa was also toning down the satire and flexing his compositional muscles; though this album also has a couple of yuks on "Your Mouth" and "It Just Might be a One-Shot Deal" (the latter featuring a rare Zappa appearance of pedal steel wizard Sneaky Pete Kleinow, then of the Flying Burrito Brothers). But the real standouts here are a pair of extended instrumental pieces, the title track and "Big Swifty," both featuring plenty of great horn work, most notably from Sal Marquez on trumpet. Featured Musicians: Sal Marquez, George Duke, Aynsley Dunbar, Sneaky Pete Kleinow

Baby Snakes

The soundtrack to the Zappa feature film (which opened in 1979). Originally released as a picture disc LP in 1983, these are live recordings from the 1977 Halloween show at NYC's Palladium. "Dinah-Moe Humm," "The Black Page," "Jones Crusher" and "Disco Boy" as performed by a band that included Adrian Belew (singing what may be the definitive version of "City of Tiny Lights"), Terry Bozzio (featured on the notorious "Punky's Whips"), Patrick O'Hearn, Roy Estrada and Tommy Mars. Featured Musicians: Frank Zappa, Adrian Belew, Terry Bozzio, Patrick O'Hearn, Roy Estrada, Tommy Mars

We're Only In It For The Money

This is it, kids: The ultimate stab at hippiedom, the flipside to SGT. PEPPER, the album that didn't leave a single pretense of the counterculture standing. Can it be mere coincidence that the '60s ended within a few years of this album's release? From its Beatles parody cover design to the lyrical barbs on "Flower Punk" and "Who Needs the Peace Corps?," this was aptly described by Rolling Stone (who picked it as one of the top 100 albums from 1967-1987) as "perhaps the most mercilessly derisive raspberry ever flung at the rock scene by an actual participant therein." The finale, "The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny" still stands as one of the more audacious pieces of composition in the Zappa catalogue. When WE'RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY first appeared on CD in 1986, Zappa took the controversial step of technically spiffing up the music with new, digitally-recorded bass and drum tracks. Some fans responded with a resounding "Thanks, but no thanks." Here, the original Verve master has been restored. Featured Musicians: Ian Underwood, Roy Estrada

Weasels Ripped My Flesh

The second collection in a row of archival Mothers material, a mix of live and studio recordings (following BURNT WEENY SANDWICH), originally released in 1970. Said Rolling Stone, "...finds the group peerless in the field of amalgamating satire, musical adventuresomeness and flash. This could be because they're the only ones attempting it, but no matter." Perhaps the most diverse Mothers album of its time, WEASELS ranges from the avant excursion "Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbeque" to the relatively tuneful "Orange County Lumber Truck," from the onstage hijinks on "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask" to the social satire, a la WE'RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY, heard on "Oh No". "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama" would sum up rock'n'roll brattiness for years to come; some kid named Dweezil Zappa even recorded it in the '80s. And there's a Little Richard cover ("Directly From My Heart to You") in the middle of all this? Sure. Featured Musicians: Lowell George, Sugar Cane Harris, Ian Underwood

You Are What You Is

Lots of social commentary on this one, particularly on the dangers of "organized religion." Originally released as a double album in 1981 (and now on one CD), this set is unusually heavy on vocals; in fact only one track, a brief excerpt from the ballet "Sinister Footwear," is an instrumental. With a cast including Moon Zappa, Steve Vai, Ike Willis and returning Mother Jimmy Carl Black, FZ takes stabs at punk fashion ("Mudd Club", "I'm a Beautiful Guy"), salutes his pals from the planet Remulak ("Conehead"); and closes it out with "Drafted Again," a remake of his topical 1980 single "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted." But the sharpest satire is reserved for the churches, on a pointed sequence of tunes including "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing" (first performed on "Saturday Night Live"), "Dumb All Over", and "Heavenly Bank Account." Featured Musicians: Ike Willis, Ray White, Steve Vai, Ahmet Zappa, Moon Zappa, Jimmy Carl Black, Motorhead Sherwood

You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 1

This is the first installment of FZ's mammoth live retrospective, proving he could do anything on stage and did. Each set contains over 2 hours of music on 2 CDs; all performances are previously unreleased. Zappa intentionally didn't organize the material chronologically, pointing out in the liner notes, "The performance of any band from any year can be (and often is) edited to the performance of any other band from any other year, sometimes in the middle of a song." Indeed, some of the after-the-fact musical segues (everything runs continuously) are no less ingenious than the playing. Volume One includes material ranging from a 1969 performance of "Plastic People" (to the tune of "Louie, Louie," of course) dating from Little Feat founder Lowell George's brief stint with the Mothers; to a trio of YOU ARE WHAT YOU IS numbers performed for an early MTV telecast ("It's unlikely they'll ever let us get away with that again," notes Zappa in the liners). In between come a 20-minute performance of "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" with spontaneous audience interaction; and a lengthy "The Torture Never Stops" with suitably vicious guitar solo. Along with the musical highlights come emblematic moments in the history of the Mothers. Flo & Eddie's "Groupie Routine," the infamous highlight of the FILLMORE EAST album, is included in an alternate live version; there's also an archival tape of that band getting hassled at the airport. One track ("Sofa #1") was recorded a week after the casino fire described in Deep Purple's "Smoke On the Water"; while "Zomby Woof" was recorded during an outdoor show in Milan, where the band was deluged by mosquitos during the entirety of their set. Featured Musicians: Napoleon Murphy Brock, George Duke, Ruth Underwood, Adrian Belew, Terry Bozzio, Ian Underwood, Steve Vai, Flo & Eddie

You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 2

Departing from the live-compilation format of YOU CAN'T DO THAT ON STAGE ANYMORE, Volume Two is the only installment to include a complete show -- Sept. 22, 1974, in Helsinki, Finland, to be exact. The APOSTROPHE-era band (with George Duke on keyboards, Napoleon Murphy Brock on sax, Ruth Underwood on bass, Tom Fowler on bass and future Genesis member Chester Thompson on drums) had never played better; and this set includes long stretches of brilliant instrumental work on "Dupree's Paradise," "Inca Roads" and "Approximate." Also here is the definitive version of the "Village of the Sun" suite (originally on ROXY & ELSEWHERE) and a long version of "Montana" that keeps threatening to turn into "Whippin' Post." Featured Musicians: Napoleon Murphy Brock, George Duke, Ruth Underwood, Tom Fowler, Chester Thompson

You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 3

Three volumes into the series and we finally get a live version of "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee," plus a version of "Dickie's Such an Asshole," recorded while it was still timely (it would turn up on BROADWAY THE HARD WAY, once Dickie was safely out of the way). These 25 tracks were recorded between 1971 and 1984 (5 songs were premiere recordings), although MOST of it's from the 1984 tour. Of special interest is the first track, "Sharleena," recorded December 23, 1984. On it, 15-year old Dweezil joins his father on guitar, the first time they played together onstage. Also of special interest is a live version of "King Kong" that includes FZ's guitar solo from the notorious Rainbow Theater show of 1971. It was during this very number that an overreacting audience member, whose girlfriend claimed to be in love with Frank, chose to jump onstage and knock FZ into the orchestra pit; he wound up in the hospital and wouldn't perform for the remainder of the year. (This solo is deftly edited into a 1982 performance of the same tune). On the lighter side, there's an '84 performance of "Bamboozled by Love" where the band slides into a Yes riff that you'll probably recognize. Featured Musicians: Ike Willis, Ray White, Bobby Martin, Alan Zavod, Scott Thunes, Chad Wackerman

You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 4

YCDTOSA Vol. 4 was released in 1991, with recordings ranging from 1969 to 1988. First time appearance for 11 songs. Because of the huge time span, there's an enormous list of musicians, including FZ on lead guitar & vocals, Captain Beefheart (handling vocals and harmonica on "The Torture Never Stops"), the mid-70's band, the '79 band, the `82 band, the `84 band, the `88 band, and even 2 Mothers tracks from 1969 ("You Call That Music?" and "Tiny Sick Tears") -- Lowell George appears on both. Archie Shepp guests on tenor sax solo on "Let's Move To Cleveland" from 1984 (Amherst MA). There's also a smelly-beard routine involving George Duke; a "Montana" that segues two versions from 12 years apart; and a version of "Stevie's Spanking" with Steve Vai playing one of his best solos, doubtlessly inspired by the events described in the lyric. Featured Musicians: Captain Beefheart, Lowell George, Archie Shepp, Terry Bozzio, George Duke, Ed Mann, Ian Underwood, Ruth Underwood

You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 5

YCDTOSA Vol. 5 was released in 1992, with the first recorded appearance of 27 songs. On this one FZ granted the wishes of fans who wanted to hear more from the early bands. Disc One is dedicated to live performances from 1965 to 1969, thus featuring various Mothers Of Invention line-ups (mostly the 1969 band). Lots of Lowell George (he's on 10 tracks) and lots of rare material, including the obscure R&B cover "Here Lies Love" and a bit of Mozart (a ballet excerpt featuring tap dancing by Jimi Hendrix Experience bassist Noel Redding). Disc Two is the 1982 band (Steve Vai, Tommy Mars, Bobby Martin, Ray White, Ed Mann, Scott Thunes and Chad Wackerman), recorded that summer in Europe. Good extended versions of "Pound for a Brown on the Bus" and "City of Tiny Lights" here; plus a live version of the then-recent hit "Dancin' Fool." Featured Musicians: Lowell George, Ray White, Steve Vai, Tommy Mars, Ed Mann, Scott Thunes, Chad Wackerman

You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 6

The last in the YCDTOSA series was originally released in `92, with recordings (13 songs were first appearances) circa 1970 to 1988. Disc One's songs, as FZ put it in the liner notes, deal "generally with the topic of sex (safe and otherwise)." That means you'll hear FZ faves like "Dirty Love" and "Dinah-Moe Humm"; plus rarities like "The Poodle Lecture" and a pair of audience-participation bits, "The Madison Panty-Sniffing Festival" and "Make a Sex Noise." Disc Two features a massive all-star line-up -- kind of a "who's who" of Zappa alumni -- from Flo & Eddie in '71 to the massive horn-driven band from the 1988 tour. This disc wraps up the loose ends with essential Zappa items that hadn't been in the series before, like "Catholic Girls," the "200 Motels" finale, and "Black Napkins" (from the elusive '76 band with Eddie Jobson, Terry Bozzio and the Brecker Brothers) . Featured Musicians: Patrick O'Hearn, Scott Thunes, Adrian Belew, Steve Vai, Terry Bozzio, Aynsley Dunbar, Chad Wackerman, Shankar, Jean-Luc Ponty, Ed Mann, Ruth Underwood, George Duke, Ian Underwood, Tommy Mars

Zappa In New York

A double-CD set, recorded live in New York City at the end of 1976. Heavy on, well, "freewheeling" lyrical content, with "Titties & Beer" and "The Illinois Enema Bandit" (the latter featuring "sophisticated narration" by Don Pardo) being special favorites with young males of a certain age. Also here is the song that gets most peoples' vote for the best title ever to grace a Zappa instrumental, "I Promise Not to Come In Your Mouth." When Zappa first released this album in '78, Warner Brothers was especially nervous about a little tune called "Punky's Whips." The tune concerned drummer Terry Bozzio's lurid sexual fantasies about one Punky Meadows, guitarist for the band Angel. Since Angel was then regarded as an important player in the music industry (yeah, right), Warners sat on the album for a long while and then deleted the track altogether. With this CD reissue "Punky's Whips" is back in all its glory, along with four other songs not on the original vinyl. Features Eddie Jobson from Roxy Music on keyboards. Featured Musicians: Don Pardo, Terry Bozzio, Patrick O'Hearn, Ruth Underwood, Eddie Jobson

Zoot Allures

FZ's version of a basic stripped-down rock record; uncomplicated and completely compelling. Alongside sharp satirical tracks like "Disco Boy" and "Wind Up Workin' in a Gas Station" (which launched the onstage chant "Show me your thumb if you're really dumb") come between-the-eyes instrumentals like "Black Napkins," "Friendly Little Finger" and the title track.

This disc is also the home of "The Torture Never Stops," a doomsaying blues unlike anything else in the Zappa catalogue. Featured Musicians: Terry Bozzio, Ruth Underwood

Strictly Commercial

Here's where to start your Zappa collection, if you're a Zappa neophyte. Although his recorded legacy numbers more than 50 albums, this is the first official Zappa retrospective since Verve released MOTHERMANIA in 1969. STRICTLY COMMERCIAL features over 76 minutes of unforgettable music, including "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow," "Dancin' Fool," "Cosmik Debris," "Valley Girl," and "Peaches En Regalia." While Zappa is also respected as a serious composer of classical music, this compilation reveals the rock side of this complex artist, while showcasing his prodigious talents as an incisive satirist and virtuoso guitarist. The package includes extensive liner notes by Dan Oullette, and an appreciation by Terry Gilliam. Featured Musicians: Terry Bozzio, Ruth Underwood

Bongo Fury

Recorded live at Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas in 1975 (and originally released later that same year), Bongo Fury reunites FZ and the inimitable Captain Beefheart (the pair hadn't been heard together since "Willie the Pimp" on HOT RATS). Track highlights include the concert encore fave "Muffin Man," "Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy" and two Beefheart compositions unavailable elsewhere -- "Sam With The Showing Scalp Flat Top" and "Man With The Woman Head." Also here is "200 Years Old," a backhanded anthem released in advance of the US bicentennial. Featured Musicians: Captain Beefheart, George Duke, Terry Bozzio

Boulez Conducts Zappa : The Perfect Stranger

This classically-oriented set combines music from FZ's Synclavier compositions plus music commissioned for, and performed by, The Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris. Originally released by Angel/EMI in 1984, THE PERFECT STRANGER remained on the classical chart for almost a year and brought FZ his third Grammy nomination, for Best New Classical Composition (for the piece "The Perfect Stranger.") Featured Musicians: Pierre Boulez conducting The Ensemble Intercontemporain


"Läther is nothing so much as a definitive overview of every mode the man has ever tampered with...If your interest in Zappa goes beyond mere frivolous acquaintance, it's essential." -- New Musical Express (January 28, 1978) Almost 20 years after its intended 1977 release, this previously unissued four-LP box set (now on three CDs) is now commercially available for the first time. With its mix of live rock performances, orchestral works, musique concrete, jazz compositions, guitar improvisations, sci-fi musicals, cartoon soundtracks and enema bandits, LÄTHER is a veritable smorgasbord of Zappa delights. As Simon Prentis, Zappa's semantic scrutinizer and LÄTHER liner note writer, observes, "Were it not for the characteristically incongruous twists lurking in the background, it would be hard to credit that so much music executed in so many different styles (and with such precision and panache) could be the work of one composer." Produced by Zappa in 1977, LÄTHER (pronounced leather) features unreleased tracks, unreleased versions of familiar tunes and alternate mixes and edits of tracks that appeared on four separate albums in 1978 and 1979 (ZAPPA IN NEW YORK, STUDIO TAN, SLEEP DIRT and ORCHESTRAL FAVORITES). In addition to LÄTHER's two hours and 40 minutes of music, the staff at Zappa's recording studio, the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen (UMRK), has unearthed four nuggets from the Zappa vault and assembled them into a 20-minute bonus at the end of the program, bringing the total listening experience to three hours. Legal hassles with Warner Bros., Zappa's record company at the time, prevented the original release of LÄTHER. Stories vary, but according to Gail Zappa, Zappa conceived LÄTHER as a four-album box set which Warner Bros. declined to release. The label then thwarted Zappa's attempts to release it elsewhere by threatening legal action. It was then that Zappa reluctantly reformatted some of LÄTHER's material into separate albums, and delivered them to the record company in an effort to fulfill his contractual obligations. Zappa alleged that Warner Bros. refused to pay him for the material, so he declared them in breach and the lawsuits began. Zappa took matters into his own hands in December 1977 by playing the entire work on Pasadena's KROQ radio station and instructing listeners to tape it. He said, "This is Frank Zappa as your bogus temporary disc jockey making it possible for you to run your little cassette machine and tape an album which is perhaps never going to be available to the public at large." He was right. Until now. The unorthodox radio broadcast, plus a few reviews of LÄTHER that found their way into the press at the time, helped to solidify the album's reputation as a masterpiece and made it the stuff of legend. "Ingenuity, poise, and audacity are stamped on all the compositions like a hallmark," says Prentis in the liner notes. The breadth and depth of musical virtuosity in evidence on LÄTHER makes it not only a top request from Zappa fans, but an important missing piece in the recorded history of one of modern music's most inspired and original composers. Featured Musicians:: Don Pardo, Terry Bozzio, George Duke, Chester Thompson, Tom Fowler, Bruce Fowler, Ruth Underwood, Patrick O'Hearn and Conductor Michael Zearott

Strictly Genteel

Q: Could this be the Frank Zappa album for me? A: So you didn't really go for songs like "Titties & Beer," and, let's face it, "I Promise Not to Come in Your Mouth" does sound rather, well, gross. Not that you've never been near anyone who actually said stuff like that, it's just that you don't really want that sort of thing intruding when you're trying to relax of an evening. I mean, we are civilized here, I'll have you know. So you'll no doubt be delighted to hear that this compilation features entirely instrumental numbers, with not an indelicate title between them (with the possible exception of "G-spot Tornado"). Q: What, not another compilation album? A: Well yes, actually. But this one is a little different. Apart from the fact that, since there aren't any, no one can possibly take exception to the lyrics, it offers you the opportunity to observe unhindered the full range and splendor of the music itself, with selections that span Zappa's entire career. Q: Full range and splendor? I thought he was basically just an old rocker. A: Perhaps that was because you've never really listened before. You might be interested to learn that the very first music Zappa ever wrote was for orchestra (aged fourteen) and that the earliest cut featured here is an orchestral soundtrack to a film, written when he was twenty. Even the stuff that seems most like rock contains some pretty toe-curling structures. But for some reason people keep getting hung up on the words... Q: OK, so there's some orchestral stuff on it. But they're all doing that now. I mean, Sir Paul McCartney's gone all "classical" recently A: Well, there's classical and there's classical. The fact that Zappa knew how to wield an orchestra doesn't necessarily make the music "classical," although in fifty years' time there's a good chance that his music will be looked on as classic. Always assuming that there's anything left to sit on, of course. But seriously, surely even you can tell that this is not quite the same thing as the London Philharmonic playing orchestral arrangements of Beatles numbers. Q: Well, it's not as tuneful, that's for sure. What's with all this atonal stuff, anyway? Why couldn't he just stick to a decent beat? A: Perhaps because the beat always moves on. Not that there isn't a beat, or a decent melody line, anyway. Check out "Little Umbrellas," or "Aybe Sea," perhaps. There are even those of us who feel that "Naval Aviation In Art?" is pretty damn lyrical in it's own little way. But think of it like this: if there wasn't anything new, you'd get bored. Q: But does it always have to be this new? Some of that Yellow Shark stuff is pretty wigged out A: Not necessarily in terms of that kind of music - although John Cage was probably right to claim that a 20% injection of novelty will lose you 80% of your audience for 15 years. But don't forget that Zappa was actually commissioned to write some pieces by Pierre Boulez, and that the Ensemble Modern, one of Europe's premier "classical" outfits, approached him to write for them. These people know what they are doing. Q: OK. So what about the other stuff? A: The other stuff is there to give you a frame of reference, so you can see for yourself that the orchestral elements were always lurking in the jazz/rock/pop stuff and vice versa. But to cut to the chase: as we slouch uncertainly to the end of the millennium, the old distinctions between "classical" and "pop" are blurring anyway. Call it post-modern or just the way it is, the era of computers and sampling technology deserves an art where Frank Zappa's name will be high on the list. Because, as this collection amply demonstrates, he lit the fuse to that kind of fusion before anyone else was even in the neighborhood. With the only alternative the likes of Philip Glass and Oasis, that makes it classical, and no mistake. Featured Musicians:Kent Nagano conducting the 102-piece London Symphony Orchestra, Conductor Michael Zearott, Pierre Boulez conducting The Ensemble Intercontemporain, Chester Thompson, George Duke, Ian Underwood, Ruth Underwood, Patrick O'Hearn

Have I Offended Someone?

"The people most offended by my lyrics seem to be rock critics. The audience usually likes them." - Frank Zappa (from The Real Frank Zappa Book) As Ed Sanders’ liner notes for Offended? point out, "It is clear from my decades with the Fugs that there are oodles of humans out there who thirst for the lascivious chants of Have I Offended Someone?... I also know there will be oodles who will listen askance at this gathering of the Zappa legacy." The selections included here are bound to provoke negative reactions from many quarters—potentially offended parties being women, men, gays, jews, catholics, musicians, music business executives, the religious right and the French. It should be noted, however, that Zappa steadfastly defended freedom of speech for 30 years, persistently writing songs about sensitive (but truthful) issues, even in the face of attack and criticism ("rock" and otherwise). Oh yes, about "rock criticism." Zappa never shied away from saying what he really thought about rock critics. His most famous quote on the subject is included in the chapter entitled "Sticks & Stones" in The Real Frank Zappa Book; "Definition of rock journalism: People who can’t write, doing interviews with people who can’t think, in order to prepare articles for people who can’t read." Featured Musicians:Moon Zappa, George Duke, Ian Underwood, Adrian Belew, Terry Bozzio, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Patrick O'Hearn, Steve Vai, Ike Willis, Ray White

Broadway The Hard Way

Mostly premiere recordings peppered with political commentary. This was the first of a few collections from the epic 1988 tour, and the CD is nearly twice as long as the original album version. Track highlights: "Promiscuous," 'Elvis Has Just Left The Building" and "Jesus Thinks You're A Jerk" -- plus a "Republican medley" including "Dickie's Such an Asshole" and "When the Lie's So Big," plus a few jabs at one Democrat (Jesse Jackson on "Rhymin' Man") for good measure. Guest appearance by Sting on a live version of the Police B-side "Murder By Numbers" (In response to PMRC allegations that this song was written by Satan, Sting is heard to note that "I wrote the fuckin' song!") This earned FZ's 7th and final Grammy (nomination for Best Musical Cast Album). Featured Musicians: Ike Willis, Mike Keneally, Bobby Martin, Walt Fowler, Bruce Fowler, Ed Mann, Chad Wackerman

Burnt Weeny Sandwich

Originally released at the end of 1969, this is a collection of archival material from The Mothers of Invention, largely instrumental and featuring a lot of piano work from Ian Underwood. The doo-wopping "WPLJ" leads off a progressive jazz-influenced set including the full studio version of "Little House I Used to Live In" (far longer and more involved than the overture version on FILLMORE EAST); and "Holiday in Berlin, Full-Blown". Jimmy Carl Black, Roy Estrada, Sugar Cane Harris and Don Preston are among the supporting cast. Featured Musicians: Ian Underwood

Chunga's Revenge

It's 1970, and look what FZ's up to: The band now includes jazz players like George Duke (keyboards) Anysley Dunbar (drums) and Ian Underwood (guitar and keyboards) plus a mysterious pair of singers called The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie -- who, it would turn out, were singers Mark Volman & Howard Kaylan, who'd recently jumped ship from LA pop group the Turtles (they weren't contractually allowed to use their real names at the time). Opening with the proto-metal instrumental "Transylvania Boogie," CHUNGA'S REVENGE includes tracks like "Road Ladies" and "Rudy Wants to Buy Yez a Drink," the first of many looks FZ would take at the sleazier side of life on the road (which continued in the notorious film, 200 Motels, and on the album, Fillmore East, among others). This is a funny and rockin' set with a number of catchy tunes ("Would You Go All The Way?" and "Tell Me You Love Me") thrown in. Featured Musicians: Flo & Eddie, George Duke, Aynsley Dunbar

Cruising With Ruben & The Jets

"Is this the Mothers of Invention recording under a different name in a last-ditch attempt to get their cruddy music on the radio?" It didn't work, but who cares: This now stands as a much-loved, oddball item in the Mothers catalogue. Zappa's love for the '50s doo-wop style of early rock'n'roll was never much of a secret, and this collection of (just barely) original tunes was both a tribute and an affectionate sendup. As Zappa explained at the time, "We made it because we really like this kind of music." After placing doo-wop homages like 'Wowie Zowie" on earlier Mothers albums, Zappa went all the way with silly gems like "Cheap Thrills" and "Jelly Roll Gum Drop," with the original Mothers in all their greasy splendor; while "How Could I Be Such a Fool" and "Stuff Up the Cracks" lampooned the melodrama of early rock ballads. This is the 1984 remix. Featured Musicians: Roy Estrada, Don Preston, Ray Collins, Ian Underwood, Jimmy Carl Black