RELEASES #68-81 (1998-2007)
68. Mystery Disc (CD, Rykodisc RCD 10580, September 15, 1998)
All of this material was previously released on the two discs which accompanied the re-released materials on the first two Old Masters boxes (#43 and #46).
Like #64, this disc is filled with nostalgic gems from the early days.
Discs like these are certainly not for those new to Zappa.
But once you have (burp) digested much the material that forms the corpus of Frank's work ... you tend to start feeling hungry for these sort of bizarre nuggets. For example, "I Was a Teen-age Malt Shop" features FZ on piano.
The disc proceeds more or less chronologically. Several tracks from the Albert Hall show are here (#61). Things get zanier until coming to a tentative conclusion with "Harmonica Fun."
69. Everything Is Healing Nicely (CD, Barking Pumpkin UMRK 03, December 21, 1999)
Essentially a kind of documentary companion to The Yellow Shark (#62), this disc certainly contains no "Valdez" masterpiece or the like.
Instead, it is a collection of rehearsals, improvisations and bits that didn't make it onto Shark. Having stated that, this is actually a fine release with some, er, unusual works ("Master Ringo," "Wonderful Tattoo!") and pieces like "This is a Test," a short piece originally titled "Igor" which FZ had printed off the Synclavier and given to the EM as a sightreading test! Interesting that at times it sounds more like Milhaud than Stravinsky...
Using the same conducting technique he used to employ with the original Mothers (hand signals indicated predetermined musical phrases, motifs, or cells; or noises of all types, etc.), "Jolly Good Fellow" (4:34) sounds like a written-out composition. Ali Askin:
"... It looked as though Frank was playing the Ensemble like an instrument."
"Library Card" (7:42) -- the first track on this release:
Todd Yvega (Frank's Synclavier assistant):
" ... Frank assigned several musicians to improvise spoken interaction. The pianist, Hermann Kretzschmar, whipped out his library card to use as a text. The distinctive timbre of his voice, the German accent, and the humorous pace of his delivery obviously struck Frank as a vehicle to be developed and utilized."
Continuing with the same sort of idea, but this time reading from something a little heavier than his library card (the piercing magazine, PFIQ), Hermann has the EM (and FZ) in stitches with his readings in "Master Ringo" and "Wonderful Tattoo!" Warning: not for the faint of heart -- but it's also funny as hell!
"T'Mershi Duween" (2:30) is also found on #52 and #56 -- all three excellent renditions!
"Nap Time" (8:03) might just be that one unique track in the entire FZ catalog which defies description. It is unlike anything else in his catalog!
"9/8 Objects" (3:06) was recorded in July '91, Frank's house, when the EM were visiting and L. Shankar happened to be about. Awesome music here.
"Naked City" (8:42). Yvega:
" ... The guitar motifs were written in advance as was the primary motif played by the orchestra. The rest, including improvisations, were directed and improvised under FZ's baton."
"Whitey (Prototype)" (1:12) is mainly interesting as a comparison with the final version on Shark.
"Amnerika Goes Home" (3:00) -- an astonishing take from one of the Yellow Shark performances. Compare this to the Synclavier version on #63 and all the little details the EM gets right.
"None of the Above (Revised & Previsited)" (8:38) is a much longer version than the one on Yellow Shark and uses additional EM players -- mainly percussion -- in several sections.
... everything is healing nicely ...
70. FZ:OZ (2CD, Vaulternative VR 2002-1, August 16, 2002)
As Gail got the posthumous industry going into full gear, she and Joe Travers began raiding the Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark type UMRK vault for nuggets of enjoyment -- and in this case came up with a very special live concert that even the hard-core "tape traders" were ecstatic to see released!
To begin with, this '76 band is poorly represented in the catalog in general -- here it is only five pieces -- but they are very tight. Roy Estrada is consistently good throughout, with the young new Bozzio keeping a constantly moving groove.
"Stink-Foot" (6:35) is a perfect example of what a shame it is to have so few recordings from this particular band. They support Zappa beautifully (particularly Bozzio) as he sculpts one of his more interesting solos here.
After a trio of "Freak Out!" (#01) songs, an excellent (long) "Black Napkins" (11:57) is followed by an equally excellent (and equally long) "Advance Romance" (11:17).
Disc One closes out with two well-performed tracks from the contemporary "Zoot Allures" (#22).
Disc Two opens with "Canard Toujours" (3:22) an early sketch for "Let's Move to Cleveland" (#45). Fascinating! This is followed by another real prize, "Kaiser Rolls" (3:17) -- a never-before-released track.
Of particular note is the WOIIFTM (#03) trilogy: "Lonely Little Girl" (2:39) / "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance" (2:02) / and "What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body?" (1:07). Like the Freak Out! covers on the first disc, these early songs sound completely new and different with Napoleon singing them -- in addition to some new music added to "Lonely," right before a soaring FZ solo ...
The final track, "Kaiser Rolls (Du Jour)" (3:00) is from a rehearsal two weeks before the above live track.
I am proud to have my name here.
71. Halloween (DVD-A, Vaulternative/DTS 1101, February 4, 2003)
If you don't know what DVD-Audio is, check this out.
One of two (so far) FZ releases in this superior audio format, this one is all about the Palladium concerts on or about Halloween, 1978.
Most agree that this is one of Zappa's greatest bands and as Gail began releasing more and more "start-to-finish" type concerts (even if the effect was sometimes subtlely achieved with edits from the many different shows here) -- this Halloween conglomeration was seriously welcomed by Zappa fans.
Frank's guitar playing was never better than during this frustrating period of his career, when he was being prevented from releasing any product whatsoever (see lawsuit).
The seven musicians who accompany Zappa on this record are:
1. Vinnie Colaiuta, drums
2. Arthur Barrow, bass
3. Patrick O'Hearn, bass
4. Tommy Mars, keyboards
5. Denny Walley, guitar, vocals
6. Peter Wolf, keyboards
7. Ed Mann, percussion
72. Joe's Corsage (CD, Vaulternative VR 20041, May 30, 2004)
The first of four (so far) "Joe's" projects (#74 [Domage], 75 [XMASage], and 84 [Menage]), so named because Joe Travers is the "vaultmeister" for the Zappa Family Trust and Gail honored him with these cute titles.
This initial offering is filled with goodies from pre-Freak Out! days, and its importance lies in the fact that many of these tunes are presented here as premiere recordings -- "warts and all."
"Motherly Love" (2:21). A terrific composition, this premiere recording is interesting mainly in the way the "body commercial" that Zappa said the song was, is specifically tailored to three different members of the band in the lyrics: Henry (Vestine), Roy Estrada and Jimmy Carl Black.
"Plastic People" (3:05). Premiere recording. Very clean and purposeful.
Zappa's young voice crackles with disdain:
Take a day
Watch the plastics
Run your town
Then go home
And check yourself
You think I'm singing
'Bout someone else . . . but you're
"Anyway the Wind Blows" (2:55) -- an early song --this is the second recording, about two years after the one on The Lost Episodes (#64).
"I Ain't Got No Heart" (3:50) is another premiere recording.
" ... Paul Buff?: Okay, ready?
FZ: Okay, yeah.
Paul Buff?: Here we go, take five.
FZ: All right. Sounds like a hit already. One, two, one, two, three, four ..."
The boogie beginning and ending is unique to this arrangement.
"'The Phone Call'/My Babe" (4:06) showcases a very early live Mothers performance -- Ray, Roy and Jim are all impressive -- FZ's guitar solo is startling, looking to the future.
"Wedding Dress Song/Handsome Cabin Boy" (1:02). Not the version on Lost Episodes (#64) -- this is from the same live performance as the previous track.
"Hitch Hike" (2:54). Nice blues with a definite, structured arrangement.
"I'm So Happy I Could Cry" (2:43). In TRFZB, Zappa explained that love songs created an unrealistic idealistic idea of love that you could never achieve in real life. To him the very idea of a love song was ridiculous ... here is proof that he didn't always think exactly that way! Compare these lyrics with the ones that eventually became attached to this music -- "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance" (#03).
"Go Cry On Somebody's Else's Shoulder" (3:29). Premiere recording. Most of the elements of the Freak Out! recording are present here.
"How Could I Be ..." (3:00). Premiere recording. Ditto.
"We Made Our Reputation Doing it That Way ..." (5:34). A nice chunk of interview; worthwhile.
See how good your Gail Zappa-ese is, with this short quote from liner notes:
" ... we here at the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen (where ReSearch is our middle name ...) feel it is our duty ... And we decided, aaafnraamicably as it were, that since we can do whatever we want whenever we want we will poot forth and sometimes second, so that, from NOW and into the When of all Evers, you too can know the wonderment, which will never cease. And so it is that we now present to you an other kind of nugget; Joe's exciting new series -- even as history wends and wiles its way beyond the 4tieth anniversary of that ineluctable (as luck would have it) other Mothers' Day."
73. QuAUDIOPHILIAc (DVD-A, Barking Pumpkin/DTS 1125, September 14, 2004)
The second and final DVD-Audio release to date, this audio orgasm is so much more than just a release for the audiophiles.
FZ recorded quite a few things in that quickly-forgotten mid-70's format: quadraphonic, including #17 and 18.
Here -- as usual -- Gail, Dweezil and Joe have dug it up, given it a nice hot bath, changed its clothes, perhaps -- and offer forth an unusual and exciting assortment of quadro FZness (put into 5.1 by Dweez and JT) ...
1. "Naval Aviation in Art?" (1:34) from #27 sounds a zillion times richer here!
2. "Lumpy Gravy" (1:05) -- previously unreleased track from the #27 concert. Fantastic!
3. "Rollo" (6:00) -- also from Royce Hall '75 -- is taken from the "Nanook" suite. A real treat.
4. "Drooling Midrange Accountants on Easter Hay" (2:15). As "Watermelon in Easter Hay" plays in the background, FZ -- from 1981 -- speaks some sad truth.
5. "Wild Love" (4:07) is a 4-channel mix of the album track (#26). Breathtaking to hear the close vocals and every little detail in such a complex composition.
6. "Ship Ahoy" (5:47) is also a re-mix (from #32) -- but again, heard with brand new ears in this beautiful mix.
7. "Chunga Basement" (11:48). Recorded 3/1/70 with Ian Underwood, Max Bennett and Aynsley Dunbar in Zappa's basement, this extraordinary document was recorded live to four tracks, and mixed in quad. Magnificent, rare and special!
8. "Venusian Time Bandits" (1:54) is a crazy full-throated mix of a guitar solo apparently stripped from "Trouble Every Day" (#01).
9. "Waka/Jawaka" (13:23). This is the basic track for the album (#15) version, in 4-channel quad. What a treat to hear the nuances and where he edited and with what!
10. "Basement Music #2" (2:43). #1 is on The Lost Episodes, #64. Previously, Frank stuck this track behind some visuals in the Baby Snakes film!
74. Joe's Domage (CD, Vaulternative VR 20042, October 1, 2004)
Warning: for hard-cores only!
This -- the second of the "Joe's ..." series -- is a rehearsal tape from 1972. Zappa is in a wheelchair and is teaching a large band this complicated new music which will be destined for #15 and 16.
Much of this is pretty heavily distorted -- but for Zappa Freaks and Scholars who know the final version of these pieces so thoroughly, this audio document is like a map to the treasure room! Zappa teaching "It Just Might Be a One-Shot Deal" to the band (referred to as the "Frog Song" then!) ... "Blessed Relief," and "The Grand Wazoo" with temporary lyrics; sample:
And, it will fall down
It will fall down
It will fall
Take it from me!
Everything that gets in your way ain't real
Everything that gets in your way ain't real
Everything that gets in your way ain't real
Everything that gets in your way ain't real
It ain't real, so What's the deal?
Perhaps the most interesting track is the final one, "When it feels natural ..." (1:27), where Zappa reveals his plans for this thorny, difficult material. After rehearsal is over, he tells the band:
" ... I'll tell you what the story is on the recording of this material. I don't want to take it into the studio until you can play all that stuff from memory and it feels natural to do the stuff. That's the reason I'm going about it this way rather than just lay charts in front of everybody ..."
75. Joe's XMASage (CD, Vaulternative VR 20051, December 21, 2005)
Another hard-core only release from the vault -- all very early stuff, pre-"Freak Out!"
How old is this stuff? The first track begins with the voice of Kay Sherman, Frank's first wife. Among the newly uncovered nuggets are an alternate mix of "Mr. Clean" (an early FZ tune); a very early version of "Why Don'tcha Do Me Right?" and "The Moon Will Never Be the Same" -- a mysterious track possibly combining the Steve Allen Show bicycle music with the St. Mary's concert improvisation -- along with crazy field recordings; ending with 12 minutes of "The Uncle Frankie Show" ('64).
76. Imaginary Diseases (CD, Zappa Records ZR 20001, January 13, 2006)
Imaginary Diseases documents one of the most obscure Zappa tours of his entire career -- the "Petit Wazoo Tour" (Charles Ulrich's detailed look).
Happily received by FZ fans everywhere, this 1972 document of the 10-piece band FZ went on the road with consists of only seven tracks -- three of them are over the 10-minute mark, however -- and five of them are over the nine-minute mark.
A very special document of an under-documented band!
77. Trance-Fusion (CD, Zappa Records ZR 20002, November 7, 2006)
The third "guitar" album (#31-33, 50) -- another eagerly-anticipated release amongst hungry Zappa consumers -- does not disappoint.
Setting it apart from its predecessors, most of the solos here come from Zappa's final tour and the super-human '88 band!
Think about it. Frank had been on the road for over 20 years. These solos are edited out of songs which may have been written before some of the band members had been born!
Zappa's work ethic -- the driving necessity of making the greatest possible "entertainment event" possible on any given night in any given hockey rink or high school auditorium -- is what makes these final preserved guitar-compositions so special; each is a labor of love, done hundreds of times before, but delivered on this occasion just for you!
78. The MOFO Project/Object (fazedooh) (2CD, Zappa Records ZR 20005, December 5, 2006)
Suddenly 40th birthday celebrations were in full swing!
Freak Out! (#01) was 40 years old!
To celebrate, Gail and Joe dug up every little related morsel and -- reproducing the original stereo vinyl mix twice (although it does seem to sound better than #01 somehow!) -- put out a total of six CDs in two releases!
For completists, only? You betcha. Amazing little discoveries which cause you to blink with astonishment? Awreety-awrighty ...
This MOFO ("making of 'Freak Out!'") is "fazedooh" -- sort of a sampler for the massive 4-disc set, coming next!
However -- typically -- Disc Two contains seven tracks unique to this release.
79. The MOFO Project/Object (4CD, Zappa Records ZR 20004, December 12, 2006)
A magnificent release with each of the four discs secured on a pallet which folds in and out. The extremely detailed and informative booklet is tucked into a pocket right in the center of this very cool white-plastic package.
Disc Two is filled with vocal overdubs and basic tracks -- every one of them a beautifully detailed guide to further musical and lyrical dissection! For example, among the fascinating basic tracks is "Who Are the Brain Police?" (3:42), which is very close to the finished product -- but without vocals and certain other later overdubs -- allowing one to hear sublime details not otherwise obvious in the mix. This is true of the other seven other basic tracks.
"Trouble Every Day" (7:11) gives us much more of the final jam / "Help, I'm a Rock" (5:48) is an entirely new and different edit by FZ / "Groupie Bang Bang" (3:51) is astonishing. Check out the lyrics, because I certainly won't reproduce them here! Actionable shit, man ... / finally, in "Hold on to Your Small Tiny Horsies ..." (2:08) we are treated to a section of "Monster Magnet" in its original tempo (it's sped up on the album) ... fascinating to hear these details!
Disc Three features "field recordings" of Zappa conducting and rehearsing a band of freaks in the middle of the night -- mostly in whooping and hollering and shrieking and chanting -- all very precise and organized. This material would end up on "Monster Magnet."
There is also some previously unreleased buried treasure -- Zappa playing some sharp, piercing guitar on "Freak Trim (Kim Outs a Big Idea)" (5:14) and five live tracks from 6/25/66 at The Fillmore (West), including a spiffy -- and slightly fucked up -- "Hungry Freaks."
Disc Four contains 24 tracks of all types: "build reels," remixes (including ones as recent as 1987), and fascinating, revealing interview excerpts.
80. Buffalo (2CD, Vaulternative VR 2007-1, April 1, 2007)
Another magnificent "Vaulternative" release of a complete concert from start to finish -- Buffalo, October 25, 1980 -- the "Crush All Boxes" tour.
To those of you who may not be hard-cores (yet), but whose curiosity and interest may have been piqued by something in these posts:
You are probably wondering why anyone would even want to listen to the 10th version (#22, 23, 41, 51, 55, 57, 70, 86 and 89) of "The Torture Never Stops" (23:36 here!) ... the reason becomes obvious and folds back upon itself when you hear performances like this one -- tight, engaged and brilliantly performed! (Check out the band behind FZ as he sprechstimmes):
Flies all green 'n buzzin'
In his dungeon of despair
An evil kind of a prince
Eats a steamin' kind of a pig
In a chamber right near there
The snouts 'n the trotters first
The loins 'n the groins are soon dispersed
His carvin' style is well rehearsed
He stands and shouts
All men be cursed
All men be cursed
All men be cursed