There is only so long one can listen to Frank Zappa and not feel the need to wax lyrical about one of the zaniest and most prolific composers of all time. This could well turn into a regular post, as the sixty two albums released in his lifetime offer an incredibly diverse body of music which you can pick and choose from.
For all my friends who are already Zappa fans, this is just a gentle reminder of his genius in a few choice tracks. For all those reading that have never heard a Zappa tune before, I envy you. There is almost definitely a song in his catalogue that you will take pleasure from!
Taken from the album Chunga’s Revenge, Would You Go All The Way? is a straight forward blues rock number, a relative anomaly in the Zappa sound. The groove from 0.34 (‘Who’s this dude with his hair straight back?….) makes use of a deliciously simple bass line to great effect, followed by bursts of bluesy guitar.
Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus is a more traditional Zappa track, packing in accomplished playing of multiple instruments in just under three minutes. With ideas in abundance that characterise the style of the album from which it is taken from, The Grand Wazoo, it is very easy to get lost listening to every element of this song. And also very fun. Highlights include the descending piano at 0.17, which continues to tinkle away at a rapid speed in the background; the rolling drums at 0.56; the wah wah guitar in the background of the keyboard solo; the organ interlude at 1.53; and the female vocal crescendo at 2.29.
Village Of The Sun is taken from the album Roxy & Elsewhere. A story about Sun Village in Palmdale, the tune coasts along and is a prime example of Zappa’s ability to create catchy melodies.
For a charged up and, quite frankly, mental version, check out the take from You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Volume 2: The Helsinki Concert.
A favourite for getting me up in the morning, Blessed Relief is also taken from The Grand Wazoo. Jazz tinged and relaxing to the point of melting, this is as smooth as it gets from the man from Baltimore.
Taken from the album Apostrophe (‘), , St. Alphonzo’s Pancake Breakfast is impossible not to like. Completely ridiculous lyrics match the frenetic and complex music, peaking with Ruth Underwood’s unbelievable marimba playing from 1.10 to 1.40. This section never fails to leave my head shaking in wonder, as for all its technical virtuosity, it is still funk driven. And as for the drums between 1.20-1.23, oh my days……
A groovy country tune that relies on slide guitars and contrasting vocal styles, It Might Just Be A One Shot Deal is lifted from Waka/Jawaka.
Considered to be one of the most inventive, intricate and elaborate compositions Zappa ever created, Inca Roads from the album One Size Fits All features what is renowned as Zappa’s most accomplished band of musicians. It takes a while to digest, but the time spent with this epic reaps many rewards.
There is brilliance throughout the piece: the first free form break from the main groove at 0.57; plectrum tapping on the guitar from 4.16; the wide bass slides from 4.44 to 5.02; the mesmerising unison lines from 5.42 followed by the mother of all riffs at 6.06 to 6.23; gobsmacking marimba playing again from Ruth Underwood at 7.53 (leading to cries of ‘On Ruth!’ at the end); the twisting and angular sounding vocal line from 8.06.
Dive in head first, and the best of luck to you. Let me know how you fare……….