Frank Zappa: Where To Start?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Greg_Y, Feb 18, 2002.

  1. Greg_Y

    Greg_Y Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 1999
    Messages:
    1,466
    Likes Received:
    0
    If I've ever heard a Frank Zappa song in my life, I certainly didn't know it was him at the time. But the more I learn about this man, the more snippets of his lyrics I read, and the more I hear about his compositions and guitar playing, the more I want to hear some of his stuff.

    So where to begin? I usually don't go for Greatest Hits type compilations. I'd rather pick up an album or two.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2001
    Messages:
    4,951
    Likes Received:
    1
    Greg, first let me say that Frank Zappa is my single favorite musician of all time, and god knows I listen to a lot of music.

    The first thing you should know is that Zappa played practically every kind of Western music there is- sometimes seperately, usually all at the same time. You should also understand that some of his lyrics and "sketches" push the limits of taste, have even offended me (and I'm the kinda that thinks porn is "light watching.")

    Where to start really depends on what kind of music you like. If you're interested in a more straight-ahead pop/rock album, get Overnite Sensation, Apostrophe, or One Size Fits All. If you like more instrumental jazz-rock jamming type stuff, Hot Rats, Waka Jawaka, and The Grand Wazoo are great.

    His early material with the Mothers of Invention is extremely strange, but it's what he's most famous for. Freak Out, the debut, focuses more on comedy. Absolutely Free is, IMO, Zappa's first masterpiece. Uncle Meat where he starts hiring expert musicians and explores some more interesting musical ideas, keeping the attitude of the earlier material.

    Roxy & Elsewhere is a brilliant live document from Zappa's legendary 1974 band. This is also a great place to start, as it showcases Zappa's performance abilities as well as some world class playing and comedy.

    If you're willing to shell out a little more cash, pick up the 3 CD set Lather. It has live and studio material, all mixed in together. It's a whirlwind of a listen. It has a complex and annoying history behind which I can tell you if you're interested, but keep it in mind.

    My personal favorite is Joe's Garage. It's a concept piece, sort of. Very filthy, very funny, and very brilliant.

    I simply cannot recommend this music enough. Have fun and feel free to ask anything.
     
  3. DanaA

    DanaA Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2001
    Messages:
    1,843
    Likes Received:
    1
    Personally, I'd start with We're Only in it for the Money with the Mothers. It's kind of a take off on the hippies and the Beatles and Psychedelia and teenagers and... It is Frank at his satirical best. He does a great take off on Hey Joe and other lyrics include (doo-wop) style "What's the uglies part of your body? What's the ugliest part of your body? Some say it's your nose. Some say it's your toes. Well, I think it's your mind.
     
  4. Zack Scott

    Zack Scott Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2000
    Messages:
    198
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well, Greg, You really should Begin with Have I Offended somebody? It's a greatest hits package of his more politically challenging songs. (titties and beer, Jewish Princess, yo cats)

    Then you should go on to Joes Garage (well worth the price of admission) We're only in it for the money, Freak Out, Sheik Yerbouti, Jazz from Hell, and The Yellow Shark.

    Zappa does many genres of music (Jazz, Rock, Classical, And a melding of all three) so to just pick one to start out with is hard. Hopefully this list will get you started in the wonderful world of Zappa.
     
  5. Jim_F

    Jim_F Screenwriter

    Joined:
    May 15, 2000
    Messages:
    1,077
    Likes Received:
    0
    Zappa is also my all-time favorite. I agree pretty much with all of the above recommendations.
    Side 1 (first 3 cuts) on Hot Rats is easily one of my top 5 favorite "album sides".
    I always had the most fun with material that included Flo and Eddie (Volman and Kaylan) such as:
    Just Another Band Band From LA
    Chunga's Revenge (Transylvania Boogie=amazing guitar piece)
    200 Motels
    Fillmore East, June, 1971 is as hilarious as it is X-rated. Be warned, some very crude (beyond crude) material here.
    Among his later recordings,
    Them or Us is a nice recording with some memorable songs.
    The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life is a lot of fun.
    And many, many more. The man's discography is astounding, I just wish it could have extended several more decades[​IMG]
    If you enjoy his orchestral material and would like some of the first hi-rez Zappa music, I'd highly recommend Omnibus Wind Ensemble-Music by Frank Zappa, an amazing recording that comes close to capturing the Zappa "feel".
    All things considered, if I had to pick just one recording, I guess I'd second Joe's Garage
     
  6. Darren H

    Darren H Second Unit

    Joined:
    May 10, 2000
    Messages:
    447
    Likes Received:
    0
    Apostrophe/Overnight Sensation--both albums collected on one CD. The perfect starting place, Greg.

    And I'm with you, Jim, on The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life. His cover of "Ring of Fire" just kills me.

    If I'm not mistaken, Larry Davenport has mentioned here before that he owns every Zappa CD. Hopefully he'll stumble on this thread.
     
  7. Dave Morton

    Dave Morton Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2000
    Messages:
    753
    Likes Received:
    0
    Real Name:
    Dave
    I agree that the Apostrophe/Overnight Sensation is a great starting place, although I do not think they are on one cd anymore. Sheik Yerbouti is great. I think anything live is great. You really can't go wrong with the live cd's. I love "The Best Band You've Never Heard" and "In New York". I think the Don Pardo piece is really funny. Joe's Garage is a great concept album of censorship.

    I think all of Frank's music is so brilliant. From a musician point of view, it is very technical. From a comedy point of view, it is hilarious. I find that once you get hooked, you can't stop.
     
  8. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2001
    Messages:
    4,951
    Likes Received:
    1
    I must recommend not getting Overnite and Apostrophe on the same CD. The sound quality is poor.

    It may have been the first pressing or something and it's probably not produced anymore, but it sounds muddy weak. All of Zappa's material has been released by Rhino on CD. Those are the ones to get. Unfortunately, they ended up putting Overnite Sensation and Apostrophe on seperate CDs.

    The same is true for We're In It Only For The Money and Lumpy Gravy. The CD with both albums has re-recorded rhythm tracks. If you get these, get the seperate CDs.

    Re: Flo & Eddie

    People are very split about this era of Zappa's work. Some people love it- it focuses on comedy, sketches, and groupies. Some, like myself, dislike it. The only album I have with them on it is Chunga's Revenge, because they only sing on a couple of tracks. I like most of the stuff before they joined the Mothers of Invention and feel that Zappa's best material came about right after they left.

    Just something to keep in mind.

    I would really say your best starting points are Roxy & Elsewhere, Overnite Sensation, One Size Fits All, and Absolutely Free.
     
  9. LarryDavenport

    LarryDavenport Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 1999
    Messages:
    2,973
    Likes Received:
    0
    All of the above recomendations are good (One Size Fits All is my favorite FZ album).

    However, a good place to start is You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Volume 1, as it covers the gamut of FZ's career, plus has the best versions of Don't Eat Yellow Snow and The Torture Never Stops. Volume 2 is also a must have as it is a complete concert from the Napolean Murphy Brock, Chester Thompson, George Duke lineup that made One Size Fits All.

    I have over 100 FZ CDs and they aren't all good. But most of them are.
     
  10. Keith Paynter

    Keith Paynter Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 1999
    Messages:
    1,833
    Likes Received:
    3
    I would also recommend the 'introductory' CD "Strictly Commercial" - while not a greatest hits package per se, you get great samples from Apostrophe, Overnite Sensation, Joe's Garage, Sheik Yerbouti, We're Only In It For The Money, and many others. There isn't a dull moment on this CD, and you even get his only commercial radio hit, "Valley Girl".
     
  11. Stefan A

    Stefan A Second Unit

    Joined:
    May 27, 2001
    Messages:
    397
    Likes Received:
    0
    My first CD was Strictly Comercial. From there I just took off. It is a great beginning cd. Shiek Yerbouti and Joes Garage are some of my other favorites.
     
  12. Paul D G

    Paul D G Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2001
    Messages:
    1,783
    Likes Received:
    79
    I love FZ but to sugguest a single album as an introduction is near impossible. I like a little bit of everything but mostly prefer his more pop oriented stuff (I prefer a melody, so sue me). You have his trippy stuff ("We're Only In It For the Money" is a fave, but the cd is very different from the original LP as the master tapes needed heavy reconstruction), his orchestrial work (can't recommend anything there, leaves me cold), his guitar solo stuff (his three LP, 2CD "Guitar" set is 3 hours of guitar solos, if you like that sort of stuff), etc.

    My personal favorite is "Joe's Garage", a rock opera I would have loved to see done as an animated feature; I can just see it when I hear the album. "Sheik Yerbooti" is pretty good as well.

    I think the best starting points for a newbie would be to pick up both "Strictly Commercial" (with the hits as well as the Shoulda-beens)and the essential compainion disc "Have I Offended Someone?" with some of his more raunchier tracks.

    Hell, I'd even recommend springing for Joe's Garage at the same time. "Watermelon in Easter Hay", a guitar solo, will make you upset you haven't been a fan all your life.

    As a side note, all FZ fans should have "Frankly A Capella: The Persuasions sing Zappa", with beautiful a capella takes on Harder Than Your Husband, Electric Aunt Jemima, Love of My Life, Lumpy Gravy... Ilove this disc.

    -paul
     
  13. Greg_Y

    Greg_Y Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 1999
    Messages:
    1,466
    Likes Received:
    0
     

Share This Page