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Rock - Released October 10, 1969 | Frank Zappa Catalog

Booklet Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Aside from the experimental side project Lumpy Gravy, Hot Rats was the first album Frank Zappa recorded as a solo artist sans the Mothers, though he continued to employ previous musical collaborators, most notably multi-instrumentalist Ian Underwood. Other than another side project -- the doo wop tribute Cruising With Ruben and the Jets -- Hot Rats was also the first time Zappa focused his efforts in one general area, namely jazz-rock. The result is a classic of the genre. Hot Rats' genius lies in the way it fuses the compositional sophistication of jazz with rock's down-and-dirty attitude -- there's a real looseness and grit to the three lengthy jams, and a surprising, wry elegance to the three shorter, tightly arranged numbers (particularly the sumptuous "Peaches en Regalia"). Perhaps the biggest revelation isn't the straightforward presentation, or the intricately shifting instrumental voices in Zappa's arrangements -- it's his own virtuosity on the electric guitar, recorded during extended improvisational workouts for the first time here. His wonderfully scuzzy, distorted tone is an especially good fit on "Willie the Pimp," with its greasy blues riffs and guest vocalist Captain Beefheart's Howlin' Wolf theatrics. Elsewhere, his skill as a melodist was in full flower, whether dominating an entire piece or providing a memorable theme as a jumping-off point. In addition to Underwood, the backing band featured contributions from Jean-Luc Ponty, Lowell George, and Don "Sugarcane" Harris, among others; still, Zappa is unquestionably the star of the show. Hot Rats still sizzles; few albums originating on the rock side of jazz-rock fusion flowed so freely between both sides of the equation, or achieved such unwavering excitement and energy. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1988 | Frank Zappa Catalog

Booklet Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
In his contract with Ryko, Frank Zappa had to put together 12 CDs worth of live material for the series You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore. The fact that he decided to devote two of them (all of Vol. 2) to a Helsinki concert from 1974 illustrates how good and representative he thought it was -- and he was right. This two-CD set features the 1973-1974 band (Napoleon Murphy Brock, George Duke, Ruth Underwood, Tom Fowler, Chester Thompson) near the end of their tour, in a concert in faraway Finland on September 22, 1974 (there were actually two concerts performed that day and, as usual, Zappa edited the best moments together). The set list comes mostly from the Roxy & Elsewhere repertoire, except that here the songs are taken at a faster tempo and free of the overdubs found on the original album. "Echidna's Arf (Of You)" and "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?" are very exciting, but without the vocal overdubs "Cheepnis" feels empty. But the treats lie elsewhere, as in the playful "Inca Roads" (Zappa used the guitar solo from this concert for the One Size Fits All version); "RDNZL," still a work-in-progress at the time; the unreleased "Approximate" (including hilarious stage craziness); and "T'Mershi Duween." The band is in great shape, Zappa being particularly witty and good-humored. When a member of the audience requests the Allman Brothers song "Whipping Post," he spontaneously rewrites the lyrics to "Montana" -- and backup vocalists Brock and Duke have to adapt! For fans of the man's complex, progressive rock-tinged music of the mid-'70s, this is a must-have, even though it also contains very average moments ("Dupree's Paradise," for instance). Sound quality is very good, superior to any bootleg from this period. © François Couture /TiVo
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Rock - Released March 3, 1979 | Frank Zappa Catalog

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Rock - Released November 27, 2020 | Frank Zappa Catalog

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Rock - Released June 18, 2021 | Frank Zappa Catalog

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Officially released for the first time, this live recording features Frank Zappa's final show on U.S. soil at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York on March 25, 1988. The concert saw Zappa and his 11-piece band play a career-spanning set including a number of fan favorites, before heading to Europe and imploding. The album includes the infamous "The Beatles Medley," for which Zappa rewrote the lyrics to three Beatles songs to address the exposure of evangelist Jimmy Swaggart at the time. © Rich Wilson /TiVo
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Rock - Released October 2, 2020 | Frank Zappa Catalog

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Rock - Released March 1, 1974 | Frank Zappa Catalog

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The musically similar follow-up to the commercial breakthrough of Over-Nite Sensation, Apostrophe (') became Frank Zappa's second gold and only Top Ten album with the help of the "doggy wee-wee" jokes of "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow," Zappa's first chart single (a longer, edited version that used portions of other songs on the LP). The first half of the album is full of nonsensical shaggy-dog story songs that segue into one another without seeming to finish themselves first; their dirty jokes are generally more subtle and veiled than the more notorious cuts on Over-Nite Sensation. The second half contains the instrumental title cut, featuring Jack Bruce on bass; "Uncle Remus," an update of Zappa's critique of racial discord on "Trouble Every Day"; and a return to the album's earlier silliness in "Stink-Foot." Apostrophe (') has the narrative feel of a concept album, but aside from its willful absurdity, the concept is difficult to decipher; even so, that doesn't detract from its entertainment value. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Rock - Released October 2, 2020 | Frank Zappa Catalog

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Rock - Released March 3, 1979 | Frank Zappa Catalog

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Rock - Released October 10, 1969 | Frank Zappa Catalog

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Aside from the experimental side project Lumpy Gravy, Hot Rats was the first album Frank Zappa recorded as a solo artist sans the Mothers, though he continued to employ previous musical collaborators, most notably multi-instrumentalist Ian Underwood. Other than another side project -- the doo wop tribute Cruising With Ruben and the Jets -- Hot Rats was also the first time Zappa focused his efforts in one general area, namely jazz-rock. The result is a classic of the genre. Hot Rats' genius lies in the way it fuses the compositional sophistication of jazz with rock's down-and-dirty attitude -- there's a real looseness and grit to the three lengthy jams, and a surprising, wry elegance to the three shorter, tightly arranged numbers (particularly the sumptuous "Peaches en Regalia"). Perhaps the biggest revelation isn't the straightforward presentation, or the intricately shifting instrumental voices in Zappa's arrangements -- it's his own virtuosity on the electric guitar, recorded during extended improvisational workouts for the first time here. His wonderfully scuzzy, distorted tone is an especially good fit on "Willie the Pimp," with its greasy blues riffs and guest vocalist Captain Beefheart's Howlin' Wolf theatrics. Elsewhere, his skill as a melodist was in full flower, whether dominating an entire piece or providing a memorable theme as a jumping-off point. In addition to Underwood, the backing band featured contributions from Jean-Luc Ponty, Lowell George, and Don "Sugarcane" Harris, among others; still, Zappa is unquestionably the star of the show. Hot Rats still sizzles; few albums originating on the rock side of jazz-rock fusion flowed so freely between both sides of the equation, or achieved such unwavering excitement and energy. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 26, 2020 | Frank Zappa Catalog

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This box set is a real treasure trove for Frank Zappa fans. It is a celebration of 50 years since the formation of The Mothers, a project which didn’t last long but marked an important period in the life of the great musician and his fans. The album, made up of 70 songs, is a selection of both studio and live recordings discovered by the Zappa family. The recordings are finally available digitally on four CDs, adding up to more than four hours of music from a group born out of the ashes of The Mothers of Invention. The Mothers of Invention broke up the previous year for financial reasons but also, as Zappa came to explain, “through a lack of effort and cooperation”. Another version of the story, pointed out by some band members, is that the break up was due to Zappa’s dictatorial tendency; a genius whose perfectionism verged on madness. For these reasons, Mothers of Invention came to an end. Following the group's collapse Zappa released a highly successful solo album, Hot Rats (1969), which contains one of his most successful tunes, Peaches en Regalia. Then The Mothers came to be, made up of six musicians: English drummer Aynsley Dunbar, jazz keyboardist George Duke, Ian Underwood on guitar, Jeff Simmons on bass and some ex-members of The Turtles: singers Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, aka “The Phlorescent Leech and Eddie” or “Flo & Eddie”. The Mothers featured on Zappa’s next solo album, his third, Chunga’s Revenge (1970). Ultimately, this line-up lived a brief seven-month existence as, in January 1971, Simmons quit the group during the recording of the original soundtrack for the film 200 Motels, co-directed by Zappa himself and Tony Palmer. During this short period, The Mothers spent several hours recording at the famous Trident Studios in London with a young, already well-known producer, Roy Thomas Baker, who would go on to produce albums for Queen, The Cars and Alice Cooper… This album also gives us, for the first time, alternative versions of Sharleena and Wonderful Wino with an incredible guitar solo from the man himself… In addition, there are unreleased tracks such as the impressive Red Tubular Lighter, Giraffe and a never-before-heard version of Envelopes. In short, this album is a sizeable gift for all aficionados of the great Frank Zappa. © Yan Céh/Qobuz
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Rock - Released November 19, 1979 | Frank Zappa Catalog

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Joe's Garage was originally released in 1979 in two separate parts; Act I came first, followed by a two-record set containing Acts II & III. Joe's Garage is generally regarded as one of Zappa's finest post-'60s conceptual works, a sprawling, satirical rock opera about a totalitarian future in which music is outlawed to control the population. The narrative is long, winding, and occasionally loses focus; it was improvised in a weekend, some of it around previously existing songs, but Zappa manages to make most of it hang together. Acts II & III give off much the same feel, as Zappa relies heavily on what he termed "xenochrony" -- previously recorded guitar solos transferred onto new, rhythmically different backing tracks to produce random musical coincidences. Such an approach is guaranteed to produce some slow moments as well, but critics latched onto the work more for its conceptual substance. Joe's Garage satirizes social control mechanisms, consumerism, corporate abuses, gender politics, religion, and the rock & roll lifestyle; all these forces conspire against the title protagonist, an average young man who simply wants to play guitar and enjoy himself. Even though Zappa himself hated punk rock and even says so on the album, his ideas seemed to support punk's do-it-yourself challenge to the record industry and to social norms in general. Since this is 1979-era Zappa, there are liberal applications of his trademark scatological humor (the titles of "Catholic Girls," "Crew Slut," "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?," and "Keep It Greasey" are self-explanatory). Still, in spite of its flaws, Joe's Garage has enough substance to make it one of Zappa's most important '70s works and overall political statements, even if it's not focused enough to rank with his earliest Mothers of Invention masterpieces. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1982 | Frank Zappa Catalog

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While most of the discussions of Frank Zappa have to do with his satirical and off-color lyrics, the fact remains that he was one of the finest and most underappreciated guitarists around. This collection places the spotlight squarely on Zappa's mastery of the guitar. Recorded for the most part in 1979 and 1980 (with a few tracks dating as far back as 1977), Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar is simply a collection of guitar solos. Even though most of the tracks were just edited out of their original song context, they fare well as stand-alone pieces, as Zappa was an ever-inventive player. Take, for example, the three versions of "Shut Up." These tracks were simply the guitar solos from "Inca Roads," but thanks to Zappa's ability for "instant composition," each version has its own complete story to tell, without ever being redundant. Other highlights are the reggae-tinged "Treacherous Cretins" and the beautiful "Pink Napkins." In addition to the electric guitar mangling contained on Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar, there are a couple of rare tracks that feature Zappa on acoustic guitar in a trio with Warren Cuccurullo on acoustic rhythm guitar and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums. In fact, special mention goes to Colaiuta for his polyrhythmic daring all over this album. All bandmembers play great throughout, but Colaiuta's playing is mind blowing. The album closes with another oddity: a gorgeous duet between Zappa on electric bouzouki and Jean-Luc Ponty on baritone violin. This is an album that should be heard by anyone who's into guitar playing. Highly recommended. © Sean Westergaard /TiVo
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Rock - Released December 20, 2019 | Frank Zappa Catalog

Booklet
For fans only! This colossal 7 hours and 18 minutes gathers all of the sessions Frank Zappa did for his Hot Rats album and offers a fascinating insight into every nook and cranny of the extraordinary musician’s brain, who sadly left us in 1993. Recorded in 1969 in Los Angeles, these sessions signalled the (temporary) end of The Mothers of Invention, even if Ian Underwood is still present here. Far from the stylistic patchwork of that strange group, the Hot Rats Zappa magnifies the fusion between rock and jazz, with five in six tracks being instrumental: there’s not much room for unnecessary noise. Don Van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart takes to the mic alone on Willie the Pimp. Zappa allows all of his invited solo artists to fully express themselves, including violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, guitarist Lowell George and bassist Shuggie Otis (only 15 years old at the time!). This jazzy fusion keeps a certain narrative frame across the six volumes; extra-long jam sessions, endless solos, complicit dialogues between musicians, everything's in place to allow the listener to be transported to the Californian studio as a fly on the wall witnessing the conception of an album which would influence an entire generation. In the original album notes, Frank Zappa described this as a “film for your ears”. Interestingly, at the exact moment Hot Rats was being produced, another jazz-fusion album saw the light of day on the other side of the country, in New York: Bitches Brew by Miles Davis. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Rock - Released May 26, 1967 | Frank Zappa Catalog

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In the "libretto" accompanying the second effort from the Mothers of Invention, Frank Zappa offers an unusual introduction to his endeavor: "The music of the MOTHERS speaks of the feelings of what might be described as THE VAST MINORITY. The feelings of the people on the fringe of everything," he writes. It's a gonzo mission statement that doubles as a canny counter-culture marketing ploy, and it goes on to describe that minority as people who "don't care if they're IN or OUT … don't care if they're HIP, HEP, SWINGIN' or ZORCH." Presumably the Zorch contingent resonated with the frantic, random-seeming musical juxtapositions and word-salad art that Zappa was slinging here. Absolutely Free touches on subjects that became integral to subsequent Zappa rants—the rise of clueless consumer culture, the worship of status—but often in diffuse, narrative-free fashion. Where later Zappa commentaries register as multi-level satire, tunes like "Plastic People" hardly make cultural arguments at all—they're closer to the delighted ravings of those hearing their voices on tape for the first time. The chaos within the wordplay amounts to adolescent lampoonery when compared with the rigorous delirium that prevails within the music. Zappa and his exceedingly talented collaborators understood and could evoke the allure of Motown hits (see "The Duke of Prunes") and the mesmeric qualities of the blues ("Why Don'tcha Do Me Right?"). But they were also at home quoting Holst and Stravinsky, or executing whiplash-inducing transitions between free-form jamming and intricate ensemble writing. Their cohesion is riveting, particularly on the standout "Brown Shoes Don't Make It." Though not as fully realized as the music that followed, Absolutely Free is not simply a scattered jumble of seeds but more like a series of roadmaps and ideas that sometimes lead to exalted states, and sometimes detour down sketchy dead-end streets, where there are no vegetables. © Tom Moon/Qobuz
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Rock - Released March 3, 1978 | Frank Zappa Catalog

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Zappa in New York was recorded in December 1976 at the Palladium and originally intended for release in 1977. It was held up due to arguments between Frank Zappa and his then-record label, Warner Bros. When the two-LP set finally appeared in March 1978, Warner had deleted "Punky's Whips," a song about drummer Terry Bozzio's attraction to Punky Meadows of Angel. The Zappa band, which includes bassist Patrick O'Hearn, percussionist Ruth Underwood, and keyboard player Eddie Jobson, along with a horn section including the two Brecker brothers, was one of the bandleader's most accomplished, which it had to be to play songs like "Black Page," even in the "easy" version presented here. Zappa also was at the height of his comic stagecraft, notably on songs like "Titties & Beer," which is essentially a comedy routine between Zappa and Bozzio, and "The Illinois Enema Bandit," which features TV announcer Don Pardo. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Rock - Released March 1, 1974 | Frank Zappa Catalog

The musically similar follow-up to the commercial breakthrough of Over-Nite Sensation, Apostrophe (') became Frank Zappa's second gold and only Top Ten album with the help of the "doggy wee-wee" jokes of "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow," Zappa's first chart single (a longer, edited version that used portions of other songs on the LP). The first half of the album is full of nonsensical shaggy-dog story songs that segue into one another without seeming to finish themselves first; their dirty jokes are generally more subtle and veiled than the more notorious cuts on Over-Nite Sensation. The second half contains the instrumental title cut, featuring Jack Bruce on bass; "Uncle Remus," an update of Zappa's critique of racial discord on "Trouble Every Day"; and a return to the album's earlier silliness in "Stink-Foot." Apostrophe (') has the narrative feel of a concept album, but aside from its willful absurdity, the concept is difficult to decipher; even so, that doesn't detract from its entertainment value. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Rock - Released November 19, 1979 | Frank Zappa Catalog

Joe's Garage was originally released in 1979 in two separate parts; Act I came first, followed by a two-record set containing Acts II & III. Joe's Garage is generally regarded as one of Zappa's finest post-'60s conceptual works, a sprawling, satirical rock opera about a totalitarian future in which music is outlawed to control the population. The narrative is long, winding, and occasionally loses focus; it was improvised in a weekend, some of it around previously existing songs, but Zappa manages to make most of it hang together. Acts II & III give off much the same feel, as Zappa relies heavily on what he termed "xenochrony" -- previously recorded guitar solos transferred onto new, rhythmically different backing tracks to produce random musical coincidences. Such an approach is guaranteed to produce some slow moments as well, but critics latched onto the work more for its conceptual substance. Joe's Garage satirizes social control mechanisms, consumerism, corporate abuses, gender politics, religion, and the rock & roll lifestyle; all these forces conspire against the title protagonist, an average young man who simply wants to play guitar and enjoy himself. Even though Zappa himself hated punk rock and even says so on the album, his ideas seemed to support punk's do-it-yourself challenge to the record industry and to social norms in general. Since this is 1979-era Zappa, there are liberal applications of his trademark scatological humor (the titles of "Catholic Girls," "Crew Slut," "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?," and "Keep It Greasey" are self-explanatory). Still, in spite of its flaws, Joe's Garage has enough substance to make it one of Zappa's most important '70s works and overall political statements, even if it's not focused enough to rank with his earliest Mothers of Invention masterpieces. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Rock - Released October 29, 1976 | Frank Zappa Catalog

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Zoot Allures, released in October 1976, is mostly a studio album (there are some basic live tracks, as in the title track and "Black Napkins") featuring a revolving cast of musicians who, oddly, do not correspond to the ones pictured on the album cover (for instance, Patrick O'Hearn and Eddie Jobson did not contribute). Compared to previous releases like One Size Fits All, Roxy & Elsewhere, or even Over-Nite Sensation, and to upcoming ones such as Zappa in New York, Studio Tan, or Sheik Yerbouti, Zoot Allures sounds very stripped down to bare essentials. Zappa focused on limited instrumentation, lots of bass, and whispered vocals to create a masterpiece of dark, slow, sleazy rock. Except for the opening and closing numbers ("Wind Up Workin' in a Gas Station" and "Disco Boy"), all the material is slow to medium tempo with Zappa delivering the closest he'll ever get to a crooner vocal performance. "The Torture Never Stops" is the highlight, ten minutes of suggestive lyrics, crawling riffs, searing solos, and female screams of pain. That song and "Disco Boy" became classic tracks; "Black Napkins" and "Zoot Allures" rate among the man's best guitar solos. Historical note: The album was first devised as a two-LP set and would have included "Sleep Dirt," "Filthy Habits," and "The Ocean Is the Ultimate Solution," which all also fit the mood. Although humor has not been completely evacuated, Zoot Allures comes through as a much more serious rock record. Yet, it is more than a transitional album; it represents one of Zappa's strongest accomplishments. © François Couture /TiVo
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Rock - Released March 3, 1978 | Frank Zappa Catalog

Booklet
Zappa in New York was recorded in December 1976 at the Palladium and originally intended for release in 1977. It was held up due to arguments between Frank Zappa and his then-record label, Warner Bros. When the two-LP set finally appeared in March 1978, Warner had deleted "Punky's Whips," a song about drummer Terry Bozzio's attraction to Punky Meadows of Angel. The Zappa band, which includes bassist Patrick O'Hearn, percussionist Ruth Underwood, and keyboard player Eddie Jobson, along with a horn section including the two Brecker brothers, was one of the bandleader's most accomplished, which it had to be to play songs like "Black Page," even in the "easy" version presented here. Zappa also was at the height of his comic stagecraft, notably on songs like "Titties & Beer," which is essentially a comedy routine between Zappa and Bozzio, and "The Illinois Enema Bandit," which features TV announcer Don Pardo. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo

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Frank Zappa in the magazine
  • From rock to jazz with Frank Zappa
    From rock to jazz with Frank Zappa This new 67-track compilation retraces the making of "Hot Rats" by Frank Zappa, which would turn out to be a crucial album in the history of the jazz-rock fusion.