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View Full Version : Please recommend some Zappa!


Dung Beetle
03-08-2005, 07:58 AM
My SO recently mentioned seeing a Frank Zappa CD at Best Buy and almost buying it because he used to really dig Frank. I've decided to get him at least one CD for his birthday, which is coming up next month.
I'm not familiar with Mr. Zappa's work myself, although I have a biography of him in my to-read pile.
So, what album would be a good gift for someone who already likes his stuff, and what album would you recommend to someone who is just beginning to listen?

Marley23
03-08-2005, 08:07 AM
I think the best album I've heard is Hot Rats. I'm on a Zappa kick right now and I wish I had that one.

slortar
03-08-2005, 08:12 AM
Hm. My favorite three would probably be Apostrophe/Overnight Sensation, Joe's Garage, or Freak Out. They're all pretty beginner-friendly. I like Sheik Yerbouti a lot, too.

I don't think I'd make a huge distinction between the two categories in the OP. If it's somebody who's already into it, just make sure you don't get something they already have. ;) Most of the Zappa fans I know are huge collectors and pretty difficult to find stuff for--they'll already have most of the easily-found stuff.

Hey, It's That Guy!
03-08-2005, 08:28 AM
My first exposure to Zappa was the compilation Strictly Commercial, which, as its title implies, contains more mainstream, easily-accessible songs (mostly in a rock vein). However, the original album by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Freak Out (a major influence on Paul McCartney in the creation of Sgt. Pepper), would also be a good "jumping-on point" for a new Zappa fan. The man has done so much in so many diverse genres, and some of his albums might be a little disconcerting for the casual or new listener.

Once you're both eased in more and know some of Zappa's songs, I must recommend the many You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore 2-CD live albums. Sheer brilliance, with some of the best musicians of the time.

Jonathan Chance
03-08-2005, 08:30 AM
A second shout our for Apostrophe.

I still use the phrase 'The crux of the biscuit' on a regular basis. And Lady Chance has picked it up from me.

RealityChuck
03-08-2005, 08:36 AM
We're Only In It for the Money is still a brilliant work, though certainly not a mature one. Hot Rats is also great.

Ellis Dee
03-08-2005, 11:38 AM
Hardcore Zappa fan checking in. Get the first album on this list that he doesn't already have:

Roxy & Elsewhere
Hot Rats
Joe's Garage
Them or Us
Apostrophe/Overnight Sensation (You shouldn't get one without the other.)
You Are What You Is
One Size Fits All
Zoot Allures

Unless you know for a fact he preferred the old-school Mother of Invention stuff, which is much less popular and a completely different feel. If so, get the first album on this list that he doesn't already have:

Just Another Band From LA
Chunga's Revenge
Fillmore East, June 1971
Absolutely Free
Freak Out
We're Only In It for The Money

Ellis Dee
03-08-2005, 11:48 AM
what album would you recommend to someone who is just beginning to listen?Missed this. The best introductory albums to listen to would be, in order:

Joe's Garage
Apostrophe/Overnite Sensation
Them or Us
You Are What You Is

Zappa's best two releases were Roxy & Elsewhere and Hot Rats. Neither is a particularly good introductory album. I would recommend listening to his other excellent works first before trying those two out. Their greatness can't be fully appreciated until you have a feeling for his music in general.

Also, if he already has the albums in my previous post, ask for more suggestions. There's over 50 albums to choose from. I can continue ranking them for you ad nauseum.

Dung Beetle
03-08-2005, 11:58 AM
I think he lost his collection in the divorce, so I should do well with just about anything. Looks like the front runners are Joe's Garage, Hot Rats, Apostrophe/Overnite Sensation, and Freak Out.

pinkfreud
03-08-2005, 12:01 PM
One more vote for Joe's Garage.

slortar
03-08-2005, 12:54 PM
You Are What You Is


Dang, forgot all about that one. Definitely seconded.

Hoops
03-08-2005, 02:32 PM
Apostrophe and Them Or Us are good choices.

But I would really recommend One Size Fits All as Zappa's most consistent and rewarding work: it features what many would say is his best band and is funny without being cruel, partisan, or scatological, as some of his other work can be.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Dung Beetle
03-08-2005, 02:48 PM
So, uh......he's like, a novelty song writer? Like Weird Al?

Ouch! Ouch! Hey! Okay, y'all......indoctrinate me!

Marley23
03-08-2005, 05:14 PM
So, uh......he's like, a novelty song writer? Like Weird Al?
No. He's about as difficult to describe as any musician I know of because he did so many different things. He did write some songs that are funny, but he did classical music, he did some rock stuff, studio weirdness, jazz fusion, doo-wop... I'm not saying he was influenced by all those things. I mean he wrote and played in each of those idioms, among others. It makes it kinda hard to pick a representative album.

Contrapuntal
03-08-2005, 05:18 PM
None of ya'll got any love for Burnt Weeny Sandwich?

RealityChuck
03-08-2005, 08:28 PM
So, uh......he's like, a novelty song writer? Like Weird Al?
His humor differs from Weird Al in that 1) he actually knew how to wrote a song and 2) he was funny.

Marley23
03-08-2005, 09:00 PM
His humor differs from Weird Al in that 1) he actually knew how to wrote a song and 2) he was funny.
Other than that, and Zappa being an excellent guitarist who surrounded himself with talented musicians and not a one-trick pony, they're pretty much the same. ;)

Kilvert's Pagan
03-08-2005, 10:19 PM
It's amazing how widely the opinions of FZ's different works can range.

If Stravinsky was a rocker, and peppered his compositions with toilet humor, you'd have some idea what FZ was about. He was first and foremost a brilliant composer, and many of his compositions will live on, and be studied, for many years to come.

I'm with Hoops on One Size Fits All being a great entry into FZ's work. I disagree pretty strongly with Ellis Dee on the old school stuff, in that I think it's important to distinguish between the first albums and what I think of as "Phase 2", which featured Flo and Eddie and was far more scatological. I would recommend We're Only In It For The Money as the most accessible of the first bunch, and would be hard-pressed to recommend any of the second bunch (for instance Just Another Band From LA, Fillmore East, parts of Chunga's Revenge) to anyone but a true hard-core fan. (This in spite of my singing "Billy the Mountain" in the college dorm showers for years. :D )

As incredibly important as Freak Out is, historically, I disagree that it represents a good entry point into FZ's work. It's simply too extreme.

To respond to the OP's questions:
For someone who already likes his stuff:
Hot Rats
We're Only In It For The Money (sometimes issued in combination with Lumpy Gravy)
The Grand Wazoo
Roxy & Elsewhere (alternate: You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore #2, the Helsinki Concert)
Lather
Make a Jazz Noise Here

For a newbie:
One Size Fits All
Apostrophe'/Overnight Sensation
Them or Us
The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life
Joe's Garage

Ellis Dee
03-12-2005, 07:35 PM
I'm with Hoops on One Size Fits All being a great entry into FZ's work.You'd think so, wouldn't you? I knew a guy who asked me IRL basically the exact same question as the OP, so I lent him my copies of Hot Rats and One Size Fits All, thinking basically the exact same thing as you guys. That was on a Friday, and Monday morning when I asked him what he thought, he handed them back in pretty much disgust. He commented that Hot Rats "wasn't bad", and then got a weird expression on his face (like he stepped on a bug or something) and asked, very tentatively, "What, exactly, is a Pojama Person?" I chuckled and said something along the lines of "I don't know, but I'm guessing they bored you to pieces by your reaction."

So, I've learned that, sadly, no matter how much I like it, OSFA is not a great intro album. It was probably not even one of the first ten I ever heard, so I don't know how I would have reacted had it been my first exposure. I probably would have hated Inca Roads and Andy, despite the blasphemy that is that statement.

More importantly though, I felt I completely wasted Hot Rats on him. If I'd hooked him with Joe's Garage, then let him hear Them Or Us and Apostrophe, he would haven thought Hot Rats was the greatest thing he ever heard. Being his first exposure, I think he equated it with elevator music. Such a shame.I disagree pretty strongly with Ellis Dee on the old school stuff, in that I think it's important to distinguish between the first albums and what I think of as "Phase 2", which featured Flo and Eddie and was far more scatological.Oh, I agree completely. But of Zappa's three major styles, the two early ones were both less popular and more niche work than the late 70s material. I didn't feel the need to split them into their appropriate categories in this thread. But I agree they are completely different. I would also suggest that Absolutely Free is far superior to WOIIFTM, but I can accept that I may be in the minority on that one.To respond to the OP's questions:
For someone who already likes his stuff:
Hot Rats
We're Only In It For The Money (sometimes issued in combination with Lumpy Gravy)
The Grand Wazoo
Roxy & Elsewhere (alternate: You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore #2, the Helsinki Concert)
Lather
Make a Jazz Noise HereNo way on MAJNH, and the Helsinki concert should not be heard until Roxy is fully enjoyed. As far as WOIIFTM, if I lost all 40 of my CDs and all my mp3s, and my SO were going to surprise me with a shiny new Zappa CD, and it turned out to be We're Only In It For The Money, I'd be greatly disappointed. That begs the question, what would I want? The answer would be any one of:

Roxy & Elsewhere
Joe's Garage
You Are What You Is
Them Or Us
YCDTOSA 2 or 3
LätherFor a newbie:
One Size Fits All
Apostrophe'/Overnight Sensation
Them or Us
The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life
Joe's GarageDefinitely not TBBYNHIYL, but agreed on the others.

Kilvert's Pagan
03-12-2005, 08:17 PM
You'd think so, wouldn't you? ... :major snip: ...
Definitely not TBBYNHIYL, but agreed on the others. A thoughtful and well-reasoned response from clearly a great FZ fan. I doff my hat, sir.

Re: MAJNH and TBBYNHIYL: I think I have a warm spot in my heart for the '88 tour - both because I witnessed it firsthand, and because I'm such a Mike Keneally fan. (I get to see him this Tuesday!)

NicePete
03-12-2005, 08:21 PM
Wow, how can you not like Hot Rats?

I probably lean more toward the instrumental/jazz fusion-y type stuff. If your friend does to, I second Burnt Weeny Sandwich. It's a wonderful album. Sleep Dirt is also very good. Also, you can't go wrong with any of the Shut Up and Play Your Guitar's.

As for more comedy type albums, Joe's Garage is fantastic. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Just Another Band From LA because of Billy the Mountain. Fillmore East '71 is a lot of raunchy fun (Oh Howie, you're so professional!). Live in New York is pretty great as well.

Ellis Dee
03-12-2005, 09:23 PM
Wow, how can you not like Hot Rats?I was stunned by his reaction. Fast forward 6 years. I'm at a different job, and I very quickly noticed that my boss was a big Zappa fan. He'd use "great googly moogly" and "the crux of the biscuit" in the weekly staff meetings, so it wasn't hard to figure out. Anyway, one day he was bored and looking through my (20 or so) audio CDs I kept on my desk. He pulled Hot Rats and asked "is this any good?" I lent it to him and commented that it had one of my alltime favorite songs on it.

The next day he was gushing about how it was the greatest thing he ever heard. Ah, Hot Rats. So good.Fillmore East '71 is a lot of raunchy fun (Oh Howie, you're so professional!). Live in New York is pretty great as well.I'm missing one of the LINY discs. I have the one with Sofa on it, thankfully, but missing the other is annoying.

But I'm reminded of a female friend who loved Fillmore East. Her favorite lines were from Bwana Dik. She'd occasionally burst into song with such gems as "My dick is a Harley, you kick it to start." Good times.

Tentacle Monster
03-12-2005, 09:37 PM
Well, since you're talking about a gift, may I suggest some alternatives to actual albums?

There are a couple of FZ items out on DVD. Namely Baby Snakes and Does Humor Belong In Music? Both of them are largely based on his concerts, which is to me a bit more interesting than just getting an album.

Is that biography you have The Real Frank Zappa Book? If it isn't, then skip it and get The Real Frank Zappa Book. In fact, any people who have posted in this thread, nay, have read this thread who haven't read The Real Frank Zappa Book should get off their asses and get a copy.

Finally, if you feel like paying a good chunk for a very old VHS (or, according to Biffy The Elephant Shrew, laserdisc), find a copy of 200 Motels. It's a great movie. Why the hell it's not on DVD yet, I don't know.

Splanky
03-12-2005, 09:50 PM
I've always been partial to Grand Wazoo and Waka/Jawaka. If you like jazz music then it doesn't get any better.

I really like Hot Rats, Roxy and Elsewhere, Joe's Garage, and One Size Fits All

There's also his electronic and classical stuff.

Kilvert's Pagan
03-13-2005, 09:43 AM
Is that biography you have The Real Frank Zappa Book? If it isn't, then skip it and get The Real Frank Zappa Book. In fact, any people who have posted in this thread, nay, have read this thread who haven't read The Real Frank Zappa Book should get off their asses and get a copy.I like The Real Frank Zappa Book (FZ's combination autobiography /political screed) a lot. But I also recommend Electric Don Quixote by Neil Slaven.

I have almost no use for The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play.

lawoot
03-13-2005, 11:26 AM
Finally, if you feel like paying a good chunk for a very old VHS (or, according to Biffy The Elephant Shrew, laserdisc), find a copy of 200 Motels. It's a great movie. Why the hell it's not on DVD yet, I don't know.

How can you not love a movie featuring Ringo Starr playing Frank, and Keith Moon playing an overly-emotional Groupie Nun?

And it is available (as of 8:44 AM PDT) at Amazon, used, for $24.99

Dung Beetle
03-14-2005, 08:02 AM
He has actually mentioned how much he enjoyed 200 Motels, so that would be good.

The book I have is Zappa, by Barry Miles. Still unread, so I can't review it for you.

modular
03-14-2005, 03:14 PM
Apostrophe and Hot Rats are two of my many favorites. If you don't know where to start at all, Strictly Commercial has a ton of songs all from different albums...then you can reference the style you like to the album it came from.

fishbicycle
03-14-2005, 03:41 PM
Twenty-eight posts in and no one has recommended Tinseltown Rebellion. Maybe it's just me who likes that album! It's undescribably brilliant, funny and awe-inspiring in parts. Don't pass it up or wait until you have the whole collection before you get it!

Ellis Dee
03-14-2005, 08:53 PM
Twenty-eight posts in and no one has recommended Tinseltown Rebellion. Maybe it's just me who likes that album! It's undescribably brilliant, funny and awe-inspiring in parts. Don't pass it up or wait until you have the whole collection before you get it!My buddy is a huge fan of it. Me? Not so much. I much prefer the version of For the Young Sophisticate on Läther, and I get frustrated with that version of Peaches, mainly because it has so much potential, but I feel it falls short in the execution.

If you're looking for old videos, Does Humor Belong In Music? is phenomenal live concert footage. Tough to find, but well worth it. Best Whippin' Post ever played. (Much better than the Tinseltown Rebellion version, though that one is pretty damn good as well.) Bobby Martin has quite a set of lungs on him.

Marley23
03-14-2005, 10:27 PM
Best Whippin' Post ever played.
Maybe by FZ. ;) Anyway, I'm listening to The Grand Wazoo now and enjoying the hell out of it.