Sunday, September 25, 2016
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: FRANK ZAPPA - ZAPPAtite: FRANK ZAPPA'S TASTIEST TRACKS
If you've read anything about the great Zappa family feud, you'll know that there's bad blood between his kids, and Zappa's late wife Gail stirred the pot with her divisive will. This new compilation from the so-called Zappa Family Trust is the first basic best-of set in ages, which one might assume is an attempt by Ahmet, who is in charge now, of getting the catalog back in some comprehensible order. Forget it. There are some 100 different Zappa albums out there, and it's just getting more and more confusing, as the family minders keeps trolling the archive for different mixes, live tapes and discarded ideas, piling more and more two-and-three CD collections out there. It may be glorious for the coterie of Zappaphiles, but I'd bet that group is dwindling rather than growing.
I'd argue instead of more confusing releases (What is Lumpy Money supposed to be, anyway? Some sort of alternate look at two different albums), they need to get back to the core catalog that once earned Zappa a lot of attention. Go the Deluxe set route on such gems as Freak Out!, Over-Nite Sensation and Apostrophe', let a new generation in on the gems the way they came out in the first place. Instead, we're getting 12 (yes, freakin' 12) new sets in 2016 that I can count, between these out-take/alternative mix sets and new-to-disc live shows. I've known a few Zappa fans in my time, and while they may be devoted and even obsessive, none of them were particularly rich.
Ah well, back to this best-of, which they won't call a best-of since Zappa didn't really have a lot of hits. Valley Girl, his lone actual Top 40 number, is here, as are several of the beloved treasures, including the grand Peaches En Regalia, the icy words of wisdom Don't Eat The Yellow Snow and the still-relevant 1966 racism warning, Trouble Every Day. As usual, there's lots of the bodily fluid/sexual depravity numbers that so delight a certain part of his audience, including Bobby Brown Goes Down and Titties and Beer, Frank exercising his First Amendment rights as vociferously as those who scream for their Second Amendment ones. One was never sure if he was a patriot, an anarchist, a homophobe. sexist or just a pervert.
On a single collection, it's impossible to sum up Zappa, and while this admittedly leans towards the rock side, the compilation probably suffers by trying to do too much, ending off with a selection of his instrumental work, even Strictly Genteel with the London Symphony Orchestra. I don't think Zappa would have ever wanted to continue to appeal only to the converted, but rather catch 'em young and twist their minds his way. This seems like another confusing move when clarity was needed.