Frank Zappa

Fatima XBerg's picture
What's it called?: 
12 Zappa reissues
What does it sound like?: 
I just bought the first three releases from Universal's first batch of their Zappa Catalogue Reissue Project (there are 12 titles currently available - basically the first Mothers/Zappa LPs up to 1972). And very fine they sound, too - taken mostly from the original "analogue masters", so the maestro's fiddling with his classics is kept to a minimum.
What does it all *mean*?: 
Mrs. Zappa promised that this time they'll get everything right. And apparently they did - and: the booklets reproduce every element of the original sleeves (in readable size!) up to the last detail.
Goes well with …: 
...the other 48 reissues to come.
Might suit people who like …: have a good-looking physical product on their shelves.


Are they coming out in original release order?

Let's hope we get Ruben and WOIIFTM restored to their original glory.

But it's hard to imgaine a whole new audience out there for this ... just the same old men (and a few old ladies) who've paid out for the new issues over the years and may be disinclined to ante up again. There's some comment to this effect over at the Zappa msgbds. A feeling of "been there, done that", and the absence of a new, young fanbase that the Sainted Gail's going to need to keep her in holistic granola and impressionist masterpieces or whatever she's spending our money on these days.

This will be the third time I've bought the Zappa catalogue (fourth, if you count the original vinyl).

I've decided I may not buy them all this time around. Just those that are radically different to the last batch (or, as mentioned above, those that finally correct the "I know best" changes Frank made to two or three of the 60s titles when he first issed them on CD).'s always the "wrong" version they put out. I bought 'Hot Rats' yesterday - it's (finally) the LP version they used for remastering. So some tracks are a few minutes shorter (!) than the previous CDs.

And yes, the market for Zappa product is basically dead. Recent Zappa Plays Zappa tours obviously didn't bring a new audience, but still, I guess there will always be demand for the albums. And being on Universal will surely keep them on display in the shops.

BTW, as stated above, they really look nice!

... to Freak Out! all week (not the reissue) and it's still one of my favourite FZ albums. Incredible that it was released before Revolver, and did he invent Can-style Krautrock with "Help I'm A Rock?"

And Freak Out tied with Blonde On Blonde for the distinction of rock's first double LP.

Both appeared in June/July 1966 (in the USA).

what Blonde On Blonde was to New York. Both contemporary documentaries that sound fresh and thrilling today. For me, the sheer density - and diversity - of Zappa's vision makes it the more playable of the two, and certainly the funnier.

... to "Absolutely Free" - those first 3 "Mothers" albums are brilliant, and massively underrated.

I like FZ a lot in small doses, so to speak, but I really can't be bothered to buy Absolutely Free and Uncle Meat for a third time in ten years: sorry Zappa estate.

but today I bought four of the new reissues (Freak Out, WOIIFTM, Hot Rats and Weasels Ripped My Flesh) for a very reasonable A$14.99 each.

I haven't had a chance to review them properly yet, but Hot Rats and Money appear to have been restored to their former glory (before Frank started messing about with them).


on that one

..."Money" is indeed taken from the original analog LP masters, so there's no re-recorded bass and drums from 1984. But it also means that it's the 'censored' version (the first CD from the 80s had restored all the parts that MGM had taken out, smutty lyrics and quotes like "...the Velvet Underground, the shittiest band...", etc.)
On the other hand, "Ruben & The Jets" is the maestro's (partly re-recorded) 80s version on the 'new' CD. (You can still buy a CD with the original LP version from the Zappa Family's webshop.)

My brain hurts.

as FZ himself might have said. That's the news I was dreading. At least I still have my original vinyl.

Who Needs The Peace Corps, Let's Make The Water Turn Black and the spoken intro to the song Absolutely Free all had a few words edited out on the original vinyl pressings.

MGM/Verve in the US had insisted that the line "shut your fuckin' mouth about the length of my hair" be cut from the song Mother People before ...Money could be released. So, in typical Zappa style, Frank cleverly sneaked the offending phrase back onto the album, via the track Hot Poop, without the record company noticing. Admittedly, he had to run the tape backwards to do it, but there it is, tucked away at the end of Side One.

Mothermania was for decades the only Zappa "best of" endorsed by Frank and I understand it will appear on CD for the first time ever as part of the ongoing 60 disc reissue programme.

Here's why you need to own it.

Frank's only officially-sanctioned compilation (until 1995's Strictly Commercial) and the final contractual obligation album owed to MGM in 1969 is far from just another greatest hits package.

Mothermania contains several versions, mixes and/or edits of songs from the first three Mothers' LPs which were, at the time, unavailable elsewhere. Mother People, for example, is the full, uncensored mono version (Zappa apparently didn't have time to remix a stereo version) complete with the infamous 'backwards' line mentioned above (although, obviously, it's the right way round here).

Due to the removal of the spoken middle section and sound effects passages, The Idiot Bastard Son is slightly shorter than on WOIIFTM, while It Can't Happen Here has a different ending to the Freak Out version.

Call Any Vegetable appears without the long guitar solo middle section (Invocation And Ritual Dance Of The Young Pumpkin) and although all three parts of Duke Of Prunes are present, only the main theme is listed on the sleeve.

These observations are based on the original vinyl LP version of Mothermania. It remains to be seen if the CD contains any differences.

include all those single versions from the sixties (some of them appeared on those mail-order-only anniversary editions). And the original 7-inch versions of "My Guitar" and "Dog Breath"...

...but I bet they won't. And not only because it would mean Bizarre/Reprise recordings appearing on an album of Verve/MGM tracks. Is that kind of thing still even on Gail's radar this far down the track?

I see that the Verve single tracks Big Leg Emma/Why Don'tcha Do Me Right? are still present on the new version of Absolutely Free (according to Amazon, anyway, I haven't bought the 2012 CD yet), otherwise they would be ideal bonus tracks for Mothermania

As expected, 'Mothermania - The Best Of The Mothers - 1969' is the same as the online version, with 6 otherwise unavailable versions/mixes.

that Frank messed around with have been restored to the previous versions, and whether -all- of his "tweaks" were really as detrimental as some purists/nostalgists have claimed over the years.

I know he completely erased Jimmy Carl Black & Roy Estrada's original contributions to "Ruben and the Jets" and had them re-recorded by others for the CD reissues. The album sounds very different indeed. It was done mainly out of pique, it is said, because JCB & RE took him to court claiming writing credits and unpaid royalties just previously. A settlement allegedly had to be made and FZ was said to be very pissed-off about it at the time.
"Hot Rats" is definitely mixed very differently on CD. It's so long since I heard the vinyl I couldn't say which I prefer.
"Weasels Ripped My Flesh" has had a few tracks extended on CD from the vinyl originals. I'm just about to play my crackly vinyl of that for the first time in many years. As far as I recall, the CD version is better in some respects, though less "punchy".
"We're Only In It For The Money" was supposedly restored to how Frank originally wanted it, on the original CD reissue. Allegedly it was heavily edited and censored by MGM/Verve on it's original vinyl release.
I've never heard "Lumpy Gravy" on vinyl so I don't know what, if anything, was changed.

Most of the contention over Frank's changes seems to be regarding these early MGM/Verve originals, where he had very little control over what was released.

I never minded the re-mixed version of Hot Rats.

The Gumbo Variations was around 3 mins longer than the original LP version and other tracks had extra bits and pieces, pre-take studio chat etc.

The thing was, all of the extra music was from the original 1969 sessions, so that seemed legitimate to me.

We now seem to have the original, shorter, LP version restored to the CD.

the stupid robot version of Ruben? What a missed opportunity. The original stand-up bass rhythm section makes that album.

And the censored version of Money? Is Gail right in the head?

It's just different. I noticed it immediately "Peaches En Regalia" started. And it was a good thing that "Gumbo Variations" was extended.

Have you ever heard the track they allegedly left off for lack of space, "Bognor Regis". It's good, but not as good as the others, I think. If it was indeed a "Hot Rats" reject then shelving it was probably a fair decision.

Bognor Regis off-hand, but I have a million Zappa boots, so I probably have it somewhere.

so why not re-release the original mixes?

...the original "Ruben & The Jets" (with alternate takes etc.) is on the Zappa Family release "Greasy Love Songs".

but last time I looked every mail-order CD on the Zappa Family website was $40 - $50 and their vinyl was often into 3 figures.

I just this second found a copy of this at the local produce market, lodged between a bucket of eels and a durian. I shall be interested to compare and contrast with my vinyl rip, which is amazeballs.

is great. Except - why-oh-why (wrist to forehead) didn't Gail just release it as an expanded 'Ruben' with the original cover? This one passed me by for years because of her stoopid marketing idea.

The next twelve albums are in the shops now - from "Waka/Jawaka" to "Sheik Yerbuti". Most (I haven't checked them all yet) are new remasters based on the original vinyl albums (not Frank's 80s/90s mixes). "Zappa In New York" is of course the 95 version with restored/uncensored track listing (as it should be).

Minus points for the blurry reproduction of the "Over-nite Sensations" artwork. Why didn't they ask me?

have the little label on the pot plant on the back cover?

but it's too small to figure out if you don't remember it from the vinyl cover.

(or False Aralia) is the plant on the back cover of Waka Jawaka.

It looks like marijuana, so we assume that Frank with his well-known anti-drugs stance got Cal Schenkel to add that little label to the artwork in case anyone thought he was growing his own.

I have one of these plants in a pot in my garden (I couldn't find a battered old can). It flowers only once every couple of years and has grown to about 3m tall. And, yes, I only have it because of the Zappa connection. Sad, I know. My wife hates it and refers to it with disdain: "your bloody Zappa plant wants watering" she will say. They aren't called the FPO's for nothing, eh fellas? (*winks knowingly*)

I'll mention that " bloody Zappa plant" next time someone makes fun of my Zappa enthusiasm.

which is probably more common, I suspect.

Thankfully, her indoors liked it and never once said "Your bloody Zappa dog needs walking".

Here's my Aralia Elegantissma, yesterday.



in a house like this?

Who wouldn't?

is when the neighbourhood kids climb the fence scrumping for Zappa!

I posted this on the old blog, but since that's seemingly lost forever, here it is again.

This is what happens when I'm left babysitting in a houseful of Zappa records. This is a picture of my son taken 26/27 years ago.

He's now a strapping 27 year-old blues guitarist (and Zappa fan, natch).


Uncle Meat *still* has the insanely out-of-place penalty tracks. Sometimes, I don't know, I could just knock Gail Zappa's silly head together ...

is apparently planned as the next Object/Project release, so that's where you'll eventually find the original LP mixes. (And lots of penalty tracks on a seperate disc, I hope...)

has been a disappointment so far. That Apostolic deck was just too much for the digital age!

I've just A-B'd (as they say over at the Steve Huffman forum) the new remasters of Hot Rats, Burnt Weenie, and Uncle Meat against my previous versions, and they all sound markedly better. I had a rip of the vinyl Hot Rats, and this will replace that. It won't replace my previous CD rip, though, I'm keeping both, because they're equally as good, but different.

Quite a nice surprise, really - I wasn't expecting them to be noticeably different.

Just found an amazing Zappa photography site @ here:

through Frank's old haunts. He really did frequent some one horse towns. The photos of San Bernadino give new meaning to "the rest of their lives in San Ber'dino"

is out now.
'Tinseltown Rebellion' and 'You Are What You Is' at last revert back to the analog LP master (about time, too - after all those 'secret upgrades' and new editions from Ryko...). 'Thing Fish' is the digital master, polished up a bit.

(according to Zappa Forums) Joe's Garage is a standout. Originally mastered at half-speed (Frank had some spare studio time he need to fill. Joking) the new remaster reveals all kind of stuff lost in a process even Zappa was unhappy with. As it's one of my Top Five Zaps, I'm really looking forwardest to it.

Remember how the Fillmore East 1971 original LP had Willie The Pimp split into two parts ending side one and starting side two? They were from separate performances so couldn’t be joined when the first CD version came out. That meant we lost Willie The Pimp Pt.2 in the digital era. I haven’t heard it yet, but it seems the new CD is taken from the analogue master and so has both parts as they appeared on the original LP, presumably with a gap between them.

There was some discussion about Sleep Dirt, too. On the Ryko CD Thana Harris overdubbed vocals on three tracks which appeared as instrumentals on the LP, while Chad Wackerman overdubbed some new drum parts. Not sure if this is still the case on the new CDs.

... brb

"Sleep Dirt - Here is a treat for folks longing for the original LP mix of "Sleep Dirt". The original title of this album was "Hot Rats 3" and Frank was not too pleased when Warner Brothers released the LP without his involvement and changed the title. For those who don't know, the CD version was remixed and edited and featured a dynamic female vocalist as well as some "new" instrumentation. This excellent new remaster by Bob Ludwig restores the album to it's original all-instrumental form. And a fine album it is. I had a beat up old vinyl version growing up. Its so nice to have it sound this amazing on CD."


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