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Thread: Frank Zappa: Which 5 albums to get first?

  1. #51
    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    Some quick FZ thoughts: An album like Absolutely Free and Were Only in it for the Money are both absolutely genius records, however they are albums I only spin once in a while partly due to the fact that there is not a lot of blowing on them, especially FZ. I will usually spin Hot Rats, Burnt Weeny Sandwich, Waka Jawaka, both Guitars, In New York, Jazz Noise, Joe's Garage, etc usually due to the fact that there are always solos I "learn" from each time I play them. Same with his orchestral and Synclavier albums...I always find something new with each spin as opposed to Freak Out, Money, etc where I know every beat to every bar on the album. One of the reasons I love Joe's Garage so much is that the guitar solos along with Vinnie's playing on that album is just on another planet, and I will hear new licks, motifs, runs, patterns, etc with each spin. The unbelievable production on that particular album doesn't hurt either. Zappa is so vast that it's almost impossible to get bored with his oeuvre.
    If it isn't Krautrock, it's krap.

  2. #52
    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StarThrower View Post
    Don't forget Meat Light if ordering this album. A terrific expanded 3 disc set that retails for under 15 dollars. Includes the original 1969 vinyl mix, alternate album sequence, and previously unreleased extras.
    What he said. All of the 2012 remasters are essential for the most part.
    If it isn't Krautrock, it's krap.

  3. #53
    Member zravkapt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thedunno View Post
    Just placed an order at discogs: hot rats, the grand wazoo, one size fits all, uncle meat and apastrophe. I could get those from one seller. Roxy will have to wait.
    Your next five:

    We're Only In It For The Money
    Roxy & Elsewhere
    Zappa In New York
    Sleep Dirt
    Ship Arriving To Late To Save A Drowning Witch
    The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off

  4. #54
    Banned Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    An album like Absolutely Free and Were Only in it for the Money are both absolutely genius records, however they are albums I only spin once in a while partly due to the fact that there is not a lot of blowing on them, especially FZ.
    Sometimes I just play "Invocation & Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin".

  5. #55
    Quote Originally Posted by StarThrower View Post
    And for future reference, the all instrumental 2012 edition of Sleep Dirt also sounds fantastic!
    Absolutely. This has actually become one of my favorite FZ discs, or at least one I listen to the most often.

  6. #56
    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    Some quick FZ thoughts: An album like Absolutely Free and Were Only in it for the Money are both absolutely genius records, however they are albums I only spin once in a while partly due to the fact that there is not a lot of blowing on them, especially FZ. I will usually spin Hot Rats, Burnt Weeny Sandwich, Waka Jawaka, both Guitars, In New York, Jazz Noise, Joe's Garage, etc usually due to the fact that there are always solos I "learn" from each time I play them. Same with his orchestral and Synclavier albums...I always find something new with each spin as opposed to Freak Out, Money, etc where I know every beat to every bar on the album. One of the reasons I love Joe's Garage so much is that the guitar solos along with Vinnie's playing on that album is just on another planet, and I will hear new licks, motifs, runs, patterns, etc with each spin. The unbelievable production on that particular album doesn't hurt either. Zappa is so vast that it's almost impossible to get bored with his oeuvre.
    Thanks for the insights, Frank.

    You're absolutely right about how expansive FZ's catalog is. It is nearly impossible to get bored by his music, just for sheer variety alone.

    It's rare for a musician/composer to tickle my brain on a technical level, but also to touch my heart and move me. Zappa is one of them, and sometimes he does it within a single song. The stuff I reach for most is in the vein of Hot Rats, Sleep Dirt, Studio Tan, Orchestral Favorites, Grand Wazoo, One Size Fits All, but Studio Tan holds a special place for me as it was my gateway into FZ's music. The version of RDNZL on that disc is possibly my favorite Zappa piece ever. Technical, emotional, beautiful...

    Spinning Sleep Dirt this morning, and just wrapping up "Spider of Destiny".

  7. #57
    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    Some quick FZ thoughts: An album like Absolutely Free and Were Only in it for the Money are both absolutely genius records, however they are albums I only spin once in a while partly due to the fact that there is not a lot of blowing on them, especially FZ. I will usually spin Hot Rats, Burnt Weeny Sandwich, Waka Jawaka, both Guitars, In New York, Jazz Noise, Joe's Garage, etc usually due to the fact that there are always solos I "learn" from each time I play them. Same with his orchestral and Synclavier albums...I always find something new with each spin as opposed to Freak Out, Money, etc where I know every beat to every bar on the album. One of the reasons I love Joe's Garage so much is that the guitar solos along with Vinnie's playing on that album is just on another planet, and I will hear new licks, motifs, runs, patterns, etc with each spin. The unbelievable production on that particular album doesn't hurt either. Zappa is so vast that it's almost impossible to get bored with his oeuvre.
    You have a point, but Dunno hasn't run the distance yet (I suspect you must have listened to these first 3 albums a lot. Those first 3 - and We're Only in it for the Money in particular - are core Zappa - musically, lyrically, and display his spirit in the utmost. They are records that have broken the narrow confines of progressive rock and are hailed unanimously by all music lovers. So I believe one of the three (whichever) is indispensable for our friend's little collection.

    On my part, from the early Zappa work the ones that still allow considerable space for exploration are Uncle Meat, 200 Motels and Waka Jawaka. But I never get tired of some old Freak Out zaniness.

  8. #58
    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    Burnt Weeny Sandwich
    If you skip the doowop-sandwich of the opening and ending tunes here, this is my single fave Zappa album. This plus the "Village of the Sun/Wash That Thing" side on Roxy and, arguably, side 2 of Weasels.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
    "[...] things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," - Tony Levin speaking of SGM

  9. #59
    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrotum Scissor View Post
    If you skip the doowop-sandwich of the opening and ending tunes here, this is my single fave Zappa album. This plus the "Village of the Sun/Wash That Thing" side on Roxy and, arguably, side 2 of Weasels.
    Absofruitly - but I love "WPLJ"!

    "Dolphy...", Burnt Weeny, and Weasels side 2 is some of my fav FZ from the 60's along with Meat.
    If it isn't Krautrock, it's krap.

  10. #60
    The first thing I thought of when I saw this thread, was someone asking the same question on a Yahoo group back in the early 2000's. Every answer suggested that you couldn't really get to know Zappa without getting at least 10 - 20 albums, lol (some of those same people are commenting on this thread, by the way, but I won't name names ). The person who asked ended up saying, "forget it, I'll ask somewhere else", lol. However, having listened to Zappa for many years I think it's really true that you can't really single out 3-5 albums that are "representative" of Zappa.

    Of course, I always tell people to start with Hot Rats, because that was the one that got me into Zappa, even though I had heard 5 or 6 of his albums before that. Now, I like most of them, but I did need that jumping off point that really appealed to me, and Hot Rats was it.

  11. #61
    Member thedunno's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by infandous View Post

    Of course, I always tell people to start with Hot Rats, because that was the one that got me into Zappa, even though I had heard 5 or 6 of his albums before that. Now, I like most of them, but I did need that jumping off point that really appealed to me, and Hot Rats was it.
    Thnx, I ordered Hot rats and it will be the first I will try to get familiar with.

  12. #62
    With Frank Zappa albums to start off with, I recommend:

    Hot Rats
    Apostrophe'
    You Are What You Is

    and these compilation albums;
    Strictly Commercial
    Cheap Thrills

  13. #63
    The 2012 versions of Sheik Yerbouty and Zoot Allures sounds fantastic, together with Sleep Dirt those are the three with the better sound improvement... The Ryko version were much worse...

  14. #64
    Just my opinion, but I'd start you with:

    Hot Rats
    Uncle Meat
    Guitar
    Grand Wazoo
    Waka/Jawaka

  15. #65
    Progga mogrooves's Avatar
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    Absolutely Free
    We're Only In It For the Money
    Uncle Meat
    Hot Rats
    Grand Wazoo
    Hell, they ain't even old-timey ! - Homer Stokes

  16. #66
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StarThrower View Post
    Uncle Meat
    Hot Rats
    Grand Wazoo
    Roxy & Elsewhere
    One Size Fits All

    Just my suggestions. If you end up enjoying any of these you can keep exploring earlier or later stuff.
    While not my ultimate faves, this list would be best to discover Zappa, IMHO

    I would add Orchestral Favourite
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

  17. #67
    Member hippypants's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrotum Scissor View Post
    Just don't start with Ruben & the Jets. In fact, skip it altogether.
    Probably not the best place to start, but I disagree to skip it. It's a great one.

    1. Freak Out
    2. We're Only In It For the Money
    3. Uncle Meat
    4. One Size Fits All
    5. Absolutely Free

  18. #68
    Member Burley Wright's Avatar
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    I'll probably get raked over the coals for suggesting this but Amazon Music Unlimited has over 100 Zappa albums.

  19. #69
    Member thedunno's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burley Wright View Post
    I'll probably get raked over the coals for suggesting this but Amazon Music Unlimited has over 100 Zappa albums.
    I do not have a subscription to any of those music streaming services and the I do not plan to get one.

  20. #70
    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    Absofruitly - but I love "WPLJ"!

    "Dolphy...", Burnt Weeny, and Weasels side 2 is some of my fav FZ from the 60's along with Meat.
    I share the BWS love and I never skip WPLJ or Valarie - actually enjoy them. For all their incongruity with the rest of the musical content, they somehow add to the totality of the experience. Zappa had a talent for programming albums in a way that worked, even when it was counter-intuitive, I think.

    Part of the reason the songs work for me is that I never get the sense that Zappa was condescending to this music. His love for fifties and early sixties doo-wop and R&B was I think real and unironic. He owned 7,000 singles, and I believe it was the music he chose to listen to when he knew he was dying.

  21. #71
    Quote Originally Posted by Mascodagama View Post
    I share the BWS love and I never skip WPLJ or Valarie - actually enjoy them. For all their incongruity with the rest of the musical content, they somehow add to the totality of the experience. Zappa had a talent for programming albums in a way that worked, even when it was counter-intuitive, I think.

    Part of the reason the songs work for me is that I never get the sense that Zappa was condescending to this music. His love for fifties and early sixties doo-wop and R&B was I think real and unironic. He owned 7,000 singles, and I believe it was the music he chose to listen to when he knew he was dying.
    Completely agreed, the mix of "greasy love songs" , experimental tracks , dialogue snippets and classic FZ compositions makes out the charme of his early records. Btw one of my 80s favourite FZ records is Them Or Us where he got back to mixing up stuff with more cheese included and one of his best covers.
    Dieter Moebius : "Art people like things they don’t understand!"

  22. #72
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    I quite like both 'WPLJ' and 'Valerie' but they are kind of strange bookends, when you think about it. They make the album appear somewhat patchy. In fact the instrumental material on the rest of the album was some of his best ever (and most accessible) work IMHO. Weasels Ripped My Flesh had less of an overarching unity, so they'd have fit better there, maybe?

    I could have included almost any of his 1966-70 albums and all of the 1972-5 ones in a Top 5, really.

    I was listening to Chunga's Revenge yesterday and that has a lot of really great stuff on it too. I find that Flo and Eddie period patchier but I like this album the most because it's more instrumental.

  23. #73
    Quote Originally Posted by Mascodagama View Post
    I share the BWS love and I never skip WPLJ or Valarie - actually enjoy them. For all their incongruity with the rest of the musical content, they somehow add to the totality of the experience. Zappa had a talent for programming albums in a way that worked, even when it was counter-intuitive, I think.

    Part of the reason the songs work for me is that I never get the sense that Zappa was condescending to this music. His love for fifties and early sixties doo-wop and R&B was I think real and unironic. He owned 7,000 singles, and I believe it was the music he chose to listen to when he knew he was dying.
    Well put. I am also a fan of ALL Burnt Weeny, and I believe that the flow of music from beginning to end is the record's greatest virtue

    Everybody is wearing a uniform and don't kid yourself.

  24. #74
    Member Guitarplyrjvb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thedunno View Post
    Just placed an order at discogs: hot rats, the grand wazoo, one size fits all, uncle meat and apastrophe. I could get those from one seller. Roxy will have to wait.
    I think you've chosen very well. If I had to recommend a Zappa album to someone just beginning to get into him, I would suggest "One Size Fits All", particularly if you are a prog fan. You've got that covered!

  25. #75
    Don't think anyone has mentioned the You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore CD's yet. Maybe because they weren't released until the late 80's, but they were still compiled by Frank himself. Volume 1, a mix of live tracks from throughout FZ's career and Volume 2, a single concert from Helsinki in 1974 from one of his best bands, are both stellar.

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