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Thread: The 80's Zappa re-appraisal thread

  1. #51
    Banned Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    There's a suggestion going around that you should wash your hands for a specific length of time to help prevent the spread of the covid-19 virus, suggesting that you sing Happy Birthday to yourself to get an idea how long you should wash. Based on this, someone put together a site where you could wash your hands to various song lyrics of your choosing.
    I played around with it. Here are a couple of examples:



    As you can see, results vary.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #52
    My thoughts on the 80s Zappa I’ve heard:

    * London Symphony Orchestra: I don’t think this sounds as bad as Frank claims (except maybe for “Strictly Genteel,” the brass section is definitely out of tune on that one!) but I have to say that, in general, I am not impressed by the compositions here. Not Zappa’s finest hour as a composer, except for the aforementioned SG, and you can find a bunch of better renditions of that. I think that pretty much any of his other orchestral albums (Lumpy Gravy, Orchestral Favorites, The Yellow Shark) are actually better.
    * Them or Us: As others have said, a real grab bag. It’s like he decided to take all his orphaned tracks and shovel them together onto a massive double album. I really love some of this (“Sinister Footwear II,” “Marqueson’s Chicken,” the title track) and really hate others (“In France,” “Stevie’s Spanking”). I am forgiving of the doo-wop stuff on Burnt Weeny Sandwich because it’s a cute contrast to the more “serious” music, but the doo-wop here seems perfunctory. Actually, a lot of this seems perfunctory; for example “Ya Hozna,” his answer to the back-masking controversy, which is basically the backwards vocal track to “Sofa No. 2” with a heavy metal guitar riff lazily slapped on top. Let’s not even get into “Be in My Video,” his tired MTV spoof which just goes to show how far he’d fallen as a satirist.
    * Thing-Fish: No. Just, NO!
    * Jazz From Hell: He plays the bulk of this on a $20,000 mega-synth, but much of this sounds like he’s plugging random notes into a 386 PC and playing them back on General MIDI. I’d completely pan this except a) I really love some of the tunes here (“Night School,” “G-Spot Tornado” and “Damp Ankles” transcend their dated production) and b) it also contains “St.-Etienne,” one of his loveliest guitar solos.
    * Make a Jazz Noise Here: Including this one because, in spite of its release date, I believe it was recorded circa 1988. I feel that, like Them or Us, this is a serious mixed bag. Props to Zappa for insisting on including mallets and a brass section in his band even at this late date. He unfortunately can’t completely keep away from that dated late 80s sound, largely via the digital synthesizers and cheesy “oh wow” use of sampling keyboards (get used to that snorting sound from We’re Only in It for the Money). Some of this (“When Yuppies Go to Hell,” “Advance Romance,” the pokey reggae version of “King Kong”) just seems to go on forever, and the topical references to Jimmy Swaggart and SDI have aged about as well as you can imagine (i.e.: not at all). Kind of worth it for “Black Napkins” and “Sinister Footwear” but other than that, the renditions of the oldies (mostly in the form of rushed medleys) are inferior to any number of other albums. Not making me miss Roxy or Helsinki, that’s for sure.
    Confirmed Bachelors: the dramedy hit of 1883...

  3. #53
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave (in MA) View Post
    There's a suggestion going around that you should wash your hands for a specific length of time to help prevent the spread of the covid-19 virus, suggesting that you sing Happy Birthday to yourself to get an idea how long you should wash.
    I believe you're supposed to sing it twice to get to 20 seconds. My daughter sings the chorus to "Africa" by Toto.
    Orange is the new stupid.

  4. #54
    Quote Originally Posted by ronmac View Post
    I believe you're supposed to sing it twice to get to 20 seconds. My daughter sings the chorus to "Africa" by Toto.
    I was told to sing it once. I've also heard the suggestion of He's A Jolly Good Fellow.

    Back to Frank, since we've brought The Jazz Discharge Party Hats, I will mention I like that, but only becasue Frank had Steve Vai transcribe his monologue, and then double the vocal, on guitar. That's a bit of a feat I think. Vai did something with a track on his Flex-Able Leftovers release called So Happy.

  5. #55
    Banned Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarGeek View Post
    I was told to sing it once. I've also heard the suggestion of He's A Jolly Good Fellow.
    But that's an instrumental.




  6. #56
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave (in MA) View Post
    THE DANGEROUS KITCHEN

    Not infrequently referenced around our house.
    Who the fuck wants to clean it?
    And the code is a play, a play is a song, a song is a film, a film is a dance...

  7. #57
    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarGeek View Post

    Back to Frank, since we've brought The Jazz Discharge Party Hats, I will mention I like that, but only becasue Frank had Steve Vai transcribe his monologue, and then double the vocal, on guitar. That's a bit of a feat I think.
    I always liked that track. Sort of a combined groupie story and vocal imitation of an Ornette Coleman solo.

  8. #58
    Quote Originally Posted by pb2015 View Post
    I always liked that track. Sort of a combined groupie story and vocal imitation of an Ornette Coleman solo.
    Hadn't really thought about that. I wonder if Frnak was trying to emulate the melodic flow of a free jazz solo or whatever. I was just impressed that Vai could do what he did on that track and also So Happy.

  9. #59
    The eons are closing
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    Stunt Guitar indeed...
    No one plans to take the path that brings you lower

  10. #60
    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarGeek View Post
    Hadn't really thought about that. I wonder if Frnak was trying to emulate the melodic flow of a free jazz solo or whatever. I was just impressed that Vai could do what he did on that track and also So Happy.
    Also on Dangerous Kitchen (the MFU version).

  11. #61
    You Are What You is has its moments. But they seem to be outweighed by silliness, like Goblin Girl, Conehead, Charlie's Enormous Mouth, Jumbo Go Away and a few others.

    But that three-song run of "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing/Dumb All Over/Heavenly Bank Account" is priceless.
    Orange is the new stupid.

  12. #62
    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    I listened to YCDOSTA Vol. 4 last night from soup-to-nuts! It's been a WHILE. Loved it - brings back such great memories of first discovering live Zappa, and aside from some of questionable sound choices on the 84 tour, this thing is a gem and so all over the map. Every FZ guitar solo on that set is crazy good. Church Chat - love it!
    An excellent collection of songs, lots of stellar moments, Outside Now, Torture with Captain Beefheart on board, Filthy Habbits etc etc. Do you think it stands out in relation to the other albums of the series (with the exception of Vol 2 which is a different story altogether)?

  13. #63
    Quote Originally Posted by Zappathustra View Post
    An excellent collection of songs, lots of stellar moments, Outside Now, Torture with Captain Beefheart on board, Filthy Habbits etc etc. Do you think it stands out in relation to the other albums of the series (with the exception of Vol 2 which is a different story altogether)?
    Probably the volume with the most instrumental improv.

  14. #64
    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Progbear View Post
    My thoughts on the 80s Zappa I’ve heard:


    * Make a Jazz Noise Here: Including this one because, in spite of its release date, I believe it was recorded circa 1988. I feel that, like Them or Us, this is a serious mixed bag. Props to Zappa for insisting on including mallets and a brass section in his band even at this late date. He unfortunately can’t completely keep away from that dated late 80s sound, largely via the digital synthesizers and cheesy “oh wow” use of sampling keyboards (get used to that snorting sound from We’re Only in It for the Money). Some of this (“When Yuppies Go to Hell,” “Advance Romance,” the pokey reggae version of “King Kong”) just seems to go on forever, and the topical references to Jimmy Swaggart and SDI have aged about as well as you can imagine (i.e.: not at all). Kind of worth it for “Black Napkins” and “Sinister Footwear” but other than that, the renditions of the oldies (mostly in the form of rushed medleys) are inferior to any number of other albums. Not making me miss Roxy or Helsinki, that’s for sure.
    I couldn't disagree more - yeah a few samples are dated and the Swaggart stuff is very 1988 - but the playing is astonishing, the guitar solos are blazing, and the repertoire is all-over-the-map and outstanding. But we can agree to disagree since this is PE
    If it isn't Krautrock, it's krap.

  15. #65
    Member StarThrower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    I couldn't disagree more - yeah a few samples are dated and the Swaggart stuff is very 1988 - but the playing is astonishing, the guitar solos are blazing, and the repertoire is all-over-the-map and outstanding. But we can agree to disagree since this is PE
    The reggae King Kong with that badass bari sax solo is imo a standout track on a stellar live album.

  16. #66
    Right?! That is the most epic King Kong of all time! With the classical medley!? Outrageousness!

  17. #67
    How do people rate the 2 gigantic Guitar albums? Nowadays we may take them for granted, but what a crazy concept indeed, a triple fully instrumental album, comprised exclusively by guitar solos: who would ever come with a concept like that if not Zappa?

    Behind this lies the conviction that a guitar solo may have rights to an autonomous existence, that it can be some sort of a composition itself. And it's true that one of Zappa's greatest virtues as a guitar soloist is that he could use his composing mastery to fill an improvised solo with interesting musical ideas that could evolve into something more.

    But still, 2 hours of straight guitar soloing...does anyone sit in one go to listen to the whole thing? Sometimes it's like listening to Inca Roads forever and ever. If I randomly chose 15 minutes of music from these albums it sounds great, but the whole thing? I really don't know, I kind of have a love/hate relationship with these 2 albums. Maybe they could be shorter, like double albums, and tighter, some of it could be superfluous.

    But I am really interested in your opinion.

  18. #68
    Member StarThrower's Avatar
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    I love the first two guitar albums. I've listened to them as much as any other Zappa release. But I wasn't that crazy about the third album, Trance-Fusion. I think FZ did a great job on the editing and sequencing so the albums have a great flow. But nobody has to sit and listen to a full CD. If you've had your fill after 20-30 minutes, turn it off. There's a lot to absorb so the more I listened, the more I got out of it. And of course there's the great rhythm section playing to enjoy as well.

  19. #69
    Jazzbo manqu Mister Triscuits's Avatar
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    I think the Shut Up 'n' Play Yer Guitar album/albums (released originally as three individual LPs, reissued as a 3-LP box set shortly afterwards, and released at various times as either a two- or three-CD set) is by far the most enjoyable of the guitar-only sets. The solos themselves seem to be more varied in style and mood, especially with the inclusion of the two extraordinary studio improvisations that make up the original side six. This is also the only one of the sets that has those palate cleansing snippets of random chatter and chipmunk percussion in between the tracks (known among fans as the "grout"). Zappa chose not to repeat this format on Guitar and Trance-Fusion. With nothing to give the ear a rest from the constant barrage of guitar shredding on those albums, they can be pretty taxing on the attention span.

  20. #70
    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    Shut Up (the entire set) is one of my fav FZ albums, period. It's composition within composition imo. Plus Vinnie fuckin RULES. Along with Joe's Garage, this is the best I have ever heard Vinnie (or more like my favorite). Guitar is great as well, but Chad played differently than Vinnie and FZ played differently as well, but just as interesting to my ears. Trance is great as well. These are gems if you dig "Zappa the soloist". Too long? Listen to what you want, then hit the 'stop' button.
    If it isn't Krautrock, it's krap.

  21. #71
    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    Shut Up (the entire set) is one of my fav FZ albums, period. It's composition within composition imo. Plus Vinnie fuckin RULES. Along with Joe's Garage, this is the best I have ever heard Vinnie (or more like my favorite). Guitar is great as well, but Chad played differently than Vinnie and FZ played differently as well, but just as interesting to my ears. Trance is great as well. These are gems if you dig "Zappa the soloist". Too long? Listen to what you want, then hit the 'stop' button.
    Yup Shut Up is one of FZs crowning achievements
    What set this piece a work apart and makes it so unique is the concept of
    Xenochrony (strange synchronizations).
    FZ:
    In this technique various tracks from unrelated sources are randomly synchronized with each other to make a final composition with rhythmic relationships unachievable by other means.
    In ordinary polyrhythmic terms we speak of 5 in the space of 4, or 7 in the space of 6.
    In Xenochrony we deal with larger units of time; a complete solo at one metronomic rate in the space of a track at another

    Guitar left me cold

  22. #72
    Member Zeuhlmate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    Shut Up (the entire set) is one of my fav FZ albums, period. It's composition within composition imo. Plus Vinnie fuckin RULES. Along with Joe's Garage, this is the best I have ever heard Vinnie (or more like my favorite). Guitar is great as well, but Chad played differently than Vinnie and FZ played differently as well, but just as interesting to my ears. Trance is great as well. These are gems if you dig "Zappa the soloist". Too long? Listen to what you want, then hit the 'stop' button.
    I love them. Great for driving long distances too.

  23. #73
    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Triscuits View Post
    ...as is the "studio" version, which is actually cobbled together from various live performances. Uncle Frank explains:

    Do you know how many edits there are in "Drowning Witch"? Fifteen! That song is a basic track from 15 different cities. And some of the edits are like two bars long. And they're written parts -- all that fast stuff. It was very difficult for all the guys to play that correctly. Every once in a while somebody would hit the jackpot, but it's a very hard song to play. So there was no one perfect performance from any city. What I did was go through a whole tour's worth of tape and listen to every version of it and grab every section that was reasonably correct, put together a basic track, and then added the rest of the orchestration to it in the studio.
    That would be easy to do if they played to a metronome
    But since these are live performances I am scratching my head- how the was he able to achieve consistency ?? Especially regarding tempo and dynamics

  24. #74
    Quote Originally Posted by Udi Koomran View Post
    That would be easy to do if they played to a metronome
    But since these are live performances I am scratching my head- how the was he able to achieve consistency ?? Especially regarding tempo and dynamics
    I think it was just a matter of finding good players and rehearsing them so they would play the pieces at the same tempo each show.

    "Drowning Witch" was noticeably slower the first month or so of the '81 tour than on the album as they started to get comfortable with it so I guess he didn't use those recordings.

  25. #75
    Thanks for the great responses on the guitar albums. Yes, there is truly some amazing rhythmic work in there, at times it steals the show.

    Never listened to Trance-fusion though. Is it from the same era?

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