Official Release #106. In his trailblazing and incredibly prolific career, artist, composer and all-around musical pioneer Frank Zappa released more than 60 albums in his lifetime, as a solo artist and with his bands the Mothers of Invention and the Mothers. Coupled with more than 40 posthumous releases since his death in 1993 at 52, figuring out where to start in Zappa’s vast, genre-leaping catalog can be daunting. ZAPPAtite – Frank Zappa’s Tastiest Tracks, out now on Zappa Records/UMe, collects some of Zappa’s best known and beloved compositions, from his early psychedelic rock beginnings to his avant-garde experimentation, jazz-rock explorations, symphonic suites and satirical send-ups, compiling them into one easily digestible collection and offering key entryways into the many musical worlds of the visionary musician.
Official Release #107. Uncle Meat gets the deluxe treatment in this three CD Project/Object Audio Documentary. Included is the original 1969 vinyl mix (restored, remastered and available digitally for the first time), an original sequence that includes unique source material and bonus vault tracks mostly compiled from the recording sessions at Apostolic Studios in NYC between 1967 and 1969.
Official Release #109. Original Recordings And Mixes Produced By Frank Zappa. Little Dots contains more recordings of the under-documented Petit Wazoo Ensemble, which toured at the end of 1972 (previously heard officially on Imaginary Diseases). Again, the sound isn't pristine here, but it's quite listenable. The show starts with a very early version of "Cosmik Debris," but other than that and "Rollo" the material is all new (mostly due to being largely improvised). "Little Dots, Pt. 1" is a previously unreleased piece that features bassist Dave Parlato and drummer Jim Gordon in dialogue, joined by FZ on guitar about halfway though. "Little Dots, Pt. 2" kicks off with a Tony Duran slide solo, and heads into a trombone solo followed by another FZ guitar solo.
By the closing months of 1981 Frank Zappa had already released five albums during that productive year. Three of these records were his instrumental guitar collections - Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar, Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar Some More, and The Return of the Son of Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar - initially sold via mail order but later released through CBS. There was also the live double Tinseltown Rebellion and the 2-LP studio set You Are What You Is, released in September. Zappa also hit the road in September 81, performing a largely domestic tour that criss-crossed the US and took in a couple of shows in Canada between September and Christmas. On board for the tour were Frank s latest touring band, comprising Chad Wackerman on drums, Ed Mann on percussion, Tommy Mars on keyboards, Scott Thunes on bass, with Steve Vai and Ray White on guitar.
Official Release #85. This triple volume package contains an audio documentary tracing the conception and construction of Frank Zappa's We're Only in It for the Money (1968) and Lumpy Gravy (1968) masterworks. As the second entry in the Project/Object series (the first being the MoFo Project/Object in 2006 that gathered four CDs worth of goodies from the Freak Out! era), the modus operandi for Lumpy Money (2009) remains much the same as its predecessor. Presented within are primary components from both works in several unique – and formerly unissued – incarnations and configurations. It should also be noted that neither of Zappa's mid-'90s approved masters for We're Only in It for the Money or Lumpy Gravy are found here. Instead of retreading those – which (as of this 2009 writing) remain in print on the Rykodisc label – the nearly three-and-a-half hours served up here offer an embarrassment of insight into the development of the music, as well as the modular recording style that Zappa was evermore frequently incorporating into his craft.
Official Release #103. Performed/Arranged/Conducted by Frank Zappa. Road Tapes, Venue #3 features two complete shows from Tyrone Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN. The July '70 Mothers line-up featured Flo & Eddie, George Duke, Ian Underwood, Aynsley Dunbar & Jeff Simmons. FZ's vast Vault does not contain many full shows from this time period, so that alone makes this release a special one. The tapes were recorded to stereo reel-to-reel, but not without problems. Due to their historical relevance, we felt it was worth it, warts 'n all! Venue #3 does not disappoint.
A companion to Rykodisc's budget-priced compilation Cheap Thrills, Son of Cheap Thrills ranges haphazardly over the many phases of Zappa's career, concentrating on briefer, more song-oriented material; although many of his varied musical sides are covered, the collection never quite jells into something cohesive. On the other hand, that task would be difficult enough for a full-fledged anthology of Zappa, let alone a budget sampler, so take it for what it is – a cheaply priced introduction for the cash-strapped. Still, if you choose to acclimate yourself to Zappa this way, the first Cheap Thrills remains the better of the two, containing as it does a larger percentage of career high points.