Official Release #93. Conceived, Composed & Produced by Frank Zappa. The two-disc compilation of alternative takes titled Understanding America is intended for devoted fans only. It's scattershot material, tied together loosely by one theme: Zappa's acerbic mistrust of American culture. Throughout the '60s, '70s, and '80s, social satire made up a huge amount of his catalog, so Big Brother, media outlets, organized religion, and recreational drugs are all subject to attack here. The gold nugget is the unreleased 25-minute "Porn Wars Deluxe," a Negativland-esque collage that pairs together samples of music with clips from the 1985 PMRC Senate hearings, for which Zappa played an integral role defending against censorship.
Frank Zappa's music is not easy to convert to the stage of the jazz band. Although Zappa's zany compositions have always attracted some of the more adventurous jazz players, the actual jazz content of the tunes is minimal. Italian keyboardist Riccardo Fassi takes his Tankio Band of twelve players plus selected guests through a dozen Zappa charts with mixed results. Curiously, Fassi is most successful when he diverges from the structures of the tunes. When he sticks too closely to the melodies and chords, translating them into Kentonesque big band blasts, the results are less satisfying. The quality of the soloists vary, but guest trumpeter Flavio Boltro, accordionist Antonello Salis, and band member alto saxophonist Sandro Satta dish up some of the most compelling individual work.
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 #7. Mothermania, subtitled The Best of the Mothers, is a compilation album by the Mothers of Invention. While the songs were previously released on Freak Out!, Absolutely Free and We're Only in It for the Money, it contains unique mixes or edits done specifically for this compilation. Mothermania is a collection of previously released tunes culled from the first three Mothers of Invention albums. So why bother? Well, it's the only early collection actually compiled by FZ. Verve released a bunch of early compilations without permission, but more importantly, this is the only place you can hear some of these mixes and edits. Many of the tunes from Freak Out! appear in different mixes, while "It Can't Happen Here" plays through without the interruptions of the Freak Out! version.
Official Release #105. All Masters Produced by Frank Zappa. Frank Zappa For President? You betcha! We know at various times he wanted to run for office. In the spirit of the 2016 dramatic presidential election adventures, comes a release that gives us a glimpse into what could have been. This album is comprised of unreleased compositions realized on the Synclavier along with other relevant tracks mined from the Vault with a political thread tying it all together. Don't forget to Register and Vote!
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.