Zappatite Another Frank Zappa Greatest Hits Compilation, With Flair

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ZAPPAtite

Some may say what the world needs now is love, not another Frank Zappa Greatest Hits compilation. And some may say, well, why not both?

ZAPPAtite from Ume (Universal Music Enterprises) is the latest in a long line of “greatest hits” albums of one of rock’s most eclectic and off-the- beaten-path musicians ever to come down the pike.

I’m not going to take time here to talk about who Frank Zappa is/was, and what he has accomplished. It would take too long. If, by chance, you have been living under a rock for the last 50 years or so, or were brought up in some sort of sheltered sterile world where originality was not embraced and so you might not have not heard of him, then I would urge you to do some Google searches and sit back for a couple of days to read, read, and read more, then listen, listen, and listen more. While I can’t help you out on the reading part, the CD here can help you out on the listening part.

Compiled by Ahmet Zappa and Joe Travers for the ZFT (Zappa Family Trust) -- for which Ahmet, the 3rd eldest of the 4 Zappa children behind Dweezil and Moon Unit is the executor -- is a collection put together to look like a menu. We are given “Appetizers,” “Entrees,” and “Desserts.”

The CD cover is made to look like that of a diner, with a picture of Frank sitting at a table undoubtedly in a diner somewhere with pictures of dinner ware and food peppered throughout the few pages. The CD itself looks like a pie with a slice removed, and when you remove it the picture underneath shows the remnants of a mostly eaten pie, with a used napkin and cigarette butts put out in it.

The songs listed in “the menu” have the length of each song next to them, but instead of being in minutes and seconds, it is in dollars and cents like the cost of a menu item would be--a nice touch.

When sitting down to listen to a Zappa record, I have found that you have to make the decision that you are going to devote this particular listening session to his music; that is because his music is so different from everyone else’s that playing something else before or after listening to his music doesn’t fit.

This CD does a good job of capturing Frank’s music down through the ages; there are songs that run the gamut of classics such as “Joe’s Garage” to fun and melodious such as “Dancing Fool” and “Valley Girl,” all the way up to you’ll-never-hear-that-on-radio-airwaves such as “Bobbie Brown Goes Down” (my personal favorite on the CD; I know, I’m warped).

There are even some that are instrumentals, such as “Zoot Allures” and “Strictly Genteel,” the former of which has this jazzy trippiness to it and the sort of eclectic mix with an orchestra that sounds like it was a combination of the sound achieved in The Who’s “Tommy” and The Beatles “Sgt Pepper,” with notes of The Manheim Steamroller! All this the brainchild of one man, a genius!

While many refuse to take his music seriously, there is no denying his songwriting capabilities. He really did have a finger on the pulse of society at the time. One only need listen to “Trouble Every Day” to realize that the lyrics of that song are as pertinent today as when they were written. The same with “I’m The Slime” in calling out the evil and filth that comes from the TV screen.

Looking at it just from a musical composition standpoint, the production and sounds that he orchestrates around his songs is mind boggling at time. Several times in many songs I can guarantee you will say to yourself, “Who thinks of that?” He does musical things in his songs that contain aspects of Alan Parsons, Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, and Spike Jones all rolled into one! Whether you’re a fan of his music or not, he was in all respects a musical genius.

I like this album, too, because its release reminded me how much I like Frank Zappa’s music, but because it doesn’t fit in to the other music styles I’m listening to, I forewent playing them and, alas, never took the time to just sit and listen to him--and that’s a big shame on me. What is funny is that, as I listen to new music today, and after listening to the songs on this CD, I find myself thinking Frank is still so far ahead of all them.

One thing is for certain: if you are into physical media like I am to listen to your music, then a CD like this is a good way to initiate yourself into Zappa’s music, especially because to find the originals of the albums containing the songs on this CD, IF you can find them in decent condition, you’ll pay an arm and a leg for them. And finding the CDs also is not as easy as you would think. So listen here, and if you like what you hear then it will make the search for the originals all the more enjoyable--and I can pretty much guarantee that you will hear other songs that will have you wondering why they were not included, but remember this is only one CD and you can’t fit everything on it. But it’s a great place to start.

Sonically, it is okay. The new songs have a cleaner sound to them than the older recordings, but in essence I think you experience Zappa music more than you just sit and seriously listen to the sonics of his music listening for depth of field or width of soundstage. That is better left for other music. You’re not going to play this music to demonstrate your high-end rig to your snobby audiophile friends. Sound comes from everywhere, and although there are times when the instruments shine through, such as the sax on “Joe’s Garage” and the orchestral transients on “Strictly Genteel” that will test your speakers, this CD is for you and your buddies to listen to and rekindle. What the sonics really do is provide the clearness to hear all that is going on in the songs, and that will amaze you!

Yes, it’s another Zappa greatest hits album, but the songs, the arrangement of them on the album, and especially the CD packaging give it a different flair that is both new and, I would also say, totally Zappa.

And finally, remember: “Watch out where Huskies go, don’t you eat that yellow snow!”

Songs on this CD:

I’m The Slime

Dirty Love

Dancin’ Fool

Trouble Every Day

Peaches En Regalia

Tell Me You Love Me

Bobbie Brown Goes Down

You Are What You Is

Valley Girl

Joe’s Garage

Cosmic Debris

Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow

Titties And Beer

G-Spot Tornado

Cocaine Decision

Zoot Allures

Strictly Genteel

Grade: 
4.0 / 5.0