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FRANK ZAPPA/Lather: First off, it's pronounced "Leather". Second off, this was originally supposed to be a four album box set, basically in backlash response to the fashionable double live albums of the late 70s. The initial end result was a ginormous pissing match between Zappa and WB that found this being split up into several albums that they released without his ‘authorization'. He retaliated by performing a live radio concert in which he played the album in the order he intended and encouraged fans to tape (there were no downloads back then, kiddies). So here it is presented as the dada masterpiece he originally intended. It only came out originally 20 years too late, and now it took another 20 years to remaster and respifferize the whole shebang, complete with cover art that misses the point. This is a set that took on mythic proportions in it's original time because without the Internet, suppression was a lot easier. Due to the massive singular size of it all, it might be fair to consider this Zappa's magnum opus. It's certainly a Zappa tour de force with virtually ever skin he ever wore on display. Ok, let's call it a harmonic convergence for Zappa fans of very stripe. Play it all at once, if you dare---you might never be the same.

FRANK ZAPPA/Finer Moments: It makes you want to say "I hear dead people". Zappa, Jimmy Carl Black and Lowell George all reunited on the same plane once again as the later period early Mothers kick out the jams with rocked up jazz/rock spread mightily across two discs. With only 13 tracks extant over two discs, that fill up the discs, you know this is a set with plenty of room for stretching out. You don't even need words to go over the top with crazy ideas, and they are on display here. Even though it's from around the same period, it's about as far from either "Uncle Meat" or "200 Motels" as you can get.

FRANK ZAPPA/Playground Psychotics: A Flo & Eddie period look behind the scenes when Aynsley Dunbar and George Duke were in the band as well. With a huge chunk of this twofer recorded at the same concert as "Billy the Mountain", some off it may seem too verite for the casual listener that wants to hear The Turtles go nuts, but the real humor Zappa freak will see through it all and dig the original vibe. Crazy stuff that wasn't meant to be an album in the first place and shouldn't be held to those standards. It almost sounds like something you'd expect from The Fugs.

FRANK ZAPPA/Have I Offended Someone: You might consider this a greatest hits circa late 70s/early 80s set as this is stuff from his "Joe's Garage"/"Valley Girl" period, remixed when needed, chopped and channeled when necessary. Originally released and compiled a decade after the fact, this is some of Zappa's most consistent and popular work where even the strangest pop oddities took to the top of the charts in places like Norway where death metal is a way of life and the out of the ordinary in eclipsed by the area's pervasive darkness anyway. This stuff was bright spots there. The playing is sharp and the stuff is fun. MOR Zappa? Not really, not quite, but somehow fitting. A fine entry way to that period.

FRANK ZAPPA/The Yellow Shark: Introducing the proceedings like a tripped out, hippie Leonard Bernstein, Zappa sets the stage and then takes a seat as the Ensemble Modern takes over and gives a ‘serious' orchestral reading of some of his ‘serious' compositions. Released shortly after his death, this material would not be out of line with any typical contemporary classical material and is actually more listenable. Often sounding like a Disney soundtrack composed on acid with a side of coke and vodka, it might not be for everyone but his serious music fans will be flipping for this now and forever.

FRANK ZAPPA/Mystery Disc: Ah, the revenge of the collector nerd. Zappa originally released his older albums in box sets and included previously unreleased material that would be of obvious value to collectors. Now, this previously released, previously unreleased material is gathered under it's own cover and given flight to all those who missed out on the pricey, vinyl box sets that are now more than long gone. Casual fans can pass this fly and grab some other pricey releases if they have to make value judgments, but hey, this was originally for the uber fan---it has about 45 minutes of stuff you can't find anywhere else but in the original supplemental material.

FRANK ZAPPA/Ahead of Their Time: The man who had an album banned by Walmart for content, when it was all instrumental, took us back to London, 1968, when he had to defend himself against an obscenity bust convoluted enough to make his recording charge, Lenny Bruce, proud. It's the original Mothers playing anti-pop star while trying to be pop stars and giving their all with plenty of heart. If those original Verve records resonated with you, you know who you are and will probably be thrilled to hop on this journey through the past.

FRANK ZAPPA/Mothermania: CSN(Y) made a greatest hits album after two albums so why should be it so strange that Zappa/MOI made one after three albums back then. The Zappster actually made five albums by the time this came out, but two were music albums and this focuses on the comedy. Even if the Mothers were about to hookup with the Turtles, Mothermania ain't nothing like Monkeemania. A killer distillation of seminal albums that reputations were forged by. If you were there, this set will bring back memories you didn't know you had any more. Check it out if you weren't there.

Volume 36/Number 50
December 20, 2012
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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