Frank Zappa Discussion/Survivor: Last albums by original Mothers (now voting!) [abandoned]

Should this survivor continue

  • Yes

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Yes, but lets start over and/or use all the songs

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • No

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    6

SinisterMinisterX

Illuminatus
Staff member
Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

“Information is not knowledge.
Knowledge is not wisdom.
Wisdom is not truth.
Truth is not beauty.
Beauty is not love.
Love is not music.
Music is the best.”


This survivor will be conducted as a discussion/survivor hybrid. Those who wish to discover Zappa don't have to be intimidated by the 100-album discography; as a 26-year Zappafreak, I've curated a list of 169 Zappa songs, and I'll present a few songs every day. Once I've presented all the songs for a "group" and we've had some time for discovery and discussion, voting will begin for that group.

Zappa had many songs that appeared in multiple good versions over many albums during his career. A song will be introduced into the game at it's first appearance, but each "entry" represents all versions of a song. So in some cases, I may present multiple videos for a single song. I encourage those curious about Zappa to check them all out; I think viewing the evolution of FZ's music over time helps understand what he was all about.

Survivors of the first phase:
Group One: "Hungry Freaks, Daddy", "Who Are The Brain Police?", "(More) Trouble Every Day", "Brown Shoes Don't Make It"
Group Two: "Absolutely Free", "Let's Make The Water Turn Black", "The Idiot Bastard Son", "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance"

Group 1: Freak Out Absolutely!

Our first group has 16 songs from Zappa's first two albums, from which four finalists will survive. We begin with Freak Out! (1966), an audacious double-album debut from back when double-albums were a brand new thing.

"The Mothers" was short for "Motherfuckers" and everyone around LA knew it. The record company insisted on a change. As Zappa put it: "Out of necessity, we became the Mothers of Invention." Zappa sold his band to the record company as an R&B outfit singing pop songs, and then smacked them with stuff no one was expecting.

The core of the original Mothers of Invention:
Frank Zappa: guitar, vocals, composer/conductor
Ray Collins: lead vocals
Roy Estrada: bass
Jimmy Carl Black: drums ... a Native American, known for his catchphrase "Hi boys and girls, I'm Jimmy Carl Black and I'm the Indian of the group."

Hungry Freaks, Daddy
Zappa throws down the gauntlet to the establishment from his very first track.
Once you find that the way you lied
And all the corny tricks you tried
Will not forestall the rising tide of hungry freaks, Daddy...


I Ain't Got No Heart
This isn't the kind of love song the record company was expecting.
This song was a staple of FZ's live repertoire over the years. Here's a version from the 1981 live album Tinsel Town Rebellion (with Steve Vai on guitar).

Who Are the Brain Police?
Perhaps the most notoriously weird song from this album, though it seems almost normal in comparison to what's coming on Side Four.

Keep trimming those poodles, there's more coming! Discover and discuss.
 
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Night Prowler

Customer Deathcycle Manager
Staff member
None of these videos work for me :( They might be region locked though, so if it's just me you don't have to change them :)
 

SinisterMinisterX

Illuminatus
Staff member
The videos are all from an official Youtube channel, #FrankZappa, saying music is provided by Universal Records. They also have (by miles) the best sound quality of Zappa videos on Youtube. Sorry they don't work. Can some other Europeans chime in? If this extends beyond Serbia, I'll look for alternates.
 

SinisterMinisterX

Illuminatus
Staff member
If you're already a Zappa fan, you may be familiar with Napoleon Murphy Brock, lead singer of the famed '74 band. In my opinion, he was the most energetic and entertaining of all Zappa's singers. If you liked "I Ain't Got No Heart", seeking out live versions with NMB may be rewarding. The song was played often by the '76 and '79 bands - many different musicians from '74, but NMB was still there. The arrangement was essentially the same as on Freak Out! with a bit more soul, mostly brought by NMB.

I know of two official live versions with NMB. For the '76 band, seek out FZ:OZ, a posthumous live album from an Australian concert. The '79 band is captured on the bootleg Any Way the Wind Blows, which Zappa's people eventually released along with many other widely-circulated boots in the box set Beat the Boots.

FZ:OZ is worth finding for Zappa fans anyway. It's my #2 Zappa live album, behind only The Helsinki Concert.
 

JudasMyGuide

The Boomer Snowflake
Let me say I like Freak Out. And I admit that with Mothers, it was probably the most groundbreaking era of Zappa's career; there really wasn't music quite like that before. But from a pure musical point of view, I like his latter work more, though it isn't as original. It's really cool how he merges the doo-wop with the psycho parts and the songs sound fresh even today - the guitar sound of Hungry Freaks alone is quite okay even for today - and the lyrics are great as always (funilly enough, I think that's his most consistently good talent) and I Ain't Got No Heart is great after all these years - the production, the melody, the freak-out ending... but the album's way too much 60's sounding for me. Absolutely Free is too, but a bit less. Still, I give it a spin from time to time. :)
 

Shadow

Deluxe Edition
Staff member
I like Freak Out! a lot. It was one of the first Zappa records I heard - probably the third after the first two You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore volumes, which were my introduction. It was very different from anything I'd heard before, and very cool. I must have been fourteen at the time.

Of the songs above, "Hungry Freaks, Daddy" is a particular favourite of mine. "Who Are the Brain Police?" - Zappa writes in his liner notes for the album that he woke up one morning hearing it in his head, and was a bit freaked out when he actually sat down and played it. I recall that he mentioned it as one of his favourite compositions sometime in the eighties.
 

SinisterMinisterX

Illuminatus
Staff member
I quoted the titular lyric of "Hungry Freaks, Daddy" because it was the first that came to mind, but the entirety of the lyrics are among his best. Savage without seeming mean-spirited, as he often seemed in the 80s. The line about "the left-behinds of the Great Society" is especially good. Most rock stars lean left politcally, but Zappa had a strong conservative bent. (If you can categorize his politics at all... FZ disliked everyone.)

It was one of the first Zappa records I heard - probably the third after the first two You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore volumes, which were my introduction.
Mine was Joe's Garage, but not until 1989 when I was 18. That one's good, but it was We're Only In It For The Money that made me a Zappafreak. I first loved Zappa for his humor; like Weird Al but with insane music. It took many years before I really appreciated the musically deeper stuff like the '74 band.
.
 

Deus_Adrian

Prince of the Final Frontier
I've been faithfully following Zappa since about 92-93. His MOI stuff is definitely groundbreaking but he reached greater musical highs with his 72-74 period. Also his 75-79 bands were great. Tons of blistering guitar and structured playing from some of the finest musicians around at the time and many of them are still important today, espcially his 76-78 band. Adrian Belew, Terry Bozzio, Patrick O'Hearn, Eddie Jobson, Vinnie Colauita, Warren Cucurillo, etc. Going to follow this discussion with a fervor.
 

Mosh

And I should contemplate this change
Staff member
Freak Out is a good album. Until you get to side 4, most of it is pretty straightforward. Then the weirdness begins. As weird as this album gets, I don't think it even comes close to what the Original MOI was capable of.

Glad you're bringing in alternate versions of songs, SMX, as most of Zappa's studio work is better performed live. However, I don't think there are any live versions of Freak Out material that I prefer to the originals. They work much better on the album for the most part. I never really cared for Napoleon's vocal performances on those songs either, Ray Collins does it better.

Edit: worth mentioning the high production values on that first album. For a brand new band, the budget on this album was insane. No way would a record company allow a new artist to debut with a double album today. Still sounds really clean and fresh after 40 years.
 

SinisterMinisterX

Illuminatus
Staff member
Motherly Love
In which the MOI advertises their services for the ladies.

How Could I Be Such a Fool?
A song that developed into a live staple. The original version is a haunting R&B dirge:
The version from 1968's Cruising with Ruben & the Jets is more uptempo, with some nice heavy drums in the chorus:

You Didn't Try To Call Me
Another song that developed into a live staple. Zappa is delivering the "love songs" his record company wants. His intention is to parody the typical teenage love songs of the time.
Zappa also did a doo-wop version of this song on Ruben & the Jets, but IMO it doesn't work as well.

We are skipping the song "Wowie Zowie" for this survivor. Remember, this is not a complete Zappa survivor, but just the best songs.

Keep those pumpkins barking, there's more coming! Discover and discuss.
 

SinisterMinisterX

Illuminatus
Staff member
Three more songs from Freak Out! today. The first of these went on to become a live staple.

Any Way The Wind Blows

I'm Not Satisfied


You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here


I have to confess, these three have never been particular favorites of mine. However, "I'm Not Satisfied" is a nice little rocker that I've largely neglected before.

Keep those rats hot, there's more coming! Discover and discuss.
 
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Shadow

Deluxe Edition
Staff member
Like much of Zappa's pop-oriented material, I think the songs on the first two sides of Freak Out! work better as a kind of parodic suite than they do as individual numbers. Only "Hungry Freaks" and "Brain Police" are great on their own.
 
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