Wednesday, January 22, 2003

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I'm feeling a Frank Zappa mood coming on. I own several FZ albums, but I don't listen to them regularly, not like I do the Beatles or some other musicians. But when I get in the throes of Zappa fever, I listen to his stuff for days.

It's funny. There are times when I can listen to an album often over the course of the years, and without warning a track just jumps out at me, and I love it. Almost like I've never heard it before. That track is "The Orange County Lumber Truck" from FZ's Weasels Ripped My Flesh LP. It's a bluesy/rockish instrumental with a great Zappa solo and a clever arrangement, and it's pushing all the right buttons in my head right now. Readers with long memories may recall me writing about listening to the album the other day. OCLT has led me to dig out some of my other faves, like Hot Rats with the sublime "Peaches En Regalia" and most of disc one of Uncle Meat. Sadly, I can't listen to the majority of my Zappa albums like Burnt Weeny Sandwich, Apostrophe, Waka/Jawaka (I wish someone had set me down when I was a high school band trumpeter and made me listen to this one) and One Size Fits All since they're on vinyl and (as my longtime readers may once again recall) my turntable's still in the shop.

I love Peaches En Regalia. It's one of my all time favorite pieces of music by any composer. Can't say why's just a wonderful, witty, mock-pompous little instrumental that makes me feel good when I hear it. I once suggested to my Senior classmates (as in High School classmates, not senior citizens, smart arse) that we use it as a graduation processional. The puzzled / disgusted looks I got were worth it. A while back I picked up a late Nineties compilation of some of Zappa's instrumental compositions, called Strictly Genteel, and I listen to it often. While it omits much (no Orange County, for example) it's still a very diverse collection.

Unfortunately, not a lot of post-1976 Zappa music interests me. After he left the auspices of the Bros. Warner, his music became slick and crass and without pretension, still well played and arranged but full of dumbass fratboy humor and Zappa's predilection to mock and ridicule those who he perceived as being less worthy somehow than he. Guess he did what he had to do to keep the money flowing. Lather had its moments, as did Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch (you remember, the one with "Valley Girl"), I suppose. Eventually, towards the end of his life, he abandoned guitar and rediscovered his muse a bit but the music he did, say post 1990 is still not all that interesting to me. That doesn't change, in my mind, the excellent stuff he did for about a ten year period, and I'll always regard him as one of the greats. Now if you'll excuse me I have to go put in Chunga's Revenge. Maybe something will jump out at me again. Look out!

Oh yeah-recommended reading in the Zappa vein- "The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play" by Ben Watson. It's a great dissertation of all of FZ's albums, in a scholarly but not dry manner.