Cake
  • Log In
  • Sign Up
    • Zappa was before my time but I was always curious about him since his music didn’t get airplay. I remember reading a Rolling Stone magazine guide to great music and I didn’t know what to make of Zappa from their write up. He seemed to be a performance and his live shows a spectacle. So I was pleasantly surprised at how wondrous Waka/Jawaka sounded. Thank you for the time stamp guide for each movement: it helped greatly to orient myself to where the piece was at. What an incredible composer to create this.

      Looking forward to your next musical exploration.

      👏👏👏👏

    • Zappa's an acquired taste for sure, but Waka/Jawaka is a pretty good inroad. I was first introduced to Zappa when I was a kid by my dad, who had a big music collection and who particularly liked Zappa and Tom Waits. I never did acquire a taste for Waits, but I'm not dead yet.

      I remember in particular him playing Zappa's songs Montana and Po-Jama People for me, both of which have funny lyrics without being risque. I liked the songs well enough but wasn't really moved to explore further. Maybe I thought they were too silly, or too complex - or more likely too jazzy! But they sat there in my subconscious for a long time until one day I decided to revisit them, and that time - when listening to the back-up vocals on Montana in particular - I realized that Zappa was a genius, and from there I went into his back catalog to explore. I'm still exploring it, just me and my pygmy pony, over by the dental floss bush...

      Speaking of the back-up vocals on Montana, there's an interesting story behind them. I'll let Wikipedia tell it:

      Frank Zappa wanted to use backup singers on the songs "I'm the Slime", "Dirty Love", "Zomby Woof", "Dinah-Moe Humm" and "Montana". His road manager suggested The Ikettes, and Ike & Tina Turner were contacted. Ike Turner insisted that Zappa pay the singers, including Tina Turner, no more than $25 per song.[1] However, an invoice shows that they were actually paid $25 per hour, and in total $187.50 each for 7 1/2 hours of service.[2] During the recording sessions at Bolic Sound, Tina brought Ike into the studio to hear the highly difficult middle section of "Montana" which had taken the Ikettes a few days to learn and master. Ike listened to the tape and responded "What is this shit?" before leaving the studio.[1] Ike later insisted that Zappa not credit the Ikettes on the released album.[1]

      Next entry will be 1973 - a good year in music! Pink Floyd released Dark Side of the Moon. Genesis released Selling England by the Pound. Wings had Band on the Run, Mike Oldfield released Tubular Bells, and there was Black Byrd by Donald Byrd and Head Hunters by Herbie Hancock, and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton. And the above mentioned Montana on the album 'Overnight Sensation'.

      And so much more (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1973_in_music), but my pick isn't on this list.

    • I still haven't had time to check out Waka/Jawaka, but I plan to. I've been intrigued by Frank Zappa, but I've never gone out of my way to actually listen to any of his music. The only real exposure I've had to his work is as the producer of an album called Trout Mask Replica, by Captain Beefheart. But that was released a few years before the start of your time line. It's definitely not an easy listen, but it's a great album. Captain Beefheart was another guy that was pretty far off the beaten path, so I wasn't surprised to find out he worked with Zappa.

    • Captain Beefheart sings on the only vocals on the Hot Rats album, on the song Willie the Pimp. I'm pretty sure he appears on other albums, too.

      I can give you a list of 'further listening' tracks from his 69-79 if you're interested. One thing I've noticed on Youtube is that there's always someone who says 'this is his best track' no matter what the track, so I think it's very personal what any individual might like.

    • Apocryphal's Intro to Frank Zappa

      My own path to Zappa was to start with the material I already knew from what my father played for me. I bounced off Zappa when I was younger and came back to him when I was older. Developing a taste for jazz helped. Still, Zappa liked to challenge listeners (and performers!) so I had to sit down with it and listen over several times to really get an appreciation. I started with One Size Fits All, then I branched out from there both forward and backward in time. Eventually I narrowed down my selections to a couple of playlists. Below is the music on these playlists. Those marked with a ~ sign are maybe more experimental (depending on what you're used to) and those with a * are more mainstream/accessible. Those marked with ! are instrumental.

      Golden Age Playlist 1973-1979

      Over-Nite Sensation 1973 - this is a short album with 6 tracks, often said to be his most straight forward rock and roll album, and pretty accessible. The closest he came to commercial success.

      * Camarillo Brillo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nllWDc8_9lw

      * Dirty Love https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaXWG0fBYuk

      ~ Dinah-Moe Hum https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4hzVpYAP-U (Sexual content)

      * Montana https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smZA9Jv3qH0

      Apostrophe (*) 1974 - technically a 'solo album' which means it doesn't feature the Mothers of Invention band, but might still have some members. Zappa is such a force I'm not really sure in matters which musicians he surrounded himself with, they were all good, and they all sound like Zappa, so I don't usually care whether it's 'solo' or not.

      Cosmik Debris https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtx4ZJ1cwI0

      *! Apostrophe' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXP_pr7np-o

      * Uncle Remus https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHIhsq9qHPk

      One Size Fits All 1975 - This is a great album, maybe his most accessible. If you just want one Zappa straight up rock and roll album, get this one.

      * Inca Roads https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAGVQM6IAKk
      * Po-Jama People https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0T7QzuiYtI
      * San Berdino https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yaX-a3kuCE

      Zoot Allures 1976 - I tend to prefer the instrumental tracks on this one.

      *! Black Napkins https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=zappa+black+napkins

      *! Zoot Allures https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdQmhhi5cLI

      Sheik Yerbouti 1979 - This was super productive year for Zappa with 5 albums - 3 of rock and roll (one of those a double issued in separate issues) and his first 'classical' album. Sheik Yerbouti was the most straight forward rock and roll album of the year, and on some lists it's considered his best ever album. I won't post any tracks - just listen to the full album after you've checked out the tracks listed here. There's a lot of irreverent and sexually charged material on this album, so be cautioned.

      Joe's Garage 1979 - Another candidate for his 'best ever album', Joe's Garage is a concept album that tells the story of a guy names Joe who forms a garage band with his buddies, but gradually gets chewed up and spit out by the system, which is represented by the narrator on the album, a sci-fi 'big brother' type figure called the 'Central Scrutinizer'. Zappa placed the narration of the 'Central Scrutinizer' between many of the tracks to introduce them. He voiced the character by whispering into a loud-speaker and recording it. Sometimes he cracked himself up with his own writing, so the moments where he laughs at his own humour is also captured. Conceptually, I think this is a really brilliant album. It was originally released as two separate LPs, Joe's Garage Part 1 and Joe's Garage Parts 2 and 3. Or in CD format it's a single CD package with two disks.

      * Joe's Garage https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oH8u9PxWJo This track changes tempo etc. a few times, so listen through it. This chronicles Joe's beginning in the garage.

      *! On the Bus https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcN89Xd2lPY

      * Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-nWfSJ9ab0 Joe falls in love with a girl who hooks him on drugs, then gets dumped.

      ~ A Token of My Extreme https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUqEj2xZFw8 Looking for meaning, Joe falls in with the Church of Apliantology, headed by a guy named Ron. To me this track sounds like the intro to a song that came out in 1976 on One Size, called Sofa No 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXkJ2xErjy0 Zappa was more popular in Germany (where they weren't offended by the lyrics) than at home, hence several German references in his music.

      *! Watermelon in Easter Hay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3cu8sDa90Y often said to be Zappa's best guitar solo.

      Sleep Dirt 1979 - This album is mostly instrumental and has some great tracks. I didn't discover it until late because it isn't on any of the 'best zappa albums' I saw. But I can't explain why.

      ! Filthy Habits https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ugJrB2jYm0
      ! Sleep Dirt https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7_kuDyuBwo

      !~ The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCNRgfkeWXs

      Older Instrumental Material:

      Hot Rats 1969 - The whole album is great, a fusion of hard rock and jazz, sometimes pretty acid, but it seriously rewards repeated listens. Considered by many Zappa's best album.

      *! It Must be a Camel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xg_elzHQz8

      Burnt Weenie Sandwich 1970 - Some great instrumental tracks here, and one of my all time faves below, which changes pace and sound 3 or 4 times through the song so listen to the whole thing:

      !~ Holiday in Berlin Full Blown https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FccwMLnWPls

      The Grand Wazoo 1972 - Another classic solo album from his 'fusion trio' and partner album to Waka/Jawaka.

      !* The Grand Wazoo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ceVq2v3nVs

      !** Blessed Relief https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-Qk8VxUwuM

      !* Eat That Question https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jymHINLcjlw

      That ought to keep you busy - have fun!

    • Thanks for the write-up. I'll definitely be looking into these. I've never been much of a jazz fan, but with his tendency to also fuse more rock and psych and other styles into the music, I may be able to get into some of his work.

      I do have to admit that Willie the Pimp is pretty great. Captain Beefheart's voice was so good. He does remind me of Tom Waits, another voice that I've always loved.

    • 1973: Remember The Future by Nektar

      The Progressive Rock (also often called Art Rock) movement came out of Britain in the late '60s. Elements of the genre had been gestating in the late work of bands like the Beatles, Pink Floyd, and the Moody Blues. The first full expression of Progressive Rock is considered to be King Crimson's 1969 album In The Court of the Crimson King. By 1973 the genre was in full swing and this year in particular saw the release of several landmark albums that are now considered exemplars of the genre (Genesis: Selling England By The Pound, or Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon). Progressive Rock bands appeared everywhere from Italy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banco_del_Mutuo_Soccorso) to Russia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquarium_(band)) to the US (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kansas_(band)) and Canada (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klaatu_(band)) where it was very popular in Montreal where I grew up, and would be a major influence on later bands to come out of the city.

      Nektar (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nektar) was a band of English musicians based in Berlin who formed in 1969 and released their first album in 1971. They achieved their best commercial success in 1973 with the concept album Remember the Future, which is conceived at a single running track broken into two parts (one for each side of the album). The album, though clearly now dated, still stands up to listening today and I sometimes like to dip into it. It's not as timeless as some of the music I'm going to pick for this collection, but I'm willing to bet you haven't heard it before and it definitely reflects it's generation.

      Here's an Allmusic review by Gary Hill:

      Among Nektar fans, there are many who consider Remember the Future to be the band's creative peak. The album certainly creates the grounds for making that argument. Indeed, it is an ambitious work that is essentially one composition divided into two parts. The whole is performed in a very seamless and competent manner. Still, many critics just plain didn't get it. The juxtaposition of the two opinions makes this album to Nektar much like what Tales From Topographic Oceans was to Yes. The truth is probably somewhere between the two points, as it usually is. It truly is a very entertaining, well-written, and well-performed disc that showcases a very underrated band at the top of their game. Although this album isn't one of their best, it definitely is not a slouch. It does have a few elements that detract from it a bit, though. First, there is a '70s funk sound prevalent on the album that tends to date it a bit. Second, it can get to feel a bit repetitive. The final detriment is that the production quality sometimes feels a bit AM radio-ish and flat. All of these things only go so far in removing the album from the "masterpiece zone," though. The bottom line is that this is a fine progressive rock release that should please not only fans of the band, but fans of groups like Yes and Genesis equally well.

      Gary's opinion that the album 'isn't one of their best' doesn't seem to be widely shared, even on Allmusic, where there isn't another Nektar album with a better review or star rating. That said, I agree with all his criticisms. There's a reason you still remember bands like Pink Floyd, Yes, and Genesis, but not Nektar.

      Here's the digitally remastered version of the full album on Youtube. Since this is a longer (35 minute, actually short for an album) listen, you might like to skip ahead to head some different themes on the album. Here are time stamps to help you do that: 0.00 - 5:00 - 14:00 - 18.15 - 27:30. Youtube also has an original vinyl recording if you'd prefer to hear it with all the pops and hisses. Enjoy!

    • I listened to the first few minutes and their sound is definitely reminiscent of Yes from that time period. I’ll plan to give a full listen this weekend when I have the time to experience this in one sitting.

      Thank you for continuing to expand everyone’s listening enjoyment.

      👏👏👏👏

    • Not sure about ‘everyone’s’ but hopefully a few people will make some nice new discoveries. My experience with music shares on G+ (mine and other people’s) was that they hardly ever garnered much reaction, and I think that’s because we all have fairly set musical tastes and really only want what we already like. But I found some cool new things in some Cake threads so I thought I’d return the favour. And it’s generally a good and fun writing exercise even if there are few readers.

      Anyway, I appreciate your support and encouragement.