Released in May 1982, Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch marks Frank Zappa's entrance into the 1980s. From this point on, his rock records would focus on single, simple rock songs (the previous year's You Are What You Is had them organized in interconnecting suites) with occasionally more complex instrumental numbers. The recipe would be extended to The Man From Utopia (1983) and Them or Us (1984). Side one features three studio songs that would never be performed on stage.
Official Release #57. The third and final live album put together from recordings of Frank Zappa's 1988 concerts, the two-CD set Make a Jazz Noise Here focuses on the composer's instrumental pieces – which are not necessarily jazzy, by the way. As for the three vocal tracks included ("Stinkfoot," "Stevie's Spanking," and "Advance Romance"), they all feature interesting solos. The set presents old favorites, like the medley "Let's Make the Water Turn Black"/"Harry, You're a Beast," "King Kong," and "The Black Page." They are well-performed, but considering the number of versions of each of them available on other recordings, they hardly constitute the main interest of this album.
A more than adequate introduction to the world of Frank Zappa's instrumental music. A great deal of attention was focused on Zappa's often infantile lyrics, sometimes to the extent that the quality of Zappa's music was ignored. From a performance standpoint, the music was often a challenge (becoming almost impossible once Zappa was composing for the Synclavier); from a compositional standpoint, Zappa's instrumental music shows its 20th-century influences in no uncertain terms.
Of all of Frank Zappa's discography, Thing-Fish must be his most controversial, misunderstood, overlooked album. Obviously, it is not a masterpiece, but reducing it to a compilation album with a racist plot distorts the reality. First released as a three-LP set (and reissued on two CDs), this album is the "original cast recording" of a never-produced Broadway show. Working-class joes have been mutated into potato-headed, duck-mouthed creatures by a government experiment gone wrong. They put up a Broadway musical in which reality and fiction become one for two members of the audience.
Official Release #106. In his trailblazing and incredibly prolific career, artist, composer and all-around musical pioneer Frank Zappa released more than 60 albums in his lifetime, as a solo artist and with his bands the Mothers of Invention and the Mothers. Coupled with more than 40 posthumous releases since his death in 1993 at 52, figuring out where to start in Zappa’s vast, genre-leaping catalog can be daunting. ZAPPAtite – Frank Zappa’s Tastiest Tracks, out now on Zappa Records/UMe, collects some of Zappa’s best known and beloved compositions, from his early psychedelic rock beginnings to his avant-garde experimentation, jazz-rock explorations, symphonic suites and satirical send-ups, compiling them into one easily digestible collection and offering key entryways into the many musical worlds of the visionary musician.
Official Release #67. As the title suggests, Have I Offended Someone? contains all of Zappa's notoriously tasteless parodies and satires, from "Bobby Brown Goes Down," "Catholic Girls," and "Jewish Princess" to "He's So Gay," "Titties 'n Beer," and "Dinah-Moe Humm." Nearly all of the tracks are presented in new remixed versions, and two songs, "Dumb All Over" and "Tinsel Town Rebellion," have never been released before.
Official Release #65. The full saga of Läther (pronounced leather) is tangled enough to give a migraine to all but committed Zappaphiles. Basically, what you need to know is that this project was originally conceived of as a four-record box set. When record company politics prevented its release in that format, much of the material was spread over the albums Live in New York, Sleep Dirt, Studio Tan, and Orchestral Favorites. This three-CD set presents the album as it was originally conceived, with the addition of four bonus tracks at the end. It mixes previously available material, alternate mixes, and edits, and previously unissued stuff, though only the most serious Zappa fans will have a good grip on exactly what has appeared where (the liner notes are surprisingly unexact in this regard).
Official Release #64. A 30-track compilation of rarities, spanning much of his career, but in the main confined to the 1960s and early '70s (some date from as early as the late '50s!). Much of it's previously unreleased, or extremely hard to locate. It's not just a collection of fan-oriented odds and ends, though. The material, for one thing, is extremely diverse, ranging from collaborations with Captain Beefheart and primitive teenage garage recordings to comic dialog to progressive instrumentals and orchestral pieces.
For all of his many attributes, one thing Frank Zappa most certainly was not is commercial. Presumably, the title of this collection is ironic. Strictly Commercial: The Best of Frank Zappa is a compilation not of the composer's hits – he only broke the Top 40 on one occasion, with "Valley Girl" – but rather, a collection of his best-known material, from "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" to "Sexual Harassment in the Workplace." Zappa's albums often function as individual works, but this disc offers an intelligent selection of songs, serving as an introduction to the maverick musician.