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.
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.
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).
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.
Official Release #59. The last volume of the series You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore is one of the strongest, especially for those who prefer Frank Zappa's sex-oriented songs. There is not much complex material or instrumental pieces in this collection, but catchy humorous songs abound, along with more of that stage craziness the series tried to capture. Live incarnations of Zappa's band from 1970 up to 1988 are represented (the original Mothers had a whole disc devoted to them on Vol. 5).
Official Release #58. For the fifth volume in the You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore series, Frank Zappa prepared two unrelated discs. Disc one features the original Mothers of Invention in unreleased live and studio recordings mainly from 1969 (but also one from 1965 and a couple from 1967-1968). Disc two documents the 1982 European tour. There is something wicked – almost obscene – in this pairing, and it surely was intentional. Throughout the 1980s, fans of the early Mothers had attacked Zappa's integrity in the case of the re-recorded CD reissues of We're Only in It for the Money and Cruising with Ruben & the Jets, and often despised the scatological antics and straightforward rock stylings of his latter bands.
Official Release #56. Like the first volume of the series, You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 4 was put together without a specific theme in mind. It has a little of everything, from straight rock songs to more complex numbers, from stage antics to guitar solos. All eras of Frank Zappa's career are visited (including tracks from the 1988 tour), but the '80s provided the majority of the material.