Finally released on a pair of CDs in 1997 (26 years after it's initial release on vinyl), 200 MOTELS is the soundtrack to Frank Zappa's wacky 1971 motion picture of the same name, which starred Ringo Starr and Keith Moon, among others. Although it enjoyed success as a "midnight movie" in the '70s/early '80s, 200 MOTELS is a difficult movie to comprehend, since the storyline is very abstract (some have hinted that it was made up on the spot!). But even when his music is difficult to understand, Zappa includes many interesting twists and turns, and the soundtrack for 200 MOTELS is no different.
Yes!! Finally, here it is: "200 Motels" in all its glory. We've all seen this movie as it got released on VHS video years and years ago. And now, here's the high quality DVD version. "200 Motels" got shot in 1971 and featured Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention plus Ringo Starr and Keith Moon, to drop just two names. Now that I think of it, Zappa always had this thing for drummers… Anyway, "200 Motels" is a milestone in Zappa's career. I'm not too big a fan of the vaudeville aspect and the on-the-road stories, as you cannot keep on laughing with it, but the music is fabulous. It's Zappa at his best.
Official Release #101. On the evening of October 23, 2013, Walt Disney Concert Hall was the place to be in Los Angeles, as Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale in a spectacular, sold-out orchestral performance of Frank Zappa's 200 Motels (The Suites). Recorded for posterity, the acclaimed, one-night-only 13-suite performance of Zappa's 1971 masterwork will be released worldwide on November 20 by Zappa Records/UMe. This 2CD release's expertly recorded audio brings the listener back to Walt Disney Concert Hall to experience the exciting 200 Motels (The Suites) spectacle, complemented by photos from the evening and essays by the show and recording's producers, Gail Zappa and Frank Filipetti, the evening's director James Darrah, 'Scoremeister' Kurt Morgan, and performers including Diva Zappa, Michael Des Barres, special guest 'Rock' rhythm section drummer Joe Travers, and former Zappa band member Scott Thunes. Essays by some notable members of the audience, including Steve Vai and Peter Asher, are also included.
The soundtrack to Frank Zappa's strange early-'70s film 200 Motels was always doomed to be a peripheral entry in his discography. The movie's story was not easy to follow, and neither is the record (not that plot was ever a big focus of the production). It's typically wacky Zappa of the era, with unpredictable sharp turns between crunchy rock bombast, orchestration, and jazz/classical influences, as well as interjections of wacky spoken dialogue. Those who like his late-'60s/early-'70s work – not as song-oriented as his first albums, in other words, but not as "serious" or as silly as his later records – will probably like this fine, although it's not up to the level of Uncle Meat.
Official Release #91. In October 1971, Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention played two shows in one night at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. The album, Carnegie Hall, celebrates that night's marathon – two shows (7:30 and 11:30 p.m.) with ticket prices ranging from $3.50 to $6 – featuring Zappa (lead guitar, vocals) with Mark Volman (vocals, percussion), Howard Kaylan (vocals), Ian Underwood (keyboards, alto sax), Don Preston (keyboards, gong), Jim Pons (bass, vocals) and Aynsley Dunbar (drums).
Official Release #83. At the time of Frank Zappa's passing in late 1993, he left a number of projects in varying stages of completeness. Some of these had gotten no further than the so-called "build-reel" stage. It was at this preliminary phase that the artist had done little more than set aside various and sundry audio on the back-burner in his Utility Muffin Research Kitchen home studio. One Shot Deal (2008) is a single-CD compilation taken from a number of disparate sources – including a pair of tunes from Zappa's "build reels." As the set's co-producer Gail Zappa explains in her inimitable style in the brief liner notes essay "…the guitar was the main element for me…." With that as an unofficial mandate, the 5-plus minutes – which cover the meaty nine-year span of 1972 to 1981 – is undeniably fret-centric.
Official Release #90. Frank Zappa's pioneering work on the Synclavier gave him the freedom to hear works that he considered too challenging for live musicians to perform, though Ensemble Modern worked hard enough to be able to play several of his works for the instrument in concert before his death in 1993. Since the technology behind the Synclavier was evolving along with Zappa's music, approximately doubling its processing and memory capacity every two years, it gave the composer greater tools to work with to realize his compositions. Feeding the Monkies at Ma Maison was compiled for an LP by Zappa prior to his death, but never mastered and released, though some of the music on this CD was further edited and eventually issued in altered and brief form.
Official Release #93. Conceived, Composed & Produced by Frank Zappa. The two-disc compilation of alternative takes titled Understanding America is intended for devoted fans only. It's scattershot material, tied together loosely by one theme: Zappa's acerbic mistrust of American culture. Throughout the '60s, '70s, and '80s, social satire made up a huge amount of his catalog, so Big Brother, media outlets, organized religion, and recreational drugs are all subject to attack here. The gold nugget is the unreleased 25-minute "Porn Wars Deluxe," a Negativland-esque collage that pairs together samples of music with clips from the 1985 PMRC Senate hearings, for which Zappa played an integral role defending against censorship.
This is an unusual disc from Norwegian label, Lawo Classics: Perfect Strangers. Coupling the works of Heiner Goebbels and Frank Zappa, and performed by The Norwegian Radio Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Søndergård, it is recorded onto SACD in surround sound. Frank Zappa’s music crosses all boundaries, with fans in all musical camps. The recordings of his own band are legendary, but with the release of The Yellow Shark featuring Ensemble Modern, Zappa’s music became standard repertoire for symphony orchestras — or at least those that dare to accept the challenge! This is intense and demanding music, but who is better equipped for the task than the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, celebrated for the diversity of its repertoire and collaborations?