I am so on a Zappa kick.
I remember back in high school, the only album I had heard from Frank was Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention and I really enjoyed it – but it never really got its hooks into me in a big way. I went through a mini-spell back in 2006 after reading Zappa’s book The Real Frank Zappa Book, but back then I stuck to the two albums I had. It was nothing like this.
Since the Vai concert last September I’ve been listening to Zappa almost non-stop. Almost every weekend I’ve gone out and bought two CD’s, and I’ll listen to them the rest of the week. Luckily, Frank had a pretty big catalog, so this could go on for a while.
I think what got me interested more in Frank’s stuff was watching the Vai soundcheck. They did some pretty heavy practicing (it was actually more of a rehearsal than a soundcheck) and I was enthralled watching the detail in which the band practiced. They spent about 20 minutes on one small piece of a song, because the phrasing of a particular lick wasn’t correct for the violins. It reminded me of what I had heard about how particular Zappa was about his music being played correctly and I began to get really curious as to just how much of an influence Frank was on Vai during his “formative years”.
As is typical when I get really interested in stuff like this, I take it to the ultimate extreme. I’ve been looking for any information related to Frank and found a book at Borders called Zappa: A Biography by Barry Miles. I’ve found it a pretty interesting read so far.
I can tell you that musically for me its been an interesting few months. Zappa’s music is hard to get into initially (at least it was for me – and definitely is for Jonna), but once you’re hooked your really hooked.
I love the humor and the “off color” nature of his music and lyrics to be sure, but I think the thing that blows me away about Frank (and Vai for that matter with his latest album Sound Theories, Vols. 1-2) are how well the songs translate to an orchestra. Its interesting to me how music that starts in a “rock” vein can be musically viable enough to be played by an orchestra and in many cases be better than the original. If you didn’t know any better, you would never know that they started out as rock music.
My favorite albums so far are Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention, the first album I heard back in high school, with Strictly Commercial: The Best of Frank Zappa and Apostrophe (‘) a close second and third. Strictly Commercial is a great cross section of Franks more “commercially acceptable” stuff and is a good introduction to his music. The “single versions” of these songs edit out all of the things that some may find offensive.
As I mentioned earlier, Franks music translates well to an orchestra. If you want an introduction to Zappa that even your grandmother wouldn’t find offensive, you might want to check out Strictly Genteel: A Classical Introduction to Frank Zappa.
Whichever path you take, I’m sure you’ll find it rewarding. I certainly am.