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Frank Zappa

Apostrophe'

Review by Gary Hill

Frank Zappa always amazed me. He’d put together some of the greatest musicians in the world and create these incredibly complex musical romps – and yet they’d be equally funny. It always seemed a contrast that music which could be perceived as so serious would actually be tongue in cheek – and many times that sense of humor is built into the music. Well, this is probably the most quintessential Zappa album. Certainly he had discs that were more powerful statements, but this one is accessible while still maintaining his sense of musical vision.

The mini-epic suite that opens the album (and encompasses the first four songs) tells the tale of a fur trapper who is blinded by Nanook the Eskimo alone is worth the price of admission. When you consider that the whole disc is a powerhouse, though – that makes it all ‘bonus.” Oh, and talking about those musicians Zappa recruits. How’s this for three big names who all perform on this album – Jack Bruce, George Duke and Tina Turner? If you own this then dig it out again and give it some fresh spins. If you don’t, what are you waiting for?

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Don't Eat the Yellow Snow
Starting with the sounds of arctic winds, this is a bouncy sort of track with a quirky musical and vocal pattern. With a title like that who would have thought it would be a hit, but it was. This is humorous and quite cool. Elements of jazz are brought to the table as are other sounds. A burst of the chorus links this directly to the next piece.

Nanook Rubs It
Connected directly to “…Yellow Snow,” this has a more guitar based sound. In many ways the musical arrangement is more straightforward – and yet, it still has plenty of quirkiness. There’s some killer “circular motions” of guitar soloing throughout much of this piece. The track is reformed later into a jazzy sort of jam with some great soulful vocals (and some nice echoey ones, too). It’s amazing how powerful Zappa can sound when talking about “doggie wee wee” winding up in the eyes. This runs straight to the next track – which continues the lyrical tale.

St. Alfonzo's Pancake Breakfast
Xylophone leads this off – how many times does a rock reviewer get to say that? The track is classic Zappa. Jazz and prog rock merge in a quirky arrangement that’s fast paced and oh so cool. There is, of course, a definite twisted sense of humor in this. There is also an ELP-like instrumental section.

Father O'Blivion
Continuing on from the last track, this is fast paced, frantic and oh so tasty. It’s got plenty of twists and turns and classy Zappa trappings. A Gentle Giant/Pentwater sort of segment ends it.

Cosmik Debris
This has a very tasty groove to it. The lyrics and music both on this one are just plain killer. It’s always been a favorite of mine. It’s got a number of varying sections and off-kilter musical excursions.

Excentrifugal Forz
Here Zappa brings a free form fusion meets progressive rock and Hendrix texture to the table. It’s a cool tune, but for my money not quite up to the powerhouse tracks that we’ve heard to this point. Don’t get me wrong. It definitely has its charms, I’m just not as enamored with this as I am with the rest of the stuff here.

Apostrophe'
This powerhouse jam comes straight out of the last one and seems to combine a 1960’s psychedelia with a garage band texture and a progressive rock sort of progression. It’s another killer track and the sole instrumental of the disc. It’s got some killer guitar soloing, too. This gets quite involved and powerful before it’s over.

Uncle Remus
A major change of pace, this is a slower, soulful, bluesy jam. It’s cool. There’s a tasty guitar solo on the track.

Stink-Foot
This is a great example of how Zappa could take a fairly simply musical idea with a classic sound and motif and shift it into something beyond the norm. On one level this is a bluesy rocker that’s slow and oh, so tasty. Yet there are all sorts of cool little excursions into different directions.

 
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