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Awesome Music / Frank Zappa

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Giving the size and depth of his discography, there's bound to be some gold.

Freak Out! (1966)

  • "Hungry Freaks Daddy". From the driving bass riff to the scathing social commentary, Frank and the Mothers kick their career off with a bang.
  • "Who Are The Brain Police?". Starting with the droning bass, this surrealist psychedelia, predating the Summer Of Love and even The Beatles' Revolver, shows more what Zappa would come to be known for.
  • "Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder", a brilliant tongue in cheek pastiche of the doo wop the members grew up on, along with a stellar performance by Ray Collins.
  • "How Can I Be Such A Fool", a well crafted pop number with a tender vocal by Ray, showing the band's range this early on.
  • "Trouble Every Day", a more bluesy number by the band, who pull it off brilliantly behind social commentary about the racial conflicts that remain as relevant as ever.
  • "Help, I'm A Rock". An 8 minutenote  avant rock nightmare with a pulsating, frantic bassline featuring repeated shouts of the song's name by various members of the group, which devolves into a deranged droning acapella section, titled "It Can't Happen Here" which features Frank and the band... uh "harmonising" strange, disjointed lyrics about an unnamed horrifying event. It's the album’s first display of true avant garde strangeness and a perfect foreshadowing of some of the bizarre antics that were to come

Absolutely Free (1967)

  • "Plastic People". With the marching beat to back him and an elaborate arrangement courtesy of the expanding lineup, Frank delivers some scathing criticism of people choosing politics like trends.
  • "Call Any Vegetable", a catchy, quirky little number with Ray belting it out on vocals along with some strong woodwind work from Bunk Gardner.
  • "Son Of Suzy Creamcheese", a short, energetic tune that deftly handles various time changes along with a great melody to top it all off.
  • "Brown Shoes Don't Make It". Regardless of what one thinks of the lyrics, with its epic and multi-part arrangement and cinematic structure, it's small wonder why some consider this Frank's first true masterpiece.

We're Only in It for the Money (1968)

Cruising with Ruben & the Jets (1968)

  • "Cheap Thrills", an energetic 50s rocker with Frank performing all instruments to boot.
  • "Deseri", a fun R&B tune with a laid back vibe recalling a bygone era.
  • "Anything", a low key doo wop ballad. Ray really hits it home with a very heartfelt vocal performance.

Uncle Meat (1969)

Hot Rats (1969)

  • "Peaches En Regalia". Between the brilliant melody and arrangement, some stellar keyboard and woodwind work courtesy of Ian, it is held as one of Frank's best compositions and rightly so. Even better, it's included in The Real Book, basically the ultimate set of jazz standards!
  • "Willie The Pimp", kicked off by Sugarcane Harris' violin and featuring an awesome vocal performance from Captain Beefheart himself, and topped off by Frank's Epic Rocking. Hot damn!
  • "Son Of Mr. Green Genes". The Even Better Sequel to an already great song, it takes the motif of the previous song to stratospheric levels between the guitar goodness and brilliant instrumental work of the band.
  • "The Gumbo Variations", an epic jam highlighted by Ian ripping on various woodwind instruments, Sugarcane shredding like his life depends on it, and Frank capping it off on guitar. And this is considered a rare time when the otherwise controversial eighties remasters improved on the original, as it extends the already epic solos.

Burnt Weeny Sandwich (1970)

  • "WPLJ", a tongue in cheek cover of the Four Deuces' single that nonetheless adds a sense of lighthearted fun to start the album.
  • "Holiday In Berlin", a brilliant piece that captures the feel of a holiday in a strange place with it's use of Genre Roulette.
  • "The Little House I Used To Live In", an eighteen minute epic kicked off by a fantastic classical piano by Ian before switching between various live improvisations, the highlight of which being a scorching violin solo by Sugarcane Harris.

Weasels Ripped My Flesh (1970)

  • "Didja Get Any Onya?", an erratic free jazz track capped off by a surreal spoken word by Lowell George that shows you just what you're getting into.
  • "Directly From My Heart To You". In contrast, the band, with some help from Sugarcane on vocals and violin, delivers a straightforward Little Richard cover to great effect.
  • "Oh No". Written in response to "All You Need Is Love", this track is a brilliant lampooning of psychedelic pop with Ray Collins on his final lead vocal with Zappa.note 
  • "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" might be brief, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the heaviest and most abrasive pieces of work in Frank's entire discography. Less of a song and more of a cacophonous wall of noise generated by the band, attempting to be as loud as possible.

Chunga's Revenge (1970)

  • "Transylvania Boogie". What an awesome jam! Between the ripping guitars and the wild drums of Aynsley Dunbar, this is such a way to open the album.
  • "Twenty Small Cigars" is a great jazz instrumental from the Hot Rats sessions with Ian on piano and Wrecking Crew legend Max Bennett on double bass.
  • "Chunga's Revenge" starts with an Epic Riff and only gets better from there, with Max and Aynsley perfectly setting up the atmosphere, along with Ian's scorching wah-infused alto and Frank's guitar.

Fillmore East, June 1971 (1971)

  • "The Mud Shark", a retelling of the infamous Shark Incident involving members of Led Zeppelin and Vanilla Fudge that nails the soul rock style of those bands to a tee.

Just Another Band from L.A. (1972)

  • "Billy The Mountain". In this parody of Rock Operas such as Tommy, Flo and Eddie sing their tails off to the excellent backing of the band. Say what you will about the Flo and Eddie era, they delivered here!

Waka/Jawaka (1972)

The Grand Wazoo (1972)

Over-Nite Sensation (1973)

  • "Camarillo Brillo". Right here, Frank's post-60s sound is truly found, with the awesome horns and excellent drumming of Ralph Humphrey.
  • "I'm The Slime". What a dirty, sleazy groove, and backing vocals by none other than The Ikettes!
  • "Dirty Love". More straightforward by Zappa standards, it's nonetheless one of the more infectious tunes in his catalog with its catchy groove and overall quirkiness.
  • "Zomby Woof", dense, wacky, brilliant playing by the band, and some of Frank's finest guitar playing.
  • "Montana". One of Frank's greatest earworms to cap off the album. "Moving to Montana soon, gonna be a dental floss tycoon."

Apostrophe (') (1974)

  • "The Yellow Snow Suite"note , four loosely connected songs that embody both the musicality and absurdist humor of Frank's work.
  • "Cosmik Debris", the tale of Frank's meeting with a psychic set to a killer groove, full of quotable lines and hooks to make this a Zappa staple.
  • "Apostrophe", a jam session between Frank, Jack Bruce, and Jim Gordon with three great musicians pushing each other to the edge.
  • "Uncle Remus", a suprisingly poignant song co-written by George about race relations and how they've progressed (or not) into the modern age.

Roxy & Elsewhere (1974)

One Size Fits All (1975)

  • "Inca Roads", a parody of the pseudo-spirituality of many Progressive Rock bands that demonstrates the band's prowess from Ruth's percussion to Frank's tasty guitar work.
  • "Po-Jama People", a "Reason You Suck" Speech towards conformists set to an epic guitar jam.
  • "Florentune Pogen", a quirky song capped off by Napoleon Murphy Brock's eccentric vocal.
  • "San Ber'dino". Kicked off by Beefheart's harmonica, the track offers a surrealist interpretation of the blues with hints of Zappa's typical (for this time) style.
  • "Andy", a surreal piece ranging from the avant garde to blues, with a Johnny "Guitar" Watson vocal cameo as icing on the cake.

Bongo Fury (1975)

  • "Debra Kadabra". Between Captain Beefheart's eccentric vocals and the tight performance of the band, this captures the best aspects of both artists.
  • "Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy", a sweet melody complimented by fantastic horn work, some stellar keyboards, and a tinge of humor.
  • "Advice Romance", a bluesier number with some strong vocals by Napoleon and a stellar slide solo from Denny Walley.
  • "The Muffin Man". A tale of the titular Muffin Man, the song exemplifies everything wonderful about Zappa from his offbeat humor to his top notch musicianship.

Zoot Allures (1976)

Zappa in New York (1978)

Sheik Yerbouti (1979)

  • "Flakes", especially for Adrian Belew's excellent parody of Bob Dylan after the second verse, complete with tuneless harmonica playing.
  • "Broken Hearts for Assholes", the first sign that Zappa's been listening to punk rock.
  • "I'm So Cute", the second sign that Zappa's been listening to punk rock. Patrick O'Hearn is the resident Deadpan Snarker on this album: "Aw, I knew you'd be surprised!"
  • "Dancin' Fool", Zappa's great tribute to/Affectionate Parody of disco. His vocal was nominated for a Grammy.
  • "City of Tiny Lites", the second awesome disco number on the album, with a soaring vocal from Adrian Belew.
  • "Yo' Mama", one of the most epic solos Zappa ever committed to tape, made even more awesome with skilful overdubbage of keyboards by Tommy Mars.