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Frank Zappa - Zoot Allures CD (album) cover

ZOOT ALLURES

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.74 | 374 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TCat
Prog Reviewer
4 stars This is the Zappa band stripped down mostly to a rock quartet (and a quintet in some cases). There is no jazz or orchestral music here, it's all rock. It's also probably Zappa's darkest album. There are several concert classics that seen their first light of day on this (mostly) studio album.

I remember the first time I heard this album, I bought it looking for something that I though was as good as "Sheik Yerbouti", and bought this as the follow up, even though it was released 3 years earlier. I was disappointed. I've grown to appreciate it a little more now, but I still don't consider it one of my favorite Zappa albums. I think this is some of Zappa's worst vocals and he sings lead vocals on all but 2 of the songs (those songs are instrumentals). His vocals are kept subdued and kind of whisper-y so to me he just sounds like a grumpy pervert. The rest of the music is pretty good, but it is very dark, except for "Wind Up Workin" and "Disco Boy" which are a little more "cheery" I guess. The best tracks on this album are the instrumentals, and it's because of them that this is an excellent recording. If it was a completely vocal album like "You Are What You Is" then it would have been just as bad as that terrible album.

"Wind up Workin at a Gas Station" is one of the few tracks with several vocal styles which you tend to find on some of Zappa's better albums. The vocals are similar to doo wop harmonies, but this is not a doo wop song, so, there you go. Next is one of Zappa's best guitar pieces called "Black Napkins" I love this song and find it always tends to produce the best solos out of all of Zappa's instrumentals. It was named after the color of the napkins at a Thanksgiving dinner that Zappa attended where he describes the turkey as so full of preservatives that you could see them gleaming and some beat up cranberry material. The black napkins where the final stroke to the ridiculous dinner. But at least the song is great.....This song is actually a live performance in Osaka Japan on 2/3/76.

"The Torture Never Stops" is the first studio version recorded of the concert staple that is on an innumerable amount of live recordings out there. This version has the screaming girls on it who are actually Gail (Zappa's wife) and a friend. Zappa gets all the credit for this one except for the drum. This version has the keyboards more to the front than the concert performances tend to have, but still has a guitar solo, though more subdued than most of the concert performances. After that is the funny song about a blow up doll named "Ms. Pinky"

Side 2 starts out with "Find Her Finer" which I find annoying. Then we get another outstanding instrumental. First is "Friendly Little Finger" which involves the best full band line-up in Zappa's career and the only non-rock song on here, more of a jazz fusion with a guitar solo type track. The basic track was recorded in concert at Hofstra University on 10/26/1975 with FZ, Roy Estrada on bass, Terry Bozzio on drums, and the amazing Ruth Underwood on percussion and synthesizer. The brass section was recorded at a different time and place, 2 years before at Bolic Sound in Inglewood with Ian Underwood on Sax, Bruce Fowler on trombone and Sal Marquez on trumpet on 6/1/1973. Frank used his technique of xenochrony where he takes a studio recording and edits in a solo or section from a completely different source or song, usually live in Zappa's case, and combines it all together, usually in songs that have tricky rhythms.

Next is another vocal about an alcoholic which I don't care for either. Then is the title track which is another excellent instrumental in the same vein as the one on side 1 which is also a huge concert staple. This one was recorded completely in studio. It all ends with the slightly brighter "Disco Boy" which is the single from the album and one of Zappa's most popular satirical takes on the disco movement.

This album was originally supposed to be a double album and included other Zappa greats like "Sleep Dirt", "The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution" and several others that appeared on other albums. The addition of those songs would have helped strengthen this album. One other song called "Night of the Iron Sausage" was also supposed to be part of the double album but it was never released. It was reportedly a very long guitar solo. Not sure how that would have added or taken away from the album.

So, the vocal tracks are disappointing here, but the instrumentals are stellar. That leaves me with a split decision on this album. I totally respect FZ's music and enjoy the humor on most of his comedy tracks, but I can't rate this album at 5 stars when I hate the vocal tracks. The instrumentals however are so good that it actually raises this from a 2 star album to 4 stars. That's how good they are.....and are actually essential tracks. So 4 stars here. Get it for the instrumentals.

TCat | 4/5 |

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