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Frank Zappa - Apostrophe (') CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



4.03 | 626 ratings

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3 stars Frank's most commercially successful album ever, it's really hard for me to get a firm grasp of what I think about this album. The problem for me is that, in a lot of ways, this album bears the marks of a, dare I say it, throwaway album. It's only just over half an hour, almost six minutes of which are taken up by an instrumental jam (and almost another seven minutes of which are taken up by a Zappa blues-parody, which is actually pretty great, but that's aside the point for the time being), and the "jazziness" of the songs too often seems like a cover for a relative lack of real songwriting ideas. The end result of all these factors is that this album ends up turning into background noise for me just a little too often for comfort, and I can't give a very high rating to an album like that.

On the other hand, it's surprisingly enjoyable for an album with all of these negatives. The aforementioned instrumental jam, the title track, is a total rock-out treat for me. Jack Bruce of Cream fame co-stars with his bass playing, and while I know that a lot of people are irritated with him on this track for spending so much time in the highest registers of his instrument, I just can't help but love the way his playing interacts with the tight drumming, and this in conjunction with some blistering guitar solos (though not mixed extremely well) adds up to a heck of a headphone experience for me. The closing "Stink Foot" is also a fun listen for me, even if it doesn't really add much to Frank's legacy from a pure music perspective, as it gets to play off his whole "conceptual continuity" kick, and does throw in a bizarre guitar tone to complement Frank's great blues soloing.

So anyways, I haven't mentioned the reason that this album is most infamous, for better and worse. This is Zappa's parody on the whole concept of rock operas, as this album tells the touching story of an Eskimo named Nanook whose mother told him to never eat the yellow snow, and ... ah, I don't want to tell the story, it's available in billions of places, and it's as dumb and goofy as you'd expect a mock rock opera plot-line from Frank to be. It helped spawn a memorable single that was a large part of this album's success ("Watch out where the huskies go, and don't you eat that yellow snow!"), and it is just effective enough to be able to hook the listener back in when they start to get especially distracted.

There are also large chunks of, as mentioned before, Frank's obsession with conceptual continuity. In one of the tracks we get the "poncho phrase" from "Camarillo Brillo," in another we have reference to the Grand Wazoo, in yet others we have reference to the Mudshark, and in the closer we have references to the "Dirty Love" poodle and the whole concept of "conceptual continuity" in general. You know, things like this make me realize that, to a large degree, Zappa was just a big dork, but it's hard for me to dislike him for that.

So anyway, that's the album: not amazing by any means (did you notice how few actual songs I mentioned? There's a reason for that), but a basically enjoyable listen. Plus, if nothing else, the playing on this album is freaking marvelous, as this really stands out as one of Zappa's tightest bands. If that's the sort of thing that plays a big role in how you think about music, then rush out and get this.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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