Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Frank Zappa, LUMPY GRAVY

1967, Verve; reissued by Ryko; available

2 tracks, 31:40

Even back in 1967, Zappa's first solo album (which DOES feature other members of the Mothers Of Invention) must have sounded weird. Whereas avant-garde elements were frequent on Mothers albums, here was a solid two sides of vinyl devoted to a single work. Random conversations are spliced up and mixed in; Zappa recorded the vocals by having his friends speak into an amplified grand piano, adding a strange sound. The musical bits range from spy/surf instrumentals to light jazzy romps to dark chamber music. Some of the bits would reappear in different form later in Zappa's career ("King Kong", "Take Your Clothes Off..."). It's oddly and wonderfully coherent despite the randomness, and listening all the way through works in its favor. Strangely enough, Zappa isn't credited with any instrument; instead, he is the conductor, composer, and producer, and the patchwork style of LUMPY GRAVY is unmistakably his own. Instrumental duties are handled by a huge ensemble known as the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra. Actual instruments range from guitars, strings, bass, and horns to gongs, electric harpsichord, bells, timpani, and "assorted insanity". While far from Zappa's most accessible release, this is truly the one to own for Zappa the composer. Its possibly the closest he ever came to sounding like his heroes Varèse and Stockhausen, while maintaining that uniquely Zappa touch. Absolutely recommended.

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