Ahead of His Time: Final Wave of Zappa Reissues Arrives (For Now)
The first batch of 12 titles arrived on July 31, and another 12 followed on August 28. The third dozen appeared in stores on September 25, and Wave Four (including a new title, Understanding America) saw release on Tuesday, October 30. Wave Five, the penultimate group, hit stores on November 19, and tomorrow, December 18, a final group of five CDs closes out the year, including another world premiere release, Finer Moments.
The following titles bring to a close the first year of releases from the Zappa Records/UMe partnership, though the door is certainly not closed on future releases:
- Ahead of Their Time (1993) – Official Release # 61 – 1992 Digital Master
- The Yellow Shark (1993) – Official Release # 62 – 1992 Digital Master
- The Lost Episodes (1996) – Official Release # 64 – 1992 Digital Master
- Läther (1996) – Official Release # 65 – 1996 Digital Master
- Finer Moments (2012) – Official Release # 94 – 1972 Analog Master, remastered by Stephen Marcussen
All of these discs have been transferred from their most current digital masters by Joe Travers, Zappa Records’ esteemed “Vaultmeister.” Finer Moments was remastered in 2007 by Stephen Marcussen.
After the jump: FAQs and mastering information on the first five groups of titles, an update on the new Läther, plus a track listing plus artwork for Finer Moments!
POSTS OF JULY 30/AUGUST 27/SEPTEMBER 24/OCTOBER 26: Frank Zappa is back. The musical iconoclast’s catalogue returns to stores tomorrow, as Universal Music, or UMe, launches its reissue series with a group of twelve titles. With this initial wave of releases out imminently (and another twelve currently slated for release on August 28 – more on those below!), many of the questions surrounding the series can finally be answered.
Zappa’s recorded ouevre can be intimidating for the uninitiated, but UMe and Zappa Records are giving potential new fans a starting point: at the very beginning (a very good place to start, natch). The titles are being released chronologically, making it somewhat easier to delve into the composer’s “conceptual continuity” between albums. The new series also standardizes a catalogue in which certain titles have had multiple editions.
A little catalogue history, in brief: In the early-to-mid-80s, Zappa began an overhaul of his work, transferring analog masters to digital, and sometimes remixing, editing, and making other tweaks to the original albums. This resulted in the first batch of CDs, most of which appeared on Rykodisc. Some were released via Barking Pumpkin and other labels. Once the 1990s rolled around, Zappa revisited his life’s work once again. (Zappa died in 1993.) He approved new masters for potential release, and a new, numbered series of FZ-approved masters arrived via Rykodisc, beginning in 1995. Now, the catalogue is once again under control of the Zappa family, and as usual for this remarkable body of work, there are changes from previous issues. How so? Read on!
How do these titles differ from past releases on Rykodisc, Barking Pumpkin, etc.?
As we reported here back on June 22, Gail Zappa of The Zappa Family Trust promised that “the digital masters were all re-transferred by the Vaultmeister and about a third of the titles were reMastered [sic] from the original analog source…Each one is carefully labelled with the information you are looking for. Watch the skies.” True to her word, the back cover art for each title clearly indicates its source. If remastered from the original analog master, the engineer is also credited. A list of thetitles and the mastering information follows:
- Freak Out! (1966) – Official Release # 1 – 1987 Digital Master
- Absolutely Free (1967) – Official Release # 2 – 1967 Analog Master, remastered by Doug Sax
- Lumpy Gravy (1967) – Official Release # 3 – 1993 Digital Master
- We’re Only In It For The Money (1968) – Official Release # 4 – 1993 Digital Master of FZ Remix
- Cruising with Ruben & the Jets (1968) – Official Release # 5 – 1987 Digital Master
- Uncle Meat (1969) – Official Release # 6 – 1993 Digital Master of FZ Remix
- Hot Rats (1969) – Official Release # 8 – FZ-edited Analog Master, remastered by Bernie Grundman
- Burnt Weeny Sandwich (1970) – Official Release # 9 – 1969 Analog Master, remastered by Bob Ludwig
- Weasels Ripped My Flesh (1970) – Official Release # 10 – 1970 Analog Master, remastered by Bob Ludwig
- Chunga’s Revenge (1970) – Official Release # 11 – 1970 Analog Master, remastered by Bob Ludwig
- Fillmore East – June 1971 (1971) – Official Release # 12 – 1971 Analog Master, remastered by Doug Sax
- Just Another Band From LA (1972) – Official Release # 14 – 1972 Analog Master, remastered by Bob Ludwig
- Waka/Jawaka (1972) – Official Release # 15 – 1972 Analog Master, remastered by Doug Sax
- The Grand Wazoo (1972) – Official Release # 16 – 1972 Analog Master, remastered by Doug Sax
- Over-Nite Sensation (1973) – Official Release # 17 – 1973 Analog Master, remastered by Bob Ludwig
- Apostrophe (‘) (1974) – Official Release # 18 – 1974 Analog Master, remastered by Doug Sax
- Roxy & Elsewhere (1974) – Official Release # 19 – 1992 Digital Master
- One Size Fits All (1975) – Official Release # 20 – 1975 Analog Master, remastered by Bob Ludwig
- Bongo Fury (1975) – Official Release # 21 – 1975 Analog Master, remastered by Bob Ludwig
- Zoot Allures (1976) – Official Release # 22 – 1976 Analog Master, remastered by Bob Ludwig
- Zappa in New York (1978) – Official Release # 23 – 1993 Digital Master
- Studio Tan (1978) – Official Release # 24 – 1977 Analog Master, remastered by Doug Sax
- Sleep Dirt (1979) – Official Release # 25 – 1977 Analog Master, remastered by Bob Ludwig
- Sheik Yerbouti (1979) – Official Release # 26 – 1978 Analog Master, remastered by Bob Ludwig
- Orchestral Favorites (1979) – Official Release # 27 – 1991 Digital Master
- Joe’s Garage Acts 1, 2 & 3 (1979) – Official Releases # 28 & 29 – 1979 Analog Master, remastered by Doug Sax
- Tinsel Town Rebellion (1981) – Official Release # 30 – 1981 Analog Master, remastered by Doug Sax
- Shut Up ‘N’ Play Yer Guitar (1981) – Official Releases # 31, 32 & 33 – 1981 Analog Master, remastered by Bob Ludwig
- You Are What You Is (1981) – Official Release # 34 – 1981 Analog Master, remastered by Doug Sax
- Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch (1982) – Official Release # 35 – 1993 Digital Master
- The Man From Utopia (1983) – Official Release # 36 – Digital Master, remixed 1992 by Spencer Chrislu
- Baby Snakes (1983) – Official Release # 37 – 1993 Digital Master
- London Symphony Orchestra, Vols. I & II (1983/1987) – Official Releases # 38 & 48 – 1993 Digital Master
- Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger (1984)– Official Release # 39 – 1993 Digital Master
- Them Or Us (1984) – Official Release # 40 – 1984 Digital Master, remastered by Doug Sax
- THING-FISH (1984) – Official Release # 41 – 1993 Digital Master
- Francesco Zappa (1984) – Official Release # 42 – 1993 Digital Master
- Frank Zappa Meets The Mothers Of Prevention (1985) – Official Release # 44 – 1994 Digital Master
- Does Humor Belong In Music? (1986) – Official Release # 45 – 1994 Digital Master
- Jazz From Hell (1986) – Official Release # 47 – 1994 Digital Master
- Guitar (1988) – Official Release # 50 – 1994 Digital Master
- You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 1 (1988) – Official Release # 51 – 1993 Digital Master
- You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, The Helsinki Tapes, Vol. 2 (1988) – Official Release # 52 – 1993 Digital Master
- Broadway The Hard Way (1988) – Official Release # 53 – 1994 Digital Master
- The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life (1991) – Official Release # 55 – 1990 Digital Master
- Make A Jazz Noise Here (1991) – Official Release # 57 – 1991 Digital Master
- Understanding America (2012) – All-New Release
- Mothermania (1969) – Official Release # 7 – 1969 Analog Master, remastered by Bob Ludwig
- You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 3 (1989) – Official Release # 54 – 1993 Digital Master
- You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 4 (1991) – Official Release # 56 – 1993 Digital Master
- You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 5 (1992) – Official Release # 58 – 1992 Digital Master
- You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 6 (1992) – Official Release # 59 – 1992 Digital Master
- Playground Psychotics (1992) – Official Release # 60 – 1994 Digital Master
- Have I Offended Someone? (1997) – Official Release # 67 – 1993 Digital Master
- Mystery Disc (1998) – Official Release # 68 – 1995 Digital Master
As it hews more closely to the original release, Hot Rats is without the extended “Gumbo Variations” as included on past CDs. (Technically, it’s the 2008 Bernie Grundman remaster, which mostly resembles, but is not identical to, the 1969 LP mix.) Fillmore East – June 1971 reverts to its original LP form, restoring “Willie the Pimp – Part II,” a track dropped for the Rykodisc CD edition. “Didya Get Any Onya” from Weasels Ripped My Flesh is also heard in its original LP length.
The remaining five titles from Wave One (Freak Out!, We’re Only In It for the Money, Lumpy Gravy, Cruising with Ruben, and Uncle Meat) have been sourced from the digital masters as used for past CD releases, although they have been re-transferred. In Gail Zappa’s words, “None of the new releases are ‘sourced’ from the Ryko releases and although many represent the digital masters mostly as you have come to understand them, many do not!”
No, each title is presented only in its original LP sequence or the sequence prepared by Frank Zappa for past CD releases. The determination is being made on a title-by-title basis.
What is the packaging like?
The packaging is faithful to the original album artwork. Each title is housed in a jewel case with a clear tray. Of the three titles we have previewed so far (Chunga’s Revenge, Fillmore East, Just Another Band), all have simple four-panel fold-outs (to replicate the original LP art) in lieu of a traditional booklet. The art includes only the original credits plus basic information about these reissues. There are no new liner notes.
All titles are on the Zappa Records imprint. Its logo is presented alongside that of UMe on the back cover. (Fans of the Barking Pumpkin label will be happy to know that its imagery, although not the text “Barking Pumpkin,” is also featured in each booklet.) Artwork on each CD is drawn from an element of the original album cover.
Carrying over a tradition from the Rykodisc days, during which time CDs were designated as “FZ-Approved Masters,” titles are here designated as Official Releases. Each bears a number on its spine. The corresponding number for each album can be found here by clicking on the album cover, or here in simplified form.
Are these titles related to the Project/Object releases?
Zappa Records has previously released box set and expanded editions of seminal albums as Project/Object Audio Documentaries. 2006’s MOFO Project/Object was released in both 2-CD and 4-CD editions, both of which were built around the CD debut of the original 1966 stereo mix of Freak Out! plus plenty of bonus tracks. 2009’s Lumpy Money offered Zappa’s original 1967 Capitol Records edit of Lumpy Gravy as well as the 1984 remix, and the 1968 mono mix of We’re Only In It for the Money with its 1984 remix (Version 2). 2010’s Greasy Love Songs premiered on CD the original mix of Cruising with Ruben and the Jets plus copious bonus material.
Alas, Freak Out!, Lumpy Gravy, We’re Only In It for the Money and Cruising with Ruben and the Jets are being newly-reintroduced to the Official Release Series via their last digital masters, not the original LP versions as excavated for these “audio documentaries.” Although We’re Only In It for the Money was reissued by Rykodisc in 1995 in a version close to the original album (minus the 1984 remix’s overdubs from bassist Arthur Barrow and drummer Chad Wackerman), the original, undubbed Ruben is still only available as part of Greasy Love Songs. It hasn’t been restored as an Official Release, as some had hoped it would be. Perhaps we might one day see these limited edition Project/Object titles released to general retail via the agreement with UMe? All are loving examples of Deluxe Editions as we’ve come to know them, and add to a full understanding of these seminal Zappa titles. Lastly, some of these reissued titles bear the “Grand Rights Project/Object” designation, so it’s possible that future P/Os might be on the way for 2013 and beyond!
What’s the story of Läther? [UPDATED 12/17]
Läther (Official Release No. 65) was completed and delivered by Frank Zappa to Warner Bros. in 1977 as a 4-LP set. Warner felt, however, that Zappa was contractually bound to deliver four albums to the label under the DiscReet banner, and to make a long story (relatively) short, Läther was re-edited into four albums, all of which have been reissued in this series. Läther itself is not scheduled for a reissue in 2012.
Warner had prevented Zappa from a deal that would have allowed his original conception of Läther to be released, and demanded that certain lyrical references on the New York album be censored. Eventually, lawsuits arose between Zappa and the label, and Warner Bros. issued Studio Tan (1978), Sleep Dirt (1979), and Orchestral Favorites (1979) without the auteur’s consent. The 4-LP complete album did not make its official debut until a posthumous release occurred in 1996, as a 3-CD set.
Zappa in New York was first released in 1977 with Zappa’s original track listing intact, but that release was almost immediately withdrawn. Warner Bros. reissued the live album sans the song “Punky’s Whips,” resequenced it and edited another track, “Titties and Beer.” When it was reissued as a double-CD set in 1991, four bonus tracks were appended, and the album was remixed to feature guitar overdubs that were recorded at the time of the original issue but not included on the first LP. The CD version also contained a unique recording of “Punky’s Whips” and the full-length “Titties & Beer.” The 1993 digital master used for the current reissue reflects this version of the album.
Studio Tan and Sleep Dirt both have been sourced from their original analog masters for the new reissues. Studio Tan features just four tracks, all of which were originally intended for Läther. “The Adventures of Greggery Peccary” was remixed, re-edited and re-sequenced for its CD issue. As for Sleep Dirt on CD, it featured new overdubs directed by Zappa. Thana Harris added new vocals to “Flambay,” “Spider of Destiny” and “Time is Money” (reportedly all written for a 1972 musical that never materialized). New drums were added by Chad Wackerman for the first two of those titles, as well as “Regyptian Strut.” (The initial Barking Pumpkin CD release retained the original version of “Regyptian” but the title was later standardized with the overdubbed version.) The original analog masters for these two albums are making their long overdue debut in the digital/CD age.
The September release of Orchestral Favorites completes the Läther quartet, although that title has two songs not present on Läther itself: “Strictly Genteel” and “Bogus Pomp.”
The 1996 Läther has been reissued by Zappa Records/UMe as part of the final wave of 2012 releases with new cover artwork (see above). Unfortunately, four “bonus tracks” from the 1996 edition have been dropped: “Regyptian Strut (1993),” “Leather Goods,” “Revenge of the Knick Knack People” and “Time is Money.” Completists who don’t already own Läther will likely wish to seek out the prior edition as a result of these deletions.
What’s on Understanding America?
Frank Zappa, Understanding America (Zappa Records ZR 3892, 2012)
- Hungry Freaks, Daddy
- Plastic People
- Mom & Dad
- It Can’t Happen Here
- Who Are The Brain Police?
- Who Needs The Peace Corps?
- Brown Shoes Don’t Make It
- Concentration Moon
- Trouble Every Day
- You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here
- We’re Turning Again
- Road Ladies
- What Kind Of Girl Do You Think We Are?
- Camarillo Brillo
- Find Her Finer
- Dinah-Moe Humm
- Disco Boy
- 200 Years Old
- I’m The Slime
- Be In My Video
- I Don’t Even Care
- Can’t Afford No Shoes
- Heavenly Bank Account
- Cocaine Decisions
- Dumb All Over
- Thing-Fish Intro
- The Central Scrutinizer
- Porn Wars Deluxe
- Tinseltown Rebellion
- Jesus Thinks You’re A Jerk
What’s on Finer Moments?
Frank Zappa, Finer Moments (Zappa Records ZR 3894, 2012)
- Mozart Piano Sonata in B
- The Walking Zombie Music
- The Old Curiosity Shoppe
- You Never Know Who Your Friends Are
- Uncle Rhebus
- Music from “The Big Squeeze”
- Enigmas 1 Thru 5
- Pumped and Waxed
- “There is No Heaven From Where Slogans Go to Die”
- Squeeze It, Squeeze It, Squeeze It
- The Subcutaneous Peril
CD 1, Tracks 1-4 recorded live on June 6, 1969 at Royal Albert Hall, London
CD 1, Track 5 recorded live on May 21, 1971 at Auditorium Theater, Chicago
CD 1, Track 6 recorded in the studio, further information TBD
CD 1, Track 7 recorded live on July 7-8, 1969 at The Ark, Boston
CD 2, Track 1 recorded at Mayfair Studios, NYC, 1967
CD 2, Track 2 recorded at Sunset Sound, Los Angeles, September 1968
CD 2, Track 3 recorded at Zappa Basement, 1972
CD 2, Track 4 live recording circa 1968-1969, 10-piece lineup plus Dave Samuels on vibes, further information TBD
CD 2, Track 5 recorded live on February 16, 1969 at The Ballroom, Stratford, CT
CD 2, Track 6 recorded live on October 11, 1971 at Carnegie Hall, NYC
New liner notes and artwork have been provided by Bill Miller.