What a stunning improvement over the previous Ryko version! There is more of everything, except compression, in this new Doug Sax remaster. I thought that there was not going to be any real improvement considering the same digital master tape was used for this as the previous cd versions, but I was wrong.
Doug has pumped up the bass, well the sub 500Hz info to fill out the lower end, has reduced compression a tad, so you can crank it up without finding it even vaguely annoying, unless you hate Zappa, and has managed to eek out more clarity in the vocals, Johnny Guitar Watson never sounding better, or worse if you are a Francophile.
This was the first Zappa album I ever bought, £1 out of the Gramophone Shop in Belfast during a sale in the early 80's. I was amazed at the time by the variety of music on it and the more than obvious skill and talent of all involved, particularily Frank for writing it. So I have had a few years with it and know it fairly well and can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone wondering if it is worth getting the 2012 version and replacing the Ryko one.
This is the first appearance of Steve Vai on album, having impressed Frank with his outstanding ability at transcribing all of the Shut Up N Play Yer Guitar albums for him, then further impressing him with his ability on guitar, leading to his description of stunt guitar player on a couple of Zappas albums. So lovers of guitar work will find plenty herein, the album having a copious amount of mighty lead work strewn throughout, not forgetting the avant garde stuff that Frank could knock out in the ship load at this stage of his career.
"You Are What You Is", "Thing Fish", and "Them or Us" are the only three Zappa albums from the eighties with at least 95% of studio material on them. This one features most variaty of the three. More or less every song is in a genre of its own. There's doo-wop, blues, rock, fusion, pop, reggae, country-spoofs, Broadway-spoofs, and jazz smothered in "Zappa". The sound quality and stereophony is very good - not excellent, though, but the band is. The rhythm section consists of Chad Wackerman (drums throughout), Arthur Barrow and Scott Thunes (equally on bass), Ed Mann (perc), Steve Vai (guit), Tommy Mars (keys), Bobby Martin (keys/voc), and Ray White (guit/voc). Other vocalists include FZ, Ike Willis, Napoleon Murphey Brock, Bob Harris, and Thana Harris. Some guests are Dweezil & Moon Zappa, Patrick O'Hearn, George Duke, Roy Estrada, Johnny 'Guitar' Watson, and others... Songs like "Truck Driver Divorce", "Marque-Son's Chicken", and the title track feature long FZ guitar solos (with a variaty of cool sounds), and gives the rhythm section a lot of freedom to back them up; the rest of the material is well arranged and pretty strict. I guess this could be a good intoduction to Zappa's music - it shows how capable the composer (and band) was of writing, arranging, and performing alternating material without losing the main thread, and the album features a suitable amount of Zappa humour. While listening to this album, you will be proven that humour does belong in music. "Them or Us" is one of my FZ favorites, and definitely worth its amazon price, don't worry.
Frank Zappa'a output is large and varied but this is classic, Frank at his best. There are no duds, but variety. There are crooning peices like "Planet of my Dreams", Guitar oriented tracks like the title track "Them or Us". The hilarious "Baby take your teeth out" and "Frogs with dirty little lips" and the experimental "Ya Honza" and "Sinister Footwear" You can't categorise it, it is in a league of it's own, well worth the money. Lucky Eddie
I love this album. Im 32 now and I remember listening to it first of all when I was around 14yrs old. I already knew some of the songs but having the album in its entirety was superb and very inspirational as an up and coming musician. This album features alot of Zappa greatness, humour, complex musicianship etc etc I wish that Id continued listening to his music throughout my teens and 20's, I believe I would have been a much better musician and writer than I am now, favouring Slash style music, which I love but this is something else. Buy it, support the Zappa trust!
This is probably one of the greatest albums Frank Zappa brought out in the last 10 years of his life. As a double album, it has some great songs. In France, Stevie's Spanking, Planet of My Dreams, the cover of Gregg Alman's Whipping Post. Some fantastic and wonderful arrangements. The only disappointing moments come in the instrumental Marque Son's Chicken which isn't the greatest of Frank's 'classical' music compositions.
If you like Frank Zappa it's one of the essential albums, sorry CDs.
The album opens with The Closer You Are, a doo-wop number where the deep base male vocal contrasts sharply with the female backing. Sharleena has a similar rhythmic and vocal texture with a reggae beat and powerful electric guitar bursts. The rock song In France, a rude and hilarious put-down of Gallic pretensions, is a great favorite of mine. Next comes the majestic tour de force Ya Hozna, an extended driving rock number with weird distorted vocals. The beat is hypnotic whilst the vocal variation lends it an eerie oriental feel.
Zappa's experimental side finds expression in the mostly instrumental Sinister Footwear II, a long track with an intriguing blend of classical and rock textures, and the equally long Truck Driver Divorce with its funny lyrics and instrumental improvisation. The energetic instrumental Marque-Son's Chicken resides in this category too. Stevie's Spanking also has somewhat of the experimental about it in its complex arrangement and varied vocals, whilst the short tracks Baby Take Your Teeth Out with its hummable chorus and Planet Of My Dreams are tuneful pop songs.
Doo-wop returns with a vengeance in the charming Be In My Video, a satirical song that reminds me of Zappa's disco send-up Dancin' Fool on Sheik Yerbouti and is reported to be a comment on Bowie's Let's Dance. The title track is a hard and heavy instrumental of tortured electric guitars, whilst Zappa's charming pop sensibility surfaces on the humorous Frogs With Dirty Little Lips, a richly textured number that incorporates what sounds like a marching song. This highly enjoyable album that showcases many sides of Zappa's impressive capabilities concludes with the cover of Whippin' Post, the original which can be heard on the Allman Brothers album One Way Out or Searching For Simplicity by Gregg Allman.
Buy it, it's sophisticated Zappa,full of familiar comedy wrapped in original and catchy rythm,however the album doesn't have a strand as such so each track stands out as unique amongst the rest. For a breather there is an instrumental on here, "Sinister Footwear II" which is amazing.