George Starostin's Reviews



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Ben Greenstein <> (26.01.2000)

I have all of the songs from here on Läther, and let me just say that I can hardly stand "Greggary Peccary." The chorus is kind of nifty, but the rest is REALLY boring. So much, in fact, that I can't even follow the story - well, I could if I wanted to, but the ugly music makes it really hard to want that. Shame, because the other songs arereally good. "Lemme Take You To The Beach" is a personal favourite, with the dopey melody contrasting with the "synthesizer flurry" which opens it, and both of the instrumenal tracks are fabulous. But for that atrocity on side one, I'll be forced to give the album a six.

Mike DeFabio <> (28.01.2000)

I've got Läther, and the songs on here are some of the best songs on there. 'Greggary Peccary' is so dang funny! I originally hated it because there isn't much actual music, but I started listening to the music and it's another brilliant Zappa-y social satire. There are so many funny parts in that song I can't even talk about it. You just have to hear it. It's brilliant.

Otherwheres, 'RDNZL' is probably the worst track on here, but it's still really good. And the other two are good too. I think "Revised Music..." is beautiful. And "Lemme Take You To The Beach" is hysterical. I'd give it a nine, but don't get it. Save up your money and get Läther, it'd be a much better purchase.

Dennis A Balin <> (29.08.2000)

Your comment about "Greggary Peccary" ("I don't really accept this piece as music") reveals an astonishing lack of knowledge about music itself. Take away the silly narration of the tune and you have a very complex, astonishing scored pieces of modern classical music. Hear all of those little marimba parts and horns? That was all written out. This isn't just jamming. Granted, this ain't pop. Not even close. But it is astounding avant garde modern music in the tradition of Pierre Boulez or Edgard Varese.

Considering this comment, and your general distaste in Zappa's instrumentals, you probably should aquaint yourself with something OTHER than pop music if you want to review Zappa. What often sounds like mayhem or atonality reveals itself as remarkably skilled composition in a DIFFERENT context. Sure, it's not catchy in the stand pop way, but that was never FZ's intention.

And there IS a (radical) social critique in "Peccary." Read Ben Watson's Zappa book for details; I don't have time to explain. Also, Lather (which originally housed "Peccary") was never a "rock opera." It was just a sprawling package.

FINAL THOUGHT: You mention that "Revised Music..." "goes nowhere." Maybe to your ear it doesn't, but as a composition, it's (again) remarkably complex in both arrangement and melody. It's just not standard pop.

AFTER THE FACT ADDENDUM: I just read your comments about modern classical music in the Yellow Shark review. OK, so you don't like it. I don't like a lot of it either. But life can't just be pop either. Or rap, for that matter. At least you're upfront with your distaste for the form.

[Special author note: while life certainly can't be just pop (and if one pokes around the site long enough, Mr Balin would see my attitude towards rap - formulas like "if you don't like it, listen to your favourite teenybopper bands" are very cheap and routine), life can also be far more interesting than avantgarde noises containing no emotional power whatsoever. I'm tired of endlessly hearing cliches like 'this is astoundingly complex, skilled music, just not standard pop'. Okay, it's not standard pop. It's standard avantgarde - routine, usual, boring, dated avantgarde which goes nowhere; no one in the whole wide world I know has as of yet been able to explain the meaning, sense, purpose or even simply the effect of this music.]


Mike DeFabio <> (24.08.99)

I haven't heard the CD version of this album, but I have Läther. Läther is a real real kickass album. It's expensive and really long, but there's barely a wasted minute! And the versions of the songs on there have no vocals, so you can appreciate them better. I LOVE 'Regyptian Strut', as well as 'Filthy Habits'. Go get Läther, folks!

Dan Watkins <> (09.09.99)

Man, here's proof that taking songs out of their intended order can fuck an album up. As George said, most of the songs on the album (I think all but one) were intended to be on Läther, but Warner Bros. decided to make their own albums out of them. While the songs sound fine on Läther (it was finally released in 1996), this album has an eerie feel to it. It just doesn't flow right or something. To make matters worse, the CD has added vocals and new drums on some tracks. Save up and buy Läther. It's worth the money.

David Goodwin <> (13.06.2001)

This album is, without a doubt, my favorite out of the "intended for LATHER" series of discs, which also includes Orchestral Favorites, Zappa In New York, and Studio Tan.

Thing is, though, it's really only half of a favorite album, and let me explain why. Much has been said about how the instrumental tracks "Flambay," "Spider of Destiny," and "Time Is Money" were overdubbed for the CD release of this album (and 'Regyptian Strut', 'Flambay', and 'Spider' have been Wackermanized), but the original instrumental versions of these three tracks have always kind of left me cold...they sound like something's missing, especially because Frank *had* intended for vocals to be put on them. It's simply a case, for me, of the re-release not adding "the right thing" to them...I've never been a fan of those three songs, and their butchering doesn't really make OR ruin the album for me.

No, Sleep Dirt is good for the *other* songs. 'Filthy Habits' was the track that suddenly made me realize how damn *great* Frank's bands could be. 'Regyptian Strut', while Wackermanized on *most* CD versions of Sleep Dirt (not, however, some of the early Zappa Records/Barking Pumpkins versions), is a stately, stellar tune. 'Sleep Dirt' is simultaneously both amazing and beautiful, a rare case of Frank taking the wise road of simplicity instead of jazzing up the arrangement. And 'Ocean' is just great.

Irritatingly enough, you get almost all of this album (in various forms) except for the stellar title track on LATHER, so make your purchases wisely..


Mike DeFabio <> (04.09.99)

Eight, yep. The instrumentals are pretty bad. And I hate "Bobby Brown." But most of this is quite good. "Flakes" is one of his best ever! Same goes for "Dancin' Fool" and "City of Tiny Lites." And I don't dislike a single minute of "Yo Mama." "I'm So Cute" is hilariously vain, also.

And I think it's Adrian Belew who does the Dylan impression.

Ben Greenstein <> (06.09.99)

I wholeheartedly agree. The title is hilarious, but a lot of the tunes are pretty bland and same-sounding. If this only had the first three songs, "Bobby Brown Goes Down," "Jewish Princess," "Baby Snakes," and "Dancin' Fool" on it, then it would be spectacular, but as it is, too much of it is just a joke on noisy guitars - like a bunch of lame sequels to "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes."

You're damn right about "Flakes," though - that is a great song! The Dylan imitation (courtesy of Mr. Adrian Belew, whom a friend of mine had the pleasure of meeting) cracks me up every time. And I love the big, well-scripted climax - and just about everything else about the song. It's enough to make the album worth having, and would probably bump my initial seven up to the eight you gave it.

<> (08.08.2000)

Cant really agree with your denouncing the instrumental parts of this record. In case you dont know zappa is about music not just catchy lyrics. 'Yo mama' is a spectacular piece put together from 3 live performances. Hey if you dont like guitar solos just say so instead of claiming this is inferior in some way. Like your site anyway! you do your homework!

[Special author note: No fair! No fair! You can find me praising Zappa guitar solos all over this page!]

Mattias Lundberg <> (13.02.2002)

'Sheik Yerbouti Tango' is a tango, but of the habanera south-american variety rather than the popular Spanish dance tango. I agree - this album has got far to much filler to justify a double. 'Broken hearts...'/'I'm so cute/'Jones Crusher...' would be the first chunk I would cut out. I regard 'Yo' Mama' as the best song on the album, but that says more about which style of Zappa I like than how good this album actually is. Because it is. I really like most of the stuff, even if it's tedious to listen through all that smut and cynicism (that being said I had 'Jewish Princess' in my head today, and I haven't even listened to this album for a long time. Those lyrics tend to stick in your memory).


Mark Lavallee <> (26.08.2004)

Hey there,

I'm loving your website, I disagree a lot, but find I agree more often than not. Regarding Zappa's Orchestral Favorites the song 'Strictly Genteel' originally appeared on the album 200 Motels in a radically different form. Most Zappa fanatics consider the Orchestral Favorites version to be the best. There's a wonderful version which closes the second disc of You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 6 as well.

And regarding the Roxy and Elsewhere band, you should definitely check out You Can't Do This On Stage Anymore Vol. 2, a 2-disc show from that amazing band. You'll come to love the song 'Inca Roads' after hearing them perform it.

JOE'S GARAGE (01.11.99)

I'm so glad you rated this Zappa album one of his best. I think Zappa's earlier albums such as We're Only In It For the Money are overrated. Give me any album from 1973-1979 and I'll be content. Joe's Garage is no exception. The story flows really well, but the songs are also great by themselves. They all belong to a different genre of music- "Crew Slut" is blues, "Joe's Garage" is rock, "Keep it Greasy" is disco, "A Little Green Rosetta" is more or less reggae. I think this album features some of Zappa's best guitar work as well. How were you not impressed with "Watermelon in Easter Hay"? It's a beautiful tune, IMO. Act III kind of meanders, but it has his high points. How bout Mary's speech during "Packard Goose"? "Music is the best" is one of my favorite lines. Overall I think this is one of Zappa's best, most focused albums.

Joshua Fiero <> (03.01.2000)

I like this one even better than Tommy; Who fans will shirek like a pack of monkeys with their gonads caught under a steamroller at that one but what can I say? Zappa plays the pants off Townshend, he has loads more musical ideas, and the lyrics are much, much funnier. Not that Tommy doesn't rule: it does. Just personal preference talkin'.

Ben Greenstein <> (26.01.2000)

Starts out really strong and loses something around the middle. I think that the songs about fucking robots really subtract from the story's beautiful, Vonnegut-esque theme. And, yes, there are songs about sex in act one, too, but they serve a PURPOSE - the Central Scrutinizer associates these acts with music, which is why he makes music illegal. Still, a lot of the music is great, with "Catholic Girls" and the title track being well-known classics (apparantly, the former got radio play once in San Francisco!), and "Packard Goose" from the third act is a fine piece of music. A lot of the long guitar solos can get on my nerves, but I think that "Watermelon In Easter Hay" is one of the very few Zappa songs that can be called "beautiful." "A Little Green Rosetta" really sucks, though. An eight, maybe a low nine.

Joachim Pente <> (29.01.2000)

Hi George, aka the Central Scrutinizer,

I´m a new visitor to your site, and a frequent one ever since I first stumbled on it whilst browsing my time away. Great reviews, really. Make me want to read more than I can digest every time I start reading any one of them.

Two of the countless best things on J´s G. are the German version of "Stick It Out", a word-for-word translation which sounds so utterly funny in all its innocent clumsiness that you simply have to love Frank for it. If you´re German, that is. Involuntary (?) humour at its finest. And "Watermelon In Easter Hay", which is beautiful. One of the best guitar instrumentals of all times. It moves me to tears everytime I hear it.

Philip Maddox <> (26.06.2000)

I'm not sure what to make of this album. The lyrics are hilarious throughout - I nearly died the first time I heard 'Stick It Out' and 'Sy Borg' in particular. Some of the tunes are great, too. 'Why Does it Hurt When I Pee?' rocks hard, 'Joe's Garage' is extremely pretty, 'Packard Goose' is ferocious (both lyrically and musically), etc. However, sometimes the lyrics receive all of the focus, leaving the actual music somewhere in limbo - most of Act 2 falls into this category, especially 'Sy Borg', which is WAY too long. And 'Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up' sucks worse than almost anything else, EVER! It's just a slow, boring reggae loop with boring lyrics that lasts for way, way, WAY too long. It's also on Act 1, which contains the best songs on the record - it sounds especially weak right after 'Why Does It Hurt...'. I actually dig Act 3, though. 'He Used To Cut the Grass' is a 10 minute boor, but the rest is a-ok. 'Packard Goose' is really groovy, and 'Watermelon in Easter Hay' is overlong, but still beautiful. The concept of this album is hella-cool, too - it simultaneously cracks me up AND gets my blood worked up over censorship and oppression. I give it a high 7. Cut the boring stuff out of this triple(!) record, and you've got one of the best records Frank ever put out. And I feel the need to impersonate the Central Scrutinizer at least 3 times a week.

Mattias Lundberg <> (15.02.2002)

I like this one, but I don't think it's worth a 9. It may be Zappa's best structured rock opera, but I happen to be of the opinion that rock opera wasn't his forte. There are plenty of good songs though, as you'd expect from a six-side. 'Why does it hurt when I pee?' is all great power pop, bearing a certain resemblance to 'Doreen' on 'You are what you is'. The bass groove of 'Keep it greasy' and the small fill-ins by keyboards and guitars are just fabulous. The over-all misogyny of this record leaves me cold, however. It's got nothing to do with freedom of speech, these lyrics are just not to my liking. There are also some musically weak moments (e.g. 'Central scrutinizer') but, as you pointed out, you need recitatives to keep the plot going in large-scale dramae like this. To bad he doesn't manage to pull off the narrative in a more interesting way.

Jaime Vargas <> (12.04.2002)

Pay a visit to St. Alonzo's Pancake Homepage if you want one of the most thorough analyses of this work! A lot of silly things have to be with what they call 'Conceptual Continuity', which means that sometimes a lyrical line from 1973 will have its origins in something they wrote in 1969 and would again be referred in 1981, for example. For example, when Joe meets Sy Borg, the dialogue is exactly the same than what the stupid protagonist of 'Dancing Fool' said at the end.

Anyway, later when Joe and Sy are in Sy's apartment, Sy says "See the chrome / feel the chrome / touch the chrome / heal the chrome". Huh? What does that 'heal' do there? Simple. Substitute "me" for "the chrome" in all the phrases. Wow! A Tommy reference in the middle of a rock opera! How adequate is that? ;)

Mike West <> (18.08.2005)

Holy Mothers! I knew when I picked this up that I was buying one of Frank’s LYRICAL showcases, not one of his big musical feasts…but I’ll be damned if this ain’t the most purely TUNEFUL thing he ever did! Not loose structures for experiments, not show-offingly complex compositions, not mere accompaniment for satirical words. I can actually enjoy this without paying attention to the lyrics!

And yet the lyrics are surprisingly wonderful (if crass), especially given the time they came out: the Iranian revolution was about to happen, with the Ayatollah banning pop music; Reagan was about to be elected in the States, which would set the tone for the coming PMRC debacle. He wanted it to be a “cautionary tale” of what COULD happen, and instead it became a foretelling of what DID. That, to me, is enough reason for the 9 you gave the album. But all those great melodies raise it up—I don’t think quite to a 10, but to a very, very high 9.


Ben Greenstein <> (27.04.2000)

Incredibly pointless! You're just so damn RIGHT about this album! There's a later live version of the title track, on compilation only, that kicks the ass of just about every song on here! And y'know what? I can't stand "Brown Shoes"! And they butcher "Peaches"! "Fine Girl" is only okay! I give the album a low, low five, maybe even lower.

<> (08.08.2000)

Why did they release this poor example of Zappas live shows? Ive never seen him live where they didnt kick ass. Why pick this performance?

Christopher James <christKKopher.jamKKes@ntlwoKKrld.coKKm> (27.08.2000)

"NowYouSeeItNowYouDon't" is Frank's finest solo on record.

Get it, it only for that song.

The rest of the album is quite good too.

Maybe these other reviewers don't play guitar, I guess?

Barry Fagan <> (06.12.2000)

love this album...the 'easy meat' solo is awesome and the other songs are a lot of fun!

zarch <> (07.11.2001)

Yes Yes Yes I liked the Tinseltown Rebellion Band when it first came out- still good now. One thing about Frank was that he was always trying a new sound on each album a different flavor as he called it. In an interview he once replied that 'Blue Light' was one of his personal favorites. Well it isn't a traditional song by any means but it is a curiously good poem set to music. Regarding sound quality- I have the inferior cd pressing and must say it does sound rather tinnie (too much in the highs direction) crashing cymbals and thin vocals but there is a re-mastered version available which is meant to sound incredible. They also re-mastered You R What U is. A super version of 'Easy Meat' on here I would say that this is a collection of love songs (from the underpants perspective lets get straight to the meaning of Love here people) probably culled from Frank's personal experiences, combined with some observations of Life in Los Angeles and his take on the music scene there. Also the infamous Butzis word makes its appearance here- fun for the whole family!


joel <> (10.08.2004)

I find nothing to disagree with. I bought the boxed set when it was still on vinyl and listened straight through only once. After that, I taped my favorite parts and then sold the box at a used record store.

Michael J West <> (26.07.2005)

LOVE IT. And have you noticed how, even though every piece is improvisational, every piece still sounds like a complex-but-balanced Frank Zappa composition? I find that fascinating, and really fun to listen to! In fact, that’s the best way to describe this album, isn’t it? “Fascinating, and really fun to listen to!”


Dan Watkins <> (09.09.99)

Cool! I can't disagree with you here! If you want to get Frank's entire philosophy in one album, this it the one to get! Every song on here is suburb. I also agree with George that Frank is saying a lot more here than he did in We're Only In It For The Money. I find the commentary on religion to be the most intriguing. Too bad the CD truncates the guitar solo on 'Dumb All Over' (The EMI CD, which restores the original album, is VERY rare and worth quite a bit!!! All other CDs have rather poor sound quality and chop off most of the 'Dumb All Over' guitar solo. Get the EMI CD or the LP). Unfortunately, this was really Frank's last album with social commentary.

Ben Greenstein <> (23.09.99)

I, for one, think he went a little overboard with the sound effects and funny noises here, so I couldn't give it a ten. But a nine for sure! The songs on here, though it took me a while to get used to them, are among his best. Personal faves are "Goblin Girl," "Charlie's Enormous Mouth," "Harder Than Your Husband," "Heavenly Bank Account," and the title track. My one major regret is that "Dumb All Over" sounds really weak if you're ever heard the Have I Offended Someone? version - other than that, the songs all have something cool to keep you listening. And, yes, it is too hard to take all at once, but given time, it will become a favourite for even the stupidest of listeners.

One more thing - do you have any idea how many people think that "Goblin Girl" is an incredibly mean song bashing ugly people? It's about a guy who likes halloween costumes! Frank at his most inoffensive!

Dan Watkins <> (29.09.99)

I just thought I'd drop back in here in reply to Ben's message. 'Goblin Girl' isn't about Halloween costums. It's about oral sex. Take another look at the lyrics sheet now. Don't worry. I thought it was a song about goth girls until someone told me what it was really about. I can never look at the song the same way again. Ever wonder what was up with all of those weird noises near the end of the song?

Rich Bunnell <> (19.11.99)

A 10, a 15, a 16, whatever, whatever, whatever. I give this a completely perfect rating. Not only do the songs all fit together in some weird layered disjointed way, they're all so freakin' good! I can't believe no one before this album had thought of mixing uptempo '50s soul with loud pompous rock, but Zappa does it here in "Doreen!" There isn't a moment of non-brilliance on this whole album; I don't even mind the loads of sound effects like Ben does, because for me they just add to the experience!

Two moments on the album would've made me completely crack up laughing were I not riding the bus home from school at the time, filled with people-- the first instance is at the end of "Dumb All Over" where Zappa declares that if people are made in God's image, and people are dumb, "THEN GOD IS DUMB!!!" The second instance is the completely out-of-left field verse sung by the 11-year-old in "Drafted Again" where he sings "Roller skates and disco, it's a lot of fun, I'm too young and stupid, to operate a gun!" And the whole album is filled with clever moments like these as well-- just check out "Teen-age Wind" for proof of that. Perfect album, amazingly clever guy.

Philip Maddox <> (27.06.2000)

I got this one on your recommendation. And I was hardly disappointed. The record takes a couple of listens to get used to, but what Zappa album doesn't? I positively LOVE every song from 'Any Downers?' to the end - grand stuff. I especially like 'Dumb All Over' (one of my all time favorite bass lines) and 'Mudd Club' (cool vocal melody). I swear that I could listen to the rhythm track to 'Dumb All Over' all day. I don't think the first half is quite as good, though. The 'Society Pages' suite only picks up steam towards the end (even though the lyrics are great throughout). I don't like 'Theme From the 3rd Movement of Sinister Footwear' very much. Too much aimless playing, not enough melody. 'Goblin Girl' doesn't hit me particularly hard, either. But hey, the best stuff more than makes up for it. And you're absolutely right about the lyrics here - EASILY the best since Money. I still like Money more than this, but it's still far from bad. I give it a 9. A pretty high one at that.

<> (08.08.2000)

How could anyone miss the idea behind 'goblin' girl'? What does Zappa have to do here, illustrate the actual act on the cover to help the not so quick- witted?

David Goodwin <> (06.11.2000)

With regards to Zappa's You Are What You Is. Dan Watkins brought up the EMI CD situation, and I think I should give a bit of background on that (as it is a reasonably important topic for us obsessives).

In the 80s, Zappa's record company in Europe was EMI records. Not too unusual. However, EMI pulled a very strange move that angered Zappa to some degree; essentially, they took the masters they had been using for LP production (or in most cases, the masters Frank sent them for their releases of "DIGITALLY REMASTERED VINYL"), and started making some of the first Zappa CDs with them. Frank was understandably a bit pissed; declaring that these not-made-with-CD-technology-in-mind CDs were a ripoff (mostly because they were made from the aforementioned masters, but also because they had fadeouts between sides, etc.), he sued EMI to take them off of the market.

Paradoxically, however, when Frank released his OWN versions of some of these albums, something went very, very awry. In the case of Sheik Yerbouti, Tinseltown Rebellion, and You Are What You Is, the later CD versions were *awful*, full of misapplied reverberation, compression, and just general crappiness (try listening to a bad copy of YAWYI without getting a severe headache....). Edits were ALSO made that displeased many fans.

Thankfully, as of 1999/2000, "fixed" versions of YAWYI and Tinseltown were *finally* made availible, much to the relief of people who couldn't manage to track down the "good" EMI Cds. These versions unfortunately can't be identified by their packaging; one has to actually listen to the discs to determine if one has a fixed copy, irritatingly enough. Sheik still sucks (mostly due to overcompresion, bad reverb, and the truncated 'I'm So Cute'), though, and the only currently "good" CD version is the old EMI CD, which is quite spifficulent. Of the rest of the EMI CDs, the only ones really worth tracking down are the two-fers (Man From Utopia/Ship Arriving has most of the vinyl mix of Utopia, which popped up in altered form later on), and the early Perfect Stranger CD.

Again, I've said my piece..^_^

Mattias Lundberg <> (14.02.2002)

Yes, this one's one of my favourites too. It is something as rare as a CONSISTENT Zappa album; the only tracks that never really take off are 'Dumb all over' - I find that riff dreary and lifeless, and I'm not to keen on Frank's 'spoken word-singing' either - and 'Mudd club'. 'Charlie's enormous mouth' is such a hit, Vai's guitar noises have never sounded more inspired than they do here. Apparently the video of the title track was played on MTV a couple of times, but as it featured a guy with a Reagan mask being strapped in the electric chair, it was debarred rather quickly. "Do what you wanna, do what you will, just don't mess up your neighbour's trill...": Well what was Frank Zappa's life mission if not messing up the thrill of his compatriots. I'd say that those endless attacks on republicans, capitalists, christians &c. were nothing BUT a big messing up of other peoples thrills. Nevertheless, he did it in style and created some brilliant music by so doing, so I'll forgive him for breaking his own statement of belief.

David Goodwin <> (25.08.2004)

I was browsing through your Zappa section today, and re-stumbled upon your review of You Are What You Is. Have you ever heard the "Crush All Boxes" versions of some of the songs on the album? CAB would have been a weird, seemingly-one-disc-only hybrid of You Are What You Is and Tinseltown rebellion, featuring "Doreen," "Goblin Girl," and the "Society Pages" suite from the former, and "Fine Girl" and "Easy Meat" from the latter. What stands out--especially on the YAWYI material--is that the mixes are far differently, taking some emphasis off of the mass vocals (which, frankly, I think are the weakest part of the record...would it have killed Frank to have Ray sing entire songs by himself every once in a while instead of insisting on overdubbing somewhat-unsubtle harmony vocals on everything?) and *adding* some to the guitar. Crush All Boxes sounds more properly like an album from the late seventies, while YAWYI sounds like an album from the early eighties.


Dan Watkins <> (29.09.99)

Another fun one. 'No Not Now', 'I Come From Nowhere', 'Drowning Witch', and 'Teenage Prostiture' are my favorites. Really, it's one of Frank's best 80's albums.

Ben Greenstein <> (03.02.2000)

Really? I don't like this album at all! "Valley Girl" is, in my opinion, really funny, and "No Not Now" is sort of catchy, but the instrumentals are mostly too long, and "I Come From Nowhere" is bad, no matter how I look at it. "Teenage Prostitute" isn't very good, either. A five.

Philip Maddox <> (27.06.2000)

For such a short record, this is alarmingly inconsistent. I basically got it because 'Valley Girl' was so cool. 'Valley Girl' really does rule - Moon mocks those vapid airheaded teenaged girls who think about nothing but boys, hair, etc. while Frank and the gang play an awesome heavy metal background. Trust me, there are plenty of people like this in the world. I could imagine lots of people I know saying these things, which makes it a special treat for me. Am I the only one who wishes there had been an instrumental mix of this song available? 'Teen-age Prostitute' rules, too, with people singing crazy opera lyrics about prostitutes and pimps over really weird, hard music. Those two songs are good enough to get the album - I always see this one cheap for some reason. Elsewhere, 'I Come From Nowhere' sounds cool until Roy comes in - like you said, his voice totally kills the song. I don't like 'No Not Now' as much as you, either. I mean, it's good, but not that good. The vocals can get a bit annoying and the song probably shouldn't last for 6 minutes. It's still a cool song to groove along to, though. And that leaves the 15 minute 'Drowning Witch'/'Envelopes' suite (I refuse to call them separate songs - 'Envelopes' is just another phase of the jam). Sure, it's got some good parts, but it shouldn't last for 15 minutes. That's half of the record! I wanna hurt some parts of this song, but they hurt me far more than I could ever hurt them. Yowch! That alone could cost any record a few points, minimum. And along with 'I Come From Nowhere', this record is tough to get into, cuz about half of it is total crap. I'll be kind and give it a 6 - I would give it a high 5, but Frank's bitter liner notes are hilarious. Zappa basically goes off on a rant on how nobody will buy the record because it doesn't sound like Van Halen or Loverboy. My favorite quote - "Zappa has some kind of following somewhere and maybe they will buy it... who knows?" Heh heh heh. And he bashes Styx too! Too bad the record's only ok. It's especially disappointing as a follow up to You Are What You Is. That album was classic. This one isn't close.

John Oliver <> (06.09.2000)

One of my all time favourite Zappa albums, I just cant hear enough of SATLTSADW, especially 'Envelopes' & 'Teen Age Prostitute'.

Mattias Lundberg <> (15.02.2002)

This was the first Zappa album I ever bought, and thank God for that ! So whatever you say, George, I would recommend it as a good introduction to Zappa's 80s 'comedy-concept' period. Listen to Bobby Martin's falsetto at the end of 'No, not now'; that is just amazing. And I can't agree on that song being too long, I always put my CD player on repeat on this first track. Also, everyone is on about this Estrada guy ruining 'I come from nowhere' with his singing. I don't think it's much worse than Zappa's similar vocal style, actually I'd say it's quite a good Zappa impression. 'Valley girl' is a good laugh, but I don't think it can match the other tracks in solid quality. It's like one of those songs you put on now and then, but not every time you listen to the album.


Dan Watkins <> (29.09.99)

I hated, and I mean HATED, this album when I first got it. The whole sound of the album took me a while to get used to. I agree with George about most of this. 'Jazz Dischage' and 'The Dangerous Kitchen' are some of Frank's worst. But the instrumentals (if I may use Prindle's word) are pure boner. They are some of the best instrumentals Zappa ever pooted out. I hear the LP is quite different from the CD, and I wouldn't mind hearing it some day. (*wink* *wink* you vinyl owners)

Christopher James <christKKopher.jamKKes@ntlwoKKrld.coKKm> (27.08.2000)

The Italian flavour on the cover is probably connected with the show that Frank played in Italy when some sort of riot broke out and the music stopped . The tapes of the incident , including the pops of tear gas guns , are somewhere on that dreadful YouCan'tDoThatOnStageAnymore retrospective , and EXTREMELY DULL , series .

Francisco Fernandez <> (16.07.2001)

Why are names of Italian cities in the cover of that record? Because it was painted by famous Italian comic artist Tanino Liberatore (who, by the way, signed my copy of the album). Liberatore is famous because of his comic 'Rank Xerox', iin which appears a cyborg. That's why Frank appears with glasses, so he looks like that character. In an Italian concert there wer millions of mosquitos, so he appears with that thing for killing them.


Ben Greenstein <> (19.02.2000)

An okay live album for what I've been told is a fantasic concert film. My main problem is that it's too short and that they totally butcher "Dinah-Moe Humm," which has gone from an okayish composition to one of my favourite Zappa songs. Still, "Disco Boy," "Titties And Beer," and "Punky's Whips" all sound very good, and funny. I agree with the seven.

dL <> (19.06.2005)

Baby Snakes is probably the best rock movie I've ever seen, very crazy, very long and features what I think was Frank's best band with Belew, the very funny Terry Bozzio, Patrick O'Hearn etc. I haven't got a clue why Zappa released a soundtrack some four years after the film came out, but considering that most of his 80s albums were crap, it must have been a nice nostalgic relic. The film is now available on DVD, and well worth buying it, the sound is fantastic, the New York crowd gets crazy for Zappa, and 'Punky's Whips' is funny as hell (not to mention the all-time favorite 'Titties & Beer'). So go people and get the movie, you won't be disappointed.


No reader comments yet.


Adrian Denning <> (05.05.2002)

There is a lot to take on this record, not all of it easy to taken in, either. Personally, I don't care for 'Stevies Spanking' at all, even though, it IS catchy in a dumb kind of way. I do like this album though. Its diversity helps in that respect.


Dan <> (23.02.2000)

Frank was fortunate enough to usually attract fellow musicians of excellent character. But, few of them were in my opinion, were more blessed with talent than Ike Willis. Where is he now? You are absolutely right about Zappa being the "king" of recycled music, But to rework "you are what you is" into a night at the opera with Mr. potato head shows a flair for asset management rarely seen successfully by other artists. Frank Zappa routinely played the college town I was from, Beloit, WI. In an interview from the late 70's he claimed the only reason he played Chicago was because it was near Beloit.[pop. 40,000] Good luck in the future

Christopher James <christKKopher.jamKKes@ntlwoKKrld.coKKm> (27.08.2000)

ThingFish failed.

Willis is superb on YouAreWhatYouIs. Brilliant in fact .

What was wrong with ThingFish at it's release date was that the themes were , even then , so very dated .

It's not just recycled music , it's the ideas that are recycled too . A poor album .

My guess is it was the cigarettes and black coffee ( which eventually killed him ) . And poor old Frank was soooooooooo smart too .

Try a library copy DO NOT BUY IT USING MONEY .

Ben Greenstein <> (06.09.2000)

I think this album is hilarious. The plot is really tangled (or nonexistent), but it's full of hilarious lines, most courtesy of Willis. I love that man! The narration parts all have great grooves to them, and I don't mind the recycled bits - it's fun to play "spot the Zappa song." Even though some of the full songs seem kinda pointless, what with the lyrics changed around and all. But I do think that this is a phenomonally underrated album - I am in the majority of people who would give this as high as an eight. A high eight! ('Majority'? You mean 'minority' - G. S.).

zarch <> (17.10.2001)

A night at the theatre! This Album was a studio recording and therefore wonderful sound and production. Yes some of the music appears on other albums but not in the context we find it on THING FISH and it shows how revealing and flexible the meaning of sound can be. There are many references within the lyrics to multiple Zappa recordings and the imagery painted by our friendly narrator embeds itself in the mind -Frank was a great catholic reactionary (Mammy Nuns and Cardboard Nativity Huts abound) his albums and thought processes always come full circle returning to religious castigations and anti-establishment themes. The background arrangements are of particular merit and also Frank's first use of the synclavier appears on the unusual sounding 'Crab Grass Baby'. If I'm not mistaken there are even associations with Z's opus Civilization Phaze III. In these times of political correctness here in Amnerika this material is a breath of fresh air. Sophocles lives! A British theatre company has even performed TF on stage -and we all know about the land of Shakespeare- enough said.


David Goodwin <> (14.07.2000)

I'm sure you've heard this already, but yes: Francesco was a real person, and not someone that Frank made up.

Mattias Lundberg <> (12.01.2002)

Just in case somebody's interested: Francesco Zappa was a Milanese cellist, roughly comtemporary with Haydn. The earliest record of him is from 1763, but he appears to have been born in the 1720:s or -30:s He died a rather respected musician in 1788, but never - obviously - made it into history (until 1984 that is). His surviving work comprises exclusively chamber music. All of his music is of insignificant originality and he is justly regarded as a 'lesser composer'; he was, in his day, more important as a cello virtuoso and teacher. Z. is virtually unknown outside the field of 18th century musicology, so don't ask me how Frank Zappa found about him.


Ben Greenstein <> (24.09.99)

I'd give it a six (a pretty low grade, in my opinion). Most of the instrumentals are not among his best, and sound pretty tame compared to "Peaches En Regalia" or "We Are Not Alone." The exception is the amazing "What's New In Baltimore," which, with the exception of the overlong guitar solo at the end, is a fine, moody piece of modern classical music. As for the actual songs, though, I think that "I Don't Even Care" is fun, but really weak when compared to the other two. How can you dismiss "We're Turning Again" as having no melody? It's the catchiest song the guy put out during the eighties - if not ever! I love that tune! And "Yo Cats," while it is kind of an obvious attempt at lounge music, is a great and vicous stab at union studio musicians.

However, the songs I like are all on various compilations, and I really hate "Porn Wars," so the album gets rated low. I think Zappa defenitely could have done something better about the censorship issue - an issue which I feel very strongly about. The album stil gets a six, because I like the instrumentals.


Mattias Lundberg <> (15.02.2002)

This one features my favourite Zappa line-up: Zavod, Martin, Thunes, White, Willis, Wackerman and the maestro di capella himself. Even in the days when I had a strong aversion against 80s sounds I loved this album. Zappa can get away with all these dated characteristics because the music itself rises above the sounds and styles. 'What's new in Baltimore' is probably the nearest prog we ever got from this man, normally his instrumental stuff is much more jazz-orientated. And Bobby Martin's voice, saxes, horns and keyboards are just brilliant, perhaps one of the strongest musicians ever employed by Zappa. I love the funky version of 'Trouble every day'; he kept changing the lyrics for this one, on the live video they're completely different. 'Penguin in Bondage' and the two short ditties are the weakest songs, but they're still rather enjoyable. The Does humor belong in music video is great as well. As with every Zappa performance, the show adds a whole new layer of performance by each player. I strongly recommend it.


Christopher James <> (27.08.2000)

Very weak compared to the excellent ShutUpAndPlayYerGuitar. Get SUAPYG forget this one .

zarch <> (09.11.2001)

Candidate for Zappa best album. As we are all aware most modern music is structured around the electrically amplified vibrations of steel strings. Probably the most important invention of the 20th Century but probably also the most unrecognized. What  becomes self evident is how Frank was able to develop a free-form mode of stage guitar that enabled him to compose solos during concerts. Combine this electricity with some really good musicians playing some really good instruments and magic occurs, well isn't that really the goal of best album?


Ben Greenstein <> (07.10.99)

While I understand your point about a lot of the songs having similar instrementation, I do think that Wilson and Alroy were at least partially right about the stylistic variation, because these tunes are very diverse, at least in terms of composition. You've got folk ("Elvis.."), rap ("Promiscuous"), jazz ("Hot Plate Heaven.." among others), blues ("Dickie's Such An Asshole"), soft rock ("Any Kind Of Pain" - simply brilliant), and even a little bit of polka on the admittedly overlong, but still great, "Jesus Thinks You're A Jerk." They're all good, too. And it has Sting on it, doing a stunning-as-always take on "Murder By Numbers." And, sure, the lyrics are dated, but I still find the running joke on "confinement loaf" (governement literally feeding us crap) to be a crackup - especially "pinch it good!" I give the album a nine - it might not be his most groundbreaking work, but it's certainly among his most entertaining.

P.S. The song "Why Don't You Like Me" is a new wave rewrite of "Tell Me You Love Me" from the Chunga's Revenge album. The remake has much funnier lyrics (the original is without a single joke!), but it loses points for ditching the awesome riff and toning down the level of energy.


Ben Greenstein <> (27.04.2000)

Not too impressive. I could have pulled a better song selection out of my nose, and I have a cold. I just get bored until the second disc, with the hilarious Hendrix and Cream covers and all of those cool songs about Swaggart. "Lonesome Cowboy Bill" with a Laurie Anderson impression is not to be missed. Oh, and the part at the end of disc one which is all "One Size Fits All." That part's beautiful. A seven.


Ben Greenstein <> (27.04.2000)

Complex, but not memorable. Why not stuff like "Peaches En Regalia," "What's New In Baltimore," and "Little House I Used To Live In"? Why "When Yuppies Go To Hell"? Why this album at all? A five.


Joshua Fiero <> (03.01.2000)

Welp, you hates it, and I can certainly understand that. Wilson and Alroy didn't like it either. I symphatize. Up to a point. Ya see, I love this stuff, though no one really champions it. The folks who like Zappa's experimental side seem to prefer Jazz From Hell; the folks who don't . . . well, there never was much hope for them, was there? Even classical music afficionados hate it, because the harmonies aren't very complex (which, to me, is like not enjoying a novel because the sentences aren't long enough). Hey, what can I say? I think it's nifty. Some of the pieces are beautiful in a more traditional way, like "Dog Breath Variations" and "Uncle Meat," and as for the others, well . . . here are some things to remember about the kind of instrumental music present here: because tonal stability is non-existent, themes float in and out of the composition relentlessly, almost from bar to bar. So, to ground your listening experience, you must pay more attention to dynamics and sound. It'll be more exciting that way. Ultimately, The Yellow Shark demands your concentration in order to be enjoyable; if that's a problem, don't touch the album. If, after concentrating on it, you still hate it, then it just wasn't your bag.

Philip Maddox <> (27.06.2000)

I agree - this record is pretty hard to listen to. It does have highlights - all of the tunes from Uncle Meat sound REALLY good here - better than they did on the original album. Maybe it's because these guys are better musicians than the original Mothers. 'G Spot Tornado' is good, too. 'Outrage at Valdez' is my favorite song here - it's a very slow, sad, beautiful piece. It's by far the creepiest Zappa song I ever heard - I love it to death! The rest is pretty hit-or-miss, though. The two spoken work pieces make me hurt - I hate these "songs" worse than anything else in the Zappa catalogue (out of what I've heard, that is). The two piano pieces ('Ruth is Sleeping', 'The Girl in the Magnesium Dress') aren't too bad, but they're pretty aimless. Actually, that sums up most of this album - the musicianship is impressive, but there's little to no melody to be found. As it is, I think there's enough good material to be worth a 5. If Zappa had edited this down to a 40 minute album, it would've been pretty good. Too bad the stupid CD runs 70 minutes plus. But you can skip what you don't like and listen to the good stuff. And about hapf of the stuff is at least pretty good. I recommend getting it if you see it cheap.

Oh, and one more thing. Lots of Zappa fans on the internet say they like this album even though they don't get it and give the album a perfect score. I'll tell you this now - don't like a record just because you feel it SHOULD be great - like an album because YOU feel it's great.

Erik Kennes <> (18.10.2000)

Well, I seem to have a radically different taste than this reviewer. I love this Cd very, very, much, but I must admit I'm also fond of contemporary music; this album is the synthesis of his work. Zappa has always been the rock composer, and here he's taking rock back to the string ensemble, to where ideally his compositions conceptually belong. At the same time, it make classical music much less serious, as there is a lot of humor in the pieces. OK, much of the music is strange and cold, but that's typical for most contemporary music. It's also fascinating! The playing is near to perfect. If you don't listen to any contemporary music, this album inevitably bores you to death. But Zappa had a horizon which was a lot larger than that. True, his music never has much feeling, but this album is no exception on that.

[Special author note: I TRIED listening to contemporary music. I TRIED. But this site simply doesn't go beyond the scope of music that doesn't have feeling. For me, if music doesn't have feeling, it's not music anymore - call it another name. 'Sonic explorations', okay, perfect. Fine by me.]

Erkki H. <> (08.01.2006)

I can easily understand why you don't like this album. After all, maybe some of contemporary music is not for myself as well. I do like the versions of Uncle Meat stuff as well as this version of *"G Spot Tornado" *is even better than the Jazz From Hell version. No wonder Frank was so proud to work with those musicians - they took an ultra complex synclavier piece and gave it an excellent humane rendition! The rest of the stuff isn't that palatable.

Better than TYS is a posthumous release called Everything Is Healing Nicely. It features material culled from rehearsals with Ensemble Modern and it's more accessible, at least as far as avant-classical stuff goes.There's more rhythms on this one: "9/8 Objects" is a mindblowing counterpoint piece with a drum pattern in 4/4 with rhythmical figures in 9/8 on cello and horns, plus an insane Eastern sounding violin solo. There's more melodical stuff as well, "This Is A Test" would have fitten well on Burnt Weeny Sandwich with its "Igor's Boogie" meets "Aybe Sea" feel, and "T'Mershi Duween" is beautiful. There's also some humour: during a couple of pieces some members read articles from body piercing magazine and you can even hear the members of the orchestra bursting from laughter! Frank even plays guitar in one song. And more goodness. In other words, EIHN sums up Frank's avant garde side up for me better than I could expect from TYS.


Ben Greenstein <> (27.04.2000)

HUH???????? This isn't very good! The early stuff is all pretty boring, and there isn't very much later stuff. "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted" is the best, "Sharleena" is better than any other version, and "Charva" cracks me up, partially because my aunt's name is "Charna." I give it a five. I just don't want to listen to it very often.

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