Monday, March 14, 2016

Frank Zappa - 2010 - Greasy Love Songs

Frank Zappa 
Greasy Love Songs

01. Cheap Thrills
02. Love of My Life
03. How Could I Be Such a Fool
04. Deseri
05. I'm Not Satisfied
06. Jelly Roll Gum Drop
07. Anything
08. Later That Night
09. You Didn't Try to Call Me
10. Fountain of Love
11. "No. No. No."
12. Anyway the Wind Blows
13. Stuff Up the Cracks
14. Jelly Roll Gum Drop (Alternate Mix)
15. "No. No. No." (Long Version)
16. Stuff Up the Cracks (Alternate Mix)
17. "Serious Fan Mail"
18. Valerie (Mono Mix)
19. Jelly Roll Gum Drop (Single Version)
20. "Secret Greasing"
21. Love of My Life

- Frank Zappa / guitar, keyboards, sound effects, vocals, producer
- Don Preston / bass, piano, keyboards
- Jimmy Carl Black / guitar, percussion, drums
- Ray Collins / guitar, vocals
- Roy Estrada / bass, sound effects, vocals, voices
- Bunk Gardner / saxophone
- Jim Sherwood / guitar, vocals, wind
- Motorhead Sherwood / saxophone (Baritone), tambourine
- Art Tripp / guitar
- Ian Underwood / guitar, piano, keyboards, saxophone, wind
- Brian Gardner / saxophone

 It's always nice to see a horrible wrong corrected.
Ruben & The Jets was a great Zappa album in its original incarnation. Hell, it shared no less than three songs with Freak Out, and no one complains about Freak Out:

How Could I Be Such A Fool You Didn't Try To Call Me Anyway The Winds Blows

Not to mention Love of My Live, which would later show up in Zappa's live shows decades later. He obviously had some fondness for these songs.

But with the CD release of Ruben, he turned all apostate on us with regard to the album, and literally destroyed it by re-recording the bass and drums and in general rendering it unlistenable to anyone who had heard the original.

This wrong has now been righted. We can toss our CD's of Ruben in the recycle bin.

Greasy Love Songs is nothing less than Ruben & The Jets restored to all its original glory. Granted, it's a doo-wop record (sorta) and a parody (sorta) and not as groundbreaking as the albums that preceded it (sorta). It's nonetheless a fine example of early Mothers music.

I can almost hear the conversation:

Ray Collins: If you'd let me sing these songs my way, we'd be famous. FZ: Okay, let's do it your way for an album and see how that works out.

I don't know how it worked out commercially, though I suppose it was another middling success for The Mothers. Artistically, this is a great Zappa album. The man couldn't help himself. Even when recording parodies of songs of "cretin simplicity" he just had to make them perfect and forward- looking. It's actually amazing how good "cretin simplicity" can sound.

The sound. There's so much echo and reverb that drums cease to sound like drums. They sound like hip, snapping fingers. Acoustic guitars occasionally riff jazzy chords. Roy Estrada's bass always provides a solid bottom, and the pianos and sax, while of said cretin simplicity, are always right there in the mix where they should be. Ray Collins' voice, even when it's occasionally Munchkin-ized, remains one of the great joys of this version of The Mothers.

They sometimes play it straight. Cheap Thrills. Desiri. Anything. It's all mindless stuff perfectly executed. Don't worry about it, just sit back and enjoy. You'll hear Zappa's vocal rumblings, Estrada's falsetto, all intermixed with Collins', singing inane lyrics. It's all good.

No No No is nothing but several minutes of a single I-IV-I7 chord laid over a simplistic beat, with vocal harmonies that twist and turn and are to this day well beyond the skills of your average pop star crap, even if a bit Munchkin-ized. Estrada is in fine form (bass-wise) just wandering around and embellishing what it yes a garage chord progression. No wonder Beefheart eventually hooked up with him.

And, it being a Zappa album, we get a nice little suicide song (Stuff Up The Cracks), teen love being what it is. Stuff up the cracks, turn on the gas, throw that nice sharkskin suit out on some dog waste, and play some nice wah-wah guitar.

This is actually a great album, but I'm going to dock it just because it shouldn't be on anyone's Zappa short list and it's barely prog. For those who are familiar with early Mothers, it's a necessary addition to the collection. I love the sucker.

The songs were recorded in New York in late 67 to early 68 and the album was released in December 1968. There are some common misconceptions people make about this album. The first is that Zappa was mocking these "doo-wop" songs. I thought this at first too because of the exaggerated vocals which sound mocking, but the real story is that Zappa loved this music and was paying homage. He had a huge 45 collection of this stuff and professed his love repeatedly for the style. The second misconception is that this album is somehow simple, the songs just too basic to be interesting. The fact is that there was significant experimentation going on here just like the other albums of the period.

"They're more than recreations; they're careful conglomerates of archetypal clichés. For instance, "Fountain of Love" has quotes from background chants sung by the Moonglows, and the opening theme of "The Rite of Spring", but nobody ever heard it because there's like five different levels of musical accompaniment going on, not counting the band. There's all these different vocal parts and they're all clichés, and they're all carefully chosen for nostalgia value and then built into the was an experiment in cliché collages...just riddled with stereotyped motifs. Not only did it give it its characteristic sound, but it gave it its emotional value. There was a lot of exploration done at the time we were putting together Ruben." -FZ, Aug 1969

What I love most about this music is the quality of the vocals and hearing the guys harmonize without the constant stops and starts of dialogue and humor that occur on the other albums. There's also some decent guitar playing every so often, along with all of the "motifs" Frank mentions above. It's such a different experience than everything else in my prog collection that it is special. This new version comes in a tri-fold sleeve with a great booklet featuring commentary by Cheech Marin (who nearly became a Mother) and Gail Zappa. I can't call it essential for everyone's collection, but to me this is certainly essential for Frank Zappa fans.

Time to turn down the lights....." of my life.....i love you so.....bah da da dum"

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