Sunday, April 10, 2016

Frank Zappa - 1976 - Zoot Allures

Frank Zappa
Zoot Allures

01. Wind Up Workin' In A... (2:29)
02. Black Napkins (4:15)
03. The Torture Never Stops (9:45)
04. Ms. Pinky (3:40)
05. Find Her Finer (4:07)
06. Friendly Little Finger (4:17)
07. Wonderful Wino (3:38)
08. Zoot Allures (4:12)
09. Disco Boy (5:09)

- Frank Zappa / guitar, bass, synth, lead-vocal
- Terry Bozzio / drums
- Davey Moire / vocals on "Wind up." and "Disco Boy"
- Andre Lewis / organ, vocals on "Black Napkins" and "Disco Boy"
- Roy Estrada / bass, vocals on "Black Napkins", "Ms.Pinky", "Find Her Finer", "Disco Boy"
- Napoleon Murphy Brock / sax, vocal on "Black Napkins"
- Ruth Underwood / synth on "Ms. Pinky", marimba & synth on "Friendly Little Finger" and "Zoot Allures"
- Donnie Vliet / harmonica on "Find Her Finer"
- Ruben Ladron de Guevara / background vocal on "Find Her Finer"
- Dave Parlato / bass on "Zoot Allures"
- Lu Ann Neil / harp on "Zoot Allures"
- Sharkie Barker / background vocal on "Disco Boy"

After the one-off experiment and collaboration with his long time friend Captain Beefheart, Zappa returned to the studio and came out of it with this album. Although originally titled Night of the Iron Sausage, the name would eventually settle on Zoot Allures, although Night of the Iron Sausage does get a lyrical reference. This is probably one of the more stripped down Zappa albums as there aren't any grandiose orchestrations or horn sections, but a more simplistic approach with mainly guitars, drums, bass, and keyboards. In fact, this may be one of the most guitar oriented Zappa albums ever released (besides of course, to the Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar trilogy and the album Guitar). Most of the songs on this album are considerably strong and most of them are live favorites and were played by Zappa is essentially every tour that followed.
The album opens with the short and concise Wind Up Workin' in a Gas Station, which is a humorous piece with some great vocals and rhythmic work. Next up is the superb instrumental Black Napkins, which would become one of Zappa's most popular guitar solo instrumentals (with Watermelon in Easter Hay being another one, for example). It has a superb main theme from the guitar as well as some great work from Bozzio on the drums. The Torture Never Stops would become another Zappa live favorite and would eventually get a reworking as The Torchum Never Stops on the colossal disappointment that was Thing-Fish. This version, though, while great and fun, doesn't really match up to the numerous live incarnations there are of it (which is benefitted by an extended solo section that is a highlight of Zappa's incredible guitar stylings). Despite that, though, there are some humourous lyrics and a nice overall feel (which is desolate and full of isolation to say the least).

Ms. Pinky is a song about a very special girl (and her "sister" would get a cameo in the film Baby Snakes as the blow up doll used in many various encounters with Roy Estrada). It's a fun and harmless piece that has some fun backing vocals from Estrada and some nice synthesizer work from Ruth Underwood. Find Her Finer is another fun piece with a nice overall feel and riff to it as well as some humorous lyrics and vocals from Zappa (and like The Torture Never Stops would get live versions that would surpass the studio version). Friendly Little Finger and Wonderful Wino are more or less throwaway pieces and are pretty forgettable, but they aren't really that bad and they add a bit more to the humor of the album. Zoot Allures is revered as one of the best Zappa instrumentals ever. The catchy main riff and the great breakdown solo sections are perfect for a studio piece (and it's not too long and to the point), and like a few other tracks on the album is a better song live. The closer of the album is Disco Boy, Zappa's stab at the disco culture. It has a bluesy guitar riff and some nice bass synthesizer notes as well as some humorous lyrics and laidback vocals from Zappa. And like three other tracks that I mentioned earlier, the live version of this song found on the Baby Snakes soundtrack is a lot better, although I'm quite fond of this version of it, as it is more raw.

In the end, Zoot Allures or Night of the Iron Sausage, whatever you want to call it, is one of the better mid/late 70s Zappa experiments and has some essential tracks on it for all Zappa fans. While it's not his best album, it certainly was a great listen and I think any fan of guitar oriented rock and some great avant-garde stylings will find comfort in this album.

The track "The Torture Never Stops" is the Zappa vocal, studio version. (Not the Vliet vocal - sometimes credited in parenthesis as [Original Version]).

The Japanese hanko (seal or stamp) on the front cover, ??, can be read as "Za-pa"; the characters used translate as "Miscellaneous Leaves". The back cover features ?????, which can be read phonetically as "Fu-ran-ku-zap-pa"; the translation of these characters is non-sensical, rendering "Not" "Turbulent" "Distress" "Miscellaneous" "Faction", which could be interpreted as "An easy-going band/group."

The track "Black Napkins" featured in the 2007 film "Things We Lost In The Fire".

Summary: The original vinyl is generally considered to be superior to the Old Masters LP (which utilized a partially reverb-soaked digital master, one which also trimmed the intro to "Disco Boy") and all pre-2012 CDs (which are made from a potentially be-futzed-with version of the Old Masters transfer). The 2012 CD reverts to the dry vinyl version and is Swell.



  2. my bad... uploading the missing track as soon as I get home.... sorry for the cock up, no idea what went wrong