Friday, March 11, 2016

The Mothers Of Invention - 1969 - Uncle Meat

The Mothers Of Invention
1969
Uncle Meat




101. Main Title Theme
102. The Voice of Cheese
103. Nine Types of Industrial Pollution
104. Zolar Czakl
105. Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague
106. The Legend of the Golden Arches
107. Louie Louie (At the Royal Albert Hall)
108. The Dog Breath Variations
109. Sleeping in a Jar
110. Our Bizarre Relationship
111. The Uncle Meat Variations
112. Electric Aunt Jemima
113. Prelude to King Kong
114. God Bless America
115. A Pound for a Brown on the Bus
116. Ian Underwood Whips It Out
117. Mr. Green Genes
118. We Can Shoot You
119. If We'd All Been Living in California...
120. The Air
121. Project X
122. Cruisin' for Burgers


201. Uncle Meat Film Excerpt, Pt. 1
202. Tengo Na Minchia Tanta
203. Uncle Meat Film Excerpt, Pt. 2
204. King Kong Itself [Played by the Mothers]
205. King Kong II [Interpreted by Tom Dewild]
206. King Kong III [Motorhead Explains It]
207. King Kong IV [Gardner Varieties]
208. King Kong V
209. King Kong VI [Live at Miami Pop Festival]

- Frank Zappa / guitar, percussion, keyboards, vocals
- Don Preston / bass, keyboards, electric piano
- Jimmy Carl Black / comedy, percussion, drums, voices
- Ray Collins / guitar, vocals
- Aynsley Dunbar / guitar
- Roy Estrada / basses, vocals
- Bunk Gardner / clarinet, flute, bass clarinet, piccolo, saxes, wind
- Ruth Komanofff / percussion, marimba
- Billy Mundi / drums, vocals
- Jim Sherwood / guitar, vocals, wind
- Art Tripp / percussion, chimes, drums, marimba, xylophone, bells, tympani, vibraphone, wood block
- Ian Underwood / organ, clarinet, flute, guitar, piano, celeste, harpsichord, keyboards, saxes, wind, electric organ
- Ruth Underwood / percussion, keyboards
- Nelly Walker / vocals
- Euclid James Sherwood / tenor sax, tambourine, voices



 Uncle Meat was the last studio album released while The Mothers of Invention were still together as a band, well at least it was recorded while they were a band. Zappa would release Weasel Ripped My Flesh and Burnt Weeny Sandwich after the band was disbanded. In true Zappa style the songs don´t neccessarely come from the same session but he always makes them fit into the concept of the album anyway. Uncle Meat is one of the most unique Zappa albums and it´s also a very unique album in the history of rock music. blending his r´n´b/ doo woop influences with baroque and modern avant garde classical music is a bit of a job. Then add some blues rock, some great guitar solos and a song like King King that still stands as one of the finest moments from The Mothers of Invention. This is if you shouldn´t have guessed it already a classic album.
The album starts with the main title theme from Uncle Meat. It´s such a great song and almost sounds like rock chamber music. The extensive use of hapsichord throughout the album has a chamber music like effect. The Voice of Cheese then appears and we´re drawn into the groupie status of The Mothers of Invention, with Susie talking about herself as a groupie. Zappa always carried around his tape recorder and there are a couple of examples here on Uncle Meat which are great fun. Nine Types of Industrial Pollution has an insistent groove with lots of avant garde percussion noises in the background. This serves as a vehicle to a great Frank Zappa guitar solo. It´s a very long solo but it´s worth your time. Zolar Czakl is a short instrumental song. Strange and avant garde like.

Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague is one of my favorites here, it´s got a lot of intriguing atmospheres. The Legend of the Golden Arches is a very slow song with a dissonant clarinet theme. Suddenly we´re witness to The Mothers of Invention live at the Royal Albert hall. Don Preston plays Louie Louie on the big Pipe organ. Not the most pretty thing you could ever wish to hear, but it´s great fun. The Dog Breath Variations are as the title indicates variations over the theme from Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague. This is typical Zappa to distort and change his own themes and make something different out of them.

Sleeping in a Jar is a pretty strange little vocal driven song, it´s a great kind of psychadelic song with the strangest lyrics. Our Bizarre Relationship is Susie Creamcheese talking once again about her groupie career and about Zappa´s groupie status. It cranks me up every time. Hilarious I tell you! Just Hilarious. The Uncle Meat Variations is one of the highlights here for me. This version includes the Uncle Meat theme played in a different version and mouse like singing and there are even some soprano female singing. This is a great progressive song. Electric Aunt Jemima is a great r´n´b/ doo woop song sung with mouse like voices. It´s really enjoyable. Prelude to King Kong is a variation over the King Kong theme and a solo.

God Bless America serves as an introduction to A Pound for a Brown on the Bus which is basically The Legend of the Golden Arches played in double tempo and with different instrumentation. Ian Underwood Whips It Out has Ian Underwood telling us how he got the job with The Mothers of Invention and then he plays a great sax solo. Mr. Green Genes is a pretty slow and heavy song. Not heavy in the sense that it is heavy metal though. The vocals from Ray Collins is a real treat but also the part where Ruth Komanofff ( later Underwood) plays the xylophone is really powerful. There arre some excellent dark wind playing here too.

We Can Shoot You is another avant garde song which is very entertaining if you give it a try. If We'd All Been Living in California...is probably the most funny thing on Uncle Meat, this one is hilariously funny. Jimmy Carl Black talks to Zappa about why The Mothers of Invention don´t make money than they do, and when he gets to the part where he says: We´re starving man, This [%*!#]ing band is starving, you can really hear the desperation in his voice. This is a good example of how many rock musicians live. On the brink of economic collapse. Jimmy Carl Black had a couple of kids back in California and The Mothers of Invention lived in New York at the time Uncle Meat were recorded and really when you´re away from your family for a long time like Jimmy Carl Black was you would expect to be able to send back a lot of money, but The Mothers of Invention never made lots of money, only enough to survive. There were lots of frustration among the members of the band over this issue and it was one of the reasons Zappa disbanded The Mothers of Invention in 1969. If We'd All Been Living in California...serves as a comment to that situation and if you think about it, Zappa´s not being very nice and especially not when If We'd All Been Living in California...seques into The Air which is a sarcastic doo woop song. Well that´s how I chose to see it, but it´s great to be a witness to the argument. The album continues with Project X which is an avant garde piece. I must admit to being a bit turned of by this song in the beginning, but I´ve come to love it. Cruisin' for Burgers ends the original LPs side 3. It´s actually a pretty special song. Ray Collins sings some great vocal lines in doo woop style, but there are also a bluesy rock part where Zappa sings. In addition to those styles there are some symphonic keyboards in the song. Does it sound confusing ? It sound great I promise you.

The whole of side 4 on the original LP whas made up of King Kong, but on the CD version CD 2 starts with Uncle Meat Film Excerpt, Pt. 1 which is some useless dialog from the movie score and what´s worse is that it lasts for 37:34 minutes. Uncle Meat was meant to be a movie but it wasn´t released at the time. Tengo Na Minchia Tanta is also a very useless song. It´s has a humour factor though, but really it isn´t worth your time. It´s notable that Chad Wackermann plays the drums on this track. I´m not sure about this but the drums sound like they are recorded in the eighties and it´s definitely Chad Wackermann´s style. It´s really strange that Zappa chose to put a song like this on the CD version of Uncle Meat. Uncle Meat Film Excerpt, Pt. 2 is another dialog excerpt from the movie and equally as useless as the first one but thankfully it only last for 3:50 minutes.

Well the useless CD extras aside lets go on to side 4 of the original LP and the great song King Kong. King Kong is divided into smaller chapters but really is one long song. It´s taken me almost 15 years to enjoy this song and really understand it, but boy it´s been worth the wait and the continued listening over the years. It´s one of the best Mothers of Invention songs IMO. The King Kong theme is of course the dominant part of the song and through the song it is twisted in all directions. The most innovative thing is the distorted clarinet ( I think it´s a clarinet, but I´m not sure to be honest) solo which is doubled it´s so crazy and dissonant and it is especially this part I had a hard time coping with. King Kong ends with The Mothers of Invention playing the song live at Miami Pop Festival which is typical Zappa to mix studio and live recordings.

The musicianship is astonishing to say the least. There where not many bands in the sixties who could do what The Mothers of Invention did on Uncle Meat. About 10 different Mothers contributed in one way or another to Uncle Meat and they all did the job of their lives.

The production is very unique both in Zappa´s discography and in rock history, nothing has sounded like this before and nothing has sounded like this since.

There was a special charm to The Mothers of Invention that is very much present here on Uncle Meat. Even though they often worked like horses under Zappa´s strict command and really didn´t get much to show for their efforts they still seemed like they loved the music and had fun. That kind of commitment shows in the music, and if you want to use a cliché you could say that the music has soul. It´s one of my all time favorite albums and I don´t think you should underestimate the incredible importance Uncle Meat had on a progressive genre like Zeuhl. This is my personal opinion of course, but listen to the brilliant album yourself and then judge.


Early issues in US (& some countries) have a band name & book sticker on cover. Early US issues were auto-coupled. Early sleeves/labels show the original title of "Nine Types Of Industrial Pollution" as "400 Days Of The Year". On the 1st CD issues extra tracks were also added as FZ progressed his concept for Frank Zappa - Presents Uncle Meat The Mothers Of Invention Movie.

The title of this album also relates to 'uncle meat', a nickname bestowed upon Sandy Hurvitz by the band when she worked with them at The Garrick, above the Cafe Au Go Go, in New York. She also effected the introduction of Zappa to sleeve artist Cal Schenkel.

Zappa states on this release:
"The words to the songs on this album were scientifically prepared from a random series of syllables, dreams, neuroses & private jokes that nobody except members of the band ever laugh at, and other irrelevant material. They are all 'very serious' & loaded with secret underground candy-rock psychedelic profundities. (Basically, this is an instrumental album.)"

"The music on this album was recorded over a period of about 5 months, from October 1967 to February 1968. Things that sound like a full orchestra were carefully assembled, track by track, through a procedure known as overdubbing.

The weird middle section of "Dog Breath" (after the line, "Ready to attack") has forty tracks built into it. Things that sound like trumpets are actually clarinets played through an electric device made by 'Maestro' with a setting labeled 'Oboe D'Amore' and sped up a minor third with a 'V.S.O.' [variable speed oscillator]. Other peculiar sounds were made on a 'Kalamazoo' electric organ.

The only equipment at our disposal for the modification of these primary sounds was a pair of 'Pultec Filters', two 'Lang Equalizers', and three 'Melchor Compressors' built into the board at Apostolic Studios in New York. The board itself is exceptionally quiet and efficient (the only thing that allowed us to pile up so many tracks) and is the product of Mr. Lou Lindauer's imagination & workmanship.

The material was recorded on a prototype 'Scully 12-track' machine at 30ips. The whole project was engineered by Richard Kunc, or Dynamite Dick, as he is known in the trade. Special engineering credits go to Jerry Hansen for the percussion effects added later at Sunset Sound in L.A., and to our friend 'Mike' in Copenhagen for the tapes he sent us."

What to Get: This title isn't quite perfect yet, but you'll be content with anything that isn't the old Zappa Records CD from the 1980s.

Summary: With the exception of the 1980s Zappa Records CD (more on that in a moment), all CDs, including the 2012 reissue, are identical: they have 1) a remix of "Mr. Green Genes", 2) a lot of digital reverb/echo added to a lot of tracks, and 3) three new "penalty tracks": one 1980s rock song ("Tengo 'na Minchia Tanta") and two very long bits of movie dialogue. The 1980s Zappa Records CD contains additional reverb on one and a half tracks (so far): "Dog Breath" and the first part of "Golden Arches." Post-1995 CDs add some extra cover/booklet artwork



ESSENTIAL VERSIONS FOR COMPLETISTS: Any vinyl version and any CD (except the 1980s Zappa Records CD, unless you're an insane completist).

Issues

-Test Pressing (unknown)
-Original vinyl (Bizarre 2MS 2024 in the US, April 1969, blue label; white- and gray-label promos also reported (repressed in 1973, without the 12-page booklet); Reprise 2MS 2024 in Canada (yellow-pink-green steamboat label); Trans-Atlantic TRA 197 in the UK, September 1969)
-Bizarre 52024 UK vinyl
-Japanese vinyl (Reprise SJET 8151-2)
-French vinyl (WEA Reprise 64 005)
-German vinyl (WEA Reprise 64 005/1, yellow steamboat label)
-Australian vinyl (Reprise 2MS 2024, 1969 - censored!)
-New Zealand vinyl (Reprise 2RS 2024, 1969)
-Reel-to-reel (Reprise RST-2024-P, 4-track 7.5-IPS)
-8-tracks (Bizarre 8MS 2024, Reprise REP J 82024)
-Reprise Cassette (CRJ 2024)
-German cassette (WEA Reprise 464005)
-The Old Masters vinyl (Barking Pumpkin BPR 8888-1, November 1986)
-Original CD (Ryko RCD10064/5 in the US (imported into Australia by Festival Records and re-stickered Ryko D70279/80), Zappa Records CDD ZAP 3 in the UK, October 1987; VACK 5025/26 in Japan)
-IRS 970.703 CD?
-Barking Pumpkin cassette (USA)
-Zappa Records cassette (TZAPPA3)
-1995 CD (Ryko RCD 10506/7, May 2 1995; VACK 5109/10 in Japan, renumbered 5244/5 in 1998)
-Japanese paper-sleeve CD (Ryko/VACK 1208, September 21 2001 - Bizarre inner sleeeves; stickers & booklet included)
-1995 Cassette (Ryko RAC 10506/7, May 2 1995)
-2012 UMe CD (Zappa Records ZR3839 July 31, 2012)


Track Titles

"Nine Types of Industrial Pollution" was called "400 Days of the Year" on some early 8-track and vinyl copies. Jasper Leach has such a vinyl copy, and:

... in place of "Louie Louie (at the Albert Hall)" it says "The Mothers Play Louie Louie at the Albert Hall in London"; on the last "King Kong" it says "the Underwood Zappa Ramifications" [instead of just "the Underwood Ramifications"]; also it never says that "Louie Louie" is by Richard Berry!

Some copies had "400 Days of the Year" on the labels, and "Nine Types of Industrial Pollution" on the cover.

More. From (allegedly) an interview in the July 20 1968 issue of Rolling Stone magazine:

ROLLING STONE: Are you recording at all now?

ZAPPA: We have 2 albums in the can. We've been working on this for the past 5 months. We bought a huge block of time in a studio in New York with our own teenage money, secretly knowing that MGM would bite the dust ... becausegood guys always win. [---?] 2 albums. One is Whatever Happened to Ruben & the Jets? - a secret project [which obviously ended up as Cruising with Ruben & the Jets - Ed]. The other is No Commercial Potential - a 3-record set. Six sides. It has such 8-minute tidbits as police busting our recording session. New York cops! Live! In person! You can't dance to it! It also has a piece where Jimmy Carl Black, the Indian of the group, is bitching because we are not making any money, and it's taking too long for the band to make it. 2 songs about El Monte Legion Stadium. A song about fake IDs. Another song about teats. A surrealistic R&B song called "The Air Escaping from Your Mouth". 2 other surrealistic things: "Mr Green Genes" and "Electric Aunt Jemima". Lots of instrumentals. On one song, we used 40 tracks and the tune lasts 90 seconds.That took us 4 days to put together. It'll probably be released in the fall.

From this interview segment, we can conclude that No Commercial Potential was a project best described as Uncle Meat plus some other stuff, such as a longer edit of "Cops & Buns" (released later on The Lost Episodes). But the source of this information is notoriously unreliable - can someone confirm the interview?

Test Pressing

Some files purported to be from a test-pressing of Uncle Meat have recently been circulating around the internet.

1968
Uncle Meat Demo (aka acetate)




01. Dog Breath, In The Year Of The Plague (different ending)
02. Legend Of The Golden Arches
03. Louie Louie (At The Royal Albert Hall In London)
04. Dog Breath Variations
05. Project X excerpt
06. Dwarf Nebula Processional March & Dwarf Nebula (extended, incl. beginning of Get A Little)
07. A Pound For A Brown On The Bus
08. Electric Aunt Jemima
09. Our Bizarre Relationship (end)
10. We Can Shoot You (end)
11. If We'd All Been Living In California (slightly extended)
12. Ian Underwood Whips It Out (monologue only)
13. "All The Way Down The Tonsils"
14. The Air
15. Mr. Green Genes (w/ spoken intro from We Can Shoot You)
15a. unknown (probably Right There ?)
16. Uncle Meat Variations
17. Our Bizarre Relationship
18. Sleeping In A Jar
19. Cops And Buns
20. King Kong Itself As Played By The Mothers In A Studio
20a. King Kong It S Magnificence As Interpreted By Dom Dewild
20b. King Kong As Motorhead Explains It
20c. King Kong The Gardner Varieties
20d. King Kong As Played By 3 Deranged Good Humor Trucks

Original Vinyl

Some runs had no track separation.

Original CDs - Not quite all the same!
All CD versions of Uncle Meat have three "bonus tracks" (also known as "penalty tracks"): Two long excerpts from the movie UNCLE MEAT, and the song "Tengo 'na Minchia Tanta", recorded in the 80s. The second movie excerpt affects the beginning of "King Kong" slightly.

(Zappa obviously still thought of this CD as the soundtrack to his movie UNCLE MEAT, which was nowhere near completed when the LP was released. This must be why he introduced the bonus tracks - the LP sort of reflects the movie in the state it must have been in at the time, and the CD sort of reflects it in its final state. Compared to the LP, the CD sounds extremely heterogeneous (with antiseptic '80s sound popping up amidst all the '60s recordings) and has extremely long stretches of crazy dialogue (which many people have called extremely boring) - because that's the way the movie is.)

The only problems I hear with the Uncle Meat CD are:

1 the "penalty tracks" which many (including me) don't like, but you can program your player to skip over them,
2 a "twittery" sounding echo (same echo as on the Weasels CD), but it's not too annoying - probably meant to cover up the print-through "dirt" on the quiet parts of the tape (other attempts to cover up the tape degradation are the truncated reverberation on the slowed-down snork between "Zolar Czakl" and "Dog Breath", and the truncated decay on the clang which ends the "Uncle Meat Variations"); and
3 a re-mixed "Mr. Green Genes". It's an OK re-mix, but I still like the original better.

In 2012, it was belatedly discovered that the 1980s Zappa Records CD (CDD ZAP 3) contains extra digital reverb on "Dog Breath" and the first half of "Golden Arches," as well as differences on "Louie Louie."

1995 CD
The 1995 CD re-issue introduced some extra artwork: an inlay sheet behind the tray, described by Cal Schenkel as "2 of the found Dentoid elements that were used in the cover assemblage (turned into mush when they printed it with a scan instead of a simple line shot)". Official Ryko statement: "New master. New timing sheet. Restored artwork.

2012 UMe CD
Explicitly taken from the 1993 digital master, and is reported to be (barring some slight indexing differences) the same as the 1987 and 1995 Ryko CDs (but different than the old Zappa Records CD from the 1980s, which had additional digital reverb).


Frank Zappa - 1968 - Cruising With Ruben & The Jets

Frank Zappa
1968
Cruising With Ruben & The Jets




01. Cheap Thrills (2:39)
02. Love of My Life (3:08)
03. How Could I Be Such a Fool (3:34)
04. Deseri (2:08)
05. I'm Not Satisfied (4:08)
06. Jelly Roll Gum Drop (2:24)
07. Anything (3:05)
08. Later That Night (3:00)
09. You Didn't Try to Call Me (3:57)
10. Fountain of Love (3:22)
11. No. No. No. (2:15)
12. Any Way the Wind Blows (3:01)
13. Stuff Up the Cracks (4:36)


- 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




Believe it or not, this is a concept album. Frank Zappa created the fictional band....the band consisted of a bunch of teenagers that an old man (Uncle Meat) turned into "dog snout" people under the lead of singer Ruben Sano. The album itself belongs to the "No Commercial Potential" project. The other albums that belong to that project are "We're Only in it For the Money", the revised version of "Lumpy Gravy" and "Uncle Meat". FZ said that the song order from these 4 albums could be cut apart with a razor blade and reassembled in any order and it would still make one piece of music that you could listen to and then cut them apart again and assemble them in another order and still listen to it.
This is Frank Zappa's funny yet loving tribute to the 50s style doo wop the he loved so much. Yes he loved it. This album has both new and re-vamped songs on it, all written in the doo-wop style. There is no prog here, but out of all the FZ doo-wop collections, this one is the best, so in a way it is essential if you want to understand and appreciate the artist. FZ always did what he wanted, even though most of the time, he wanted to be recognized for his serious jazz/classical music, and he used popular music to get more people to listen to his serious music.

On the surface, the music here sounds really simple. Apparently, it was a really easy album to record. However, FZ still adds some strange harmonies, some winks to one of his favorite composers, Igor Stravinski. There are some odd key changes throughout the album and even a few weird meter changes. That was FZ adding his touch so that listeners that were listening would know that it really was him. But for the most part, don't expect to find much other than doo wop music, somewhat enjoyable and entertaining for the most part. No guitar solos here except for on the last track, and it is kind of out of place, but still good. Some of the songs are better than others, but on the whole, it's a fun record and a novelty to own the vinyl.

Strangely enough, a 2nd and a third Ruben and the Jets album was recorded by an actual band by the same name. The first album name was "For Real" and it was produced by none other than Frank Zappa. Good luck finding that one.


What to Get: "Greasy Love Songs," available on zappa.com.
Summary: EXTREME differences between CD and vinyl versions. Zappa remixed and overdubbed it so much for the CD release that it's like a whole new album, from the '80s instead of the '60s. Defending the remix is extremely controversial. Thankfully, the vinyl mix was finally reissued (in 2010) by the Zappa Family Trust under the nom-de-disc "Greasy Love Songs." The 1995 Ryko CD adds some new cover/booklet artwork, but is otherwise like previous CDs. The 2012 CD is identical to earlier CDs.
ESSENTIAL VERSIONS FOR COMPLETISTS: 1) Original vinyl/Greasy Love Songs CD; 2) any "Ruben" CD

Issues

-Original vinyl (blue Verve V6-5055(X) (MGS 1532/33) in the US, November 1968; Verve SVLP 9237 in the UK (no gatefold cover), February 1969) (also discovered on white Verve label - presumably the very last pressing(s))
-Mono vinyl (Verve V-5055 in the US, VLP 9237 in the UK, no gatefold cover, February 1969)
-Australian vinyl (Verve V 5055, 1968, no gatefold cover)
-Cassette
-8-track
-German vinyl (without "Deseri", but listing it on the cover - Verve 710 020)
-Brazilian vinyl (Verve VELP 78.007, no gatefold cover)
-British vinyl re-issue (Verve Polydor Select 2317 069, gatefold cover, June 1973)
-French vinyl (without "Deseri" - Metro 2356 068 - re-issue?)
-"Facsimile bootleg" vinyl ("Verve Select 2317 069")
-Vinyl on SIAT_PARIS label - French?
-The Old Masters vinyl (Barking Pumpkin BPR 7777-5, April 1985)
-Original CD (Ryko RCD10063 in the US (imported into Australia by Festival Records and re-stickered Ryko D40724), Zappa Records CDZAP4 in the UK, October 1987; VACK 5024 in Japan)
IRS 970.04 CD?
-Russian picture CD (JPCD 9710581 and/or 9710281 DORA)
-Zappa Records cassette (TZAPPA4)
-Barking Pumpkin cassette (D4-74209)
-1995 CD (Ryko RCD 10505, May 16 1995; VACK 5118 in Japan, renumbered 5253 in 1998)
-Japanese paper-sleeve CD (Ryko/VACK 1207, September 21 2001 - sticker & 2 inserts included)
-UMe 2012 CD (Zappa Records ZR3838 July 31, 2012)


Original Vinyl

From Record Collector magazine #93, May 1987 (quoted by Mikael Agardsson):

The US pressing came with a deluxe gatefold cover featuring some excellent Cal Schenkel artwork, most of which is missing from the original UK version. A very limited number of early US pressings also included a folder insert containing instructions on "How to dance the bop" and "How to comb and set a jellyroll".

After treating us to the full sleeves for Money and Lumpy Gravy, EMI decided against making it three in a row and issued the original UK version of Ruben in a non-fold sleeve.

British Vinyl Re-Issue

From Record Collector magazine #93, May 1987 (quoted by Mikael Agardsson):

The 1973 Polydor UK re-issue was given a full gatefold sleeve, almost identical to the US release except that the catalogue number was moved to the top right-hand side of the front cover, where it was placed in a black circle, together with the full name of the group. This was the first Zappa/Mothers album to be released in stereo only.

Original CD

VERY THOROUGH REMIX

When this album was re-released on CD, it was heavily remixed and new bass and drums had been overdubbed on most songs without any acknowledgment of this in the CD booklet, which still credited the original musicians. The new drums were played by Chad Wackerman; the new electric bass by Arthur Barrow and upright acoustic bass by an unknown musician, possibly Jay Anderson. The differences are huge; it's like a completely different album.

The remix is extremely controversial to many fans, and it is safe to say that an overwhelming majority hate it. Zappa said he thought it sounded better than the original. Zappa's sound engineer, Bob Stone, called the remix "classic stooge rock". While some people could in theory like the remix, every hard-core fan should definitely seek out the original vinyl, or a copy of it.

The Old Masters Vinyl

Cruising with Ruben & the Jets was one of the albums re-released on vinyl in the Old Masters box 1. It was not taken from an old master; instead it used the CD remix, except in the case of "Stuff Up the Cracks", which was the original mix. The new packaging included instructions on how to "dance the bop" and "comb & set a jelly roll". These were reproductions of two separate black & white pages, 8.5x11 inches, distributed for promotion only at the time of the original release, along with a blown-up version of The Story of Ruben & The Jets, a glossy photo of Frank (both from the back cover), and a jar of hair pomade.
The version of "Stuff Up the Cracks" on my Ryko CD (original release) is a different version from the original release AND the Old Masters version (which is otherwise identical to the CD with the overdubbed bass/drums).

We all know about the changed bass and drums. We all have our opinions (yeah, mine is negative, too). But in the Old Masters box, there was a note that while all the other songs were overdubbed and remixed, Zappa couldn't find the 8-track master to "Stuff Up the Cracks", and instead digitally retweezed the 2-track final mix. It sounded great, was the same mix as the original, and made one wish he'd just done the whole damn album that way.

On the CD, there are still no changes in the bass and drums, but the mix is SEVERELY different, adding saxophone lines that weren't there before, and crossfading the vocals into Zappa's guitar solo, undercutting its power (the solo is longer now, but what was its distinctive entrance - a musical "I'm here" - is now the end of another phrase, and is lost).

So did Zappa find the 8-track master and remix it for the CD, or did he mistakenly (or deliberately) use a different 2-track master from the original sessions? Maybe it doesn't matter to you, but this was my favorite "kids" album when I was growing up (I was born a few months before its release), I know it backwards and forwards, and the alteration BUGS ME! (As opposed to We're Only In It for the Money, which I heard for the first time in the Old Masters box, and while the original mix sounds "better" to me now, I still miss some of the newer mix).


1995 CD

The 1995 CD is the same as the controversial CD remix. The new packaging includes instructions on how to "dance the bop" and "comb & set a jelly roll". These were reproductions of two separate black & white pages, 8.5x11 inches, distributed for promotion only at the time of the original release, along with a blown-up version of The Story of Ruben & The Jets, a glossy photo of Frank (both from the back cover), and a jar of hair pomade. They also came with the Old Masters vinyl version. Official Ryko statement: "New master. New timing sheet. Restored artwork. This is the 1984 remix."

2012 UMe CD

The new, 2012 UMe/Zappa Records CD contains the 1984 digital remix of Ruben with overdubbed drums and bass. It is reported to be identical to earlier reissues.
Bootleg CDs

Additional Material Included in Download

Way Beyond Just Drums & Bass - an article about all the differences between the vinyl and CD versions
An article about WHY Zappa remixed this album

Frank Zappa / Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra & Chorus - 1968 - Lumpy Gravy

Frank Zappa / Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
1968
Lumpy Gravy



01. Lumpy Gravy Part One (15:48)
  I. The Way I See It, Barry
  II. Duodenum
  III. Oh No
  IV. Bit Of Nostalgia
  V. It's From Kansas
  VI. Bored Out 90 Over
  VII. Almost Chinese
  VIII. Switching Girls
  IX. Oh No Again
  X. At The Gas Station
  XI. Another Pickup
  XII. I Don't Know If I Can Go Through This Again

02. Lumpy Gravy Part Two (15:51)
  I. Very Distraughtening
  II. White Ugliness
  III. Amen
  IV. Just One More Time
  V. A Vicious Circle
  VI. King Kong
  VII. Drums Are Too Noisy
  VIII. Kangaroos
  IX. Envelops The Bath Tub
  X. Take Your Clothes Off

- Frank Zappa / guitar, keyboards, vocals
- Motörhead, Pumpkin, Ronnie / choir, chorus
- Victor Feldman, Alan Estes / percussion, drums
- Shelly Mann, Frank Cappe, John Guerin / drums
- Ted Nash, Jules Jacob, Bunk Gardner, Donald Christlieb, Gene Cipriano / wind, woodwind
- Paul Smith, Pete Jolly, Lincoln Mayorga, Michael Lang / piano, celeste, harpsichord, keyboards
- Don Preston / bass, keyboards
- Tony Rizzi, Al Viola, Eric Clapton, Dennis Budimir, Tommy Tedesco, Jimmy "Senyah" Haynes / guitar
- Jimmy Carl Black / percussion, drums, choir, chorus
- Dick Barber / vocals
- Gene Estes, Emil Richards / percussion
- Roy Estrada / bass, vocals
- Larry Fanoga / vocals, choir, chorus
- All Nite John / choir, chorus
- Patrick O'Hearn / bass, wind
- Richard Parissi / French horn
- John Rotella / percussion, woodwind
- Kenny Shroyer / trombone
- Bob West, Jimmy Bond, John Balkin, Chuck Berghofer / bass
- Vincent DeRosa, Arthur Maebe / horn, French horn
- Jimmy Zito, James Zito / trumpet
- Mike Lang / piano, electric harpsichord
- Paul Smith / piano
- Alexander Koltun, Ray Kelly, Joseph Saxon, Joseph DiFiore Jerome Kessler, Bernard Kundell, William Kurasch Leonard Malarsky, Ralph Schaeffer, Leonard Selic, Harry Hyams Jerome Reisler, Tibor Zelig Arnold Belnick, Harold Bemko, Jesse Ehrlich, James Getzoff, Philip Goldberg / strings



The major part of 'Lumpy Gravy' (everything besides the dialogues) was recorded in autumn 1966 in the Capitol Studios, but due to a querrel between MGM and Capitol, the material was only released in 1968.The record combines modern contemporary orchestral music, surf music, sound effects and electronic textures, interwoven with dialogue fragments.
This record is not easy to access ( and it is and was Zappa's least succesfull record).The record is a part of what Zappa called his 'Conceptual continuity', a part of a bigger ensemble. Besides the pure musical content Zappa makes a statement with this record. 1.:There is no distinction between 'higher' and 'lower' music forms, only between good and bad music, hence the side by side of surf music, pop tunes and highly sophisticated orchestral compositions. Like the french composer Eric Satie, Zappa always took an ironic distance to his work and life in general 2.: His music influences his life and his life influences his music, hence the introduction of spoken 'everyday' material and social comments.

A big part of the record consists of spoken material, Frank:"One day I decided to stuff a pair of U-87's [microphones] in the piano, cover it with a heavy drape, put a sand bag on the sustain pedal and invite anybody in the vicinity to stick their head inside and ramble incoherently about the various topics I would suggest to them via the studio talk-back system. Some of the people who took the challenge included Spider Barbour (musician), All Night John (the studio manager), Gilly Townley (sister of the guy who owned the studio [Apostolics NYC]), Monica (the receptionist), Roy Estrada and Motorhead Sherwood, Louis the turkey and a few others." The resulting dialogue snippets are some strange philosophic observations that will appear throughout Zappa's ouevre, mainly the BIG NOTE.

'Lumpy Gravy' is the result of heavy editing and splicing. In general you have all of Zappa's Music to come already in a nutshell: the record starts with an orchestrated 'Cowboy' theme reminding Zappa's first experience as a film composer and his music for 'Run Home Slow'. Throughout the record you have orchestrated recordings of short contemporary pieces.(If you just want to listen to his orchestral music, edit it up like this: Side One: 12:00-15:48 & Side two: 4:00- 5:30/6:30-7:30/9:30-13:40. All these pieces are brillant.Apart from that you have the theme of 'Oh No' apearing two times, the intro of RDNZL, the theme of 'King Kong' and the record ends with the theme of 'Take your clothes off'. All these tracks will appear later on Zappa's records.

It is difficult to write a conclusion for this record, 'Lumpy Gravy' is a milestone in recording & editing technique (Zappa passed 9 months on 2 track razor blade editing), it contains brillant orchestral compostions, some nice 'popular' music, strange dialogues about the universe, a big note and pigs & poneys and everything combined with Zappa's trademark 'Putting the Eyebrows on it spirit'. It is one of Zappa's masterpices and If you are willing to enter the Zappuniverse you will be highly rewarded.



What to Get: Either the 1995 Ryko CD or the 2012 UMe CD.
Summary: The original CD is just like the vinyl, but worse. The 1995 CD is just like the vinyl, but better - it sounds better overall, and has index separation, but unfortuntately it also adds a little "audio error": from about 01:48 to around 03:31, it's in mono. (Also, an old 8-track tape is very peculiar.) The 2012 UMe CD is identical to the Ryko (and contains the same mono-audio error).
ESSENTIAL VERSIONS FOR COMPLETISTS: Depends on how picky you are. The 1995 CD/2012 CD sounds a lot better than the old CD, except for an audio error where it goes into mono for a couple of minutes; moreover, at least one of the between-section edits is also different. The old CD is no hot poop, but allegedly matches the vinyl exactly. The Capitol 8-track is a unique all-orchestral version, and a version of it was released on Lumpy Money.
Lots of additional "Lumpy Gravy" wonderment is on Lumpy Money, so completists need that release; among other oddities, it contains a mostly unreleased 1980s remix of "Lumpy Gravy," parts of which contain new overdubs (a heavily processed version of a section of this was released on the Old Masters Box 1 Sampler).

Issues

-Capitol 8-track (and/or 4-track!?) (4CL-2719)
-Original vinyl (black Verve V6-8741 in the US, May 1968; Verve SVLP 9223 in the UK, October 1968 - perhaps released in some parts of Europe in May or June. Yellow-label DJ promos also reported, perhaps in mono)
-Mono vinyl (black Verve V8741 in the US, May 1968; Verve VLP 9223 in the UK, October 1968)
-New Zealand vinyl (Verve V 8741 in mono, V6 8741 in stereo, 1968)
-Cassette
-Verve 8-track
-German vinyl (black Verve V6 8741)
-Dutch vinyl re-issue: Superstarshine Volume 26: Frank Zappa (Metro Records 2356 098, different cover, 1975)
-British vinyl re-issue (Verve/Polydor Select 2317 046, October 1972)
-Canadian vinyl (black Verve V/V6 8741, re-issued in 1973?)
-"Facsimile Bootleg" vinyl
-The Old Masters vinyl (Barking Pumpkin BPR 7777-4, April 1985)
-1980s Remix (later released on Lumpy Money -- See Below)
-Original CD, coupled with We're Only In It for the Money (Ryko RCD40024 in the US, Semptember 1986 (imported into Australia by Festival Records and re-stickered Ryko D40705); Zappa Records CDZAP13 in the UK, December 1988; VACK 5023 in Japan; JPCD 9707442 DORA in Russia)
-1995 CD (Ryko RCD 10504, April 18 1995; VACK 5105 in Japan, renumbered 5240 in 1998; also in a BMG Record Club version (1086347))
-Japanese paper-sleeve CD (Ryko/VACK-1205, September 2001)
-The Lumpy Money Project/Object (Zappa Records ZR20008, released January 21, 2009)
-2012 UMe CD (Zappa Records ZR3836 July 31, 2012)

Fantastic link: What's on the original Lumpy Gravy? 

Capitol 8-Track and/or 4-Track

According to Zappa himself, the Capitol 8-track tape of Lumpy Gravy is one of the rarest official Zappa releases - if not the rarest. It contained only orchestral music, and none of the dialoge or band music. (The only words uttered on the tape were "I don't know if I can go through this again", which was spoken by one of the orchestral musicians, and not part of the piano dialogue.) It contains only a couple of minutes of unreleased material. (Fantastic link: What's on the original Lumpy Gravy?). A version of this was later released on Lumpy Money.
It was manufactured by AMPEX, and can be distinguished from the Verve version because it has a Captiol logo instead of a Verve logo. The track list is

1. Sink Trap
2. Gum Joy
3. Up and Down
4. Local Butcher

5. Gypsy Airs
6. Hunchy Punchy
7. Foamy Soaky
8. Let's Eat Out
9. Teenage Grand Finale

4-TRACK?

According to a seller ("Delta Haze") on ebay in January 2000, the item sold was "issued by Madman Earl Muntz for his revolutionary 4-track tape loop auto-stereo but immediately withdrawn for contractual reasons ... The 4-track format is similar to, but was promptly overshadowed by, the 8-track format. It can only be played on a 4-track cartridge player."

Here's a link to an article about Earl Muntz and his 4-track format by Abigail Lavine on 8-Track Heaven
To be honest, we cannot yet be sure whether or not this was a 4-track or an 8-track issue, or both.

From Frank Daniels:

The tape pictured on your website is definitely a four-track, not an eight-track. First of all, 4-tracks are easily distinguished from 8-tracks by looking at the back. A four-track tape has a large hole in the back, where the capstan came up out of the machine into the tape. Secondly, the 4-tracks that Capitol licensed from Muntz had clear front shells; their 8-tracks in 1967-68 were opaque white. Finally, the usual prefix of a Capitol 4-track was 4CL, exactly as your 4-track has it. The prefix of a Capitol 8-track was 8XT.

This is all true, for example, for all Beatles 4-tracks made before early 1969. I collect Beatles 4-tracks, among other formats, and have a few of them pictured on my website. Capitol made two different outer boxes for their 4-tracks. The one that would have gone with your Zappa four track is the mostly white one that is shown on my copy of Beatles VI, at the top of my four tracks page



Now, it's possible that Zappa himself actually knew of an 8-track copy of the album. If that is so, the 8-track shell would be white. The 8-track would have separate front and back slicks. The back cover slick would be mostly white (with possibly a pink border).

... perhaps copies also got out in the reel-to-reel tape format, too! If any exist, they would have been housed in brown boxes with a cover slick attached. The tape would have the number Y1T 2719. If a reel-to-reel tape exists, it would be much scarcer than the already rare 4-track (or LP, or 8-track), so it's quite possible that none have been discovered.

A blurred photo of a Verve 4-track can be viewed to the right. (The torture never stops, does it?) As on the Verve 8-track, "the title tag on the slipcase as well as the end label and back title label on the tape itself all credit the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra & Chorus; Zappa's name is only visible in the front cover artwork (which is the same as the Verve LP)".


Original Vinyl

From Record Collector magazine #93, May 1987 (quoted by Mikael Agardsson):

The US release was the first Zappa album to be issued with a black Verve label instead of the blue one which MGM normally used for their "pop releases". The story goes that since Lumpy Gravy was largely an orchestral work, it was given the black label which was usually reserved for MGM's more "serious and worthwhile" jazz releases. The exception to this rule was the compilition Mothermania which appeared in 1969 with both black and blue labels.

Once again, EMI excelled themselves by issuing the original UK version with its intended gatefold sleeve although, as before, the laminated sleeve and "flaps" distinguish it from the Polydor re-issue.


Mono Version

I own a monaural promo copy of this LP, and unlike the first three Mothers albums, this is simply a reduction of the stereo mix (with perhaps a bit of added compression, to make it sound better on radio). I've never seen any stock copies of the mono Lumpy Gravy, but it's possible that they exist - according to the Billboard album chart for 8 June 1968, it was available in both mono and stereo.


Superstarshine Volume 13: Frank Zappa

This is a Dutch re-issue, in a different cover. The front cover has a colour picture of Zappa playing guitar, and the back cover says (in a curious brand of English):

Frank is eighteen when he hops on a Greyhound headed for Los Angeles to seek his fortune.

He gets a job selling records, he practises the guitar and through a friend producing films he becomes the youngest person ever to score a motion picture. A few more years of writing filmscores, when at 22 the idea of forming a band started taking shape in his head.

He started with a highschoolband in the fifties and by the time when the English invasion was in full force he had a pretty weird group that was called Captain Glasspack and his Magic Mufflers. Quite a few musicians came and went before they became an important influence on rock music. In spite of their outlaw position with deejays, record chain owners, and theatre-managers, their first album Freak out! [sic], which is probably the freakiest of them all, became a chart success. One of Frank's musical experiments that are now generally considered as rock & roll masterpieces is certainly the ballet Lumpy Gravy. Some of the Mothers and a huge orchestra made up of America's best session men, became the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with Frank conducting Lumpy Gravy part 1 and 2. It is this album, that is released as Superstarshine vol. 26, that every Mothers-fan should turn on to.

Original CD

When this album was first released on CD, it was coupled with We're Only In It for the Money on one disc, in one CD case, with the original mix but with severely truncated cover artwork (restored on the 1995 CD). As the original vinyl had no track separation, just side 1 and side 2, the CD only had two tracks, "Lumpy Gravy" parts one and two.

(This twofer version of We're Only In It for the Money was heavily remixed and had new bass and drum tracks; Zappa's sound engineer, Bob Stone, has revealed that Lumpy Gravy was THIS CLOSE to a similar treatment [Edit: it got the treatment, but it wasn't released until 2009!], but he managed to talk Zappa out of it.)

1995 CD

When Ryko re-released this album, it was separated from We're Only In It for the Money (the original CD had been a two-for-one), and the disc had CD indexes - provided and titled by Zappa himself. It also included some new artwork: an inlay sheet behind the tray - in the words of Cal Schenkel, a "photo by CS from one of the recording (actually mixing?) sessions at Apostolic (left to right - Richard Kunc, FZ, Don Preston)".

Official statement from Ryko:
Separated from We're Only In It for the Money. New digital master made from original edited analog master and other raw mix segments, and re-edited. Restored artwork. This one really sounds superior to the last CD - increased level, clarity and dynamics. Still only two tracks (Part I and Part II) but all the movements were named, à la a classical record. Some CD players will pick up indexes, some won't.

I've found there's two extra bass notes at the beginning of King Kong in the Lumpy Gravy 1995 Ryko CD, compared with the We're Only In It for the Money/Lumpy Gravy CD from 1985. I don't know if those two notes are in the original vinyl also or what.

Putting it briefly, the new mix lapses into MONO from approximately 01:48 to just after 03:31.

Listen to this passage through headphones. Suddenly at 01:48 all the instruments are at the center of the soundscape with some digitally added ambiance giving the aural illusion of spaciousness, but there is no separation. Then suddenly, just after 03:31 a rather jarring thing happens. The instruments "fly" into the left- and right-hand speakers in your headphones - not on the beat, mind you. It sounds like someone in the engineering booth suddenly woke up and realized he was mixing it in mono, and hit a switch to separate the instruments into right-and-left.

The engineer (Spencer Chrislu) comments:
Uh-oh. I'm afraid this is one of those that slipped past me (and FZ). As has been mentioned here before, both We're Only In It for the Money and Lumpy Gravy were resurrected after safety copies of both were unearthed in the vault. It was from these safety copies that most of the '95 release of Lumpy Gravy was taken. This tape had just as many razor-blade edits in it as the original (I guess that's the way FZ assembled safeties in those days ... I would have just made a copy of the newly edited master) so I guess we just assumed it was the same exact material with the exception of being played many fewer times than the original master.

The switch to mono went unnoticed by me and FZ and now I'm itching to get back in and fix it! [Note: this was in late November 1998, when Spencer was just leaving the Zappa Family Trust - the mistake was not fixed for the 2012 CD Ed.] The switch back to stereo was on a beat chosen by FZ probably for ease of razor blade editing. As for the credits on the record, there are a few of the Ryko re-releases that still credit Bob Stone for the mastering (artwork on the Au20s [Apostrophe (') and Over-Nite Sensation], Does Humor Belong in Music?) and Ryko claims that the reason for that is that they wanted to leave the original artwork intact. Of course, that didn't stop them from removing some of the original Zappa logos and inserting their own. However, I can assure you that nothing was re-mixed. It was simply re-transferred using better converters and re-edited to fix any parts that had gone away completely.

Also, there is no "mono" button on my system. And if there was, it's not the type of thing where I would pop the "mono" button in for a while and then decide to remove it later.

The Lumpy Money Project/Object

Released in 2009, Lumpy Money was a three-disc boxed set containing all sorts of goodies. In reference to Lumpy Gravy, it contained an embarrassment of riches, including:
The original Capitol version of the album (in mono, and difffering slightly from a previously circulating version).
The 1980s remix (with less reverb than on the Old Masters Box 1 Sampler)
Several alternative edits, sections, and wonderful treasures.
2012 UMe CD

In 2012, Lumpy Gravy was reissued by UMe/Zappa Records. It is reported to match the old Ryko CD, and therefore contains the same switch to mono in "Oh No."