Friday, March 11, 2016

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

Frank Zappa / Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
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).


-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)
-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


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."

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