Saturday, May 11, 2024

A Frank Zappa Sampler: Meet My Favorite Musical Genius

For me, listening to most jazz/rock/blues music is like riding a fairly smooth roller coaster. You close your eyes and travel along with the musicians: up, down and around. In contrast, listening to Frank Zappa's stuff is like riding on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland: You're frequently surprised by quick turns, sharp and steep drops and gentle climbs to peaks with breathtaking views. It's definitely not laid-back, easy listening... but it can be an exciting, rewarding trip! 

"In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa composed rock, pop, jazz, jazz fusion, orchestral and musique concrète works; he also produced almost all of the 60-plus albums that he released with his band the Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist... His work is characterized by nonconformity, improvisation sound experimentation, musical virtuosity and satire of American culture..."

But what good is it to talk about music? To know Zappa's stuff you have to pop in your earbuds, get comfortable, close your eyes and just enjoy the ride. Here's my curated playlist to get you started. (Watch the videos if you must, but I think it's better to just close your eyes and listen.)

Zappa's music is undeniably brilliant! However, his lyrics sometimes (though not often) express opinions that I do not personally endorse. So I encourage you to do as I do and disregard any offense that might bubble up within you in response to his more challenging lyrical witticisms. For me, the genius of his music always outweighs any minor feelings of being offended by his social satire. (Often, however, the lyrics are funny as hell!! So let yourself enjoy them.)

Individual Works

Step into Zappa's world with his unique take on the Allman Brothers' favorite, Whipping Post.

Then move on to the gentle beauty and intensity of Zappa's own Blessed Relief (Outtake Version).

Next, engage the high intensity jazz/rock composition, The Purple Lagoon, from one of my favorite albums, Zappa In New York 

Finally, travel back in time to hear one of Zappa's earlier, less approachable, but brave and engaging pieces, Inca Roads



The samples above are just the tip of a HUGE Zappa iceberg of music! Below is a list of some albums that, together, demonstrate Zappa's range and sheer genius. Check them out and explore his legacy for yourself. 

Frank Zappa Official YouTube Channel 

Zappa's official YouTube Channel is an incredible compendium of stuff assembled for Zappa super fans. Here you'll find videos with rare concert footage, playlists, music videos and much more. I hope you spend some time there exploring the full power of Zappa's genius. Enjoy!

Go to the Frank Zappa YouTube Channel