Friday, October 26, 2012

Frank Zappa • Zoot Allures


   Frank Zappa was not only the legend of progressive rock. After his early productions he was seen predominantly as avant-garde composer, fusion big bands leader and experimental movie maker. When Apostrophe and Bongo Fury became hits of progressive rock in common memory of mid 70’s he was already associated with Discreet label. This company was joint undertaking of both Zappa and manager herb Cohen. They were connected for years. With Herb Cohen who was Zappa’s manager and business partner, they run together Straight/Bizarre Records and Discreet Records. In early 1976 they parted due to disagreements on artistic ideas of Zappa and pro-corporation politics of the manager. In effect Herb Cohen took total control over Discreet label and demanded new Zappa’s albums for release. The contract was temporarily re-assigned to Warner Bros and the first of the series of Zappa's records was album Zoot Allures published in October 1976.
   It was the first and only Zappa’s record published under the Warner Bros label. And many listeners rated this album as more mainstream and popular than any of Zappa’s records before. The frame for A-Side was two songs in style of satirical rock – criticizing system of education Wind up Working in a Gas Station and Ms. Pinky. First with vocals by Davey Moire, second with Zappa lead and Roy Estrada background vocals. The impression of the popular character of the music was superficial. Second and third songs were instrumental Black Napkins beautiful guitar solo recorded in Osaka on February 1976 and Torture Never Stops which was recorded in duo by drummer Terry Bozzio and Frank Zappa playing guitar, bass, keyboards, vocal and directing recreational activities. This became a favorite song for many tours live performances and different versions have been published on various official albums and bootlegs.

Frank Zappa – Zoot Allures (1976)

   Songs filling B-side are even more specific. After Find Her Finer where Zappa and Bozzio play with Captain Beefheart’s harmonica (credited as Donnie Vliet) and background vocals of Andre Lewis, Roy Estrada and Ruben Ladron de Guevara, Frank Zappa is jamming with Terry Bozzio and Ruth Underwood in Friendly Little Finger. Next song is written by Jeff Simmons and Frank Zappa Wonderful Wino. This old song of 1970 gives the album straight connection to the Zappa’s older style. Recorded by Zappa and Bozzio in progressive way still sounds somehow familiar but it is a real good chance to observe the change. And then comes phenomenal piece opening the way to Zappa’s guitar frenzy known from Shut Up and Guitar albums. This is guitar solo Zoot Allures with Terry Bozzio on drums, Dave Parlato on bass, Ruth Underwood on marimba and Lu Ann Neil on harp. As instrumental composition Zoot Allures has indications of improvisational origins. But here it can be seen as a kind of answer for Black Napkins. The intended hit Disco Boy, has closed whole album with jester’s wry face.
   The sound of Zoot Allures is innovative and recognizable. Deeply resonating bass lines, clear guitar sound and drums tracks exploding with energy – this was the readable sign of the basic change in Zappa’s musical experiments. The lineups of his band were changing faster than recordings sessions. On front and rear side of the cover for Zoot Allures there are photos of four musicians. Frank Zappa and Terry Bozzio posed in white pants and with them the two new musicians who during recording sessions were not present yet. These two were Eddie Jobson sitting on the chair and bass player Patrick O’Hearn. Both became good support for Zappa’s band and both made lots of good music also in later bands. Zoot Allures was not immediately and not completely accepted, for many Zappa’s followers it looks too easy, but in longer time perspective this unpretentious album gives even more creative incentives than some more complex and ultimate releases.

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