Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Frank Zappa • Apostrophe (’)


   Eighteenth Frank Zappa’s album – released March 22, 1974 and almost immediately placed on hit lists – remains his greatest commercial success. It had reached 10th position on Billboard Charts and gave artist his first Gold certified by the RIAA only two years later. No wonder listeners had accepted this album – on its semantic level these songs were threaten the cultural taboo melting sexual contents with some jokes and rebel attitude. Musical layer was highly energetic, rhythmic music – from hard rock to comedy, from rhythm & blues to fusion jazz – basically in mainstream of rock fusion. And it was well done, a way much better than many seriously progressive albums. Every genre presented here was connected and interacting with lyrics context.
   The material for the album was recorded in various sessions and studios in five year period since 1969. This resulted in doubles and triples in lineups. On the cover of the record one can find names of four casts of rhythm sections from various periods – four drummers (Jim Gordon, Johnny Guerin, Aynsley Dunbar, Ralph Humphrey) and four bass players (Jack Bruce, Tom Fowler, Frank Zappa and Erroneous what stands for Alex Dmochowski). Great keyboardist George Duke, playing percussion instruments Ruth Underwood whose marimba became hallmark of Zappa’s sound in mid-seventies, two great violinists Sugar Cane Harris and Jean-Luc Ponty, two saxophonists Ian Underwood and Napoleon Murphy Brock, trumpeter Sal Marquez, trombonist Bruce Fowler, nine back-up vocals, even five sound engineers, working in New York Electric Lady Studios, Inglewood Bolic and Hollywood Paramount Studios. Zappa was credited for lead vocals, guitars, production, arrangements and struggle with.

Frank Zappa - Apostrophe (1974)

   The album has been called Apostrophe (’) or A’POS! TRO’PHE(!) as in alternative spelling used on the label. What makes this album so exceptional is fusion of RnB, pop and rock with elements of utilitarian music known from media and associated with advertising jingle style. With seditious obscenity and much inkling suggesting there’s one more mask and deeper sense of the text layer it gave the feeling of revealing the hidden truth. Maybe Frank Zappa was not considered of all these flickering senses. The title of the album came from only instrumental piece. It is an instrumental jam and the fact Zappa gave this name for the whole album may suggest he was intended to turn to more intuitive forms. Although it sounded modern and strong, from intellectual point of view it was weakest fragment of the album.
   The intellectual and philosophical backgrounds of Zappa’s lyrics were unveiled in 1993 in The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play by Ben Watson. British author has shown Shakespeare and Platonic topics in Apostrophe (’). Brave comparison of Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow suite and King Lear is showing some parallels which are in fact archetypical values common to many cultures. Ban Watson’s dissertation is maybe first critical analysis of this album which for many reviewers was just loathsome and obscene. Zappa’s obscenity, then recognized as a part of sexual revolution, later occurred to be quite serious part of anti-establishment rebellion. His revolutionary and subversive attitude has strong impact for few generations of listeners.

No comments:

Post a Comment