This month, we are looking at the era that spawned Glam Rock and Heavy Metal, and everything in-between
This week we are looking at the Jazz-Rock genius, Frank Zappa, and his 1974 ‘ Apostrophe (‘)’ album, which probably comes under ‘everything in-between’.
This album is possibly the most famous of the drug hating genius that was Frank Zappa, and features some of his best, and most well known songs, for which Zappa fused together funk, jazz, rock, comedy, screaming solo’s, and some of the best musicians that have ever graced the Earth, and managed to create some truly beautiful music, which at first would seem to be another of the 70’s drug fuelled masterpieces, however Zappa was notorious for being completely clean, and hating all music created by Drugs.
The songs which feature on this album were recorded between 1969 and January ’74, for the album to then be released in March ’74. It was an album of comedic lyrics and tales of alternate lifestyles, apart from ‘Uncle Remus’, which was an extension of Zappa’s earlier song, ‘Trouble Every Day’, both of which Zappa used to express his feelings towards racism in society. Not only was this album a mix of genres and lyrical themes, it was also a mix of some of the best session musicians that could be found, with the entire album having; 10 Vocalists (inc backing), 2 guitarists , 5 drummers (inc 1 percussionist), 4 bassists, 1 trumpeter, 2 saxophonists, 2 violinists, 1 trombonist and 1 keys. That is 28 musicians, Zappa included, for 9 songs. These session musicians weren’t just anyone either, for this album, Zappa brought in the likes of; Jack Bruce (Cream), Ray Collins (ex- Mothers of Invention), Aynsley Dunbar (Bowie, Whitesnake, Sammy Hagar), and Bruce Fowler (Captain Beefheart) to name a few.
The first three songs on the album tell the story of a singer who dreams of being an Eskimo, called Nanook, who is first warned to not eat ‘the yellow snow’ and he then faces a ‘fur-trapper’ who beats a baby seal to death with a ‘lead-filled snow shoe’, and Nanook rubs the ‘deadly yellow snow’ into his ‘beady little eyes’. Nanook then goes and has a ‘St Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast’. If these three songs haven’t got you wanting more, then Zappa may not be for you, because his true musical talent is shown through these three songs, from his amazing lyrics, to his truly wonderful solos, these songs have everything you need to become a fan of Zappa, which is why I picked this album, because if you don’t like Zappa ‘Apostrophe’ then I don’t suggest listening to ‘Bobby Brown Goes Down’ or ‘Catholic Girls’. Father O’blivion briefly follows on from ‘St Alnfozo’s’ and is 2 minutes and bass-y, synth-y goodness.
By the fifth song, ‘Cosmik Debris’, we get to listen to some of the best arrangement music has ever seen, and the best combination of Jazz, Rock, Funk and Comedy that you will ever find. Aside from the magnificent arrangement, you also get to hear some of Zappa’s best guitar work, and one of the catchiest riffs he wrote, and then there’s that solo at the 2 minute mark, which leaves you wide and eyed and eager for more. Later on in the album comes ‘Uncle Remus’, which is a favourite of mine, just for the simple lyrics, paired with the complicated music, and then, you are left even wider-eyed than before as the solo’s come and go throughout. ‘Uncle Remus’ needs to mentioned in every conversation about guitars gods, because it really shows how talented Zappa could be.
Zappa is the marmite of experimental rock, you either love him or hate him, there isn’t much room for an in-between. His lyrics were in a world of their own, his talent was second to none, and his guitar playing was the best thing to come out of the 70’s.