Frank Zappa: Studio Tan

By John Dix

Rip It Up, December 1978

Frank Zappa
Studio Tan


After twelve years Zappa is in danger of being institutionalised as rock’s resident cult figure. A familiar name to rock fans, he has however failed to capture their mass support. Enjoying brief commercial success with a more accessible rock format in the early seventies, he has since returned to the elitist music forms (with influences ranging from Satie and Varese to Coleman and Dolphy) which his cult followers prefer.

Zappa has said that each of his albums forms part of the whole. Studio Tan supports this with familiar characters and musical passages popping up, strengthening the esoterica of his music. You either like the man or not – anyone with more than four of his albums is likely to own the complete 23 record set, thus appreciating the recurring themes.

This record has arrived with no info so one has to guess the sidemen. Recognisable is ex-Mother Roy Estrada amongst others; Ruth Underwood is present as always while Zappa himself plays as impeccably as ever. The trademarks are all here – rising arpeggios, polyrhythms and intricate time signatures. Studio Tan won’t place Zappa back in the superstar bracket but the converted won't be disappointed. John Dix