Frankie goes to Hellandback

By Edwin Pouncey

Record Hunter, January 1991

Fillmore East, June 1971/ The Grand Wuoo/ Sheik Yerboutl/ Them Or Us/ Jazz From Hell/ Meets The Mothers Of Prevention
(All Zappa Records CD only)

Depending on which side of the critical fence you may be standing, Francis Vincent Zappa is either our greatest living composer or a self-opinionated, tetchy old cynic whose best work was made with the long disbanded Mothers Of Invention. Both sides are hopelessly biased, however, as this latest batch of re-mixed, re-packaged (but happily not redundant) re-issues clearly shows.

'Fillmore East, June 1971' is still a great show, featuring (and revolving around) an insane performance from ex-Turtles Flo and Eddie. The humour is shamelessly lewd, the music is manic and the party atmosphere still comes over loud and clear some 19 years on! Zappa's comedy music has never worked as well as it does here. 7

'The Grand Wazoo' was also the name of the orchestra that Zappa formed to record this session, shortly after the final break up of the Mothers and (thanks to a mentally unhinged UK fan) his leg. The Wazoo's big band sound is splendidly filled out with some superb playing from brass master Sal Marquez (a real Zappa find) and a host of other professionals including drummer Aynsley Dunbar, keyboards wizard George Duke and ex Mother Don Preston on Mini-Moog synthesiser. The playing is lush, quirky and powerful ... all wrapped up in one of Mothers artist Cal Schenkel's finest pieces of cover art work. 7

'Sheik Yerbouti', a double pack which features some of Zappa's more memorable songs from his later period, is less intriguing but certainly has its moments. Apart from the notorious 'Jewish Princess' (a sleazy little sex fantasy that apparently caused a furore amongst Hollywood's Jewish community, forcing Zappa to don Arab headgear for the cover shot), 'Sheik Yerbouti's other gem is 'City Of Tiny Lights', a homage to Tinseltown when viewed at night from the air. 6

'Them Or Us', another double, is by comparison pretty feeble. Purchase only if you have to or, if you 're desperate, to hear Uncle Frank's rendition of the Allman Brothers standard 'Whippin' Post', a subject close to the guitarist's heart by the sound of it. 4

'Jazz From Hell' is also to be avoided. Here Zappa is to be heard experimenting with his new Synclavier toy, an expensive piece of stateof-the-art technology that he decided to twiddle with in favour of his trusty guitar. By feeding the playing of himself and his fellow musicians into this miracle machine Zappa felt that, at last, he had complete control over his music. Unfortunately 'Jazz From Hell' sounds soulless, strained and voy. 3

The brilliantly titled 'Meets The Mothers Of Prevention' was a return to form, where Zappa vented his rage and frustration on the anti-rock teachings of Tipper Gore and the rest of her censorious PMRC action group. 'Porn Wars' reveals all the lies, deception and ignorance of the hearing, together with Zappa's well constructed and argued defence. It is set in, what sounds suspciously like the frame for 'Lumpy Gravy Part 2'! Released in CD form with both US and European versions together at last, 'Meets The Mothers Of Prevention' is well worth shelling out for. 7