Frank Zappa: Apostrophe (')

By Chuck Mitchell

DownBeat, 23 May 1974


APOSTROPHE (') – DiscReet DS 2175: Don't Eat The Yellow Snow; Nanook Rubs It; St. Alfonzo's Pancake Breakfast; Father O'Blivion; Cosmik Debris; Excentrifugal Forz; Apostrophe'; Uncle Remus; Stink-Foot.

Personnel: Zappa, lead vocals, all guitars, bass (except Tony Duran, rhythm guitar on Apostrophe); Jim Gordon, Johnny Guerin, Aynsley Dunbar, Ralph Humphrey, drums; Jack Bruce, Erroneous, Tom Fowler, bass; George Duke, keyboards; Sugar Cane Harris, Jean-Luc Ponty, violins; Ruth Underwood, percussion; Ian Underwood, Napoleon Murphy Brock, saxes; Bruce Fowler, trombone; Ray Collins, Kerry McNabb, Susie Glover, George Duke, Debbie Lynn, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Ruben Ladron de Guevara, Robert "Frog" Camarena, background vocals.

Rating: ★★★★

In the same groove as his last effort, Over-nite Sensation, Zappa continues his vocally-oriented comedy music on this fine disc. A lot of people are running around making a big deal out of Apostrophe (')'s alleged "outrageousness," but I don't see what the fuss is about. If you want to hear Zappa at his most musically outrageous, check out earlier things like Uncle Meat, Weasels Ripped My Flesh, and Burnt Weeny Sandwich. Those are outrageous

OK, you say, if the album isn't as musically outrageous as past efforts, and if the lyrics aren't unique in that respect, either, then why the four stars? Well, for one thing, Apostrophe (') is distinguished by some of Zappa's finest tunes. Cosmik Debris, Uncle Remus, and Stink-Foot are all graced with strong melodies, and bear up well under repeated hearing. That's one of the key elements in any successful Zappa piece; no matter how close to the mark Zappa's satire hits, the music has to be strong or everything will wear thin awfully fast. Apostrophe actually gets better the more you hear it.

The album also has extremely tight ensemble playing to recommend it. As long as Frank has opted for short, concise cuts this time out, it's best if all the pieces fit snugly. The proceedings are fairly crazy, all right, but they never lack direction or proper focus. In fact, it's possible that the more freewheeling Zappaphiles among you will find things just a bit too slick. Shudder to think of it, but this LP actually has commercial potential.

With this last fact in mind, I must confess that, over the past two Zappa albums, I've come to miss the often exciting, no-nonsense instrumental music of earlier albums. Apostrophe ('), and Over-nite Sensation for that matter, could have been longer, better balanced albums with regard to instrumental-comedy vocal ratio. I want more of the Zappa-jazz of Hot Rats and Waka/Jawaka; that's what I'm trying to say. On the new album, we get a rocking, creamy instrumental tide tune, with exceptional Jack Bruce fuzz bass. But it's over too soon.

As a matter of fact, so is the whole album. Apostrophe (') is very good, but maybe we should be able to say more about Frank Zappa.

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