Frank Zappa: Zoot Allures

By Russell Shaw

DownBeat, 19 May 1977


ZOOT ALLURES – Warner Brothers BS 2970: Wind Up Workin' In A Gas Station; Black Napkins; The Torture Never Stops; Ms. Pinky; Find Her Finer; Friendly Little Finger; Wonderful Wino; Zoot Allures; Disco Boy.

Personnel: Zappa, guitar, bass, vocals, synthesizer; Terry Bozzio, drums, vocals; Davey Moore, vocals; Andre Lewis, organ, vocals; Roy Estrada, bass, vocals; Napoleon Murphy Brock, sax, vocals; Ruth Underwood, marimba, synthesizer; Sparkie Parker, background vocals.

Rating: ★★★★★

Not since the classic 200 Motels has there been a Zappa platter on which his lyrically gonzo side and gauche musical perceptions have been so keenly balanced. One thinks back to a stream of Zappa and Mothers releases, in which semi-pornographic overindulgence seemed to be the sole raison d’etre; yet his jamming creations have suffered from a lack of the biting, sarcastic Zappa at his best.

Here, however, the best of two worlds coalesce. Wind Up Workin' In A Gas Station is a funny yet true account of a typical soul who is highly educated and therefore squeezed out of the job market. Find Her Finer is a cackling, tounge-in-cheek sex instruction manual, and Disco Boy is a satire on that rather sick subculture.

Zoot Allures' musical sophistication is perhaps the most apparent calling card. Friendly Little Finger, apparently named after one of Zappa’s extremely explorative digitals, finds a questing, rapid ride around the fretboard; Zoot Allures takes Zappa and Ruth Underwood to the outskirts of the atonality they often approach but somehow never reach; and many of the other cuts feature tonal poses characteristically onomatopoetic to the whimsical dialogue. When Frank Zappa reaches that plateau, virtual perfection is inevitable. Let us hope he can continually live up to the standard Zoot Allures has set.

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