Frank Zappa "Zappa In New York"

By Bill Camarata

Scene, 13 April 1978

Frank Zappa

Being an absolute Zappa fanatic, I, of course, instantly liked this album. But that was just anticipation. My duty is not to tell you how much I like the album, but how much you will like the album.

For all of you who don't know or don’t remember, Frank was the leader of the Mothers Of Invention, a band of which he was the only permanent member. With and without the Mothers, Zappa has collectively put out around 25 albums, of which this is the latest to be released. He already has another in the can ready to go, but court battles with Warner Brothers (his record company’s distributor), may suspend his career as a recording artist for a few years. Rumor has it he is advising his fans to boycott his albums on Warners, but nothing has been confirmed as yet.

So much for history. Let’s get on with the music. Sides 1 and 3 here deal with the vocal side of Zappa. “Titties And Beer” and “The Illinois Enema Bandit” make for some of his most risque material to date, and neither will get any airplay due to their subject matter. The same goes for “Honey, Don’t You Want A Man Like Me?”, and the other tunes pretty much follow suit.

On the instrumental sides 2 and 4, Frank shines with melodies like “Sofa” and “The Black Page,” which is a drum solo re-written for full orchestration (including horns, keyboards, synthesizer and even violin). Zappa’s band on this set includes ex-Curved Air and Roxy Music member Eddie Jobson (on keys and violin), Terry Bozzio (on drums), the amazing Ruth Underwood (on percussion), and the Brecker Brothers (on horns). The side-long “Purple Lagoon” uses this conglomeration’s talents to its fullest, and with plenty of room for instrumental soloing.

In a nutshell, NEW YORK is a nicely done, well-produced, and well-written LP, but not in the sense of the word “popular.” Since 1964, the words “no commercial potential" have hung over Zappa’s head, the main reason being that his music isn’t like anybody else’s. It’s radically different, as have been all Zappa’s albums. Those who enjoy his music know too well what I am talking about. If you ever need experimentation in your musical lifestyle, Frank Zappa is the one to turn to.