Frank Zappa "Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch"

By Bill Camarata

Scene, 17 June 1982

Frank Zappa
Barking Pumpkin

Since Frank Zappa went independent with Barking Pumpkin Records last year (not a subsidiary or a company owned by another major label, but Zappa's own company, lock stock and barrel), he has been using the freedom to put out records whenever he pleases. That makes Zappa fans very happy. Last year five, count 'em, five records were unleashed onto the market. One of those, YOU ARE WHAT YOU IS, was one of the best records he's ever put out. Some people just need particular circumstances to perform at their best.

SHIP ARRIVING TOO LATE TO SAVE A DROWNING WITCH is another example of the Latter Day Zappa having fun while working hard and producing music. There are six tunes on this elpee, something to please almost any Zappa fan. "No Not Now" is a straightforward rock song, with Roy Estrada doing the lead vocals. The words really don't mean much, but there are some great put downs of Donny and Marie, mechanical bulls, and string beans. "Valley Girl" is a cleverly executed satire of teenage mentality in and around Encino, California. "Valley Girl"'s hilarious monologue is delivered by Zappa's daughter, Moon. One may think that this offspring exposure is a cheap ploy to exploit Frank's kids (Ahmet Zappa sang on a song from YOU ARE WHAT YOU IS, but after listening to "Valley Girl" a couple of times, it becomes clear that Moon has vocal talent.

Side two is the more cerebral side of the record, with lots of instrumental space and amazingly fast melodies, showing off Zappa's seven-piece band. "Drowning Witch" has an amusing beginning and trails off into two solos and an instrumental section or two. "Envelopes," a short but entertaining instrumental with high note density and some overdubbed high speed piano, leads into "Teenage Prostitute."

DROWNING WITCH is exceptional on a musical level, and a record that is best appreciated by Zappa enthusiasts like myself. Radio will probably ignore it, but that does not discourage the listener nor the music's creator. And that's enough for me.