FZ's Top Bands
5. 1972 (Petit Wazoo)
FZ, Gary Barone (trumpet), Earl Dumler (oboe, sarrusophone), Malcolm McNabb (tuba, horns), Tom Malone (trumpet, brass), Bruce Fowler (trombone, early signs of greatness), Glenn Ferris (trombone, horns), Dave Parlato (bass), Tony Duran (slide guitar), Jim Gordon (drums)
FZ, Ike Willis (vocals, guitar, Dylan), Ray White (vocals, guitar), Arthur Barrow (bass, keyboards), Vinnie Colaiuta (drums, seal calls), Tommy Mars (keyboards, vocals), Bob Harris (keyboards, trumpet, high vocals, cuteness), Steve Vai (guitar, vocals, high energy)
FZ, Ike Willis (vocals, guitar, synth, random noises), Mike Keneally (guitar, keyboards, Johnny Cash), Scott Thunes (bass, bad vibes), Chad Wackerman (drums, looking too young for his age), Ed Mann (percussion, Dylan), Bobby Martin (vocals, keyboards), Bruce Fowler (trombone, dinosaurs), Walt Fowler (trumpet, flugel horn, synth, baseball commentary), Paul Carman (alto, soprano, baritone sax), Albert "Genghis" Wing (tenor sax), Kurt McGettrick (baritone sax, contrabass clarinet)
FZ, Ike Willis (guitar, vocals, disappeared for Halloween shows), Denny Walley (slide, vocals), Arthur Barrow (bass), Vinnie Colaiuta (drum madness, seal calls), Ed Mann (percussion, Bob Dylan), Tommy Mars (keyboard, vocals), Peter Wolf (keyboards)
FZ, George Duke (keyboards, vocals), Napoleon Murphy Brock (vocals, sax, flute), Bruce Fowler (trombone), Ralph Humphrey (drums, small feet), Chester Thompson (drums, gorilla), Ruth Underwood (percussion, goddess worship), Tom Fowler (bass), Jeff Simmons (guitar, vocals, harmonica?)
The lists of the bands is taken from this website: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/turtlestew/wereonly.htm
11. King Kong (Uncle Meat)
The main theme of this song is a jaw dropper. It's so difficult and it's one of my favorites when it comes to FZ. The song opens with a little drum intro and then the theme is played by various different instruments. Guitar, piano, sax, and who knows what else. There are so many instruments in this song, and it gets to the point where it's hard to figure out what's what. Roy Estrada gets a bass solo that is pretty nice in this song, but the main feature is Ian Underwood, Bunk Gardner and Motorhead Sherwood and their devastating saxophones. The band continues to vamp as these three wail away at various different saxs. The Zappa wikipedia lists alto, baritone, soprano, and tenor sax for this song. Don Preston's piano playing is very enjoyable for this song. To tell you the truth, I'm not that big a fan of the reggae version that was done live, but I absolutely love this version. This 18 minute monster is simply one big jam. About ten minutes in, the band returns to the main theme and I must admit that Roy Estrada's bass playing is great on this song. This song really came as a shock to me when first listening to Uncle Meat, because most of the songs are rather short. But, I've always thought of this song as a big jam to make up for the lack thereof (for the most part) during the rest of the album. Zappa actually gets room for a solo in this one too, and it's not too shabby. It's not anything that could even be compared with what he would do in the future, but it's pretty nice.
Favorite part: The main theme.
10. The Grand Wazoo (The Grand Wazoo)
Man with two songs this long, this is quite a marathon. The first couple minutes of this song are mind blowing. This is jazz fusion that rocks. In fact, both The Grand Wazoo and Waka-Jawaka are terrific. Mixing a large orchestra of instruments with Zappa's versatile guitar playing is a tremendous treat. This is the Wazoo band in all of it's glory. Zappa's tone in this song is amazing, and it really is different from most of his other songs. It's got this really cool reverb sound to it. Then the orchestra comes in, the main theme plays, and you have your jazz. Aynsley Dunbar does a nice job drumming during this song. The sound of the woodwinds in this song is stunning. Then we get the guitar solo. WOW. This one is a pure, no boundaries rocker. It's got a very raw and extremely powerful sound to it. The first three and a half minutes of this song make it an instant classic. Then we get Sal Marquez's trumpet solo, I think. I hope I'm not wrong on that. His solo is decent but the vamp behind him is an absolute monster. While most of Zappa's vamps were pretty active, you can do a lot more things with a vamp when you have an orchestra. Zappa uses them to perfection. Man, these two songs are really long. I'm going to be tired after this, haha. The band eventually gets back to the main theme, and it's great to hear it again. Bill Byers' trombone solo is alright, but I think that it's probably the worst solo of the song. But, that's not demeaning at all, because the other solos are incredible. Overall it's a great start to a great album.
Favorite part: The 2nd guitar solo.
There is one song left that I don't think that anyone will expect. I think I hold it a lot higher than most people do. But, we will get there when we get there.
9. Zomby Woof (Over-Nite Sensation)
Wow, there are so many interesting things about this song that I don't know where to start. You have the shocking vocals by Ricky Lancelotti and the terrific sax-percussion combo of Ian Underwood and his wife Ruth Underwood. The riff in this beginning of this song is very fast, and it sounds extremely hard. Zappa sings most of the vocals in the song, and it is backed by a distorted guitar riff. There are terrific fills by different horns and saxs, which is one of my favorite parts of the song. Oh yeah, Tina Turner does backup vocals for this song. And of course you have George Duke with his ever funky keyboard playing. Zappa's guitar playing is ferocious on this track. This song just has everything, it's insane. The weirdest part of the whole song is the "Reety-awrighty, he da ZOMBY WOOF" section. That one blows my mind. I knew some of Zappa's stuff was eccentric, but wow. Then Zappa rips in to a very lively solo. It's very distorted and one of my favorite studio solos (I realize that I have been saying this a lot lol, but there are just so many good solos). During his solo Duke plays a great vamp, and Ralph Humphrey jams away on drums. Then we return to Lancelotti who is backed by Duke's funky playing. Oh yeah, Jeah-Luc Ponty adds some awesome fills to this song as well.
Favorite part: I'm going to go with the sax/woodwind fills in between the vocals.
8. Echidna's Arf (Of You) (Roxy & Elsewhere)
And now we come to best song off of R & E. This song is a masterpiece of composition. The riffs are basically impossible to play by any human being that Zappa didn't have in his band. The time signature is weird, and if that wasn't hard enough, this song is insanely fast. But somehow, Bruce and Walt Fowler can play this licks. The honor goes to them of being almost tortured musically (haha). But the best part of this song is the end. That ending riff blows my mind every single time that I listen to it. It's so fast and it is played with perfect ease. Tom Fowler's bassline during most of the song is very active, and Chester Thompson's drumming is spectacular. This is surely one of Zappa's most difficult tunes, and you need musicians to be at the top of their game to even attempt this feat. It's always been one of my favorite instrumentals by Zappa and it is sure to never lose it's repay value. Well, that's at least until I can play it, which won't happen for a long, long time.
Favorite part: The end of the song. MIND BLOWING.
7. The Gumbo Variations (Hot Rats)
Now this is a great instrumental from a great jazz album. This song outs with a pretty good riff and tambourine. After the main theme is gone, Ian Underwood plays some outstanding sax. He is one of the longest tenured musicians that Zappa ever had, and imo he's also the best. He's so versatile and he seems to be great at so many different things. But, his main skill of saxophone is shown off in the first solo of the song. Max Bennett's bassline vamp is very good, and Paul Humphrey's drumming is decent. The real fun of this song starts when Don "Sugarcane" Harris takes his extremely long, phenomenal violin solo. At the end of Underwood's jam it can be heard starting to come in, and it grabs hold of the song and refuses to let go. While I do enjoy mostly all of Zappa's lyrical songs, the instrumentals are what I really like. Pure, raw jamming. Hot Rats is certainly a great album to go with if your looking for that. His violin playing soars to the point where you don't know if he can go any further. But, he continues to ascend and ascend, developing a mesmerizing style to the solo. There are some great youtube videos of this is your willing to spare 12 and a half minutes of your time. But, then Zappa comes in and takes an alright solo. I would probably say that this solo is better, but Sugarcane's just can't be topped in this song. Also, Zappa had much better solos on this album. Paul Humphrey breaks off into this amazing vamp while Max Bennett gets his turn in the spotlight. Then we are back to Sugarcane, and then, unexpectedly, Zappa jumps in as well. The two duel off, going back and forth, trading lick after lick. The song ends with another nice little section by Sugarcane.
Favorite part: Sugarcane's violin solo.
6. Son of Mr. Green Genes (Hot Rats)
And if the last instrumental wasn't enough! Zappa brings back the ever familiar theme from Mr. Green Genes (Uncle Meat), and turns it into a jazz song. Ian Underwood's playing on this song is spectacular, and Max Bennett continues to amaze me more and more. Just as the theme ends, it hits you. Zappa's MONSTER of a solo. This one is a masterpiece and the vamp by the band is tremendous. Then as Zappa solos, Ian Underwood plays this mysterious vamp solo underneath, and then we get a break with horns and saxs. But don't fear, Zappa is due to come back. Man if you thought that the start of the solo was good! This one comes back with a vengeance. At first it doesn't seem like much, but in a short time it blossoms back into the monster that we began with. Zappa's tone on this song is absolutely ferocious, and it provides a nice contrast to the jazz feel of the song. This one has all kinds of twists and turns, escalating to unthinkable heights. While the solo to Willie the Pimp was great, this one leaps over it easily. The band eventually returns to the main theme, but the damage has already been done, and left behind is the memories of a roller coaster ride of a solo by Zappa. The songs ends with soaring piano by Ian Underwood in particularly majestic fashion.
Favorite part: Zappa's solo.
Oh yeah, I just realized something. There are LOTS of really good songs that should have been on this list that I left off. I can think of a couple off hand that would have been on the list if I thought of them at the time, but I didn't. I'm not going to name them now because I don't want to spoil what is left.
Here is something for all of you to know. In this top 5, I've switched up the songs after some thought. Just a little bit of information for you.
5. Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague (Uncle Meat)
The best song off of Uncle Meat. Extremely catchy, complicated, and funny are all words that describe this song. Ian Underwood's saxophone in this song blows my mind. The various vocals of the song are funny, but it's also insanely catchy. The myriad of vocals creates amazing harmonies and creates a great vibe. Ray Collins does the main vocals for this song, and you can easily tell his vocals apart from the others. This song proves that a song can be eccentric and also beautiful. That combo makes this one the best off of Uncle Meat. Ruth Underwood (at that time it was actually Ruth Komanoff) also has some great parts in this song. The end is easily the most complicated part of the song, and the sax parts are fantastic. They swirl, come down for a short break, and then return stronger than ever. Roy Estrada has a great bassline for this song (as usual), but it really goes unnoticed with the mad clutter of instruments in the song. There are over three drummers credited for this song, but it doesn't sound like it. I guess they all just play during different parts of the song. The shifts of tempo during this song are great, and that really adds the quality of this song.
Favorite lyric: "Fuzzy dice, Bongos in the back, My ship of love is, Ready to attack"
4. Peaches En Regalia (Hot Rats)
Ooh, this is the point where I get to say how I got into Zappa. My uncle and his brother are both avid Zappa fans and I heard a tiny bit of Catholic Girls (I only heard a few seconds though). I felt compelled to check some of Zappa's music, and I listened to Strictly Commercial, which is a greatest hits. In retrospect, I admit it's almost impossible to assemble a greatest hits album for Zappa, but this album was a great intro for me. I start playing it, and the first song I hear is Peaches En Regalia. I was blown away by the mix of jazz and rock. It was something so different, so fresh, and it took me in from the minute I heard it. The terrific drum intro, and then the storms of jazz. The rhythm of the main theme is great, and really the whole song is just SPECTACULAR. It remains one of my favorites today, because every part of this song is amazing. Zappa's guitar playing is at it's best, and the piano breaks by Ian Underwood sounds impossible. How can that man fit in so many notes in so short a time? If his piano playing wasn't enough, he also plays a mean sax on this song too. The layers of music during this song create a terrific blend of jazz. If I could pick one song to start a Zappa fan out on, it would be this (or maybe San Ber'dino, but that's already past). But obviously, I'm a little biased because it was my first song. Oddly enough, Zappa is listed as playing percussion on this song, and that's something I can't say that I've seen before. Along with everything else, the percussion is great. Ian Underwood has this terrific question-answer type sax riff in the beginning of the song, and wow is it good. I think I'm going to stop before I run out of characters. But really, if you haven't heard this song, listen to it NOW.
Favorite part: The sax prelude to Zappa's solo (0:39-1:03)
3. Packard Goose (Joe's Garage)
Originally, I wasn't that big a fan of this song, but as of late, I can't stop listening to it. Maybe it's the awesome concept of Joe's Garage, the catchy lyrics, or the ever famous "music is the best" section. Or maybe it's a combination of the three. This song starts off with some terrific bass and percussion (I think it's marimba, but I don't want to say that for sure). Then Ike Willis' amazing vocals come in and rock the house. In between his lyrics, Zappa lays down a typical nasty distortion lick. While I don't view this as Zappa's premiere satirical song (that award goes to Brown Shoes Don't Make It), Zappa does a fantastic job attacking the rock journalists. You know that saying "what goes around comes around"? Well, this is just the case. The rock journalists portrayed Zappa as a drugged maniac who was obscene and uneducated (and they still do to this very day). If you do any research at all, you can find out that Zappa hated drugs, was perfectly sane, and was very smart. But, anyway, let's get back to the song. After three minutes, Mary's famous "music is the BEST" speech comes in, and it stands as one of Zappa's most quoted lyrics of all time. Then the song breaks in to a vamp, and Zappa rips into a monster solo. While, I prefer several live solos of Packard Goose that I've heard, this one is nothing to mock. Granted, it's sort of slow compared to most of Zappa's solos, but you can't expect a scorcher on every song. That would cause everything to become dull and redundant. These lyrics continue to get stuck in my head and refuse to let go. It's a great song and the lyrics are sensational. The end of this song features some of the key themes in Joe's Garage, such as the banning of music. Joe decides that he will "just" have to "play" his "imaginary guitar again" which leads into the epic that is Watermelon In Easter Hay.
Favorite lyric: "And keeping peoples dumb (I'm really dumb), Is where you're coming from"
NOW HERE COMES THE BIG SHOCKER!
2. Uncle Remus (Apostrophe ('))
There is something special about this song. There is some kind of emotion I feel when I listen to it that just grabs me and won't let go. From the second I heard George Duke's jaw-dropping piano intro, I knew this song was going to be one of my favorites for a long, long time. George brings out his funkiest playing on this and then the drums lead into the main part of the song. Zappa's vocals great the listener along with backup vocals by Debbie (I can't find a last name here) and Susie Glover. These backup vocals are nothing short of PERFECT. The harmony between their vocals and Zappa's is stunning and angelic. The backup vocals of the female singers in this song is so POWERFUL during this song. It really surprised me during the "I can't wait to my fro is full grown" section. It nearly knocks me back listening to it here right now. Also, I prefer most of FZ's other vocalists to Zappa himself, but his voice is perfect for this song. It fits right and I think it would sound weird if anyone else sung this song. Well, now we get to move on to another amazing section of this song: Zappa's solo. Listen, I know Zappa had better solos, but this one is special to me. I don't know why, and I can't explain the feeling that it gives me. It's just so much energy packed into to such a short span of time, and it never fails to make me feel happy. It's just so lively and well constructed, and Duke's vamp in the background is terrific as usual. Then another verse comes, and the song fades out with an outro solo by Zappa. This one is good too, but it's not even close to the quality of the first one. While this song is only 2 minutes and 49 seconds, it always remains one of my favorites. Just so much energy in such a short amount of time. Actually, to tell you the truth, I really thought about putting this at #1, but I didn't.
Favorite part: Zappa's solo (with Duke's piano intro a very, very close second).
Well, here we go. One song left. What will it be? It will probably surprise most of you. But, I imagine that most people that have listened to Zappa for a good period have probably heard it. Well, it will be up tomorrow.