Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2004 12:29 am
Location: Los Angeles
visiting this link again u will find this (not very friendly) user review:
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Odd compilation marks an uncertain starting point for new fans and is irrelevant for most others November 4, 2012
By David Goodwin
In late 2012, the Zappa Family Trust and UMe embarked on an ambitious reissue program for the near-entirety of the Frank Zappa catalog, which involved producing fresh, remastered versions of many of Zappa's core albums. The previous reissue campaign, conducted in 1995, had involved some remastering work, but was generally aimed at collecting Zappa's oeuvre under the Rykodisc insignia. In heralding its 1995 reissues, Rykodisc initially released two "best of" compilations: "Strictly Commercial," a traditional "best of" (featuring a few rarities for the collectors); and "Strictly Genteel," a collection of Zappa's instrumental work. These efforts would later be joined by the two bargain-priced volumes of "Cheap Thrills" and "Have I Offended Someone?", a Zappa-compiled set of his "bluer" material, most of which was substantially reworked. Zappa's family was none too pleased by Ryko's repackaging efforts, and the release of "Strictly Commercial" apparently soured the relationship between the Trust and Ryko, leading to years of frosty relations, lawsuits, and (ultimately) the re-transfer of the catalog to UMe.
It's now November of 2012, and the UMe reissue campaign is mostly over with; the new remasters have been met with justifiable praise, fixing as they do nearly every questionable decision made by Zappa himself when he prepared his catalog for CD in the 1980s and early 1990s. But while reissues of "Mothermania" (a Zappa-compiled set of his work with the original Mothers of Invention, featuring several rarities) and "Have I Offended Someone?" are on the horizon, there's a big gap where "Genteel" and "Commercial" used to be: an overview of his entire catalog, a compilation to entice new listeners into taking a Tour de Frank. In keeping with the Zappa family's hostility towards compilations NOT put together by Frank himself, they've released "Understanding America," a career overview following the loose theme of American politics, culture, and--deviant sexual practices, really. Zappa compiled this set in 1991 and it has been sitting forlorn in the vault ever since. So does it work?
I recognize that not all may agree on this point, but my answer is a resounding "no": I don't think this functions very well as a career overview, theme or no theme, and it simply is not a very good introduction to Zappa's catalog. First, the track selection is really strange, structured as "pseudo-chronological, but with detours." The first ten tracks on Disc 1 are from the original Mothers of Invention (well, sort of; I'll get to that in a second), after which the set takes a quick detour to the 1980s for "We're Turning Again," dips back to the Flo and Eddie era for "Road Ladies" and "What Kind of Girl," then sampling the 1970s "Over-nite Sensation," "Zoot Allures," and "Bongo Fury." Disc 2 keeps one toe in the 1970s with "Can't Afford No Shoes," "I'm the Slime," and "The Central Scrutinizer" (really?), but is otherwise firmly rooted in the 1980s, and centers around "Porn Wars Deluxe," an expanded version of the not-entirely-universally-loved collage from "Mothers of Prevention" which in this version features additional songs in its lengthy running times. Many of the songs here, incidentally, also show up on either "Mothermania" or "Have I Offended Someone?".
In all, around 16 albums are represented, but is "The Central Scrutinizer" the best way to shill Joe's Garage? And the lack of ANYTHING from fan favorites like Apostrophe or Roxy and Elsewhere is just strange. Yes, there's a "theme," but it's extraordinarily loose and if "Dinah Mo Humm" could fit, then surely "Uncle Remus" or "Cheepnis" could, too. Furthremore, did Frank really think that the awful, dated rap of "Promiscuous" was one of the jewels of "Broadway the Hard Way?" Some of the segues are interesting, but they aren't enough to carry the program.
Second, after just having been blessed with some extraordinarily needed upgrades of parts of Zappa's catalog, it's dispiriting to realize that "Understanding America" reverts to the ugly days of old, where Zappa enjoyed layering reverb over everything and over-used his favorite digital devices to ill end. The "Money" tracks, with the exception of the bits from "Porn Wars," all use the much-derided 1980s overdubs; the 1970s albums sound like they were recorded in a cavern; and so on. Several songs, like those from Over-nite Sensation, contain severe audio problems dating to late-1980s mastering efforts that would later be corrected, although it is a small miracle that the songs from "You Are What You Is" and "Tinseltown Rebellion" are missing the truly terrible glitches that plagued most reissues through 1998. Unfortunately, Zappa's over-use of digital compression adversely affects some of the songs that might otherwise function as fan-bait, such as the original mixes of the Man from Utopia tracks which are otherwise hard to obtain on CD.
The TL;DR version: whereas the new reissues could have prompted a "best of" collection showing off the upgraded sound quality, instead we've taken a step backwards. This simply doesn't sound very good. New fans may not care or notice, but after having just spent a great deal of time and energy fixing a lot of the problems in the Zappa catalog, shouldn't the Trust and UMe show off the hard work?
In sum, I can't see this appealing to many people. It's an iffy introduction to Zappa's catalog, playing at times like a home-made, slapped together, proof-of-concept mix tape Frank put together and then justifiably forgot about. It ignores Zappa's instrumental output, is programmed haphazardly, and does not sound very good. It's also kind of ugly, truth be told, and while Zappa's music shows the potential beauty in ugliness, "Understanding America" is on the sloppy side of ugly, not the sublime side. As an entry point for new fans, it may win some, but it's not the precision strike it could have been. As a piece for collectors, it depends entirely on whether the idea of a deluxe "Porn Wars" is worth $20, as the other collectable tracks can be found elsewhere. Everyone else can safely give this a wide berth; there are better compilations available.
In other words: Do u love it, do u hate it, that's the way FZ made it!
Note the name of the reviewer. He runs the Zappa Patio website.
Correct me if I'm wrong....
He also goes by Vivaldinization at the Steve Hoffman Forum
You can marvel at his expertise here:http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/showt ... 55&page=39
he also goes by "Raiders" at Zappateers
I'm surprised he's not here at this forum either..........or maybe he is but hasn't chosen to share his love in these parts.
He runs the Zappa Patio? I didn't know that. Thanks.........good to know