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PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2013 7:51 am 
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I have a few general questions I need to ask. I would do it under FAQ but that board seems pretty lifeless.
The answers you provide may help me be a better Zappa fan... :smoke:

The 84 band. Why are they so disliked? Or at least looked down upon? I haven't read anything good on here about them. Were they the guys who performed DHBIM?? Because I watched the live version and they didn't impress me, the nerdy little drummer was boring and the bass player was pretty lame.

Another question is how is an artist who is so worshiped by some and had so much talent, made so much music and has loads of documentaries about him practically unknown to the general public, at least here in England?

And lastly do you think Zappa has any albums you consider overrated?

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PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2013 8:27 am 
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Well, the '84 band was a bit more pop-oriented than the classical-heavy-metal-jazz-fusion hybrid of the 1981-2 band or the jazzier big-band of 1988. Plus, this was Zappa's first time to use digital synthesisers (DX7) and that nerdy drummer Chad Wackerman switched over to electronic Simmons drums. As a consequence, they sounded a bit like a parody of synth-pop bands at the time. "Tinsel Town Rebellion" in fact was rearranged to feature reams of quotations from a variety of synthesised pop hits of the time.

They did less instrumentals than both the preceding and succeeding band. They did very little if any Monster Improvisation (which is what FZ tape trader fanatics refer to long pieces heavy on lengthy unpredictable improv, like "King Kong" in virtually all of its incarnations, save for the guitar-solo only version from, go figure, 1984!). They didn't have a percussionist nor a stunt guitarist, so consequently the sound is heavier on digital synth and Yamaha electric grand piano. The session musicianly bastardisation of the reggae groove is used in virtually every song, for better or worse (many people hate the 80s version of "Willie the Pimp" for that reason).

Let's list a few positives as well:

*I like this band's version of "Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel". Some really ace guitar soloing from Zappa, with nice Rhodes comping from Zavod. And that sax-guitar riff is catchy as hell! It's a bit like "Status Back Baby"'s protagonist has gone from facing unpopularity at school to facing long term unemployment thanks to Reaganomics!

*They were heavier on vocals than any other band. They could really do very fine three or four part harmonies.

*Despite what I said about faux-reggae, I quite like the ska-flavoured "The Black Page" from this tour.

I think FZ did so many different things at so many times, thus he avoids easy classification and as a consequence, he did not fit in the pop music market in its rather compartmentalised form. Plus, whatever mainstream popularity he occasionally gained ("Valley Girl" for instance) was a bit more like a fluke than as a result of concerted effort to gain radio airplay (just take a look at reams of pre-1974 singles that flopped!). Zappa didn't look like a guy who was willing to milk one formula to death in order to gain more fame or fortune.

Overrated albums? Well, I consider "Over-Nite Sensation" a fair Zappa semi-mainstream effort, but not a great one. It's not that it's about sex or that "Dinah Moe Humm" is on this album, I guess part of the reason I don't care for this album is that it's done in a musical idiom that I don't really care about too much: Funkadelic style. I'd better hear Funkadelic themselves, than Frank Zappa commanding his session musicians to approximate that style. Honestly, I'd rather listen to "Apostrophe" or "You Are What You Is", which are a bit heavier on the kind of variety and complexity I appreciate from Zappa.

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Last edited by Ed Organus Maximus on Sun May 19, 2013 8:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2013 8:32 am 
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NuclearProstate wrote:
...And lastly do you think Zappa has any albums you consider overrated?

I'd hate to say, but here's a few who didn't...

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=12403&p=294490&hilit=zappa+overrated#p294490

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PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2013 9:45 am 
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Re 1984, yes, the synth and drum sounds haven't aged well. Also, Zavod had a lot of space to fill with the percussion and stunt guitar gone, and didn't get Zappa's music to the extent that predecessors like Tommy Mars or George Duke did. Finally, Zappa had been off the road for two years and his guitar chops suffered as a result.

That said, it had great vocalists, great bass and drums (if you can listen past the sounds to hear what Chad was playing), some great guitar and Zappa usually seemed to be enjoying himself a lot.


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PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2013 11:11 am 
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Back in '84 there was a general paranoia around, on the back of Orwell's book-there was a real feeling of what if...?

FZ's music suffered a little as result-but he wasn't the only one whose artistic inclination suffered.
The list of affected artists includes Springsteen, Fairport Convention, and Duran Duran.
It led to a general 'toning down' of not just lyrical subjects, but also the music suffered. I remember reading an article at the time about a possible licensing deal with the corporation that bought out the Muzak company that made so-called 'lift music'. Under pressure from the industry and needing to find college fees FZ seriously considered producing some 'easy listening' product. Indeed, it was this fact rather then a need to have an 'orchestra at his fingertips' that led him to buy the Synclavier.
I was always dissapointed that in later years FZ was somewhat reticent about this period, and his personal motivation at the time.
Ben Watson glosses over it in 'Poodle Play', something that cheapens his otherwise illuminating book. He should have had the balls to call Zappa out on this.


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PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2013 11:23 am 
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pbuzby wrote:
Zappa had been off the road for two years and his guitar chops suffered as a result.


I've never quite understood why FZ took such an unprecedented gap from touring. Up until that point, the longest he stayed off the road had been less than a year. He came off the road in July 1982 and then came back with the new band in...July 1984. And even during the previous gaps he still had an excuse to get a guitar in his hands: in 1972 to rehearse and record the Grand Wazoo sessions, in 1979 to do studio sessions for Joe's Garage (and studio parts of SUNPYG).

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PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2013 12:00 pm 
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Ed Organus Maximus wrote:
I've never quite understood why FZ took such an unprecedented gap from touring.


Some possible reasons:

1) He claimed in 1982 he would never tour Europe again after there were riots and objects thrown on stage in some cities (later changed his mind).
2) Ticket sales in the U.S. may have been slowing down.
3) May have hoped orchestral projects would become a significant part of his schedule.
4) Getting older/health problems


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PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2013 1:10 pm 
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Ed Organus Maximus wrote:
I've never quite understood why FZ took such an unprecedented gap from touring.


At that time, he fell in love with Synclavier, and he was focusing more on orchestral projects, studio work and remixing of his old albums.


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PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2013 3:55 pm 
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NuclearProstate wrote:
The 84 band. Why are they so disliked? Or at least looked down upon? I haven't read anything good on here about them. Were they the guys who performed DHBIM?? Because I watched the live version and they didn't impress me, the nerdy little drummer was boring and the bass player was pretty lame.


To me, the DHBIM video is not a very good representation of the '84 band. You might want to check out disc one of You Can't Do That Onstage Anymore Vol. 3 to get a better sense of what the '84 band could do.

Scott Thunes was the bass player from '81 through '88, and he is definitely not lame. Check out his playing on the two-disc Guitar collection -- Thunes is awesome.

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PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2013 9:22 pm 
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NuclearProstate wrote:
I have a few general questions I need to ask. I would do it under FAQ but that board seems pretty lifeless.
The answers you provide may help me be a better Zappa fan... :smoke:

The 84 band. Why are they so disliked? Or at least looked down upon? I haven't read anything good on here about them. Were they the guys who performed DHBIM?? Because I watched the live version and they didn't impress me, the nerdy little drummer was boring and the bass player was pretty lame.

Another question is how is an artist who is so worshiped by some and had so much talent, made so much music and has loads of documentaries about him practically unknown to the general public, at least here in England?


Since most of the answers to your questions have already been covered by other posters, I will add that London was one of FZ's top 5 markets - per tour and by the mid '70s, he played multiple nights at Hammersmith Odeon and/or Wembley Arena. Also, Hot Rats was in the UK charts for a good 6 months during its initial run and today still ranks among his best sellers there.

Personally, I think I like the '84 band more than most here. Sure, they didn't perform more of the technically challenging material, apart from Drowning Witch, the improv sections in Let's Move To Cleveland & King Kong and Marque-son's Chicken and probably a few others, like most of his other bands did. But the harmonies from Ike, Ray & Bobby and the doo-wop and r&b covers they played were amazing, not to mention The Evil Prince and Brown Moses found on You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 4, are, as far as I'm concerned, FAR superior to the album renditions on Thing-Fish. And while I can't say for sure, I remember reading somewhere that it was FZ's intention (since he obviously liked satire) to make sure this band sounded like '80s cheese, complete with synths, electric drums and hand-claps, etc.

Ed Organus Maximus wrote:
Overrated albums? Well, I consider "Over-Nite Sensation" a fair Zappa semi-mainstream effort, but not a great one. It's not that it's about sex or that "Dinah Moe Humm" is on this album, I guess part of the reason I don't care for this album is that it's done in a musical idiom that I don't really care about too much: Funkadelic style. I'd better hear Funkadelic themselves, than Frank Zappa commanding his session musicians to approximate that style. Honestly, I'd rather listen to "Apostrophe" or "You Are What You Is", which are a bit heavier on the kind of variety and complexity I appreciate from Zappa.


Wtf?! Holy jumping shit-balls! :shock: :o

Over-nite Sensation is WAY more musically diverse that anything Funkadelic has ever touched. Also, as a Zappa fan saying you don't really like OS, is probably the equivalent of a Michael Jackson fan stating they don't really care for Thriller...

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PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2013 10:03 pm 
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Temper temper, DB! Perhaps you're not a fan of Funkadelic at all, but nonetheless, most of this album's grooves and the overall production style are steeped in that early 1970s black funk kind of a sound. I'm not so certain if ONS is FZ' Thriller, a much better comparison would be that a Pink Floyd fan would rank state a preference for Animals and Meddle, rather than Dark Side of the Moon. And of course, many (indie) rock snobs contend just as much that the only good Floyd was Syd-era Floyd, just as it is commonly held that only the original Mothers counted.

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PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2013 11:06 pm 
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I like the 84 band. YCDTOSA vol. 3 and DHBIM are really good. The Trouble Every Day on DHBIM might be the best version for me, with it's funky groove and slap bass. They're not my favorite lineup, but when they're on, I enjoy.


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PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 4:11 am 
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I love Fifty-Fifty, but the rest of OS has always been throw away to me.

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PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 4:20 am 
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That's weird. To me, the only throw-away on Overnight Sensation is "Fifty-fifty."


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PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 5:25 am 
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Fifty Fifty is good, the solos are really killer, esp. JLP violin and FZ' mangle-it-strangle-it guitar, Lancelotti is okay, but I am also way partial to the instrumental 1973 live versions. I do wish FZ would've included some kind of an alternate take without vocals as a bonus track for CD re-release.

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PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 5:34 am 
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I'm fifty fifty on fifty fifty, one day I can't get enough, the next I'll skip to the next tune or maybe not....PS I LOVE THE 84 BAND, whats wrong with you...FZ/stunt guitar. :mrgreen:


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PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 1:11 pm 
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I wouldn't dare to call anybody of the 84band lame. Does Humor belong in music (the CD) was the first Zappa album i bought. That's why this band always has a special meaning for me. I love those electric drums (especially accompanying the guitar solos) and have no problems with the so-called cheesy keyboard sounds (reviewers also often call the keyboards on Tinseltown rebellion sounding cheesy). I love the extended instrumental parts that i later missed on the DVD. The DVD also was a little bit disappointing to me due to its "greatest hits" repertoire. There is also lots stuff from this band on the guitar album.
OS is also one of the first FZ-albums i bought. I loved it from the first moment and still do (contrary to lots of other albums that needed a lot more trials).

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PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 1:24 pm 
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Fifty Fifty Sounds like Funkadelic :arrow: It sounds like Car Chase Music from that era.

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PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 5:04 pm 
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Ed Organus Maximus wrote:
Temper temper, DB! Perhaps you're not a fan of Funkadelic at all, but nonetheless, most of this album's grooves and the overall production style are steeped in that early 1970s black funk kind of a sound.


I'm a fan of Funkadelic (and Parliament), though not a big one. And while I hear similarities of funkiness in OS, the last time I checked, Funkadelic never included extremely intricate arrangements, time signatures, solos, satire or fusion, etc., in their music, especially like FZ did. In fact, to me, much of Funkadelic sounds like a funkier extension of Hendrix...

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PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 5:43 pm 
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Disco Boy wrote:
Funkadelic never included extremely intricate arrangements, time signatures, solos, satire or fusion, etc
DB you probably shouldn't speak on Funkadelic since you have no idea what you're talking about.

Hint: There are about 40 albums under about 8 different band names recorded by Funkadelic between 1970 and 1980.
There is no style they didn't play, including satire and country. Intricate arrangements? Check. Weird time signatures/changes? Check. Solos? That's preposterous. Maggot Brain ring a bell?
There's a shitload of compelling evidence out there and I know where to find it so I hope you'll take my word on this.

btw, Zappa offered big money to get pfunk guitarist/vocalist Glen Goins in his band but Goins didn't want to sell the pfunk sound to Zappa.


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PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 9:10 pm 
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downer mydnyte wrote:
btw, Zappa offered big money to get pfunk guitarist/vocalist Glen Goins in his band but Goins didn't want to sell the pfunk sound to Zappa.


Any source to back this up?

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PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2013 3:30 am 
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Pope Jim wrote:
That's weird. To me, the only throw-away on Overnight Sensation is "Fifty-fifty."


It's a decent song but it is my least liked on the album. It is growing on me though. OS is a great album, loved it from the first listen unlike a few of Zappa's albums.

I suppose I would say Freak Out! is overrated but for the time it was groundbreaking, but I don't think it is the mothers best album, not by a long shot.

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PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2013 5:07 am 
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Ed Organus Maximus wrote:
downer mydnyte wrote:
btw, Zappa offered big money to get pfunk guitarist/vocalist Glen Goins in his band but Goins didn't want to sell the pfunk sound to Zappa.


Any source to back this up?


There was a book of P-Funk interviews where some of them mentioned this. Not hard to believe since the time Glen Goins joined P-Funk was around the same time Zappa began getting people like Ray White for his group.

I've never heard of FZ mentioning this though.


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PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2013 5:57 am 
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I don't know if 1984 synths sound cheesy, phony, corny or what, but one thing is sure: I don´t like them. DHBIM does no justice to the tour, though. YCDTOSA Vol.3 features far better moments of that band, which was very strong vocally, and, well, funny in its own way. I really like Chad Wackerman as a drummer, but the electronic set does not appeal to me. I do not consider that tour to be great regarding Frank solos neither (anyway, there are some great guitar moments like "The Evil Prince", for instance). Frank and the rest of the band seemed to be having a great time on stage, and that's nice. I would recommend listening to: "Carol, You Fool", "Brown Moses", "The Evil Prince", the doo-wop medley, "Hot-Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel" and "Tinsel-Town Rebellion". Those songs were the highlights of the tour (well, that's my opinion, of course).


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PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2013 7:32 am 
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Anyone not into the '84 band should listen to the 1984 12 23 show, the last one of the tour. That'll change your mind.


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