I hope it's not inappropriate to dig up an old thread around here, but I figured it was better than starting a new one about the same topic.
It is absolutely okay to dig up old threads; feel free to dig away! Mr. Nice Guy will be very happy you didn't start a new thread.
I don't know how many of you have ever bothered to listen to this album on a serious stereo setup, but it's DEEP.
This is the Zappa forum. We have.
I loooooove Joe's Garage and although there are other songs and compositions that I like better than any single piece on this album, the album as a whole is my favorite of all Zappa stuff, and it's the one I try to "recruit" people into Zappa's music with most of the time, heh.
I don't know how many of you have ever bothered to listen to this album on a serious stereo setup, but it's DEEP. It has a lot of things going on simultaneously, more so I think than most of his albums, and it's obvious he spent a lot of studio time polishing the thing up. The point is you're going to hear something new in it every time you listen to it, and I've been frequently listening to it since 1983.
I'd also point out that the overall tone of the thing is markedly different from anything he did before or after. I can't explain it but it's like different instruments and effects were used on this album that didn't sound like anything he'd used on any other albums. I suppose Act III sounds a bit more like later stuff, but certainly I and II are unique. Also certainly his narrative role is unique! The Central Scrutinizer stuff is pretty hilarious.
The drumming is superb on this album and although I've only heard around half of Zappa's complete catalog, I haven't heard drumming on any other albums that really tops it. I seem to remember Zappa saying that Vinny was his favorite drummer. I realize this album was manufactured in a studio so that probably helped matters a bit, but you gotta give it up for the guy.
The xenochrony stuff I didn't learn about until years later and only recently listened to Occam's Razor (is there a complete performance of that available?). But even knowing that, the guitar solos still seem to fit together so seamlessly to the rest of the music that it doesn't even cross my mind while I'm listening to it.
Its overall "message", if there really is one, is also a timeless one: a government can pass laws that make the ordinary citizen (or racial or religious or ethnic group) a de facto criminal and can control a population in this manner. It's something that's happened plenty of times in our past and what we need to be watchful of in our future.
Although the album is presented as a cheesy high school musical type thing, there are a lot of dark undertones in the music and the subject matter. I dare say some of it even sounds like "serious" music. Take for example the aforementioned solo "Toad-O Line". The "Occam's Razor" solo ripped from Inca Roads sounds almost whimsical -- but he set it to an A-minor bass line and suddenly it sounds rather sinister. It wasn't much later that Zappa was really waste-deep into politics and I wonder if his obsession in that area started around the time he made this album. I know CNN helped later. I'm just saying that he seemed to be more cynical and pessimistic later in life and more of his music seemed to reflect that. The Reagan administration probably didn't help matters any.
I was always disappointed that the live versions of Keep It Greasy (that I've ever heard / watched) never had the complex rhythms present in the studio version. Anyone know of a live performance that sounds like it does on the album?
And just so as not to start a new thread, does anyone know why Frank later started constantly playing everything in Reggae style?
P.S. I forgot to mention that I also consider this the best studio album I've ever heard from anyone.
Nice take, McMick. While I admittedly don't listen to JG much these days, reading your post makes me want to dig it out and give it a spin. Might do it this week, or even today. Yes Vinnie is killer. Frank had many gifted drummers over the years and hopefully you'll come to appreciate them all. My current "favorite" is Ralph Humphrey. As for your Occam's Razor and Keep It Greasy questions, I don't know the answers and defer you to other forum members who are knowledgeable in this area (and there are many). At any rate, welcome! I for one will be interested to hear your thoughts on any of FZ's music.