The Music Of Frank Zappa (Phase Two)

A few years back we posted The Music Of Frank Zappa (HERE), featuring 19 diverse albums by artists from all over the world covering FZ’s music. The post started getting a little too big to manage, however, so we’ve now begun “Phase Two.” The great thing about many of these high quality tributes is that the concept of re-interpreting Zappa’s music is not far removed from what Zappa routinely did himself – re-arrange his own work based on the shifting personnel of his bands. Fans are used to hearing these songs in all sorts of arrangements, tempos and styles, so many of these renditions just seem like Zappa from yet another angle. Sure, you miss the master’s voice – both his lyrical improvisations on guitar as well as his actual monotone – but if you’re already into FZ’s material, there’s plenty here to enjoy. Especially since these artists typically apply looser, more free-wheeling standards than Frank himself. As a result, some of Zappa’s machine-like rigidity has been replaced by warmer surrounds. Click the covers for links to Amazon (if available). Virtually all are out of print and most can’t even be found from private sellers. Big thanks go out to Plop, from The Plop’s Dollops, for going to the trouble to providing many of these discs for us to enjoy. A tasty cross-section, indeed. Track listings are in Comments.

RICCARDO FASSI TANKIO BAND
Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa (1995)
Solid, 12-piece ensemble playing from an Italian big band that peeks into the jazzier corners of Zappa’s catalog. The band is not as overtly brassy as, say, Ed Palmero’s Big Band, and they provide a well-balanced assault that’s (generally) faithful to many of FZ’s arrangements, just add improv. Listen to the cool rendition of “Uncle Meat,” below.

BOHUSLÄN BIG BAND
Plays Zappa (2000)
A Swedish outfit that takes a bold approach to Zappa’s catalog by confronting, head-on, the biggest hurdle in covering FZ’s music… the vocals. Yeah, the music is difficult… but FZ’s vocal attitude is near impossible to replicate. Bohuslan uses a ball-busting female vocalist, live on stage, which works fine on material like “Zomby Wolf” (which Frank didn’t originally sing), but stuff like “More Trouble Every Day” suffers from the gender switch. There’s plenty of instrumental stuff here, too.

THE MUFFIN MEN
Play The Music Of Frank Zappa – Say Cheese And Thank You (1994)
The band’s debut. The sound quality sounds budget-crunched, but the playing is decent. The Muffins have steadily released albums of FZ’s music (I’m a Mulm man, myself), but this one is unique as it features 22, relatively short, pieces that race through FZ’s career at a quick clip. The vocals have German lilt. Listen to “In France,” below.

THE MUFFIN MEN
Feel The Food – The Muffin Men Play Uncle Frank Live (1998)
Recorded live, during the band’s European tours of 1993-1995. Original FZ vocalist Ike Willis appears on this one, lending authenticity to the band’s overall sound. “Bamboozled By Love.”

SHEIK YERBOUTI
Insanity Sauce (1996)
I’d never heard Sheik Yerbouti before, but they can expertly approximate Zappa’s mid-to-late 70s sound with ease. The vocals are satisfying, which is high praise in Zap Trib circles, where it’s a given that no one can nail Zappa’s distinct tenor & attitude. The arrangements stray on occasion, but even tribute bands have gotta stretch sometimes – less you come off like Mark Walburg in Rock Star. “Crew Slut” is a fair vocal acid test, but the instrumentals rock, too.

SHEIK YERBOUTI
Confetti Music (2001)
Another from the German Zappa contingent, Sheik Yerbouti. These guys have many other albums out saluting Zappa’s work (some are private releases), including Torture Time Now, Unverschamtheit – Volume 1, Ouch Patrol (w/ Napoleon Murphy Brock) and various contributions to the various artists Zappanale series. HearCarolina Hardcore Ecstacy

PIERREJEAN GACHER
Zappe Zappa (1998)
Expert realization of some of Frank’s more challenging avant and jazz work (with a little of everything else, of course). Check out the song titles to satisfy your need for tight, live renditions of difficult stuff like “The Purple Lagoon,” “Dupree’s Paradise,” “Sinister Footwear” and others. Hear “Yo Mama.”

ZAPPATISTAS
The Music Of Frank Zappa - Absolutely Live (2001)
Also routinely referred to as Live At Leeds, Zappatistas perform a lively cross-section of FZ’s catalog, from instrumental versions of “Harry You’re A Beast” to lengthy takes on “Big Swifty” and “The Grand Wazoo” (which clocks in at nearly 23 minutes). Lots of interplay between the musicians and punctuating horns a-plenty. Listen to “Sofa No. 1.”

THE GRANDMOTHERS
Eating The Astoria (2000)
The first authentic Zappa tribute band. The Grandmothers were formed in 1980, and was made up of former – many bitter – ex-Mothers, including Jimmy Carl Black, Don Preston and Bunk Gardner, along with some young European blood to give the band its post-2000 kick. Like ‘em or not, give them their due, they fought the Zappa Family Trust for the right to exist and (eventually) won. According to Eugene Chadbourne, Black lost interest in the project in 2002 and Preston became the band’s leader by default. You can hear Black get his digs in early when he’s introducing the band. Hear Sleeping In A Jar.”

FrontTHE ED PALERMO BIG BAND
Eddy Loves Frank (2008)
Former Zappa alumni, saxophonist Ed Palermo’s big band arrangements of FZ’s work just keep getting better and better. This one is from 2008 and, as usual, Ed and the boys don’t shy away from the challenging stuff, tackling “Dupree’s Paradise” and “Echidna’s Arf (Of You)” alongside jazzier types like “Let’s Move To Cleveland” and “Night School.” Thanks to RobJam for posting this in Readers’ Links (HERE). Listen to “Regyptian Strut.”

FrontTHE ED PALERMO BIG BAND
Oh No! Not Jazz!! (2014)
The latest from the Ed Palermo Big Band is a double disc set, with CD1 focused completely on material from the master. Includes a lot of stuff from the late 60s, like “The Uncle Meat Variations,” “Little Umbrellas,” “The Dog Breath Variations,” “Chunga’s Revenge” and “Lumpy Gravy.” Roxy-era vocalist, Napoleon Murphy Brock, shows up for an 11 minute “Inca Roads.”

PicTHE AURORA ORCHESTRA
BBC Proms Festival, Royal Albert Hall – July 31st, 2013 (2014)
Thanks to Roy Rocket for posting the following two BBC shows in Readers’ Link, the first featuring The Aurora Orchestra performing two numbers, “G-Spot Tornado” and a 22 minute version of “Greggery Peccary,” which is more entertaining here than I remember from Frank’s original. Excellent quality as it was broadcast on the BBC.

Frank Zappa's 200 MotelsTHE BBC CONCERT ORCHESTRA, THE SOUTHBANK SINFONIA & THE LONDON VOICES
Royal Festival Hall – October 29, 2013 (2014)
Thanks again to Roy Rocket for this amazing recording of a live performance of Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels. As fans know, this work was originally banned from performance in the UK, so this 2013 return is a vindication for FZ’s work, once deemed too “pornographic” for UK ears. Sanctioned by the Zappa Family Trust (daughter Diva plays one of the groupies) this is a unique orchestral recording of one of Frank’s more difficult works. The sound is great, though, fans will immediately miss the high energy shenanigans of Flo & Eddie, as this performance’s vocals are tame and “rehearsed” by comparison. Regardless… the quality is excellent, though, unfortunately, we can’t post a streaming player, since the performance is an uninterrupted hour and 40 minutes. Also includes 20 minutes of the BBC’s introduction and wrap up. Thanks Roy.

16 Comments

  • 1
    Willard
    July 12, 2011 - 09:05 | Permalink

    Search HERE

    RICCARDO FASSI TANKIO BAND
    PLAYS THE MUSIC OF FRANK ZAPPA
    Uncle Meat
    The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue
    King Kong
    Medley
    Twenty Small Cigars
    America Drinks And Goes Home
    Igor’s Boogie
    The Idiot Bastard’s Son
    Oh No
    Peaches En Regalia

    BOHUSLÄN BIG BAND
    PLAYS ZAPPA
    Zomby Woof
    Sinister Footwear – Movement 2
    The Grand Wazoo
    St. Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast
    Father Oblivion
    Son Of Orange County
    More Trouble Every Day
    Zoot Allures
    Find Her Finer
    Let’s Make The Water Turn Black
    Let Me Take You To The Beach

    THE MUFFIN MEN
    SAY CHEESE AND THANK YOU
    Peaches En Regalia
    Cosmik Debris
    Sofa
    Dirty Love
    Small Medley
    Uncle Remus
    Let’s Make The Water Turn Black
    Harry, You’re A Beast
    Oh No!
    Son Of Orange County
    Love Of My Life
    Let’s Move To Cleveland
    Leave Me Alone
    Return To Baltimore
    Eine Kleine Trouser Movement
    Brotchen Approachin’
    Screamin’ Johnny Kilmarnock Performs
    Let’s Move To Cleveland (reprise)
    In France
    Yo Mama
    Willie The Pimp
    Muffin Man

    THE MUFFIN MEN
    FEEL THE FOOD
    Zoot Allures
    Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow
    Black Napkins
    Bamboozled By Love
    Oh No!
    Son Of Orange County
    Sleeping In A Jar
    Holiday In Berlin
    Rubber Shirt
    Mom And Dad
    Living At The Hotel Plasky
    Flute Salad
    King Kong (Meets Igor In The Butterfly Garden)
    Joe’s Garage
    Did He Jump Or Was He Pushed?
    Lets Move To Cleveland
    She Was Worth Every Penny
    Filthy Habits
    Flakes
    Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus
    Muffin Man
    Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance

    SHEIK YERBOUTI
    INSANITY SAUCE
    Zoot Allures
    Heavy Duty George
    Catholic Girls
    Crew Slut
    Insanity Sauce
    Trouble Every Day
    Outside Now
    Truck Driver Divorce
    Brown Shoes Don’t Make It
    A Pound For A Brown On The Bus
    The Short Story Routine
    The Torture Never Stops
    Sadist Funk
    Florentine Pogen
    Andy
    Zomby Woof

    SHEIK YERBOUTI
    CONFETTI MUSIC
    The Black Page No.2
    Confetti 1
    Carolina Hardcore Ecstasy
    Teenage Wind
    Confetti 2
    Pygmy Twylyte
    Big Swifty
    Confetti 3
    Dumb All Over
    Confetti 4
    Magic Fingers
    Dickie’s Such An Asshole
    Confetti 5
    Marqueson’s Chicken
    I’m The Slime
    The Age Of Mediocrity
    Confetti 6
    Bobby Brown
    Sofa
    Confetti 7
    Yo Mama
    Uncle Remus

    PIERREJEAN GAUCHER
    ZAPPE ZAPPA
    Heavy Duty Judy
    Cosmik Debris
    The Purple Lagoon
    Sofa/The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue
    Let’s Move To Cleveland
    Welcome To The U.S.A.
    Sinister Footwear/Uncle Meat
    Yo Mama
    The Idiot Bastard’s Son
    Dupree’s Paradise
    Inca Roads
    Pygmy Twylyte
    Medley
    Strictly Genteel

    ZAPPANISTAS
    THE MUSIC OF FRANK ZAPPA-ABSOLUTELY LIVE
    Harry You’re A Beast
    Eat That Question 2:35
    Sexual Harrassment In The Workplace
    King Kong
    Big Swifty
    Let’s Make The Water Turn Black
    Sofa No. 1
    I’m The Slime
    The Grand Wazoo

    THE GRANDMOTHERS
    EATING THE ASTORIA
    …We Are The Grandmothers
    Peaches En Regalia
    MJ Intro
    Teen-A-Peek-A
    The Big Chaos
    Call Any Vegetable
    Invocation And Ritual Dance Of The Young Pumpkin
    Sleeping In A Jar
    Whoo Uh??
    Lady Queen Bee
    Love Of My Life
    Hungry Freaks DaddyMPEG audio file
    The Greate White Buffalo
    Big Leg Emma
    Brown Shoes Don’t Make It
    Junk Food
    Mr. Green Genes
    Uncle Meat
    The Orange County Lumber Truck/Trail Of Tears

    THE ED PALERMO BIG BAND
    EDDY LOVES FRANK
    Night School (6:22)
    Echidna’s Arf (Of You) (9:46)
    Regyptian Strut (6:55)
    Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing? (6:29)
    Dupree’s Paradise (5:43)
    What’s New In Baltimore (6:07)
    Let’s Move To Cleveland (6:35)
    America The Beautiful (5:28)

    THE ED PALERMO BIG BAND
    OH NO! NOT JAZZ!!
    Inca Roads (Vocals: Napoleon Murphy Brock) (10:50)
    The Uncle Meat Variations (6:01)
    Little Umbrellas (4:45)
    The Dog Breath Variations (6:56)
    Chunga’s Revenge (5:34)
    Lumpy Gravy (4:51)
    The Black Page #2 (5:49)
    America Drinks And Goes Home (Vocals: Mike James) (5:14)

    THE AURORA ORCHESTRA
    BBC Proms Festival, Royal Albert Hall, London – July 31st, 2013
    G Spot Tornado (3:59)
    The Adventures of Greggery Peccary (22:15)

    THE BBC CONCERT ORCHESTRA, THE SOUTHBANK SINFONIA & THE LONDON VOICES
    Royal Festival Hall, London – October 29, 2013
    BBC Radio 3 Intro (11:12)
    Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels (1:39:15)
    BBC Radio 3 Outro (8:58)

  • 2
    July 12, 2011 - 09:13 | Permalink

    Thanks for the great post and always enlightening blog. Just a note re Grandmothers: Jimmy Carl Black died in November 2008.

  • 4
    July 12, 2011 - 21:07 | Permalink

    This is Grrrrrreat! I’ve only heard of a few of these bands and have never actually heard any of ‘em (well, except the Grandmothers). Now if I can only decide where to start…

    Thanks heaps, W!

    • 5
      Willard
      July 12, 2011 - 21:18 | Permalink

      Same with me. I hadn’t heard a few of these bands either. Man, your Sun Ra blog, Adventure-Equation, is getting out of hand.

  • 6
    July 13, 2011 - 07:02 | Permalink

    Hey, Thanks! I’ve been getting a lot of help from readers who feel like this Rare Ra stuff needs to be shared – it’s pretty amazing & wonderful.

    Incidentally, my pathway to Sun Ra started with Zappa (& Beefheart) and continued on to George Clinton. From there, the Mothership carried me straight to Ancient Egypt and Sun Ra.

    Interesting how all of these guys have a foundation in Doo Wop… or at least an early fascination with it.

  • 7
    Miles
    July 16, 2011 - 00:40 | Permalink

    W…

    I’m always on the look out for quality Zappa interpretators and the Pierrejean Gacher release is a new one to me. I’m never entirely certain of these tribs (with the exception of Ed Palermo’s band). Some really hit the bullseye, while others completely miss the mark. Thanks for the opportunity to road test this first. Since it’s on your site, I trust that I won’t be disappointed.

    • 8
      Willard
      July 16, 2011 - 07:53 | Permalink

      Don’t think that, you can always get disappointed around here. But you’re right… some are right on, others get turned right off.

  • 9
    FSA7
    July 17, 2011 - 15:33 | Permalink

    The Sheik Yerbouti band – my GOD that guy sounds like Zappa.

    Thanks for sharing these, as always.

  • 10
    zappahead
    July 18, 2013 - 11:02 | Permalink

    Although I feel a bit of a fraud wanting to listen to something the Zappa family foundation scorns…..from the above lists….which all seem to be good….I have chosen to share “live at the Astoria” because…..mainly most of the guys were actually ex mothers and I always enjoyed the early mothers stuff rather than the later more…..commercial????…stuff but im still a big fan of Uncle Frank all the same…….and remember….”the modern day composer….refuses to die”….cheers.

  • 11
    February 11, 2014 - 15:26 | Permalink

    Thank you very much for those “unseen everywhere” items. Great compilation work ! I’ve just listened to the last Ed Palermo album. He is my favourite cover player. It was Norbert Obermanns (the Zappalog author) ‘s (where do you put the apostrophe in english?) favourite too, when I was trading tapes with him. I like the Gaucher work, too. Too bad that the King Kong cover by the Residents isn’t on cd (it was played for a radio in 1977). Thank you again !

    • 12
      Willard
      February 12, 2014 - 11:41 | Permalink

      Thanks… yeah, there’s a million tributes we don’t have, but we’ll keep adding to these posts on occasion.

  • 13
    RobJam
    February 11, 2014 - 17:44 | Permalink

    Thanks for the Zappaesque additions Willard. I’ll pick thru these with my zircon encrusted tweezers tonight…

    • 14
      Willard
      February 12, 2014 - 11:40 | Permalink

      Thanks for contributing, RobJam.

  • 15
    Satoko
    March 8, 2014 - 06:26 | Permalink

    I’ve been a Zappa fan since 1970, when a neighbor who had a feirnd who worked at Warner-Reprise gave me the OCTOBER 19TH, 1969 and ZAPPED sampler albums as gifts, with Peaches En Regalia and Willie The Pimp on each respective LP. Zappa put out oodles of great music before and after HOT RATS, but that album really seemed to allow Zappa to let loose in a way he rarely ever did again (an exception being the title track of APOSTROPHE, with FZ, Jack Bruce and Jim Gordon blasting merrilly away). Related question: FZ was listed as arranger of All Night Long and The Other Side Of This Life on The Animals’ ANIMALISM album. Judging by the guitar work on the former tune, I wouldn’t be surprised if Frank is the soloist on that track. Confirmations from anyone, please?Parting shot: Jeff Simmons’ LUCILLE HAS MESSED MY MIND UP is on CD from Collectors’ Choice. Get it, and not just fot the supercool Zappa guitar on the title track. The whole album is great, and has the original version of WONDERFUL WINO, six years before FZ redid it on ZOOT ALLURES.

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