Friday, March 30, 2012

Frank Zappa 4: Lumpy Gravy

While he made his impact on society in a rock band, Frank saw himself as a composer first, creating what he considered to be 20th century classical music. Well before the Mothers started he had composed various pieces for orchestra that would eventually find their way into the rock format. So it was that when Capitol Records offered him a chance to record an instrumental album, he jumped at it.
The usual record company shenanigans meant that the album was delayed for several months, by which time he had already begun assembling We’re Only In It For The Money, and in the process, kept fiddling with the tapes from the Capitol instrumental sessions. When the album known as Lumpy Gravy finally appeared, it was credited to Zappa alone (well, along with the “Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra & Chorus”) and presented as something of a companion to the Mothers album.
And it is, though it’s even more chaotic than its brother. By the time he was done editing it, Lumpy Gravy was two side-long collages just short of 16 minutes each, mixing the orchestra pieces, some older pop-jazz recordings and excerpts from ad-libbed conversations between various acquaintances. Those dialogue snippets—about pigs, ponies and Oldsmobiles—soon take over the proceedings, but the intrepid listener will find music now more commonly recognizable as “Oh No”, “King Kong” and “Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance”. (That classical snippet from “Mother People” is here as well.)
Those just dipping their toes into the man’s work might be confused by Lumpy Gravy, or they may enjoy the musical passages, which aren’t atonal. It’s not for everyone, but we can dig it.
Its first CD appearance came on a two-fer where it followed the much-maligned ‘80s remix of We’re Only In It For The Money, a move that arguably provided its widest exposure. The 1995 Rykodisc catalog relaunch presented it on its own, with the difference that each of the two parts was indexed (for the few CD players that still utilized that feature) with formal titles for each subsection.
The Lumpy Money Project/Object triple-CD set, besides providing the genesis of the WOIIFTM album, presents Frank’s original orchestra-only edit (which, not surprisingly, includes several sections repeated verbatim several times) along with a previously unreleased version of the finished album with new bass and drums added in 1984 a la the WOIIFTM remix. This would have certainly upset purists—especially the lyrics sung Thing-Fish-style added to the opening theme now known as “Duodenum”—had it been released that way.

Frank Zappa Lumpy Gravy (1968) —
1986 Rykodisc CD: same as 1968, plus remixed We’re Only In It For The Money album
1995 Rykodisc CD: same as 1968

No comments:

Post a Comment