Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Frank Zappa 41: Does Humor Belong In Music?

This album is another one in Frank’s catalog with a confusing history, but since here is the best place to cover it, we will. Not to be confused with the home video release of the same name and vintage, Does Humor Belong In Music? is a compilation of live performances by the 1984 band, released only in Europe and exclusively on the brand spanking new CD format in January 1986.
A faithful “Zoot Allures” segues neatly into “Tinsel-Town Rebellion”, which punctuates its derision of current music with highly pertinent musical quotes from the likes of the Scorpions, Culture Club, and Kajagoogoo. “Trouble Every Day” and “Penguin In Bondage” were both revived, this time to give Frank space for an extended solo in the middle of each. “Hot-Plate Heaven At The Green Hotel” is a complaint about the failure of trickle-down economics, but only if you listen to the lyrics; otherwise it’s another glorious guitar solo.
“What’s New In Baltimore?” has gained (some) vocals since its debut onstage, as well as a repeated section that resembles Leo Sayer’s “When I Need You”. “The Cock-Sucker’s Ball” is a blatant celebration of bad language that goes into an almost unrecognizable “WPLJ”. These are very brief detours before “Let’s Move To Cleveland”, a lengthy instrumental that went by several titles before settling on this one. Outside of the main melody, which surfaces repeatedly, this is a vehicle for a piano solo, a drum solo, and of course a guitar solo. Speaking of which, “Whipping Post” was the last song from the last show of the tour, done more straight than their previous reggae version, and features 15-year-old Dweezil Zappa on lead guitar.
The 1984 shows would be mined for future archival releases, but for now this was a satisfactory glimpse of Zappa live, especially as he wouldn’t tour again for another three years. Some of the synth effects and electronic drums sound understandably dated, but the tightness of the band overall is to be marveled. (Does Humor Belong In Music? didn’t get a proper worldwide release, including in America, until 1995 as part of Rykodisc’s massive catalog revisit. This time it sported new self-referential artwork by Cal Schenkel; for the 2012 re-reissue the original cover was mostly restored.)

Frank Zappa Does Humor Belong In Music? (1986)—3

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