I have had an affinity for the music of Frank Zappa for as long as I can remember. The combination of humor, advanced compositional techniques, extreme musicianship, apathy towards genre boundaries and more has always caught my ear. I own about 30 CDs of Zappa’s music from the Mothers of Invention right up through some of his final releases.
This past week we got word that more than 50 Zappa albums had been added to iTunes, with several of them remastered versions. This goes along with an earlier report of a great remastering effort including a list of the first remaster releases:
01. Freak Out! (1966)
02. Absolutely Free (1967)
03. Lumpy Gravy (1968)
04. We’re Only In It For The Money (1968)
05. Cruising With Ruben & The Jets (1968)
06. Uncle Meat (1969)
07. Hot Rats (1969)
08. Burnt Weeny Sandwich (1970)
09. Weasels Ripped My Flesh (1970)
10. Chunga’s Revenge (1970)
11. Fillmore East, June 1971 (1971)
12. Just Another Band From L.A. (1972)
I own most of these recordings, but can’t wait to check out the updated masters for things like Absolutely Free, which had been significantly remastered already for the CD version. Although not generally considered as great as ‘Freak Out!’ or ‘We’re Only In It For The Money’, ‘Absolutely Free’ is actually my favorite Mother’s era album and an absolute blast. The use of multiple genres, slip-shod playing by top-rate instrumentalists for effect, Edgar Varese-influences tape-loop experiments, and some catchy and bizarre songs about vegetables, politicians, middle-class suburbia, pedophiles and more make it an amazing listen.
Now we are hearing that the same deals that got the Zappa collection to iTunes may also:
ow, the late Frank Zappa is preparing to land on streaming services like Spotify, Rdio, and Rhapsody, according to details shared with Digital Music News over the weekend. Zappa, who died in 1993, has a fairly massive catalog of about 60 albums (among other works), and it appears that a substantial chunk of that catalog will soon be available for your on-demand enjoyment.
Exact timetables are not available, though a drop date of October seems likely. The negotiations appear to be happening through Universal Music Enterprises, which negotiated the rights to oversee Zappa’s catalog earlier this year. That puts the action around Bruce Resnikoff, a seasoned catalog executive at UMG who has services like Spotify on speed dial.
Another name kept surfacing: Gail. That is, Gail Zappa, who facilitated the massive deal between Enterprises and the Zappa Family Trust after securing the rights to the works. That started a licensing train that started rolling around July 31st, with heavy catalog expansion expected throughout the remaining 2012. “[Enterprises] made us the offer we couldn’t refuse, for all the right reasons,” Gail relayed shortly after the Universal Music deal was inked.
One source at a streaming service thought the Zappa camp was anti-digital in some way, though perhaps the Trust simply didn’t want to deal with the endless negotiation headaches. “I think they wanted to find a partner to do digital for them rather than licensing all the stores direct,” said the actively-negotiating source.
I am certainly hoping that these contracts come through – and soon! Zappa’s music is definitely everyone should listen to … but not necessarily own. That is one of the great things about streaming – you can check out ‘We’re Only In It For The Money’, ‘Live Fillmore 1971′, ‘The Adventures of Greggery Peccary’, ‘Joe’s Garage’, ‘Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch’, and many more – and see which ones you want to buy.
Frank Zappa is an amazing figure in the history of music; he made a decision fairly early that he hated popular music and all of the celebrations of vapidness that were associated with pop culture … and yet he possessed talents that allowed him success in the pop/rock world that would pay for he more experimental side.