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Frank Zappa

Sheik Yerbouti

Review by Gary Hill

Outside of Zappa fandom the big claim to fame of this CD (other than the controversy which we’ll get to shortly) was the song “Dancing Fool.” I really can’t imagine what people who hadn’t heard a whole disc by Zappa and bought it on the strength of that piece must have thought when they heard the whole album. This is in many ways one of the more wide reaching in terms of diversity of Zappa’s catalog. It was also one of the more controversial. He was getting hit right and left by people offended by this work. The thing about Zappa is he never picked on any one group – he was cynical about life and society and took it out on everyone. I’d compare him to TV’s Doctor House – only with more musical talent and a sense of language that wasn’t restricted to prime time television’s rules.

Zappa always had some great musicians in his band and this disc is no exception.  One of the most notable guys showing up here is Terry Bozzio. The other is Adrian Belew.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
I Have Been in You
The first half of this has an almost gospel feeling to it. The second movement is more standard R & B. Then they move it out towards harder rocking territory before it shifts back to the tone of the opening segment. The lyrics here are not vulgar in terminology, but definitely in meaning.

Flakes
This stretches out straight out of the last one. It’s got a funky, jazzy feeling and is classic Frank Zappa. This song is all about Flakes – you know, clueless people. There’s a Bob Dylan homage in the middle of this complete with harmonica. They pull out from there in a full on progressive rock excursion that feels quite a bit like ELP. This gives way to a bouncy kind of tongue in cheek movement. They power it through a few more changes before finishing up. This is quite a diverse and dynamic cut and includes some more proggy keyboard work further down the road.
Broken Hearts Are for A***oles
With a questionable title (OK and chorus) this cut alternates between hard edged, nearly metallic fury and a rather progressive rock like chorus. It’s a cool tune. They drop it down to a typical mellow segment that’s very classic Zappa. There are a number of differing segments and for those with a problem with Zappa’s vulgarity this goes from bad to worse.

I'm So Cute
Punk rock meets progressive in this rocker that at times feels like Hawkwind. It works through a number of changes and gets incredibly noisy and cacophonous after a while.

Jones Crusher
Here we get a fast paced jam that feels like Elvis Presley meets The Blues Brothers with some progressive rock leanings. It’s one of the most accessible numbers on show here and just plain rocks. There’s some weirdness in the midst of this and the lyrics are…shall we say, “painful.”

What Ever Happened to All the Fun in the World
This is just a short bit of weirdness.

Rat Tomago
A guitar solo dominates this blistering prog rock styled instrumental.

Wait A Minute
This is what on hip hop albums they call a “skit.”
Bobby Brown Goes Down
Here we get a smooth groove of a song. Zappa does a great job of offending here. He should get the religious right, people who are offended by too much sexual openness, gays and lesbians. Now that’s equal opportunity offending.

Rubber Shirt
This is a jazzy free form sort of jam. It’s not all that different from something you might hear from King Crimson – except for some funk.

The Sheik Yerbouti Tango
Here is another proggy instrumental excursion. This has a lot of guitar and just plain rocks. It wanders into some serious weirdness here and there and feels a lot like something from King Crimson – even more than the one that preceded it did. We also get hints of Eastern musical motifs here and there.

Baby Snakes
This older number is catchy and humorous. It’s also a lot of fun. It seems even more accessible after the last oddity. It moves straight into the next one. 
Trying to Grow a Chin
Here we get one of the most purely progressive rock pieces on the disc. This is quite a solid rocker. It’s high energy and another strong composition. Here we get an extensive jam that’s got a lot of jazz in it. There are some more Crimsonoid moments, too.

City of Tiny Lites
Recorded live this is another that’s very prog rock in nature. It’s long and potent. They work it through a number of changes and variations and we get some great instrumental work (although this is not an instrumental).

Dancin' Fool
One of Zappa’s most well-known numbers, this pokes fun at the whole disco scene. It’s a cool tune that still holds up well, even with the dated lyrics.

Jewish Princess
Zappa’s on the offensive train again, this time pointing his wit at Jewish people. I guess the thing to always remember is that Zappa didn’t pick and choose, he attacked everyone. The classic example would be when he used to make fun of the same hippies that were the audience for his Mothers of Invention. Musically this is bouncy little dittie that’s got a trademark Zappa sound.

Wild Love
Here we get one of the most blatantly progressive rock songs on show here. A lot of it definitely falls into the RIO sub-genre. Yet, it’s also still quite tongue in cheek and very classic Zappa. It works through a number of changes and alterations and eventually shifts out into the disc’s closer.

Yo' Mama
This one is a very proggy number. It’s the most extensive piece on show here and is recorded live. There’s only a short section with vocals and the rest is a killer instrumental. It’s a powerful piece and a great way to end the CD.

 
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