While most of the discussions of Frank Zappa have to do with his satirical and off-color lyrics, the fact remains that he was one of the finest and most underappreciated guitarists around. This collection places the spotlight squarely on Zappa's mastery of the guitar. Recorded for the most part in 1979 and 1980 (with a few tracks dating as far back as 1977), Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar is simply a collection of guitar solos. Even though most of the tracks were just edited out of their original song context, they fare well as stand-alone pieces, as Zappa was an ever-inventive player.
SHUT UP 'N PLAY YER GUITAR puts the musical spotlight on Frank Zappa's solo guitar improvisations.
Although many think of Frank Zappa first and foremost as a supreme composer and satirist, many seem to overlook the fact that he was one of the greatest rock guitarists that ever lived. After all, such latter-day guitar heroes as Joe Satriani and Steve Vai (the latter was a member of Zappa's backing band in the early '80s) revered him, often listing select Zappa albums as "the best guitar albums of all time." But since he refused to play commercially acceptable music, many young guitarists are unaware of Zappa's guitar prowess.
To correct this, Zappa issued the double-disc set SHUT UP N' PLAY YER GUITAR in 1986. Instead of just compiling already-released tracks that prominently featured his guitar chops, Zappa searched through tapes of concerts from his 1979 and 1980 tours, and edited together his very best solos. Although this may be a monotonous listen for a non-guitar player or a newcomer to Zappa's work, guitar enthusiasts and hardcore fans will consider it a godsend. It's hard to pick just a few highlights, since each disc is meant to be listened to in it's entirety, but you can't go wrong with "Hog Heaven," "Five-Five-Five," and "The Deathless Horsie," to name but a few.
Mastered by Bob Ludwig, Gateway Mastering, 2012. Vaultmeisterment & Analog Transfers by Joe Travers, March 2012, UMRK. 1981 Analog Master, remastered by Bob Ludwig from the original tapes. Reverts to two CDs (mimicking the approach taken on the pre-1995 CDs), and eliminates the 1995-era segue between "Why Johnny Can't Read" and "Stucco Homes." Reports on sound quality are very positive. Who would ever want to hear half an hour of wall-to-wall guitar instrumentals? When the soloist in question is Frank Zappa, the answer is anyone who should ever require proof that Zappa was one of the most gifted electric (and occasionally acoustic) guitarists of the rock & roll era.
Official Release #67. As the title suggests, Have I Offended Someone? contains all of Zappa's notoriously tasteless parodies and satires, from "Bobby Brown Goes Down," "Catholic Girls," and "Jewish Princess" to "He's So Gay," "Titties 'n Beer," and "Dinah-Moe Humm." Nearly all of the tracks are presented in new remixed versions, and two songs, "Dumb All Over" and "Tinsel Town Rebellion," have never been released before.
Official Release #65. The full saga of Läther (pronounced leather) is tangled enough to give a migraine to all but committed Zappaphiles. Basically, what you need to know is that this project was originally conceived of as a four-record box set. When record company politics prevented its release in that format, much of the material was spread over the albums Live in New York, Sleep Dirt, Studio Tan, and Orchestral Favorites. This three-CD set presents the album as it was originally conceived, with the addition of four bonus tracks at the end. It mixes previously available material, alternate mixes, and edits, and previously unissued stuff, though only the most serious Zappa fans will have a good grip on exactly what has appeared where (the liner notes are surprisingly unexact in this regard).
Official Release #64. A 30-track compilation of rarities, spanning much of his career, but in the main confined to the 1960s and early '70s (some date from as early as the late '50s!). Much of it's previously unreleased, or extremely hard to locate. It's not just a collection of fan-oriented odds and ends, though. The material, for one thing, is extremely diverse, ranging from collaborations with Captain Beefheart and primitive teenage garage recordings to comic dialog to progressive instrumentals and orchestral pieces.
For all of his many attributes, one thing Frank Zappa most certainly was not is commercial. Presumably, the title of this collection is ironic. Strictly Commercial: The Best of Frank Zappa is a compilation not of the composer's hits – he only broke the Top 40 on one occasion, with "Valley Girl" – but rather, a collection of his best-known material, from "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" to "Sexual Harassment in the Workplace." Zappa's albums often function as individual works, but this disc offers an intelligent selection of songs, serving as an introduction to the maverick musician.
Official Release #59. The last volume of the series You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore is one of the strongest, especially for those who prefer Frank Zappa's sex-oriented songs. There is not much complex material or instrumental pieces in this collection, but catchy humorous songs abound, along with more of that stage craziness the series tried to capture. Live incarnations of Zappa's band from 1970 up to 1988 are represented (the original Mothers had a whole disc devoted to them on Vol. 5).
Official Release #58. For the fifth volume in the You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore series, Frank Zappa prepared two unrelated discs. Disc one features the original Mothers of Invention in unreleased live and studio recordings mainly from 1969 (but also one from 1965 and a couple from 1967-1968). Disc two documents the 1982 European tour. There is something wicked – almost obscene – in this pairing, and it surely was intentional. Throughout the 1980s, fans of the early Mothers had attacked Zappa's integrity in the case of the re-recorded CD reissues of We're Only in It for the Money and Cruising with Ruben & the Jets, and often despised the scatological antics and straightforward rock stylings of his latter bands.