Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy birthday, Frank Zappa

He would be 70 today if he was still with us (he died on 4 December 1993). To mark the occasion, tonight at 10 p.m. on Concert FM James Gardner discusses the nearly 20 official albums the Zappa Trust has released since his death.

The Internet has enabled other people to release many more unofficial albums – some that were vinyl bootlegs and some that are new to the, ahem, catalogue. Zappa hated this stuff being available, but do we? No, we do not. There is a ton of live stuff and a good place to start is Music Is The Best.

Among its many offerings, Kreega Bondola is a revered bootleg in excellent sound with the excellent 1984 touring band: FZ, Ike Willis and Ray White on guitar/vocals, Scott Thunes on bass, Alan Zavod and Bobby Martin on keyboards/vocals and – nominative determinism! -  Chad Wackerman on drums. It is a complete concert performance by one of his best bands so is essential for any fan. (Unfortunately it also has a brief spoken interlude where FZ says something colossally, stupidly and nastily sexist. But that is what the Skip button is for.)

Other recordings there are Stairway to Berlin, the fabulous 1988 band in OK sound; Magic Fingers, widdly guitar solos; Rudi-Sedlmayerhalle, Munich is a 1979 concert in OK sound; 19 may 88 Grenoble is great – pretty much anything from 1988 is worth hearing, and this has “Stairway to Heaven” with a full horn section replicating the Jimmy Page guitar solo); a performance at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival (hideous); a sparkling set from 1974 in Philadelphia that must have been taken from the soundboard. . . there is loads to download. If you’re not worried about copyright, that is. Obviously I would never.

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