Friday, 31 July 2009

Space Magic

There's a heck of a lot of Zappa boots and unofficial releases out there - I know, I've downloaded most of 'em - much to the chagrin of the Zappa Family Trust.
Well, the ol' man shouldn't have been so fucking sublime, should he!

Anyway, here's my tuppeth worth; and it's not one you see very often, so hopefully this isn't a complete waste of time.

I acquired this double slab o' vinyl a way back; swapped it for a vinyl copy of Spirit's Potatoland, an album I wasn't particularly keen on, but now apparently fetches a small fortune.

But who values music merely for its material worth and format?
That would be madness...

As for this little beauty: no company is credited, although Zappa's Barking Pumpkin logo is stamped on the front; sides A and B have red labels, sides C and D are yellow: stamped on all four are merely the words "Space Magic" plus an "A", "B", "C" or "D".
There are good credit notes, musicians, venues, dates, and altogether it's a very professional gatefold package.

Part 1, all live recordings, is decent soundboard quality.
It takes a slight dip on the left channel for a couple of tracks, but easily remedied, and really it's only noticeable with cans.

Lisa Popeil gets to tell her life story ('Lisa's Story of Her Life'), and very enlightening and entertaining it is.
We also get to hear how authoritarian and grammar school masterly Zappa could be when dealing with 'bad people' in his audience.
'Broken Hearts' is suspended while Zappa cringingly forces a fan to clear up the stage with his face after hurling something messy upon it.

Part 2 opens with a big instrumental; for me the highlight of the album: a tasty and well recorded version of 'The Deathless Horsie'.
Slower and meaner than the Shut Up and Play Your Guitar version, with its neat bookending of do de-do, do de-do, do de-do; do de-do, do de-do, do de do-do; a perfect motif that envisages the western: big empty plains and lonesome cowboys.
A solo is pushed inbetween, one of those real gorgeous claustrophobic numbers with the squirty wah-wahed notes really shaping and squeezing the air.
Know what I mean?

Side D of the original vinyl (the second part of Part 2) is not the greatest of pressings, and here the quality is a bit wanting (not helped by a little crackle and pop I'm afraid), but the tracks are curious enough to deem attention.

'Flambay', 'the love song of Drakma, the Queen of Cosmic Greed, to Hunchentoot the Giant Spider', and 'Spider of Destiny' are included with original lyrics (both were initially released as instrumentals), sung, curiously, by the credited 'Unknown Woman' [Thana Harris?]; the female vocal bringing an even more skewed perspective to Zappa's odd musings on materialism.

Other tracks towards the end are all demo versions of songs from Them and Us, including one of the most unlike-Zappa songs Zappa wrote: 'The Planet Of My Dreams', an unusually moral elegy ruminating on the poor state of humanity; or as Ben Watson claims, Zappa reveals "a proud boast of integrity".*

There is also a macabre, stripped down version of 'Frogs With Dirty Little Lips', a song Zappa composed with his then infant son Ahmet.
It's much more down and dirty than the 'finished' product, and I must say, I do prefer it.

So, all in all, well worth checking out.

Would I swap it back for Potatoland?
Would I bollocks.

*The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play by Ben Watson.
The best damn rock-crit book ever written.

Frank Zappa - Demos (1986)

Teenage Prostitute
A Pound For a Brown on the Bus
Lisa's Story of Her life
Broken Hearts Are For Assholes
Easy Meat
Stick It Out
Truck Driver Divorce
The Deathless Horsie
Outside Now Again & Again
Planet of My Dreams
Spider of Destiny
Truck Driver Divorce
Frogs With Dirty Little lips
In France

Vinyl rip @320kbs
Part 1 includes cover and notes

Part 1 here
Part 2 here


Yotte said...

The review reeeeeealy makes me wanna give this a listen. THANKS!!!

DJ Useo said...

A great read & Zappa is my fave artist of all.Big thanks.

roy rocket said...

Me too.
Regards, roy

Nick said...

Truck Driver Divorce is precious. thank you