Saturday, 23 October 2010

Doo Wot!

You're probably wondering why this is here; something that is seemingly readily available?
If not immediate within the Blogosphere then merely a click away from your favourite cyber-retailer.
Well, my reasoning is that what I'm posting here isn't readily available.
Not in this format.

This is a vinyl rip of the album; and it really does sound very different indeed from the now available CD version.

When I first heard Ruben & the Jets on CD I couldn't believe it was being marketed as 'Remastered'; a more appropriate description would be 'Remixed'.

The 'lewd pulsating rhythm' is far, far lewder here, and there are all manner of pulses, reverberations, frequencies and sonics on the vinyl version that are completely absent from the digitized edition - and that's not down to my well-played hunk of forty-two year old heavyweight vinyl; those old Verve pressings have really stood the test of time, you know, and sound as rich and vibrant now as they ever did; and certainly in this case: so much richer and 'alive'.

So if you only know this in its CD format, check this out. Make the comparison for yourself.
I think you'll be mighty surprised.

And if you don't know the album... well, it is in a sense a Doo-wop album recorded by The Mothers of Invention.
They don't pretend to be Ruben and the Jets; for this in reality is an early concept album; they remain The Mothers of Invention, but as the album informs the probably at the time very confused listener:

"This is an album of greasy love songs & cretin simplicity. We made it because we really like this kind of music (just a bunch of old men with rock & roll clothes on sitting around the studio, mumbling about the good old days). Ten years from now you'll be sitting around with your friends someplace doing the same thing if there's anything left to sit on"

And also asks the question:

"Is this The Mothers of Invention recording under a different name in a last ditch attempt to get their cruddy music on the radio?"

Which of course it wasn't.
One of the most subversive things an artist such as Zappa could do in 1968 was revert back to the music that turned him on as a young teenager: the music of the early to mid-fifties.

Cruising With Ruben &The Jets is often described as a satire; or at best a parody.
It isn't. It's a pastiche.
There's real genuine reverence here; the album is all homage.
And because of that respect, this is played straight; authentic: real.

Just listen to Ray Collins' 'Anything' - a great example to compare with the CD, the space and reverberation created in this recording is gorgeous - the band really give it their all; and Collins' vocal is just so heartfelt, proving that he really loved this stuff, and also proving, if any proof were needed that he really was [one of?] the greatest vocalist[s] Zappa ever worked with.

The lyrics do seem overblown; exaggerated to a ridiculous degree; but it is in essence true to Doo-wop.
The lyrics may be dumb, but they're not really satirical, and compared to original Doo-wop lyrics, especially those of the later period, they're really not that hyperbolic.
Even the wonderful 'Stuff Up the Cracks', that includes what has to be one of my favourite opening lines:

"If you decide to leave me, it's all over".

Yes, totally self-absorbed, egotistical and vain beyond belief.
But hey, that's pop music, right; and it's most certainly Doo-wop.

I do recognise the paradox in offering this in the form of mp3s.
I mean, I'd like to invite you round so you could listen to my lovely vinyl version, but logistically that may be problematic...
But this is a 320 vinyl rip, and a carrot's as close a rabbit can get to a diamond as a slightly relevant musical genius once said.
So this will have to do.

The Mothers of Invention - Cruising With Ruben &The Jets (1968)

Cheap Thrills
Love of My Life
How Could I Be Such a Fool
I'm Not Satisfied
Jelly Roll Gum Drop
Later That Night
You Didn't Try To Call Me
Fountain of Love
"No. No. No."
Anyway the Wind Blows
Stuff Up the Cracks

Lovely vinyl rip @320kbs
Get into the groove here

As a footnote to my comment, it's interesting what Ben Watson had to say in his book about Zappa, The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play, about the ending of Ruben & The Jets; literally what occurs during the final bars of the album as the final track 'Stuff Up the Cracks' comes to an end:

"The guitar playing pushes the music out of its circular triteness, a flash of linear development, history, freedom: all the more poignant after the rest of the album's suffocating limitations."



. said...

I've thought about this and talked it over with my shrink, and I've decided to bear your love child. It's the only way out of this hole of gratitude and indebtedness I find myself in. Yes, I'm a man, straight as a yard of pumpwater, and well past child-bearing age, but I'm determined to say "thank you" in a meaningful way. In appreciation of this post, I think we should call the mutant offspring "Ruben", don't you?

Dave said...

Just a note of agreement. I have an old scratched up copy of the LP and also find it preferable to the CD. I can't explain it in musical terms and don't really have a fine tuned ear for that sort of thing but it just sounds betters. If I remember correctly, when the CD came out, Frank stated that he had to redo the bass and drum tracks because on the master tapes, they had deteriorated which might or might not be true because he always had a tendency to tinker with his old material when rereleasing it.

BTW - Doo-Wop rocks!

. said...

That's right, Dave! Uncle Frank butchered this, like he butchered Lumpy Gravy and Money, showing that artists aren't always the best custodians of their own material. This is a superb rip of the original (and by far the best) mix. The rhythm track is just stupidly eccentric (listen to that bass beat on the first track - wtf?!) and that's what makes it great.

Rock doo-wops!

infinite fool said...

Well, if I can't come to your house to hear it, how about you drop by here? The next time you're in God's Favorite Place (aka the lovely Hudson Valley), just pencil in a visit to Infinite Acres. You bring the vinyl & I'll provide the turntable.

BTW, you were right (of course) - that Snakefinger show is amazing. Thanks.

roy rocket said...

I'm so gad you agree.

And there was me thinking my conceit was merely a spurious way to get one of my favourite albums of all time on to my blog.

You do have to wonder whether Zappa's 'remastering' was somehow personal, vindictive even.
Arthur Barrow may have been one heck of a bass player, a maestro perhaps, but maestros can lack feeling - and if there's one thing Tink wasn't, it was a Mexican with a rock n roll sensibility.
He wasn't Roy Estrada basically (bass-ically).

I haven't heard the most recent edition of 'Ruben & The Jets' but really unless it was remastered from vinyl, or if it appears only in a digital format, it's immediately on to a loser - some genres, sounds, styles, they just need that warm vinyl flavour.

However, another great example where more of the Rubens kind of style can be found is the officially released (I think) 'Joe's Corsage'; which includes lots of early versions of Mothers songs, nearly all with Ray Collins, who had to have had one of the best white R&B voices around at that time.

And I hope you've all checked out my Grandmothers' posts for some more tasty tit-bits from old Mothers.
(That's called in-house synergy apparently...!)

Regards, roy

Snakefinger never failed to deliver.

Miles said...

frank did us no great favor when he removed the 'cheese' factor by remixing 'cruising...' -- considering that he wanted the original LP to contain the sound of worn vinyl snap, crackle & pop, his 'remastering' instead took the sound several steps in the opposite direction, succeeding in turning it from heartfelt homage to trite parody.

i've yet to hear 'greasy love songs' for an evaluation.

thanks btw for the nice write-up.

roy rocket said...

Thanks for your comments.
Shanti, Roy

roy rocket said...

Link fixed!