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Frank Zappa - FAQ: All That’s Left To Know About The Father Of Invention

  by Lisa Torem

published: 19 / 4 / 2017

Frank Zappa - FAQ: All That’s Left To Know About The Father Of Invention


In her 'Raging Pages' book column Lisa Torem finds that John Corcelli's new book 'Frank Zappa FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Father of Invention' highlights the American composer's complex compositions and legacy

John Corcelli’s 276-plus page book includes a detailed discography and an intelligent break down of American composer/guitarist/producer Frank Zappa’s extraordinary career. Early on, we get a good picture of everyday living: the musician was born to Sicilian/French parents in Baltimore, Maryland. Because he suffered from asthma, his family moved to Florida, but came back for familial reasons. Ill health meant he was often housebound, so young Frank immersed himself in science experiments, using beakers that his chemist father brought home from his laboratory. In 1965, Zappa was working at Studio Z in California, when he was offered the job of lead guitarist for t-he Soul Giants. The band barely made ends meet doing “Top 40” songs, so Zappa persuaded them to perform his own material and to change the band name to “The Mothers of Invention.” The decision to concentrate on originals displeased local club owners who saw an immediate drop in dance activity, but that decision certainly paved the way for a one-off future; the band cultivated the carefree Californian youth known as “the freaks,” who craved experiential music in the mid 1960s. The author goes on to examine the eclectic collaboration between Zappa and Captain Beefheart, and the emotional challenges they faced while recording a couple of albums, most notably, ‘Trout Mask Replica’ (1969). The first line-up was: Frank Zappa, Roy Estrada, Jimmy Carl Black and Ray Collins. The following year, the band graduated to eight and maded ‘Freak Out,’ ‘We’re Absolutely Free’ and ‘We’re Only in It for The Money’. By 1969, the band had run its course. Zappa’s family gets its fair due. His son, Dweezil, a talented guitarist/arranger in his own right, performs his father’s original compositions on tour, hoping to introduce a younger generation to his father’s music. To illustrate the diversity of his subject’s talents, there are chapters on video and TV appearances and a deep analysis of the man’s recordings. Beyond that, Zappa’s fight against musical censorship depicts a deep, articulate thinker who goes on to challenge conservative viewpoints during a heated congressional hearing. In addition, there is Frank, the psychic, who Rykodisc founder Don Rose referred to as “a forward-thinking artist who controlled his own material and was already digital-friendly” in Billboard, May, 1990. Corcelli stresses the point that when Zappa remastered his albums from vinyl to CD, he made sure the conversion involved an enhancement of or variation on the primary arrangement. Corcelli beautifully described how Zappa’s comfort with the Synclavier opened him up to develop more complicated themes on state-of-the art digital equipment. The photos were limited and sometimes difficult to decipher, but the overall information in this book os conveyed smoothly and intelligently.

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