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Frank Zappa

Son of Cheep Thrills

RykoDisc

Frank Zappa worked obsessively for over three decades to record his musical ideas. The 50 or so records released in his lifetime represent only a small portion of these recordings, and although most of his "official" releases are vastly different, there has been a flood of posthumous Zappa CDs that tend to favor one period of his career over all of the others. The blame for this can probably be given to wanker guitarists who would rather hear Steve Vai soloing over jazz-rock clichés than listen to a group creating music as a unit. Or maybe record company millionaires are at fault. Whatever the case may be, until now, Zappa compilations have focused on his inferior '80s output.

    Son of Cheep Thrills breaks out of this mold, and contains everything from Doo-Wop vocal tunes to faux-metal crushers; from country rock to high-tech Synclavier doodlings. "Twenty Small Cigars" displays Zappa's talents as a guitarist and composer of non-rock music. "It Just Might Be a One-Shot Deal" is a hokey prog-country song that gets serious with an amazing pedal steel solo, courtesy of "Sneaky Pete" Kleinow from the Flying Burrito Brothers. "Sinister Footwear 2nd Mvt." is a good example of Zappa's later work, as is the computer-generated performance of "Night School." All you seven-stringers out there will enjoy Steve Vai's contribution to "Ya Hozna," an overly repetitive throwaway whose saving grace is Moon Zappa's backwards singing.

   Some of the tracks are forgettable, such as "Love of My Life" and "Disco Boy," and much of the humor seems dated, but considering the unusually low price, and the truly weird artwork by veteran Zappa cover artist, Cal Shenkel, this is as good a sampler of Frank Zappa's music as I have come across... plus, it's "enhanced" (which means nothing if you are buying it because of the price, because your cheap computer can't handle that stuff anyway, so forget it.) "The Legend of the Golden Arches" is worth twice the price...so buy 'em up.

Rykodisc, Shetland Park, 27 Congress St., Salem, MA 01970; http://www.rykodisc.com

--Jeff Patch