Scott Maykrantz' comments on Volume One.
THE FLORIDA AIRPORT TAPE: 0
This is so brief that you can almost give it a half-point, but, since it prevents Once Upon a Time from being the REAL first track to the entire YCDTOSA series, it gets a zero. Wouldn't it be nice if the whole thing started with "Once upon a time...."? A pointless track.
ONCE UPON A TIME: 1/2
A humorous and casual intro to Sofa, with Volman generating a few laughs (for once). "I hate like DAMN to say this...."
SOFA #1: 1/2
An uninspired version of an incredible song. It's almost as if the band is trying to fuck it up, but can't. (You need real talent to ruin Sofa.) BTW, isn't this really Sofa number TWO, since #2 is the one with words? Just curious
THE MAMMY ANTHEM: 1
Love it. Listen to it constantly. This is (a) a great solo, (b) a wonderfully acidic little melody, and (c) an effective advertisement for "Thing-Fish." One of my favorite Zappa solos.
YOU DIDN'T TRY TO CALL ME: 1
I wanted to give this a half-point, but two things earn it a full point. First, it's almost entirely a vocal song, something very rare for the instrumentally-obsessive Frank Zappa. The music is not very important here, and the singing is impressive. Second, I really enjoy the updated versions of songs from the first three albums. (The later verisons of "I Ain't Got No Heart" come to mind).
DISEASES OF THE BAND: 1
Another close call, but it gets a full point because (a) it's brief, and (b) this is why we want a compilation of live tracks, right? This compliments "Once Upon a Time" --- a little interlude before the next song. (Oh, and it's funny, too.)
TRYIN TO GROW A CHIN: 0
Nothing special. I guess Denny Walley gets the words wrong, but not in a way that it can detect. If I want to hear this, I'll just listen to "Lather."
LET'S MAKE HARRY ORANGE: 1/2
Somewhere between zero and a half point. I love this demented game show theme, but the performance is kind of sleepy. What bumps it up to a half-point? The indexing! Crazy but true. On MAJNH, this medley is broken into three parts, which screws it up when you his "random" on the CD player. Nitpicking? No way. If you use the random function as much as I do, bad indexing can ruin a song. Zappa could have easily cut this into three bits, but he didn't.
THE GROUPIE ROUTINE: 0
Almost half a point for the sheer silliness and the references to baby octopi and cream corn, but that's not enough. If this was set to music --- ever heard "Welcome to the United States"?--- I'd like it. (And, BTW, this is a much better version than the one on Fillmore East 1971.)
Forgettable. Love the singing and the intro is amusing, but this track is really useless.
Close, but not quite. When Zappa does the Rueben and the Jets thing, he walks a fine line. Why play in this old, Fifties style? To mock it? That works. This doesn't.
I'M THE SLIME: 1/2
Good lyrics. It's fun to hear Zappa do his wordy raps about American culture. The music is the kind that Zappa could slap together in his sleep --- nothing here to get excited about, but not a waste. (Hey, that solo is kind of nice, too.)
BIG SWIFTY: 1
One of the best Zappa bands playing one of the best Zappa songs. If this stayed in the vault, it would be a crime. This is right up there with "The Mammy Anthem." I've heard it many, many times and I'm not even close to getting sick of it.
DON'T EAT THE YELLOW SNOW: 0
A big, fat zero. If this was five minutes shorter, I'd give it a half a point. I like the poetry readings and the music at the end is good. But it's just too damn long. When it starts, I heave a sigh and get ready to be stuck in Nanook Land for the next twenty minutes. It's the same sigh I heave at the beginning of "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary." If this was was indexed into two separate tracks, that would give it a half-point, too. But, as it is, it's a zero.
PLASTIC PEOPLE: 0
A nice little intro to the second disc, but this is ruined by the fact that "Louie Louie" is on disc #1. The early Mothers are so overshadowed by the other Zappa bands, I sometimes feel sorry for them.
THE TORTURE NEVER STOPS: 1/2 I'm impressed by the length of this solo, but I get lost in it. It would have been much better if Zappa unified it with some memorable melodies, or let it steadily build up or gently wind down. But he's doesn't. The guitar just goes on and on and on. The song itself is valuable --- it's great for a live show. Very heavy and easy to decorate with sound effects.
FINE GIRL: 1
Half a point for the goofy, bouncy music. Another half point for the lyrics. She goes down AND she'll do your laundry. A little too long, but too fun to resist.
ZOMBY WOOF: 1
Like "Stevie's Spanking" and "Tell Me You Love Me," this is one of those songs where the band drops into full rock and roll mode. The references to old monster movies are weak, but the solo is one of my favorites. There's even a fake-out one minute into the song ---- you think the solo is about to begin, but you get another verse first. Great ending, too. (I made an MP3 of this with all of the vocal parts edited out and a loop at the end. Maybe that influenced my opinion.)
SWEET LEILANI: 1
Starts with an insightful little intro by Zappa, sounds nice, and then it turns to chaos. Wonderful. BTW, I just got "The Baha Sessions" by Chris Isaak, with this song on it. Sounds completely different. The Mothers version is 100% better.
OH NO: 1
I first heard this (with lyrics) on MAJNH. This should have been indexed to include "Sweet Leilani." They sound just right together. This is different from the Lumpy Gravy version(s), too. A good performance of an outstanding little theme.
BE IN MY VIDEO: 1/2
Just like "I'm the Slime." The music is passable and the lyrics are worth listening to. Makes me think of the social commentary of Bill Hicks for some reason. The line "let's dance the blues," the description of stupid video images, "stabbity-stabbity-stabbity," and "quick knob job" make sure this gets at least half a point.
THE DEATHLESS HORSIE: 0
I just can't find anything here that I haven't heard before. This belongs on "Guitar," where the band is too loud, competing with the (mediocre) solo. Maybe when I get SUNPYG, my appreciation of this track will improve.
THE DANGEROUS KITCHEN: 0
Almost half a point for the "vocal stylings." But, ultimately, this is just a head-scratcher. Maybe it's fun to hear when you see Zappa live, and maybe it fits just right on the album from which it came, but it doesn't make sense to put something this unimportant on YCDTOSA.
DUMB ALL OVER: 1/2
Love the song, but it's almost impossible to do a live version of anything from YAWYI that is superior to the original. Zappa missed a great opportunity here to change the lyrics to reference something more topical. He did it on TBBYNHIYL, when he rewrote a few tunes into Swaggart versions, with varying degrees of success. Half a point for being a live version of one Zappa's best songs.
HEAVENLY BANK ACCOUNT: 0
I like the song on YAWYI, but this is kind of useless. Not bad, just hard to understand why it's here.
SUICIDE CHUMP: 0
Okay, I understand the inclusion of "Dumb All Over," and "Heavenly Bank Account" segues perfectly into this (lyrically and musically), but there's just no reason to follow those two songs with a version of "Suicide Chump" that's sounds almost identical to the version on YAWYI. If Zappa's going to do something from YAWYI, what not try one of the weirder tracks, like "Any Downers?"
TELL ME YOU LOVE ME: 1
This is one of those aggressive, let's-go-ahead-and-be-a-rock-band songs. Excellent use of Steve Vai. If this was longer, it would be half a point. Somehow, the length makes it work.
SOFA #2: 1
Great rendition of a great song. Played well and with an appropriate show-closing re-introduction of the band.
Total points: 13 1/2
Yucked Tosa Volume One (the Yellow Album) covers a lot of musical territory, so it's bound to have some big fat zeroes and some enthusiastic 1s. I should mention that the liner notes are very good, with plenty to read and chew on
I don't listen to it as often as I should --- I think of it as a disappointing album, but I'm happy to hear it when I finally get around to putting it in the CD player. As the first in the series, you really can't expect anything better. With the exception of #4, this one covers the most of Zappa's styles, his range of seriousness and humor, and his bands.
SONGS THAT GO ON THE "BEST OF THE YCDTOSA SERIES" LIST
The Mammy Anthem
Sweet Leilani/Oh No
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