The Lost Episodes

Frank Zappa

Rykodisc, 1996

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The nice thing about artists like Frank Zappa is that they had the foresight to have a tape machine running almost constantly, thereby guaranteeing the fans that they'd never run out of new things to listen to, even after the artist had long left this world.

The Lost Episodes, the first posthumous disc from Zappa ( Civilization Phaze III had been planned as a release prior to Zappa's death in 1993), is a surprisingly cohesive collection of songs, ranging in quality from "historical interest" to studio-polished. Why some of these cuts never saw the light of day prior to the release of this disc is a mystery, but thankfully they were indeed released.

Containing a lot of material from pre-1970 (including some of the earliest Zappa recordings from the '50s), one could assume that this disc is aimed at the early Mothers Of Invention fans - but this wouldn't be totally correct. Yes, there is plenty of material here to make fans of work like Freak Out! celebrate - an early version of "Any Way The Wind Blows," selections from Zappa's score for the film my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Run Home Slow and a true jazz version of "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance" (which is an outstanding version) will definitely be pleasing.

Yet even back in the early '60s, one could see the germination of the seed that was Zappa the serious composer. Certainly the pieces from Run Home Slow suggest this, but so does the "Mount St. Mary's Concert Excerpt," even though it appears to have been humorous in nature. Zappa was already interested in Varese at this stage in his life, so it's not terribly surprising that he'd be experimenting with serious music even this early in his career. I only wish there was more of this particular concert featured, so I could have really gotten a feel for what Zappa was trying to accomplish.

There is plenty of humor abundant on The Lost Episodes, including a hilarious doo-wop send-up on "Charva," but Zappa also shows how serious of a student he was of the genre, as heard on "Fountain Of Love," co-written with Don "Captain Beefheart" Van Vliet. Likewise, the medley of "Wedding Dress Song" and "Handsome Cabin Boy" provides an interesting portrait of Zappa the young man, and is highly enjoyable.

Even as his career progressed, the quality of the music did not diminish, as versions of "Wonderful Wino," "RDNZL," "Inca Roads" and an 11-minute take on "Sharleena" demonstrate. Not only do these versions build on their more well-established official releases, but they add whole new aspects to the songs, again making me wonder why Zappa declared these to be not ready for the spotlight.

There are a few questionable inclusions, such as "Cops And Buns," detailing one of the many warnings that Zappa and crew received from the men in blue, as well as "Basement Music, No. 1," which I'm still trying to figure out. These aren't bad tracks, but one wonders why they were included with such high water-marks from the Zappa archives.

The Lost Episodes is the kind of disc that makes you wonder just what other treasures lie hidden in the Zappa tape vaults, but it also shows the high standards that Zappa had for his work. Many of these tracks are excellent, yet they never saw the light until 1996. This is definitely not a barrel-bottom collection, and deserves to be placed among Zappa's best releases during his lifetime.

2005 Christopher Thelen and "The Daily Vault." All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of the Zappa Family Trust / record label, and is used for informational purposes only.

Rating: B

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© 2005 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rykodisc, and is used for informational purposes only.