As An Am

Frank Zappa

Foo-Eee, 1991

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The last time we ventured into the Beat The Boots! collection from the late Frank Zappa was way back in 1997, when this site was still in its infancy. Since then, a third collection was briefly available via MP3 download on Zappa’s website, but seems to be sadly out of print.

So, back into the Pierce Memorial Archives for another taste of forbidden vinyl—this time, As An Am, which was the most recent set of recordings in the first box set. Comprising of a mere five songs and an interview snippet from “Rockline,” it captures Zappa and band well, if presenting an extremely limited picture of what the band was circa 1981 and 1982.

Now, I’m aware there are plenty of discs in Zappa’s official discography that capture what the early ’80s band sounded like, so it’s not like my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 As An Am is an exclusive snapshot of that portion of Zappa’s history. And it’s not that the inclusion of tracks like “Young And Monde” are poor choices; if anything, tracks like this demonstrate just how skilled of a guitarist Zappa was (to say nothing about the professionalism of his entire band).

Maybe it’s that songs like “Sharleena,” “Black Napkins” and “The Torture Never Stops” have been featured so often that getting another dose of them feels like a bit of overkill (even though the version of “The Torture Never Stops” was from Zappa’s 1981 Halloween show in New York, since officially released on the Halloween ‘81 box set). Granted, I’m no expert on Zappa’s set lists over the years, but it’s safe to say that some lesser known tracks might have gotten featured in their place. (Then again, not featuring the “hits” might have lost the bootleggers sales.)

So, we’re left with two tracks from Cologne, Germany in 1982, three from New York in 1981, and the 1981 “Rockline” snippet where, in a bit of poetic justice, Zappa blasts those profiting off him through bootlegging. And, for the loyal Zappa fan, it still remains a fairly interesting snapshot of Zappa in concert, though the sound quality seems like it was recorded off of someone’s father’s console TV in the living room. I know, I know… it’s a bootleg, stupid—and for a bootleg, it’s still decent enough quality.

If As An Am has an overlying weakness, it’s simply that it doesn’t feature enough Zappa to keep the listener satisfied. Sure, 43 minutes was fairly common in terms of album lengths in the ’70s and ’80s, but this one just left me wanting more. (Again, one has to wonder why, even near the end of his life, Zappa himself didn’t pad these releases with even one additional song to differentiate them from the original boots.)

As An Am is a decent enough offering, and in terms of bootlegs, it’s quite listenable. But it’s not quite as satisfying as one might want it to be.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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