LeBocal - Oh No! ... Just Another Frank Zappa Memorial Barbecue!
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Having read many reviews of this album, all but a few of which are sadly mistaken in my not so humble opinion, in various locations, I just have to redress the balance.
One person who claims to be a die hard Zappa fan complains that they have played King Kong in 4/4, but if you are a real fan and are familiar with Lumpy Gravy then there it is, 7' 36" into the second section, a slow 4/4 version of King Kong arranged and produced by the man himself.
Then there's the person who is put off by the vocal tracks. Again, Zappa and vocals? ... how many different voices of people other than Zappa, and how many plain or electronically or otherwise modified versions of Zappa's own voice appear throughout his own productions? Zappa himself confronted the question "Does humour belong in music?" with a compilation of his own live material. Ernie Odoom's voice is somewhere between Ray Collins and Bob Martin. LeBocal are world class musicians - they weren't about to add some crummy singing over the top of their instrumental brilliance. The four numbers that have singing (not three - someone can't even count) are sung with skill and the appropriate dose of humour. Ask yourself this - is there a Frank Zappa best of, of his own compilation, that has no singing, in fact, is there a Zappa album of his own production that has no singing aside from his various orchestral albums?
Then there's the comment that this album could only be of interest to generic jazz fans. I think I know what this means but that doesn't prevent me from being insulted. Outside of Zappa's family and friends, nobody misses him more than me. His music and social commentary have accompanied a significant chunk of my life and although I have many other musical influences his is the greatest. But he's gone now and if we want more of what he offered us then people who aren't Frank Zappa will have to do it. Many fans felt betrayed when he ditched the original Mothers but Frank himself moved on and so now should we.
This offering by LeBocal is brave in the sense that anyone who produces Zappa's music is bound to attract criticism and they have gone ahead and done it in their own way. What is the point of making it sound exactly like Frank's output - that's already been done and I already own most of those albums. And not only that, there are other considerations. When I listen to Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance on We're Only in it for the Money I can't help but hear the struggle with the medium he was forced to work with at the time, sounding possibly a bit dated and then I hear that theme liberated by LeBocal and there it is alive and well in the 21st Century.
Consider Oh No. How many different versions are there of that material? On Lumpy Gravy it's orchestrated a la elevator music, on Weasels Ripped My Flesh it's kind of junk art rock and then on Roxy And Elsewhere it's elevated to one of the greatest pieces I've ever heard - a beautiful song followed by a very moving guitar solo and topped off by some big band wonderment segueing into a big band rendition of More Trouble Every Day which has evolved well beyond the original on Freak Out. So, pick any Zappa theme, then tell me which is the definitive arrangement or performance that anyone else who is trying to keep his music alive should use. I don't think so. In Zappa's own words "Anything Anytime Anyplace With No Reason At All".
Anyway, in my opinion "Oh No ... Just Another Frank Zappa Memorial Barbecue" is everything the cover notes claims it to be and more. I listened to it over and over again which is more than I can say for many of the official offerings from Zappa's own vault that were released after his death, which may be interesting from a documentary point of view but if your main reason for listening to Zappa is having your socks rocked off then we need brave and talented musicians doing completely new productions. This album by LeBocal is a brave new album.