Son Of Cheep Thrills
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There are several points to consider if you are new to Frank Zappa. People who aren't will be able to make up their own minds, I certainly did.
Firstly, being told to buy Frank's albums does not help at all. If you were there all the time you have only ever been able to wait for his next release but if you are new to Frank Zappa on the wrong end of his career with well over fifty albums to choose from and not cash heavy which one do you buy first?
Secondly, what does die-hard Zappa fan mean? On the album Tinsel Town Rebellion at the start of Dance Contest a fan who has come onto the stage sounding extremely stoned blurts out how much he adores Frank and asks him to play Dinah Mo Hum, one of Zappa's occasionally more pornographic numbers. That fan is not presented in the best light in the liner notes. Do you want that person's advice? There is no such person as The Die-Hard Zappa Fan - people followed his career for countless reasons. Does anyone ever refer to the archetypal die-hard Stravinsky fan? It's not just a question of having all or nearly all of Frank Zappa's albums.
Thirdly, taken in isolation, Son of Cheep Thrills is a great album, the tracks are segued together nicely a la Zappa. I imagine you could put countless collections together like this if you wanted, but for a sampler, as a "die-hard" Zappa fan, I would have chosen different tracks. This album doesn't really capture Zappa's breadth and there are also better representatives of the aspects that it does address. None the less, it's all great Zappa music and even as a long time fan I don't regret buying it as cheap as it was, if nothing else it shows how pliable his music can be.
Fourthly, there are no rules, except that die-hard Frank Zappa fans do not own Frank Zappa.
So, should you buy this or go straight to Zappa's own output? I figure the odds be fifty fifty. A vote from all Zappa Fans would no doubt produce a most popular album, but that may not be the best place to start, for example You Are What You Is is nearly all songs which is not a typical Zappa album. Samplers such as Son of Cheep Thrills, if they're cheap and well thought out may give someone new to Zappa a good place to start. If you're not going to get a sampler then in my opinion, Roxy And Elsewhere would be hard to beat as a first Zappa Album. This was a double album, now on one CD. It has pieces pretty much spanning the entire Zappa spectrum played live by an amazing big band and MCed very amusingly and nostalgically by the man himself. It's a very apt and at the same time personal introduction to Frank Zappa. That album is still taking my breath away after 30 years.
If you are going to like Frank Zappa you'll most probably like Son Of Cheep Thrills which at the very least points to the various albums where the material originated. Toss a coin - heads you buy Son Of Cheep Thrills, tails you buy Roxy And Elsewhere. And be warned - the solo on Ya Hozna is by Steve Vai - it's good but it's not an example of Frank Zappa's playing and in my opinion doesn't belong on a sampler of FZ's work.