Though many of his post-Mothers of Invention recordings were dismissed by many
rock critics as immature, I have never agreed with that collective opinion of
Frank Zappa's work. Bitter, dark, intelligent and sarcastic, the late Frank
Zappa (along with the Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground) popped the hippie
balloon even before Charles Manson gave long hair and "free love" a
really bad name. Released last week, The Lost Episodes is an
album of previously unreleased material mostly drawn from between 1958 and
1972, assembled by Zappa during 1992 and 1993. It is a rather miraculous
overview of a very strange career, especially when one considers that all of
this stuff was considered dispensable by Zappa at the time it was recorded.
Dispensable it is not. Weird? Strange? Freaky? Bizarre? Pick your adjective,
any of those will work. Dig a late '50s recording with a female vocalist
entitled "Lost In A Whirlpool," with lyrics that are in classic Zappa bad
taste. An alternative version of "Anyway the Wind Blows" is simply a pop gem
('50s group vocals meet early '60s beat rock) that one would never expect from
Zappa. The 71 minute, 25 second album contains 30 tracks. One, "Run Home Cues
#3," is just 11 seconds in length; another, an extended take of "Sharleena,"
clocks in at 11 minutes, 54 seconds. For those unfamiliar with Frank Zappa, The
Mothers of Invention's Freak Out is the album to start with before
picking up The Lost Episodes. But if you're already a Zappa convert,
your won't regret an album that, by the way, includes five appearances by the
great Captain Beefheart.