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Sheik Yerbouti [2 LP]
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Sheik Yerbouti is one of a handful of Zappa albums that manages to capture American civilization as it is (or as it will be). Zappa comments on society, government, religion, people, and music with both biting satire and insightful observation. Sheik Yerbouti's target is America in the mid-to-late 1970's. Disco is popular. Dylan is resurgent. Kiss is still wearing makeup and spitting blood. We are a nation of "Flakes", slaves to our consumerism. We are college students about to move back in with our parents.
This album takes you on a ride through 1970's musical styles, admittedly on the hard rock edge. And, last but not least, this album contains what is, in my opinion, the single greatest Frank Zappa guitar solo ever put to tape: Rat Tomago. As far as I can tell, it is a solo lifted from the middle of a live performance of The Torture Never Stops, recorded on a four-track reel-to-reel. Just guitar, bass and drums. It is whole-tone scale madness. It is Zappa unbound.
One more point on the experimental nature of some of the songs on Sheik Yerbouti: One "song", Rubber Shirt, is actually a melding of two completely separate tracks, one bass and one drums, playing in different time signatures. Also, the solo on Yo' Mama is what Frank would come to call (on the Joe's Garage album) an "imaginary guitar solo", meaning that the solo was placed over a background rhythm from an entirely different song.Read more ›
1. Satirical and clever lyrics. Zappa deals with sexual ambiguity, cursing, ridiculing the disco era and dating with a Jewish girl to whom not very complimentary epithets are attached. So you might think he's nasty, homophobic, misogynistic, antisemitic and anti-disco. It might be, it might not. But he's open enough not to be politically correct, and I think it is a virtue.
2. Silly lyrics. He also sings about baby snakes and "not smoking in pajamas" because "you might start a fire'n burn yer place". Well, sometimes he relies on music, not on lyrics; the latter ones are often a medium to music, so they tend to be quite silly at times. But I find them funny.
3. Musical complexity. In "Rubber Shirt" Zappa took the bass part of a 4/4 track, and superimposed it on a slow 11/4 drum track. He did the same in the "Yo' Mama" guitar solo. That's worth noticing and listening to.
4. Musical simple, rocking straightforwardness. Which is what, in my opinion, makes the album so good. You never get lost, bored or misled. You can keep your feet stomping much of the listening time. "Baby Snakes" is a highlight of this approach, I think: short, uncomplicated, and that's it.
5. Guitar musicianship. There's more than a couple of tracks with Frank doing the virtuoso part. Great.
6. Lack of "unmitigated audacity", i.e. experimental and weird sonic adventures. This is one of the Zappa landmarks that you will miss in this one. Even so, if there's no cacophony or there aren't dislocated sound collages, it will make "Sheik Yerbouti" more acceptable for first-time listeners. You can go then for "Hot Rats" (1969) or the early Mothers stuff if you're curious about it.
Conclusion: this album is the best to begin to listen to Zappa and to know most of his traits. If it gets you bored, you won't be a Zappa fan at all.
You should go pick up his book, The Real Frank Zappa. You may be offended by his lyrics, but his intentions are not to express hatred. He just likes to speak his mind, no matter how perverse YOU may find it. The only song that seems to mention homosexuality is "Bobby Brown Goes Down," but to me it's just a song about judging people at first sight and how the "All-American" jock-type men are really just as freaky as the rest of us except they repress themselves too much.
Secondly, the music is VERY "groovin'", the "grooviest" being "Yo' Mama," "City of Tiny Lights" and "Rat Tomago" in my opinion of course.
And humorous too! You might find them lyrically offensive, but I don't: "I Have Been in You" (a parody of the cheesiest Peter Frampton song of the '70's), "Flakes", "Baby Snakes," "Broken Hearts are for...," "Jewish Princess," and your favorite... "Bobby Brown Goes Down."
This is also one of the more "accessible" FZ albums. If you enjoyed Apostrophe ('), I recommend getting this one. If you have a free mind that likes musical and lyrical freedom, this one's for you. I love and miss you Frank!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The case came cracked up I got a hold of them and then things got messed up probably on my part but that case isn't off green it can't be replaced with a regular coverPublished 2 months ago by mark fugley bagley
I bought these awhile back and I never did I review. But I feel everyone deserves the right to know how their products were. It came without a problem and it played okay. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer in westland, Mi
The lyrics are XXX, but Zappa may have reached his "clever" peak here. One problem: the songs sort of all sound the same.Published 2 months ago by NoOilforPacifists
I can't stop listening. I cannot believe I have never heard this piece of brilliance before.Published 4 months ago by Chuck
This is One of Zappas best album ever Made ... incredible !Published 6 months ago by L.DEDE ZACHARIAS
The Zappa Family Trust hits another one out of the park. The vinyl is perfect, the mastering is spot on, and the soundstage is three dimensional. Read morePublished 6 months ago by swansong