Frank Zappa

Does Humor Belong in Music?

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As Frank Zappa was focusing more on his computer and orchestral music in 1985-1986, he put together an album and a video of live material from his then-last tour from 1984. Does Humor Belong in Music? was released in January 1986, in Europe and Japan only. In 1995, Ryko issued it for the first time in the U.S. (a reissue for the rest of the world) with a thorough remix, new cover artwork, and a different edit of "Let's Move to Cleveland" (adding one extra minute). Asking the title question is answering it, at least when Zappa is concerned. It expresses a way for him to get back at music critics who despised his stage antics and scatological humor in the early '80s -- from a man who was trying to affirm himself as a "serious" composer. The CD documented the 1984 band (Ray White, Ike Willis, Bobby Martin, Alan Zavod, Scott Thunes, and Chad Wackerman) for the first time. Old songs from the '60s and '70s like "Trouble Every Day" and "Penguin in Bondage" are given a harder edge, while "Let's Move to Cleveland," "Hot-Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel," and the concert version of "What's New in Baltimore" got their premiere recording. Because of Wackerman's electronic drums, the razor-edged guitar sound Zappa used at the time and his fiddling with digital recording techniques, the album sounds oddly lifeless, almost clinical. It has its moments but is by no means an essential item. The video and CD present different track lists.

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