Frank Zappa

Greasy Love Songs: An FZ Audio Documentary Project/Object

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Finally!! Zappa fans have been waiting a long time for this. When Frank prepared the digital masters that were eventually sold to Rykodisc, a number of albums were remixed so they always sounded a bit "odd" to folks who grew up with vinyl or tape. Of these, Cruisin' with Ruben and the Jets and We're Only in It for the Money suffered the most. Frank deemed the bass-and-drum tracks from the multi-tracks unusable, and had Arthur Barrow and Chad Wackerman cut new parts (with some additional acoustic bass from Jay Anderson on Ruben) in 1984. They made no effort to replicate the original parts, so those versions were basically unlistenable to most longtime fans. Frank found a proper stereo mix of Money before he died, but the original mix of Ruben remained a strictly analog artifact until 2010 and the release of Greasy Love Songs.

Releasing an album of '50s-style doo wop and R&B in 1968 at the height of psychedelia was (and may still be) viewed as a joke, but this album is no joke. Some of the lyrics may parody the lyrical and social conventions of the '50s, but Zappa loved this music and it shows. According to Frank ("Serious Fan Mail"), promo copies were sent out to oldies radio stations at the time (with no mention of the Mothers) and they were very well received...until word got out. Some of these songs may be funny, but "Anything" is as beautiful as any song in the genre (Ray Collins' lead vocal is pure gold). Since the tunes are fairly simple, it's Frank's arranging skills that are really on display. Four tunes from Freak Out! are totally rearranged for Ruben, and all the doo wop vocal parts are wonderful. But there are also some cool things going on below the surface, too, like some of the rhythmic accents from the drums or the backing vocals on "Fountain of Love" singing the opening melody from Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring."

As for the bonus material, there are a couple alternate mixes of "Jelly Roll Gum Drop" and earlier versions of "Love of My Life" (Studio Z!) and "Valerie." "Secret Greasing" is FZ doing a dramatic reading in a radio station of The Story of Ruben and the Jets from the LP jacket while the alternate version of "Stuff Up the Cracks" adds about a minute-and-a-half to Frank's outro guitar solo! There's also a lecture/interview collage with lots of interesting items including Frank mentioning that he had booked studio time the following week to record a sequel to Ruben! The sound on Greasy Love Songs is spectacular: mint vinyl probably wouldn't sound as good. The packaging is really nice, too. The wait was too long, but thanks to Vaultmeister Joe Travers, the original vinyl mix of Cruisin' with Ruben & the Jets has finally entered the digital age.

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