Jeff Simmons

The Straight Years: Naked Angels Soundtrack & Lucille Has Messed Up My Mind

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This double-disc set contains the digital debut of the original motion picture soundtracks for the film Naked Angels (1969) and Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up (1970). Both are Jeff Simmons (electric bass/piano/organ/accordion/vocals) projects recorded for Frank Zappa's short-lived Straight Records vanity label, during which time Zappa was also incorporating Simmons' talents into the concurrent incarnation of the Mothers of Invention. Simmons had most recently been in a string of local and regional Northern California and Pacific Northwest combos. Notable among them were the Indian Puddin' & Pipe, West Coast Natural Gas, Easy Chair, and Ethiopia. Naked Angels is primarily short instrumentals that were excerpted as incidental music in the Roger Corman-distributed no-budget biker exploitation flick. Simmons is joined by Al Malosky (drums) and producer Randy Steirling. The latter also penned the ersatz groovy "Naked Angels Theme" and is co-credited on both the syncopated and percussive "Vegas Pickup" as well as the funky "First Desert Ride." All told, these are good to excellent sides, considering the reason they were commissioned. By the time Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up hit store shelves, Simmons had become a full-blown Mother of Invention. Along for the ride on Lucille is not only fellow Mother Ian Underwood (sax), but also one LaMarr Bruister, the pseudonym Zappa used for producing the whole affair and even playing guitar on a couple of cuts. The remaining core lineup likewise boasts contributions from Craig Tarwater (guitar) and Ron Woods (drums/percussion). Highlights include Tarwater's exceptional electric string work on the opener "Appian Way" and the dark pop vibe of "Madame Du Barry."

"I'm in the Music Business" is a lean fist-pumper reflecting the cynical realities of those who sell their souls for rock & roll. Zappa's unmistakable string mastery is emblazoned upon the title composition "Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up" -- a tune Zappa would occasionally revisit in the same vein as "Sharleena." Another song that definitely caught Zappa's ear was the Simmons original "Wonderful Wino," executed here with a loose and grinding groove. After Frank got a hold of it, he eventually worked up versions with Flo & Eddie, Ricky Lancelotti, and even himself on lead vocals. Simmons' reading is likewise notable for the sound of a reversed tape incorporated as a primary component of the rhythm track, a technique perhaps influenced by Zappa's unconventional studio wizardry. "Tigres" -- which Simmons enunciates as "Tie Grace" -- is an earnest homage supported by a solid four-on-the-floor backbeat and a stately organ accompaniment that wouldn't have sounded out of place from Procol Harum. Languid and slightly surreal is the waltz "Aqueous Humore" -- a term, incidentally, also defined as "the clear, watery fluid circulating in the chamber of the eye between the cornea and the lens," according to The American Heritage Medical Dictionary. It is uncertain if that is Simmons' intended interpretation, especially as the lyrics involve a desire for the singer to be "...back in the water...growing my gills again...floating and fining, I'd be diving and spinning...." Returning to terra firma, "Conversations with a Recluse" concludes the album, blending a bit of folk stylings on top of the typical sturdy sounds that permeate the majority of the platter.

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