This week’s edition of Classics Revisited I’ve decided to talk about Frank Zappa’s classic album Apostrophe. Now yes this is probably Zappa’s most accessible album, but it’s also one of his best albums and the wide critical acclaim and gold status back up this claim. Showcasing some of Zappa’s unmistakable music, this album has it all. It has patented Zappa humor, screaming guitar solos, and complex instrumentation and compositions that are the hallmark of the one of the best musicians to have ever lived. While being a relatively short album compared to many others, Apostrophe delivers a shot that has not and will not soon be forgotten.
The album begins with the fun Don’t Eat Yellow Snow and Nanook Rubs It In. Some very interesting percussion happens in the beginning parts of this song about the Eskimo Nanook and the song itself is actually quite catchy and poppy even though the lyrics would never allow this to become a mainstream success of any kind. The drop into Nanook Rubs It In gets really kind of blues-groove oriented and the humorous story continues. I won’t even ruin it for you, just go listen and laugh. Some guitar chops from Zappa are shown in this song however mostly the draw of this one is the unique instrumentation for which he is known. St. Alphonzo’s Pancake Breakfast is next on the album bringing a really quirky twist to the album early on. Complex and fast playing by the entire band right here in this very short interlude cannot be missed and is often under appreciated but is a fine example of the musicianship of every musician Zappa made this album with. Father Oblivion comes driving in right from the end of St. Alphonzo’s with a mean guitar riff from Zappa spiraling into what seems to be the first real rock song album. Definitely one of the top tracks on this album and it definitely marks the end of the first half of the album.
Now while the first half of the album is great to be sure, the second half is what makes this one of the greatest albums of all time. Cosmik Debris is a unique song about a “Mystery Man” coming across a guru who promises him nirvana and the subsequent refusal of the guru’s advances by the man. A very intriguing song lyrically as well as musically it’s a solid song that sees one of Zappa’s first real solos on the album and it is drenched with blues. The short song Excentrifugal Forz, just as St. Alfonzo’s, should not be overlooked as it is a fun and experimental song with many effects and sounds creating a sort of soundscape before dropping into Apostrophe, the title track on the album. This track is one of the defining moments of the album where Zappa really shines in his guitar playing but what is not to be overlooked is the wonderful bass playing by none other than Cream bassist, Jack Bruce. The two weave music in and out of each other and come away with a jam that will have everyone rocking out by the end. After the damage from the title track is laid upon you, the best song on the album comes. Notice I didn’t say the best composition but best song as the lyrics in this song are very well written and create vivid imagery in the listener’s mind. Uncle Remus is a song that outlines racial issues during the time of the creation of this record in 1974. It does a very nice job of showcasing Zappa’s ability as a songwriter and really is a key component to the album. Finally the funniest and in my opinion best song on the album hits. Stinkfoot compiles everything that this album offers and condenses it into 6:34 of amazing music. The story of a man’s smelly appendage is something that takes this album to the next level as far as humor is concerned and as far as playing is concerned because Frank’s take no prisoners, fast fire style of playing, makes this song a wonderful excursion into the depth of the composer’s mind.
This is by far one of the best albums that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reviewing. This is never a bad choice to throw on the old turntable if you’ve got one and never a bad choice to throw in the cd player in your car. Go back and give this album another listen and if you’ve never heard it, let Frank Zappa show you a thing or two.