Top Artists – Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa & The Mothers – Freak Out!

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  • Insanely good sound throughout with all four sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it
  • The overall sound here is incredibly rich, warm and full-bodied yet still super detailed, spacious and dynamic; the energy level is off the charts too!
  • Most pressings of this double album are just awful, if you can even find one that’s clean enough to bother playing
  • “One of the most ambitious debuts in rock history, Freak Out! was a seminal concept album that somehow foreshadowed both art rock and punk at the same time. Its four LP sides deconstruct rock conventions right and left, eventually pushing into territory inspired by avant-garde classical composers.” – All Music

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Frank Zappa – Waka/Jawaka

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound throughout and exceptionally quiet vinyl, this copy delivers plenty of Zappa’s Waka/Jawaka Big Band Magic
  • A Top 100 Title, and deservedly so – the sound is big, rich, punchy, lively, clear and above all, ANALOG
  • This copy will show you the size and power of a big band, Frank Zappa style – there is (almost*) nothing like it
  • Rolling Stone raved that this Jazz Rock Fusion album contains “…some of the best material he’s done in years.” and we could not agree more

(*Other than The Grand Wazoo, which can have sound every bit as good but is not the equal of Waka/Jawaka musically.)

What an incredible album. I know of no other like it. It’s not big band, it’s not rock, it’s not jazz, it’s a unique amalgamation of all three with an overlay of some of Zappa’s idiosyncratic compositional predilections (say that three times fast) thrown in for good measure.

In our opinion it’s nothing less than Zappa’s MASTERPIECE, the summation of his talents, and a record that belongs in every right-thinking audiophile’s collection. (We say that about a lot of records audiophiles don’t know well, but we’ve been doing it for most of our 31 years in this business and don’t see much reason to stop now.)

Most copies, especially the WB brown label reissues, are dull and smeary with little in the way of top end extension, failing pretty miserably at getting this music to come to life.

Not long ago we discovered the secret to separating the men from the boys on side one. On the lively, punchy, dynamic copies — which are of course the best ones — you can follow the drumming at the beginning of ‘Big Swifty’ note for note: every beat, every kick of the kick drum, every fill, every roll — it’s all there to be heard and appreciated. If that track on this copy doesn’t make you a huge fan of Aynsley Dunbar, I can’t imagine what would. The guy had a gift. (more…)

Frank Zappa / Hot Rats – Another Missed Opportunity from Classic Records

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Sonic Grade: C

Another Classic Records LP debunked.

As for the Classic here, we have only one question:

This is analog? You could’ve fooled me.

And somebody’s been messing around with the sound of the drums on the new version — a certain Mr. Frank Zappa no doubt. He really did the album a disservice.

Classic Meddling

Bernie’s version for Classic beats a lot of copies out there — the later Reprise pressings are never any good — but it can’t hold a candle to a good pressing.

What’s wrong with the Classic? Well, to my ears it just doesn’t sound natural or all that musical. Sure, it’s a nice trick to beef up those drums and give them some real punch, but does it sound right?

The other quality that the best copies have going for them and the Classic has none of is Tubey Magic. The Classic is clean, and at first that’s a neat trick since the originals tend to be a bit murky and congested. But it’s clean like a CD is clean, in all the wrong ways. 

The overall sound of the best originals is musical, natural and balanced. The Classic has that third quality — it’s tonally correct, no argument there — but musical and natural? Not really.

The Mothers – We’re Only In It For The Money

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  • This stunning two-pack boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two
  • The sound is huge and spacious with richness and Tubey Magic like nothing you’ve heard
  • Most copies we played were just too thin and crude-sounding to capture our attention — we played a good-sized stack of copies and these two were the ones that stood out and made the music work for us – and it will be quite a while before we are likely able to find any others
  • 5 stars: “… the music reveals itself as exceptionally strong, and Zappa’s politics and satirical instinct have rarely been so focused and relevant, making We’re Only in It for the Money quite probably his greatest achievement.”

Excellent sound for both sides of this wacky album! Any fan of the Mothers should know by now that this isn’t a very sonically impressive recording, but the sound on these Super Hot Stamper sides went far beyond what we heard elsewhere. It was a blast hearing what a serious pressing could do in relation to the mediocre copies I’ve played for so many years. And there are certainly some good sounding parts, but the presentation of the music is so wacky and lo-fi at times that I don’t want to raise expectations to an unreasonable level.

Don’t expect miracles here, nothing is going to turn this album into a stunning Demo Disc. However, those of you who love the music and want to hear what a serious pressing of this insane platter can do should get a kick out of this excellent sounding copy. I don’t think you can find better sound for this album no matter what you do. Your satisfaction is as always 100% guaranteed. (more…)

Frank Zappa – Fillmore East – June 1971 – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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Stick with the label above if you want good sound.


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Avoid the orangey-brown label, they never offer more than a pale shadow of the real recording.

 

KILLER SOUND ON QUIET VINYL — what are the odds? We’re big fans of this album, and Zappa in general, but it’s incredibly difficult to find copies that do justice to the music. The vinyl is typically thrashed, and even the copies in relatively clean condition usually don’t sound good. This one has about the quietest vinyl you could hope for, playing Mint Minus on both sides, and the sound is just about as good as it gets! 

So many pressings don’t let you hear INTO the music. This is a live recording with musicians sprinkled all over the stage — three-dimensional transparency is absolutely KEY to the best pressings, the ones that let you immerse yourself in the spectacle, never losing sight of the individual performances of Zappa and his merry band of obscene nut jobs. This band works BLUE. It will have you in hysterics if you get into the down and dirty spirit of the show. If that doesn’t sound like your thing, steer clear of this one. It’s raunchy as hell, and the raunchiest bits are the most hilarious.

The Greatest Rock Opera Ever

As for the music, it’s a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. This to me is the ultimate rock opera. In point of fact it’s actually a parody of a rock opera, which makes it doubly enjoyable.

The two former leaders of The Turtles (aka Flo and Eddie) variously play groupies (What Kind Of Girl Do You Think We Are) and members of the band. As the saying goes, hilarity ensues.

What makes this album so special is that the rock songs that are generated out of this story are actually great rock songs. They’re not filler. They’re not connecting tissue. They’re good songs with strong melodies that stand up on their own. Moreover, connected to each other through this crazy story sung by men pretending to be women, they become something even greater: a True Rock Opera. Better than that: A True Rock Opera Parody that’s as hilarious as it is musically satisfying. Zappa missed his calling — he should have dedicated himself to musical theatre. He has a real gift for it. This album is proof.

The entertainment value of this record is as good as it gets. Off the scale. If you’re a fan of The Firesign Theater, Zappa, improv comedy and such like, you will love this album. (more…)

Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame from 1967.

What to listen for you ask? That’s an easy one. Just listen for the best sounding Mothers record ever made, because that’s what the best copies can (and should) sound like.

Absolutely Free is much bigger, smoother, richer, livelier and more free from harshness, dryness and distortion than any other album we’ve ever played from Zappa’s early period, pre-Waka Jawaka let’s say. The only other records I can think of that can sound remotely as good as Absolutely Free are Cruising with Ruben & the Jets (1968) and Hot Rats (1969), and even then I really don’t think they are quite in this league.

  • BY FAR the best copy to ever hit the site – White Hot on side one and Nearly White on side two
  • You will not believe how rich and Tubey Magical this copy is, and yet so CLEAR and undistorted
  • If you’ve suffered through reissues or the dreadful CD you are going to flip out over the sound of this copy
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “By turns hilarious, inscrutable, and virtuosically complex, Absolutely Free is… a fabulously inventive record…”

Credit the incredibly talented Val Valentin with engineering that to our ears gives every indication of being a clear step up over everything else Zappa released in the ’60s.

Our last shootout was in 2007 — yes, about nine years ago. We can’t even find one clean copy of this album a year (at prices we can afford to pay of course). To be honest, one copy in our shootout was exceptionally quiet but the sound is a big step down from this one. (more…)

Frank Zappa & Captain Beefheart – Bongo Fury

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  • This classic Zappa & Beefheart album boasts STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • This pressing is head and shoulders above the pack, with the kind of big, punchy, full-bodied sound this music absolutely demands
  • Muffin Man is obviously the high point here – it’s one of my All-Time Favorite songs and never fails to bring a smile
  • “This is the last album to feature the highly technical jazz fusion of Mothers of Invention, whose roots can be traced back to 1973 circa Over-Nite Sensation.”

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl notwithstanding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some amazing music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


Both sides here are big, bold and lively with strong vocal presence and a big bottom end. Many copies have a tendency to get a bit gritty and grainy up top, but just listen to how smooth and sweet the cymbals sound here. Some of its other strengths are that it’s full-bodied, and tonally correct from top to bottom. The bass is meaty and punchy, and the top end is wonderfully extended. You can hear lots of ambience the cymbals and hi-hats. There’s really nothing between you and the music.

Some of this album is recorded live and some of it is studio material. The live tracks offer some of the best live Frank Zappa sound you will EVER hear.

The album is just plain wacky fun. You get the maximum entertainment value with this one. Muffin Man is obviously the high point — it’s one of my personal favorite Zappa tracks. This, in my opinion, is the last record Zappa made that’s any good. (more…)

Frank Zappa / Captain Beefheart – Bongo Fury – Our Shootout Winning Copy from 2006

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Bongo Fury

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This Minty looking Discreet LP has STUNNINGLY GOOD SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! It’s very transparent and full-bodied from top to bottom. The bass is meaty and punchy, and the top end is wonderfully extended. You can hear lots of ambience the cymbals and hi-hats. It doesn’t sound like there’s anything between you and the music. I can’t remember ever hearing this record sound so good. 

Some of this music is recorded live and some of it is studio material. The live tracks offer some of the best live Frank Zappa sound you will EVER hear.

This recording is just plain wacky fun. You get the maximum entertainment value with this one. Muffin Man is the high point of this album. It’s one of my favorite Zappa tracks. (more…)

Frank Zappa & The Mothers – Freak Out! – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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Freak Out!

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Jazz Hall of Fame.

No Demo Disc by any stretch, this Hot Stamper beat the pants off of what appears to be a true first pressing that we just happened to have on hand. Most pressings of this double album are just awful, if you can even find one that’s clean enough to bother playing. Our copy here earned grades of A Plus on sides one, two and four, and a grade of A Double Plus on side three. No copy in our shootout earned a higher grade than A++, for the simple reason that we just can’t find enough clean original copies with which to do a definitve shootout.  (more…)

Frank Zappa – Burnt Weeny Sandwich

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Burnt Weeny Sandwich

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

The better copies such as this one had a healthy dose of the Tubey Magical richness found on the better analog recordings from the late ’60s and ’70s (1970 in this case). One of Frank Zappa’s more interesting releases, with a combination of groundbreaking live and studio material, like Chunga’s and Weasils.  (more…)