In order to finance his artier excursions, which increasingly required more expensive technology, Frank Zappa recorded several collections of guitar- and song-oriented material in the late '70s and early '80s, which generally concentrated on the bawdy lyrical themes many fans had come to expect and enjoy in concert. Sheik Yerbouti (two LPs, one CD) was one of the first and most successful of these albums, garnering attention for such tracks as the Grammy-nominated disco satire "Dancin' Fool," the controversial "Jewish Princess," and the equally controversial "Bobby Brown Goes Down," a song about gay S&M that became a substantial hit in European clubs.
Official Release #54. Most of You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 3 is devoted the 1984 band which, at the time of this set's release, had not been properly documented (the live Does Humor Belong in Music? was made commercially available in the U.S. in 1995 only). Most of the material comes from late-'70s/early-'80s albums like Sheik Yerbouti, Joe's Garage, and You Are What You Is. Disc one is 1984 only (excerpt for a few edits in "Drowning Witch") and lacks interest.
Zoot Allures, released in October 1976, is mostly a studio album (there are some basic live tracks, as in the title track and "Black Napkins") featuring a revolving cast of musicians who, oddly, do not correspond to the ones pictured on the album cover (for instance, Patrick O'Hearn and Eddie Jobson did not contribute). Compared to previous releases like One Size Fits All, Roxy & Elsewhere, or even Over-Nite Sensation, and to upcoming ones such as Zappa in New York, Studio Tan, or Sheik Yerbouti, Zoot Allures sounds very stripped down to bare essentials.
Official Release #65. LATHER (pronounced "leather") was recorded in the 1970s and originally intended as a 4-LP box set. It was, however, never released that way; instead, the material from the project dribbled out over the course of 1978 and 1979 on the albums ZAPPA IN NEW YORK, SLEEP DIRT, STUDIO TAN, ORCHESTRAL FAVORITES and SHEIK YERBOUTI. This 1996 release is the first issue of the full LATHER, and it features four previously-unreleased songs, along with previously-unreleased versions or mixes of many of the tracks. Recorded between 1973 and 1977.
Sleep Dirt was never conceived as a stand-alone album. Five of its seven tracks were suppose to appear on the ill-fated 1976 box set Läther; three had been recorded for Zoot Allures but were shelved after Zappa decided to trim it down from a double to a single LP; finally, three had been written as part of the abandoned musical Hunchentoot. Zappa pieced the album together from these various discarded parts. "The Ocean Is the Ultimate Solution" (one of the leftovers from Zoot Allures) is now considered to be one of his finest instrumental rock pieces.