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.
This short but delectably sweet release is for most intents and purposes the soundtrack to the Frank Zappa concert film of the same name. Both were captured on location at New York City's Palladium (formerly the Academy of Music) in 1977, during the artist's brief yearly residency in the Big Apple in and around Halloween. By the time of these concerts, Zappa was embroiled in all manner of unpleasantness with Warner Bros. Records – a fact not lost to listeners as he comments upon their tumultuous relationship during some off the cuff dialogue with Terry Bozzio (percussion/vocals), as heard on "Titties and Beer."
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.
Official Release #67. As the title suggests, Have I Offended Someone? contains all of Zappa's notoriously tasteless parodies and satires, from "Bobby Brown Goes Down," "Catholic Girls," and "Jewish Princess" to "He's So Gay," "Titties 'n Beer," and "Dinah-Moe Humm." Nearly all of the tracks are presented in new remixed versions, and two songs, "Dumb All Over" and "Tinsel Town Rebellion," have never been released before.
Official Release #65. The full saga of Läther (pronounced leather) is tangled enough to give a migraine to all but committed Zappaphiles. Basically, what you need to know is that this project was originally conceived of as a four-record box set. When record company politics prevented its release in that format, much of the material was spread over the albums Live in New York, Sleep Dirt, Studio Tan, and Orchestral Favorites. This three-CD set presents the album as it was originally conceived, with the addition of four bonus tracks at the end. It mixes previously available material, alternate mixes, and edits, and previously unissued stuff, though only the most serious Zappa fans will have a good grip on exactly what has appeared where (the liner notes are surprisingly unexact in this regard).
Official Release #64. A 30-track compilation of rarities, spanning much of his career, but in the main confined to the 1960s and early '70s (some date from as early as the late '50s!). Much of it's previously unreleased, or extremely hard to locate. It's not just a collection of fan-oriented odds and ends, though. The material, for one thing, is extremely diverse, ranging from collaborations with Captain Beefheart and primitive teenage garage recordings to comic dialog to progressive instrumentals and orchestral pieces.
For all of his many attributes, one thing Frank Zappa most certainly was not is commercial. Presumably, the title of this collection is ironic. Strictly Commercial: The Best of Frank Zappa is a compilation not of the composer's hits – he only broke the Top 40 on one occasion, with "Valley Girl" – but rather, a collection of his best-known material, from "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" to "Sexual Harassment in the Workplace." Zappa's albums often function as individual works, but this disc offers an intelligent selection of songs, serving as an introduction to the maverick musician.