Audio Mixers: Dick Kunc; Frank Zappa; Joe Travers.
Liner Note Authors: Gail Zappa; David Fricke.
Recording information: ??/??/1964-10/22/1971.
Photographer: Linda McCartney.
This triple volume package contains an audio documentary tracing the conception and construction of Frank Zappa's We're Only in It for the Money (1968) and Lumpy Gravy (1968) masterworks. As the second entry in the Project/Object series (the first being the MoFo Project/Object in 2006 that gathered four CDs worth of goodies from the Freak Out! era), the modus operandi for Lumpy Money (2009) remains much the same as its predecessor. Presented within are primary components from both works in several unique -- and formerly unissued -- incarnations and configurations. It should also be noted that neither of Zappa's mid-'90s approved masters for We're Only in It for the Money or Lumpy Gravy are found here. Instead of retreading those -- which (as of this 2009 writing) remain in print on the Rykodisc label -- the nearly three-and-a-half hours served up here offer an embarrassment of insight into the development of the music, as well as the modular recording style that Zappa was evermore frequently incorporating into his craft. First up is the parenthetically monikered "Primordial" Lumpy Gravy. It is alternately known as Zappa's Capitol Records' orchestral edit. The story goes, as Zappa was not under contract as a conductor with any other record labels at the time, he was able to finagle a deal and ultimately (albeit briefly) issue a "Primordial" version of the work. Presented for the first time in over four decades, Zappa Family Trust archivist Joe Travers was able to restore this pristine monaural artifact direct from the 1/4" analog master tape. As presented in this fashion, the piece is divided into nine unique movements. Keen-eared Zappaphiles will unquestionably notice sections and snippets that would reappear in Lumpy Gravy. Likewise, there are a few sonic references that foreshadow Zappa's future endeavors. Most specifically, "VII Foamy Soaky" and the movement's obvious relationship to the Mothers of Invention's instrumental showcase "King Kong." The remainder of the first CD is dedicated to the original monaural mix -- created by Zappa with his (then) engineer Dick Kunc in 1968 -- of We're Only in It for the Money. Disc Two opens up with the primarily unheard 1984 remix of Lumpy Gravy that Zappa cooked up in his own Utility Muffin Research Kitchen studios. According to Gail Zappa's liner note text, "although...never released, FZ did include a track entitled "Lumpy Gravy (Excerpt)" in a promotional disc for The Old Masters, Box One." In addition to the 3:01 used in that extract, the rest of Zappa's distinctive upgrade can be heard here. Among the most prominent variations are the opening melody -- which is titled "Duodenum" or alternately the "Lumpy Gravy Theme." As offered on the 1984 upgrade, it contains prominent vocal overdubs by Ike Willis and lyrical references to Zappa's concurrent conceptual epic Thing-Fish (1984). Disc Two concludes with the mid-'80s refurbishment/remix of We're Only in It for the Money. The album is presented just as it sounded upon its initial availability on CD in 1986. Due to copious alterations -- notably some material being sped up, not to mention new rhythm section overdubs by Arthur Barrow (bass) and Chad Wackerman (drums) -- at the time, many purists balked at what they heard as revisionist history. It was ultimately replaced in the mid-'90s with a restored stereo edition, making this mid-'80s adaptation an out of print collector's item, until resurfacing here. As digital audio technology was truly in its infancy circa the mid-'80s, both have been given a modern remastering by Grammy-award winning engineer Bernie Grundman. The contents of Disc Three join the "Primordial" Lumpy Gravy as significant additions for those listeners who find themselves intrigued by Zappa's "Anything Anytime Anyplace for No Reason at All" ethos. Both tucked away and boldly displayed are copious examples of Zappa as composer, musician, and social satirist in equal measure. Nowhere are they more evident than the aptly titled opener "How Did That Get in Here?." Credited as "an FZ construction," the 25-plus-minute suite is chock-full of themes, motifs, and aural evidence that would show up at various and sundry times throughout Lumpy Gravy, We're Only in It for the Money, and beyond. There are two categories of spoken word selections. While "That Problem with Absolutely Free," "Lumpy Gravy Shuffle," and "My Favorite Album," are interview excerpts, "Dense Slight" and "Intelligent Design" are termed "Building Blocks" (i.e. structures that were specifically created and saved by Zappa). Guitarist Eric Clapton provides the voice-over on "The World Will Be a Far Happier Place" and "In Conclusion." Comparatively more traditional are the assorted alternate and instrumental takes of "Absolutely Free," "Harry, You're a Beast," "What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body?," "The Idiot Bastard Son,""Mom & Dad," "Who Needs the Peace Corps?," "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance," and no less than three different arrangements of "Lonely Little Girl." Ardent enthusiasts will inevitably note that there are several selections not found in this cache. According to vault keeper Travers, there were a number of reasons -- such as M.I.A. master tapes -- that meant, for instance, that an instrumental-only "Mother People" could not be included. The packaging is worthy of mention as the sturdy cardboard digipack -- which houses the CDs -- surrounds the disc with six fold-out panels bearing reproductions of the original artwork for each of the albums. ~ Lindsay Planer