Friday, January 10, 2014

Guest Playlist: Frank Zappa's Musical Evolution

Guest post from Kris Herbst:
I assembled this playlist of 401 Zappa tracks that, for me, represent his best and most accessible musical compositions (omitting tracks where I find the musical quality is secondary to comedy bits or commentary):  Frank Zappa's Musical Evolution (401 tracks, 19 hours).

To provide a sense of the progression of Zappa’s musical ideas and development, I have arranged the tracks in chronological order, based on when they were first recorded or performed, rather than by release date, with help from the discography and timelines in this site:

I have grouped together alternative recordings of the same piece, in chronological order, always beginning with the first instance of a piece, followed by alternate recordings of that piece, and then followed by guitar solos from that piece, also in chronological order of performance. This groups recordings of guitar solos (which Zappa often released at later times, as separate pieces, with different names) with the piece in which they were originally performed.

Suggestions to improve it are welcome: kris at

A little info about me: I became a Zappa fan in 1969, at the age of 13, when I was turned on to the "We're Only In It For The Money" album by my Boy Scout troopmaster. Two years later, I went to my first Zappa concert, when the band included Flo and Eddie and Ian Underwood. Listening to Zappa helped open my mind to exploring a wide range of music, especially jazz. I saw Zappa in concert once more, in 1974, fronting one of his best bands that included Napoleon Murphy Brock, Ruth Underwood, George Duke and Don Preston on keyboards, the Fowler brothers (Bruce, Walt, and Tom on trombone, trumpet, and bass, respectively), Jeff Simmons on guitar, and Ralph Humphrey and Chester Thompson on drums.

Thanks Kris, I look forward to listening to more Zappa using this playlist.

To all the Zappa fans: you can also check out my Zappa as Composer playlist, and follow the revamped Frank Zappa artist page (all albums have the correct original release year now, instead of the 2012 remaster year like in all other music services), so you will get notifications when the Zappa Family Trust makes his posthumous catalog available digitally.