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Freak Out! Zappa Family Trust Strikes Deal For Reissue Of 60 Albums From Universal, Roll-Out Begins In July

with 23 comments

The numbers and dates may have changed, but we can now finally confirm the news that has long been circulating, both here and elsewhere, that Frank Zappa’s catalogue is headed to Universal Music Enterprises (UMe).  According to the Zappa Family Trust’s press release, a global license and distribution deal will see the reissue of 60 Zappa albums, beginning with a group of 12 (not 18, as previously believed) that will roll out on July 31.

Throughout a long career that produced more than 60 albums during his lifetime, Frank Zappa frequently clashed with the music industry’s major labels.  As recently as last year, the late musician’s estate was embroiled in a legal battle with Rykodisc, a unit of Warner Music Group.  The irony had not been lost on Zappa fans when Warner acquired Ryko in 2006.  After all, Warner was the label from which Zappa acrimoniously split in the late 1970s.  But Ryko, one of the first-ever CD-only independent labels, had been the distributor of Zappa’s massive catalogue since 1986 and the label behind a comprehensive reissue campaign that began in 1995.

Today, the once-painstakingly-curated Zappa catalogue is in a bit of shambles, with many titles no longer readily available and fetching high prices on the secondhand market. Others have been released by the Zappa Family Trust (ZFT) in comprehensive, bonus-packed editions under new titles such as The MOFO Project/Object for Freak Out! and Lumpy Money for Lumpy Gravy and We’re Only In It For The Money .  These deluxe “audio documentaries” restored original mixes not present on the previous, standardized CDs, and premiered unreleased material.  The ZFT has also issued more rarities from the vault including a memorable 1971 live stand at Carnegie Hall and a lost Captain Beefheart album produced by Zappa.  Though Rykodisc prevailed over the ZFT in many aspects of a United States District Court – Southern District of New York order dated August, 2011, the ZFT can apparently now claim full ownership of the artist’s works.

As of June 11, 2012, it has been confirmed that Universal, or UMe, will take over the release of Zappa material.  Twelve albums will arrive on July 31, with “another dozen recordings to be released monthly through the end of 2012.”  This initial batch contains all of Zappa’s 1960s albums with and without The Mothers of Invention, and represents every one of Zappa’s albums between 1966 and 1971, save the early compilation Mothermania and the film soundtrack to 200 Motels. The deal between the ZFT and UMe is for the entire Frank Zappa catalogue as it appeared on Zappa’s own Barking Pumpkin Records label. The press release indicates that “many of the original analog masters have been remastered for this occasion. Yes, that’s right, you heard right.”

Hit the jump for more details!

Zappa’s first six albums, included among this batch of twelve, showed the prolific artist breaking down the walls between rock, pop, jazz and classical music.  The workaholic artist couldn’t have known that he would only live for 52 years, but he recorded with the pace of a man racing against time.   A passionate defender of freedom of speech and denouncer of censorship of any kind, Zappa melded intricate, experimental melodies and arrangements with incisive, forthright lyrics that were often humorous and frequently off-color.

Zappa’s Verve debut with his group The Mothers of Invention, 1966’s Freak Out! , was a call-to-arms to the Los Angeles underground music scene.  Far from traditional pop, rock or R&B, the album blended experimental sound collages with R&B and doo-wop pastiches (a particular favorite of Zappa’s) and absurdist comedy.  Even today, it sounds like no other rock album, but it was just a portent of things to come from Zappa.  The Mothers’ Absolutely Free (1967) not only targeted the authority but the counterculture as well, its political and social satire taking the form of mini-suites on each side of the original vinyl LP, auguring for future extended works.  Lumpy Gravy (1968) was credited to Zappa solo, and took things a step further.  It was an ambitious mélange of orchestral arrangements, spoken word and electronic experiments; through his use of the Synclavier, Zappa would be a pioneering musician in the latter field right up to the time of his death.  Two more albums from the same year, We’re Only In It For The Money and Cruising with Ruben and the Jets, saw the auteur both expanding his sound palette and referencing the beloved music of his youth, respectively.  The former was a wicked parody of flower power, complete with Sgt. Pepper-spoofing cover; no cow was too sacred for Zappa to skewer.  The latter, however, was a spot-on and even affectionate doo-wop homage that showed Zappa understood the rules of pop music even as he broke them.

The original Mothers of Invention disbanded in 1969 after the release of sprawling double album Uncle Meat.  Zappa turned his attention to his first major symphonic work, which would be conducted by Zubin Mehta, and to his jazz-influenced, second solo album Hot Rats.  Dedicated to son Dweezil, Hot Rats introduced one of Zappa’s most beloved compositions, the instrumental “Peaches En Regalia.”   It was also his first album recorded with 16-track technology which allowed him to push even more musical boundaries.  When Zappa reformed the Mothers in 1970, three alumni of the Turtles joined him: bassist Jim Pons and vocalists Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, a.k.a. Flo and Eddie.  That iteration of the Mothers began a new chapter in Zappa’s career.  The “Flo and Eddie”-era Mothers are heard on Chunga’s Revenge (1970), Fillmore East, June 1971 (1971) and Just Another Band From L.A. (1972), which closes out this initial group of twelve titles.

For the time being, it does not appear that any bonus material is planned at this juncture and there is no information on any extended packaging or new liner notes.  Both physical and digital editions are planned for these albums.  Universal’s Bruce Resnikoff, President and CEO, commented in the press release, “The artist and composer, Frank Zappa, is one of the most important and influential artists in music history with his prolific body of work, including his breakthrough rock ‘n roll concept albums. We are honored that Gail Zappa and the Zappa Family Trust have entrusted us with his legacy. We intend to honor him and bring high quality releases, digital and physical, for his new and longtime fans.”

In the meantime, the full list of Zappa reissues set for July 31 follows!  You can pre-order below!

  1. Freak Out! (1966)
  2. Absolutely Free (1967)
  3. Lumpy Gravy (1967)
  4. We’re Only In It For The Money (1968)
  5. Cruising with Ruben & the Jets (1968)
  6. Uncle Meat (1969)
  7. Hot Rats (1969)
  8. Burnt Weeny Sandwich (1970)
  9. Weasels Ripped My Flesh (1970)
  10. Chunga’s Revenge (1970)
  11. Fillmore East – June 1971 (1971)
  12. Just Another Band From LA (1971)

Written by Joe Marchese

June 11, 2012 at 14:34

Posted in Frank Zappa, News, Reissues

23 Responses

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  1. I don’t think that there was a ZFT reissue of We’re Only in it for the Money (yet – seems it would be a hell of an album to get that treatment!). There was a ZFT reissue of Cruising with Reuben and the Jets, though.

    Thanks for this post. I only recently discovered that the FZ catalog was in limbo, but didn’t have the 411. I just hope that this is the beginning of a larger campaign, and not one of these situations where there’s one or two waves and the rest of the catalog remains dormant (i.e. Madonna).

    zs (@Gonzeux)

    April 19, 2012 at 12:30

    • zs: There was certainly a ZFT reissue of We’re Only in it for the Money. It is part of the Lumpy Money release.

      noyoucmon

      April 19, 2012 at 12:53

      • …and might I add it’s a rather fantastic package too! The ZFT have put out some great releases and this is one of them. The mono mixes alone are worth the price! “Philly ’76”, “The Dub Room Special” and “Wazoo” are other recommended ZFT releases.

        Steven Adamson

        April 19, 2012 at 14:43

      • Holy cow, you know what’s really sad? I OWN LUMPY MONEY! Yikes. Looks like I have some memory refreshing to do. I was really taken with the Freak Out set.

        ZFT has put out so much, it’s hard to keep track of. I don’t think I’ve indulged in anything besides the aforementioned Project/Objects, but I applaud Gail et. al. for managing the material the way they have. Sad that there’s so much stuff tied up (a deluxe 200 Motels set is long overdue; though I recall reading that the original cut may not even exist anymore).

        zs (@Gonzeux)

        April 19, 2012 at 22:20

  2. Curious to see whether the new “Hot Rats” cd will sound like the original lp (43:05) or like the rather radical cd remaster (47:05). As for “200 Motels” that’s always been an anomaly. When it came out on 2cd in 1997 it wasn’t on FZ or Ryko either. Meanwhile, I’m disappointed “Bat Chain Puller” should cost so much.

    Snaporaz d'Uzine

    April 23, 2012 at 04:34

  3. Yes, 200 Motels was on Ryko worldwide, but it is owned by MGM not FZ Estate or Ryko. That deal expired in early 00’s.

    That said, while I have no doubt these titles are coming back on CD I highly doubt they are coming from Uni. The latest Gail Zappa annoyance lawsuit was settled recently and my understanding is that Ryko largely prevailed and no rights were handed back to the trust.

    Of course Gail has a long history of ignoring things that the courts, contracts, and her lawyers tell her and I wouldn’t put it past her to license the albums to another party, even if she doesn’t have the rights to do so (it wouldn’t be the first time, I assure you). But if that’s what she’s done here, WB (who now own Ryko) is not likely to let it happen.

    Jroug

    April 24, 2012 at 07:43

    • She strikes me as a right twit.

      noyoucmon

      April 26, 2012 at 15:09

  4. Coming June 26th and still nothing on Amazon? Sure.

    Jroug

    May 12, 2012 at 15:51

  5. You know what I wish would come out of this UMe deal? A really thorough compilation – maybe at least two discs – of Zappa’s career at large. I realize there’s so much, and so much of it sounds nothing alike, but that’s what I would want to start with if it were up to me. Granted, it’s been awhile since I’ve checked what’s still in print and what’s not, but even so.

    Mike Duquette

    June 11, 2012 at 16:37

    • Great photo, Mike! Is that tinting?

      Sean Anglum

      June 11, 2012 at 22:52

    • Mike, impossible to compile such a career on 75 or 150 minutes … but some have tried – check “Strictly Commercial” (1995) and add budget samplers “Cheap Thrills” and “Son Of Cheep Thrills” for extra spice? Or “The Best Of” (2004) which got ridiculed for being not comprehensive enough…

      Snaporaz d'Uzine

      June 18, 2012 at 11:19

  6. Bring me Wild Man Fischer. Bring me Jeff Simmons. Bring me the GTO’s. Bring me Sandy Hurvitz, Tim Dawe, the Persuasions, Judy Henske & Jerry Hester, Rosebud and Lenny Bruce. If we are to properly honor the legacy of FZ’s work during his lifetime, the Bizarre and Straight labels need to be represented in their entirety. I could give two s**** about all the squabbles and long-standing bad blood; these albums were very much a part of his identity and the buying puiblic has been deprived of them for too long. The standard catalog is simply moving house (a la The Rolling Stones), and we have these titles many times over in every configuration.

    The Rock Snob

    June 12, 2012 at 01:22

    • Yes indeed, Sir of Snob, yes indeed! ànd those two TIM BUCKLEY albums “Starsailor” and “Blue Afternoon” on affordable deluxe remasters (“Bat Chain Puller” was way too expensive) if I may concur … long long overdue! Alongside an affordable Fischer etc. (Why launch a Handmade setup if you’re not ready to prijnt European copies to avoid customs making the product more expensive? Henske & Jester have been reprinted (but maybe not legally) while the GTO’s cd is long, long out of print.)

      Snaporaz d'Uzine

      June 18, 2012 at 11:07

      • Hey and as a matter of fact: who owns the rights to the Straight catalogue since Mr Cohen’s passing? Are the legal battles still going on e.g. re: Mr Buckley’s estate?

        Snaporaz d'Uzine

        June 18, 2012 at 11:10

      • Hey and Joe & colleagues : do yoù guys know who owns the rights to the various Straight releases today? Are there still legal battles going on since Herb Cohen’s death? E.g. re: Tim Buckley?

        (Also it’s annoying I have to log in every time I post a comment.)

        Snaporaz d'Uzine

        June 18, 2012 at 11:13

  7. Couple questions:

    Will the new RUBEN AND THE JETS CD be the original mix, or the Ryko remix? Will ABSOLUTELY FREE still include the BIG LEG EMMA/WHY DONTCHA DO ME RIGHT single (strangely tucked in between side one and side two on the Ryko CD)? Will the FILLMORE album restore WILLIE THE PIMP PART TWO, which was left off the Ryko CD?

    Fingers crossed.

    Eric

    June 12, 2012 at 08:32

  8. Just got the story on how this went down; pretty funny, all things considered.

    It will be interesting to see what ZFT does with these – after all, the masters Ryko used were supplied by FZ and were “FZ approved masters.” In other words, despite fans not liking what he did with them, well, he’s the artist, so the choices ARE his to make. Not sure anyone is too excited about “GZ approved masters.”

    I’m surprised Gail would mess with FZs sacred approved masters, but if what’s been circulating is true, she will – the perfect way for her to honor his memory & legacy.

    Jroug

    June 12, 2012 at 20:45

  9. What?! No “Mothermania”?! I am bummed…

    Boy Howdy

    June 12, 2012 at 23:06

    • It’s available fro download already at Zappa.com

      vivalapsych

      June 13, 2012 at 04:21

  10. I wish record companies would stop re-issuing re-masters in chronological order……these albums have been released before….release some from each period to mix and match the styles; give me ONE SIZE FITS ALL sooner than later please.

    Mark Penny

    June 20, 2012 at 15:50

    • @Mr. Penny: I’ve always been of the belief that the consumer should follow the natural career arc of any artist; so companies releasing titles in chronological order makes perfect sense. Though “One Size Fits All” may be your personal favorite, how could anyone REALLY appreciate its inner workings without completely absorbing, knowing and learning all the albums that came before it first? I would NEVER introduce an artist’s middle period to anyone until they recognize and acknowledge everything that came before it. ALWAYS start at the root.

      The Rock Snob

      June 20, 2012 at 18:03


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