Frank Zappa :: Funky Nothingness

The early part of 1970 has always been something of a black hole for Zappa fans. Session contracts suggested he was working, but on what exactly? Finally, with the release of Funky Nothingness, we get a look into this period. It’s not revelatory in the same way The Hot Rats Session box was, but it doesn’t feel like it’s supposed to be either. Instead it’s a peek into the studio and a look at Zappa’s music in transition, slowly moving from the jazz-rock of Hot Rats and into the harder jamming of his mid-’70s records.

Frank Zappa :: The Hot Rats Sessions

When Hot Rats came out in October 1969, it showed a new side of Zappa’s music. It wasn’t poking fun at trends or mixing genres in a blender. It highlights his compositions and skill in both writing memorable songs and as a guitar hero. The lengthy guitar solos showed him emerging as more than just the scruffy leader of the Mothers of Invention, while the musicians he surrounded himself with – from session players to heavyweights like Jean-Luc Ponty – pointed to his ambitions as a musician. But when compared to the material within this box, it also shows Zappa as producer, too.

Frank Zappa :: Zappa/Erie (Live)

Located roughly halfway between Cleveland and Buffalo in the country side off the 1-90, Erie, Pennsylvania isn’t exactly the first place you’d go looking for rock music. But if you’re looking for Zappa? Well then, Erie has plenty for you on that front. Earlier this year, the Zappa estate released a six-CD box set of live material all recorded in the area within a three-year span: a show from May 1974, another from November 1974, and one from November 1976. All three are from Zappa’s mid-’70s prime, and two of them are great examples of bands that get short shrift in his massive discography.

Frank Zappa :: The Mothers 1971

Though the latest Frank Zappa archives box set The Mothers 1971 covers familiar ground, make no mistake: it’s a doozy. Offering another look at his Flo and Eddie-era band—like the Mothers 1970 set before it—this one is largely drawn from shows that were previously released, but are presented here in their entirety. This deep focus draws out new details and wrinkles, not to mention some choice cuts.