Frank Zappa - The Crux of the Biscuit (Project/Object) (recorded 1974, released June 2016)

CD 1  
Cosmik Debris (early sequence)   4:21
Uncle Remus (mix outtake)   3:59
Down in De Dew (alternate mix)   3:16
Apostrophe' (mix outtake)   9:07
The Story of Don't Eat the Yellow Snow   2:25
Don't Eat the Yellow Snow/St. Alphonzo's Pancake Breakfast (live)   19:26
Excentrifugal Forz (mix outtake)   1:34
Energy Frontier (Take 4)   3:04
Energy Frontier (Take 6 with Overdubs)   4:15
Energy Frontier (Bridge)   8:23
Cosmic Debris (basic tracks - take 3)   5:11
Don't Eat the Yellow Snow (basic tracks - alternate take)   2:12
Nanook Rubs It (basic tracks - outtake)   0:42
Nanook Rubs It (session outtake)   0:48
Frank's Last Words   0:16
Total Time: 69:06

This release continues the "Project/Object" series begun with The Making Of Freak Out and continued with Lumpy Money and Greasy Love Songs. Each set documented one of Zappa's early works with outtakes, alternate versions, radio interviews, etc, and was timed to be released near the 40th anniversary of the release of the album(s) they documented. This new album documents the creation of 1974's Apostrophe', so it's a little late in arriving.

On one hand, this is a welcome addition, since I had assumed that the Project/Object series was dead after those first few entries. On the other hand, the series jumped straight from Cruising With Ruben & the Jets to Apostrophe', which means that we'll probably never get expanded documentary versions of Uncle Meat, Hot Rats, The Grand Wazoo or the other great albums that Frank released in the late 60s and early 70s. I guess they just couldn't find enough outtakes in the vault for those albums. To be fair, some of those albums have already had a good bit of "documentary" material released. Maybe the Zappa Family Trust will revisit them again on their 50th anniversaries, if any of Frank's fans are still around.

The booklet that comes with the CD (and apparently with the MP3 version as a digital download) includes some mid-70s photos of Zappa, the Billboard charts showing Apostrophe' in the top 10, and a marching band that Zappa hired to play his music in front of the offices of Warner Brothers (how have I never heard that story before?) There's also a fairly lengthy essay about the album written by Simon Prentis. I haven't found time to read all of it yet, but unfortunately Mr. Prentis' writing style falls just this side of "Gail level obtuse" and slightly short of Ben Watson's reading way too much into things. What Prentis adds to the mix is a post-graduate vocabulary that he loves to show off. At least there are a few chunks of actual useful information mixed in there, which is more than you can say for a lot of the posthumous Zappa releases.

Musically, is the album worth buying? Well, considering it's currently easily available for a reasonable price from Amazon (I didn't even know it existed until I searched for the latest Road Tapes volume and Amazon suggested this album and Frank Zappa For President) - if you're a Zappa fan, what have you got to lose?

But there's really not too much on this CD that will amaze or surprise long time fans of FZ. It's nice to hear the full length jams that the album's title track was extracted from. There are some previously unheard FZ guitar solos if you're into that sort of thing. It was interesting hearing another 20 minute live version of Yellow Snow, fairly different from the version that's on You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore.

Don't get too excited when you see the new song title Energy Frontier. It's just an early version of both Down in de Dew and the album's title track which were apparently originally intended to be one long piece. At some point Frank decided to split it into two songs which would wrap up side one of the album after following Cosmic Debris and Uncle Remus. Of course, he eventually abandoned that idea in favor of making the Yellow Snow suite take up all of side one, with the other tracks scattered across side two (and Dew dropped entirely from the album and moved to Lather instead).

I've never been overly enthusiastic about Apostrophe' as an album, because I originally bought it on the 2-fer disc coupled with Overnight Sensation, and was never quite sure which songs went on each album. To be honest, I thought the whole thing sounded like immature novelty music, so it was a long while before I developed any kind of appreciation for that disc. If it was up to me to pick which album to release a "Project/Object" documentary of, Apostrophe' wouldn't have been my first choice. But the liner notes make it clear that Apostrophe' was Frank's best selling album, so I guess they're hoping for a corresponding bump in sales of Crux.

In the end I'm glad I bought this disc and had a chance to hear all this stuff, but I don't think it would have left a huge hole in my life if this CD had never been released. It's definitely one of those things meant for collectors and hard-core Zappa fans who want to hear every note the man ever composed and played.

Album Cover

Image of the Crux of the Biscuit cover