Frank Zappa - Cheap Thrills (1998)

I Could Be a Star Now 0:36
Catholic Girls (Live) 4:04
Bobby Brown Goes Down (Live) 4:20
You Are What You Is 4:51
We Are Not Alone 3:18
Cheap Thrills 2:37
The Mudshark Interview 2:39
Hotplate Heaven at the Green Hotel 6:40
Zomby Woof (Live) 5:39
The Torture Never Stops (original version)   9:16
Joe's Garage (Live) 2:20
My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama (Live) 3:19
Going For the Money 0:12
Total Time: 47 min, 36 sec

The only compilation album of all previously-released Zappa material that I own. The only reason I bought this one was because at the time of its release, Cal Shenkel (the artist who did many of Zappa's album covers) made a limited time offer to members of the Zappa newsgroup to personally customize the cover of this one. I don't know if Rykodisc put him up to it as a promotional gimmick or if Cal's just a hell of a nice guy (I'm leaning towards the latter), but I wanted in on that action. So I picked up a copy, mailed off the cover, and several months later got it back in the mail with a personal inscription and all sorts of new artwork (mostly perverted, as requested) drawn into the pre-existing images. Plus he even threw in a few hand-made "trading cards" of his artwork. Whatta guy.

Anyway, about the album itself. Ryko decided to cut the price on some of the poorer selling Zappa albums, and dubbed it the "Cheap Thrills" line of CDs. To promote this concept, they compiled this album from the budget-line CDs, and then sold the compilation for some ridiculously low price (around five bucks, if I'm remembering correctly). A good deal for beginners, but not of much use to collectors who already had all the albums. I get the feeling that Ryko was really trying to push Playground Psychotics and the You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore series with this release. Most of the songs come from those albums (including yet another Torture Never Stops - and the worst one, at that).

One thing this compilation did do is help me develop an appreciation for the song We Are Not Alone. For some reason that track had never really caught my ear, even though I had heard it on Man From Utopia a few times. But then within the space of a few days, I heard it on this album (where it stands out more than it does on its original album) and then heard Ed Palermo's Big Band perform a live version of the song. Those two events hooked me on the track, and elevated it to near the top of my list of favorite Zappa tunes.

Other Compilation Albums

In addition to the first Cheap Thrills, a second volume called Son of Cheep Thrills was also released, but since there was no repeat of Cal Shenkel's personalization offer (he was still busy trying to fulfill his obligations to all the people who took him up on his first offer), I decided to skip the second one. I've also passed on the Strictly Commercial, Strictly Genteel and Have I Offended Someone compilations. SC was put together by Ryko, and didn't feature any new material. It did have a couple different mixes, but nothing that made me spring for the high price they were asking. SG was also a Ryko production, compiling some of Zappa's orchestral and "serious" music, but that one contained absolutely nothing that wasn't already released, not even new mixes, so I skipped it too. HIOS was put together by Zappa himself before he died, and features his most "offensive" songs. That one contains some new stuff in the form of unreleased live versions and remixes, but I still haven't picked it up. I probably should, someday.

Album Cover

Image of the Cheap Thrills compilation cover