Frank Zappa - Does Humor Belong in Music? (1986)

Zoot Allures   5:26
Tinsel-Town Rebellion   4:43
Trouble Every Day   5:31
Penguin in Bondage   6:44
Hot-Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel     6:42
What's New in Baltimore?   4:47
Cock-Sucker's Ball   1:05
WPLJ   1:30
Let's Move to Cleveland 16:43
Whippin' Post   8:23
Total Time: 61 min, 34 sec

After dozens of song titles that end in question marks, there's finally an album that asks the question posed by Zappa's entire career - Does humor belong in music? For most FZ fans, the answer is yes. A live album recorded by the 1984 band, this disc was for some reason only released in Europe and remained unavailable in the U.S. for a decade. Rykodisc finally issued it here as part of the 1995 re-release of the entire catalog. I'm not sure why it took so long - I've heard conflicting stories suggesting that it might not have been an FZ approved release in the first place. But it's definitely a professionally put-together album, and if FZ didn't approve of it, it probably wouldn't have been included in the 1995 reissues.

This isn't an album that I listen to all that often, but it does have its moments. The versions of Tinsel-Town Rebellion (with numerous quotes from 80s pop music) and What's New in Baltimore are two of the best performances I've heard of those songs. This album also introduced Hot-Plate Heaven (although because of the delayed U.S. release, many American fans heard the song first on Broadway the Hard Way), which is a catchy number with some great political lyrics. "Republicans is fine if you're a multi-millionaire, Democrats is fair if all you own is what you wear, but neither of them's really right 'cause of them care, about that hot-plate heaven, 'cause they ain't been there". Cock-Sucker's Ball has the most four-letter words you're likely to hear jammed into a one minute song, and be warned that it'll get stuck in your head. Let's Move to Cleveland is a monster, with the keyboards and guitars taking long solos.

A couple potential negatives about the album - there are some synthetic drum sounds used, which tends to put off some fans. There's also a weird, buzzing distortion on the guitar in places that may or may not be intentional. But if those things don't bother you, then this album is a pretty good documentary of what the 1984 band was capable of. Now if only they would get the video that originally accompanied this release back in print...

Album Cover

Image of the Does Humor Belong in Music album cover