Frank Zappa - Everything is Healing Nicely (1999)

Library Card   7:42
This is a Test   1:33
Jolly Good Fellow   4:35
Roland's Big Event / Strat Vindaloo   5:55
Master Ringo   3:35
T'Mershi Duween   2:28
Nap Time   8:01
9/8 Objects   3:06
Naked City   8:41
Whitey (Prototype)   1:13
Amnerika Goes Home   3:01
None of the Above (Revised and Previsited)   8:38
Wonderful Tattoo! 10:02
 
Total Time: 68 min, 33 sec

(The following review was written 12/30/99 for the ProgAndOther mailing list, with later additions and editing when I converted it to HTML.)

My copy of the new Frank Zappa album, Everything is Healing Nicely, finally arrived in the mail yesterday (in a package that looked like it had been kicked through the dirt every inch of the distance between California and Pennsylvania).

The disc contains "leftovers" from the Yellow Shark period. The Ensemble Modern (a German orchestral group) went to California for a two week period in 1991 to rehearse with Zappa, then returned to Germany for a series of concerts that resulted in the Yellow Shark album.

EIHN is mostly made up of recordings from that two-week rehearsal period. Since these were rehearsals and not final performances, the music isn't absolutely perfect, but it's still amazing what this group could play. A couple of the tracks are first takes, recorded just after Frank had handed the musicians the sheet music for the first time. Yet they sound rehearsed and professional.

The sound quality of the disc is a little weak in spots - most of the rehearsal stuff was recorded with just a couple open-air mics. The one track taken from the final concerts (a version of Amnerika from Civilization, Phaze III) probably has the best sound quality of the CD.

The album is mostly aimed at people who like the Yellow Shark album and want more. But it also seems a little more accessible than Yellow Shark, with a few vital tracks that even people who aren't fans of Zappa's orchestral work might enjoy.

The title comes from a session where the Frank did "conducted improvisation" with the orchestra while one member read out loud letters from a body piercing magazine. This resulted in the tracks Master Ringo and Wonderful Tattoo!, the latter of which ends with the line "Everything is healing nicely".

Highlights include L. Shankar's violin playing on a couple tracks, a great orchestral version of T'Mershi Duween, the eerie but mellow Nap Time, the catchy, odd-time 9/8 Objects, and the live Amnerika (which was edited together from multiple performances to create one "perfect" performance). For fans of Zappa's guitar playing, Strat Vindaloo features a duet between Frank's guitar and Shankar's violin, which follows a clarinet solo by Roland Diry. Other nice tracks include the short, medieval sounding This is a Test, and the beautiful acoustic guitar concerto Naked City.

For those who like to trace the evolution of musical pieces, early versions of Get Whitey and None of the Above are included. The improvisations with spoken-word additions of Library Card and the two piercing magazine tracks show the inspiration for Welcome to the United States.

For the packaging, it looks like the Zappa family is going for another Grammy (they won "Best Packaging" for Civilization, Phaze III). EIHN comes in a purple, crushed-velvet digipak, with fold-out liner notes that include photos of the orchestra and Frank. I particularly like the final picture of Zappa with a big, sincere smile on his face. Don't see that very often.

If you're interested in getting the album, your only option (as far as I know) is to buy it from the Zappa family web site, www.zappa.com.

Album Cover

Image of the Everything is Healing Nicely album cover