Frank Zappa - Lšther (1996)

CD 1:  
Re-gyptian Strut   4:36
Naval Aviation in Art?   1:32
A Little Green Rosetta   2:48
Duck Duck Goose   3:01
Down in de Dew   2:57
For the Young Sophisticate   3:14
Tryin' To Grow a Chin   3:26
Broken Hearts are for Assholes   4:40
The Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit 12:41
Lemme Take You To the Beach   2:46
Revised Music For Guitar & Low Budget Orchestra   7:36
RDNZL   8:14
CD 2:  
Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me?   4:56
The Black Page #1   1:57
Big Leg Emma   2:11
Punky's Whips 11:06
Flambť   2:05
The Purple Lagoon 16:20
Pedro's Dowry   7:45
Lšther   3:50
Spider of Destiny   2:40
Duke of Orchestral Prunes   4:21
CD 3:  
Filthy Habits   7:12
Titties 'n Beer   5:23
The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution   8:31
The Adventures of Greggery Peccary 20:56
Bonus Tracks (on disc 3):  
Regyptian Strut (1993)   4:42
Leather Goods   6:01
Revenge of the Knick Knack People   2:25
Time is Money   3:04
Total Time: 2 hours, 53 min, 5 sec

This four-record set (released, complete, on three CDs) is practically a "best of 70s Zappa" boxed set. There's some controversy about which came first, this set or the individual albums that most of this material was eventually released on (see the review of In New York for more info). But for all intents and purposes, Lšther can be considered as a boxed set that draws mainly from four albums - the double live Zappa In New York, and the studio discs Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt and Orchestral Favorites. There are also songs and dialog tracks that first appeared on Sheik Yerbouti, Joe's Garage and Tinsel Town Rebellion, and other dialog segue bits similar to those that appear on Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar. Basically, this album represents the bulk of Zappa's work from between the time when he stopped using the "Mothers of Invention" name and the end of the 70s. Formatted as a boxed set, this release sat in the vault for close to 20 years, finally being released by the Zappa Family Trust in '96.

If you already own all the above albums, then Lšther shouldn't necessarily be at the top of your list of things to get next, but you should pick it up eventually. Many of these tracks are different mixes or different edits from the original albums, and in some cases they're entirely different recordings. Plus there are some new tracks in the form of guitar solos (Duck Duck Goose and Down in De Dew), and some bonus track goodies like Leather Goods (the full guitar solo from which Ship Ahoy was extracted) and Revenge of the Knick Knack People (a tape-manipulation piece that features the speeded-up Mothers making all sorts of odd noises. Rumor has it that there are bootlegs with much longer versions of this track, but this one is long enough to get the idea across). Also included are instrumental versions of the songs that had vocals added for the CD release of Sleep Dirt. And as a final incentive, there are a couple excerpts from the radio broadcast Zappa did where he played this entire album and encouraged listeners to bootleg it, since Warner Brothers wouldn't release it the way Frank intended.

Another reason to buy Lšther is just to hear how well all these songs work together. It's rare to hear an album this long, and with this many styles of music (rock, jazz, classical, experimental, comedy and lowbrow) that flows as well as this one does. Many of these tracks sound better in the context of this boxed set than they do on their original albums - don't ask me why, but they do.

For people who are new to Zappa, this album makes a great sampler of some of Frank's best work. For the price of three CDs, you get a good overview of four album's worth of material, plus glimpses at another three albums. With extensive (although, in many fans' opinion, not particularly good) liner notes. I particularly like the reprints of the Billboard top 20+ songs for each year between 1974 and 1977, to give some contrast between the music on this album and what was popular at the time.

One final observation - I've found that this set makes excellent driving music for long road trips. I often drive from southeastern Pennsylvania to Baltimore (FZ's birthplace) for concerts, and I've found that Lšther is just the right length to cover the entire drive there and back.

Album Cover

Image of the Lather album cover