Frank Zappa - QuAUDIOPHILIAc (recorded 1970 & 1975-8, released 2004)

Naval Aviation in Art?   1:34
Lumpy Gravy   1:05
Rollo   6:00
Drooling Midrange Accountants on Easter Hay     2:15
Wild Love   4:07
Ship Ahoy   5:47
Chunga Basement 11:48
Venusian Time Bandits   1:54
Waka/Jawaka 13:23
Basement Music #2   2:43

When the floodgates of new Zappa albums opened in 2002, they opened in a big way. That year we got the FZ/OZ concert recording, the next year we got the Halloween live DVD-Audio disc in 5.1 surround sound, and 2004 saw the launch of the "Joe's" series of obscurity CDs, with Joe's Corsage and Joe's Domage. And on top of it all, possibly the best release of the bunch rolls out here in the final months of 2004, another 5.1 surround DVD-Audio, QuAUDIOPHILIAc.

Despite the odd capitalization, the title gives a clue as to what the disc contains. Dweezil Zappa and "vaultmeister" Joe Travers have taken advantage of the 5.1 surround format to release a bunch of quadraphonic and multichannel mixes that Frank himself put together back in the '70s, when it looked like the quad format was going to take off. Working with DTS Entertainment, they created a DVD-Audio disc that takes full advantage of home theater set-ups equipped to play 5.1 DTS surround recordings. As I had mentioned in my review of Halloween, listening to that DVD-Audio disc on my parent's expensive home theater system gave me a powerful lust to build such a system for myself. It took a couple years to save up the money (unfortunately I can't just run out and buy expensive toys now that I have a family of my own), but it was worth the wait. Especially since QuAUDIOPHILIAc came out shortly after I got my new sound system up and running. If you don't have a home theater setup capable of playing the DTS track, there's also a plain stereo track that can be played back through anything connected to a DVD player (even a TV), but that kind of defeats the purpose.

Since there's no overarching theme to the disc (other than the surround mix), I'll just go through it track by track:

Naval Aviation in Art? - this is the same track that appears on Orchestral Favorites, but with a surround mix. The mix is nicely done (as it is for most of the DVD), placing the music all around you without sounding "gimmicky" or calling too much attention to the fact that it's a surround track (i.e. no drum solo swirling all around the room like on Halloween, as cool as that was).

Lumpy Gravy - I was expecting this to be the main theme from the album of the same title, but instead it's an unfamiliar orchestral piece that blends so smoothly into the end of the first track that unless I'm watching the pictures presented with each song, I don't even notice the switch to another piece. Maybe this music appears somewhere on the Lumpy Gravy album, but I can't identify it.

Rollo - The first real gem of the disc. Parts of it will sound familiar to those who have heard the You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore version of The Yellow Snow Suite, because part of Rollo is worked into the end of that track. I think it also appears somewhere in the Beat the Boots series. But this is the full six minute piece, and it's a good one. Taken from a live performance by rock musicians joined by an orchestra, with sound quality is so good that if it weren't for the occasional bits of applause, I wouldn't have been able to tell it was live.

Drooling Midrange Accountants on Easter Hay - Dweezil took a very early demo of Watermelon In Easter Hay, which sounds like a one-man-band project complete with drum machine and just the barest outline of the song's backing track (no guitar solo) and overlaid it with an interview clip of Frank talking about the sorry shape of the music industry, and how it's stacked against anyone who's trying to make unconventional music.

Wild Love - the Sheik Yerbouti song, remixed in surround sound. Not much else I can say about this track, or the next one...

Ship Ahoy - the Shut Up 'n' Play Yer Guitar guitar solo track, mixed into surround.

Chunga Basement - another gem for those craving "new" material. This is the title track from Chunga's Revenge, but not the same recording. This is a rehearsal version featuring FZ on guitar, Ian Underwood on keyboards, Max Bennett on bass and Aynsley Dunbar on drums. Not only does it have crystal-clear 5.1 sound, making the listener feel like they're sitting in the room with the practicing musicians, but it also runs an extra five minutes longer than the final released version. Sweet.

Venusian Time Bandits - a short guitar solo vehicle for Frank, which sounds like it could be an outtake from one of the Guitar albums.

Waka/Jawaka - I think this is the same recording that appears on the album of the same name, but not only do we get to hear Zappa's own four channel mix of it, it also runs a couple minutes longer with Don Preston whipping out a wild, freaky synth solo near the end. Another highlight of the DVD, and the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the rough (both performance-wise and sound-quality-wise) recordings from the same era on Joe's Domage.

Basement Music #2 - similar to Basement Music #1 from the Lost Episodes and the backing music for Drooling Midrange Accountants from this DVD. Zappa performing one-man-band experimentation with synthesizers and drum machines. The liner notes say that this piece appeared somewhere in the Baby Snakes movie, but despite seeing the movie a few times I couldn't say where.

That's what's on the DVD - about 50 minutes of prime Zappa, some previously released and some new material, but all if it making its surround-sound debut. If you're a Zappa fan and have a 5.1 setup, you definitely want to buy this DVD. Fortunately, since the DTS company was involved in creating it, they're also helping distribute it, so it shouldn't be too difficult to find. You can order it from the Zappa web site, but I ordered mine from CD Universe, who had it for three dollars less, plus much cheaper shipping. And I ordered it on the same day that I ordered the first two "Joe's" CDs from the Zappa site, and QuAUDIOPHILIAc arrived nine days sooner. This isn't an endorsement of CD Universe as much as a warning about ordering directly from the Zappa Family Trust.

Album Cover

Image of the Quaudiophiliac DVD-audio cover