On October 7, 1994, Rykodisc purchased the rights to virtually the entire Frank Zappa catalog from Gail and the Zappa Family Trust. This deal secured Rykodisc the exclusive rights to all of Zappa's previously recorded works. It also will enable then to market & distribute any future releases to come from the Zappa archives.

Rykodisc has reissued over 60 Zappa albums in newly remastered (and in some cases remixed) versions. All titles were redone using Frank's approved master tapes. Titles that were previously available as "two-for-ones" are now available individually (e.g., We're Only in it For the Money/Lumpy Gravy and Overnight Sensation/Apostrophe).

Rykodisc has chronologically numbered the series, with a spot left open for 200 Motels -- the only title for which Zappa never gained copyrights. The majority of the double CDs are being reissued in slimline cases, rather than the bigger double-width jewel boxes. The only exceptions will be those which contain librettos. The triple CD Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar & The Yellow Shark will have special new packaging.

Originally available only through mail order in 1981, the Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar series has been reissued in a new box set. Rather than combine the individual albums into 2 CDs, Rykodisc has preserved the continuity of the albums in their original state -- complete with their own sleeves. The artwork that originally made up the sleeves on the vinyl version has been retained as the CD label artwork on the reissues. Classic songs such as Treacherous Cretins, Pink Napkins, & Ship Ahoy (originally from the Lather sessions) have now been preserved in the best possible sound quality.

The collaboration with Captain Beefheart, Bongo Fury, contains some of Zappa's most requested material in concert. Songs like the encore favorite, Muffin Man, and Advance Romance, stayed in Frank's stage repertoire for years afterward. While Zappa's albums were known for their sound quality, the new reissues sound even better than their original versions.

However, better is in the ear of the beholder. On the Roxy and Elsewhere CD, Cheepnis has been remixed. The result sounds almost too clean. The vocals are the thing that really stands out, as well as the percussion. In this particular instance, the album sounds better. Tracks like Penguin in Bondage and More Trouble Every Day sound better than ever, but Frank should have left Cheepnis alone.

Released in 1976, Zoot Allures was Zappa's version of a "straight ahead" rock album. Containing the classic instrumental, Black Napkins, Zoot Allures stands out as one of the many highlights in his career. Frank's voice in The Torture Never Stops resonates on the low notes as never before.

The commercial letdown of You Are What You Is came as a bit of a surprise to Frank at the time. He said once in an interview that he figured since there was relatively no "language" on the album that it would be more of a commercial success. No matter, the CD contains some of the best of Frank's incredible sense of humor, as well as some great tunes such as the title track, The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing (a song performed in concert years before the albums' release), Heavenly Bank Account & Suicide Chump. The CD also contains some great guitar work by FZ & Steve Vai as well.

All in all, it's great that a label like Rykodisc has taken the time & effort to carry out the complete Zappa reissue program & do it with the honor, respect & integrity that the music deserves.

© 1997 Steve Marshall