John Corcelli’s new book is subtitled All That’s Left To Know About The Father Of Invention and may be the most accessible tome written about an artist whose work was anything but.
The content is split into bite-sized chunks, so there’s a potted history of Zappa’s life, brief bios of the musicians who played with him over the decades, a condensed guide to his albums, and so on. Among the strongest sections is the pleasingly in-depth analysis of the composers, including Edgard Varèse, Charles Ives and Nicholas Slominsky, who helped to shape Zappa’s ideas about composition. Corcelli is clearly a huge fan, which means he knows his subject matter front-to-back, but it can limit his critical thinking. Reading this, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Zappa never made an album that was less than dazzling and the author is too quick to excuse the misogyny found in many of Zappa’s lyrics. Rather than having fans dismiss criticism of Jewish Princess out of hand, it might have been more interesting to approach the Anti-Defamation League to explore their objections to the song. Regardless, Zappa was never short of an opinion and his powerful, sardonic personality shines through Corcelli’s digestible, lively prose.