Frank Zappa - The Lumpy Money Project/Object/Road Tapes Venue #1–#3 album review

More conceptually continuous hot poop for the Frank faithful

Frank Zappa photograph
(Image: © Getty)

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Essentially the second instalment of the audio documentary series initiated by The MOFO Project/Object in 2006 that mined deep into the Mothers Of Invention’s Freak Out sessions, The Lumpy Money P/O of ’09 goes into similarly forensic detail with Lumpy Gravy and We’re Only In It For The Money. It’s an Aladdin’s Cave for those Zappaphiles who treasure most his more ground-breaking if perhaps least technically accomplished work, yet it holds an almighty sting in the shape of the controversial 1984 UMRK remix of WOIFTM.

Quite why Zappa chose to replace the Mothers’ original rhythm section parts by (bassist) Roy Estrada and (drummer) Jimmy Carl Black with sore-thumb contemporary recordings by Arthur Barrow and Chad Wackerman respectively, for the CD debut of arguably his finest work remains baffling. Save to say, for fans it proved just as unpalatable as inexplicable.

Thankfully, though re-presented here in remastered form, it’s tempered by 1968’s original mono mix, an essential component of any respectable record collection. Lumpy Gravy, meanwhile, suffers a similar fate at the (admittedly exceptionally competent) hands of Barrow and Wackerman, and though unreleased in ’84 it’s a veritable pea in the pod with the infamously Wackered Money. Gravy is also here in its primordial form, ie Zappa’s original orchestral edit, which remains as challenging and as touched by Varese as ever.

There’s loads of other good stuff in here, not least the 25-minute How Did That Get In Here? which, though later cannibalized for Lumpy Gravy’s anti-pop collage snippets, is worth way more than its ignominious fate.

Lumpy/Money (810), then. Great? Yes. For fans only? You betcha.

For secondary consideration, three more archive live shows from the jam-packed Zappa vaults. Road Tapes #1 (510) finds 1968’s Mothers in Vancouver. As with much of this era’s live efforts it’s very much in the ear of the beholder whether #1 is decoded into the brain as ‘avant-garde rock’ or ‘poorly executed jazz’.

From Minneapolis 1970 #2 (510) might be more accomplished, but the shtick’s starting to sound tired, motions are being gone through. By the time we reach Helsinki ’73, Zappa has finally got a live band worthy of his studio ambitions; #3 (710) benefits hugely from the addition of Ruth Underwood, Jean-Luc Ponty et al. But hey, in this 21st century of ours it’s still only ever going to be one for the fans.

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Ian Fortnam

Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 20 years, Ian stapled his first fanzine in 1977. Since misspending his youth by way of ‘research’ his work has also appeared in such publications as Metal Hammer, Prog, NME, Uncut, Kerrang!, VOX, The Face, The Guardian, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Electronic Sound, Record Collector and across the internet. Permanently buried under mountains of recorded media, ears ringing from a lifetime of gigs, he enjoys nothing more than recreationally throttling a guitar and following a baptism of punk fire has played in bands for 45 years, releasing recordings via Esoteric Antenna and Cleopatra Records.