Big Hairy Monster!
(All Album Reviews by Big Hairy Monster!)
Ah, Studio Tan. I remember the first time I heard this recording. I was maybe sixteen years old, and up to that point the only Zappa that I had heard was my nephew's copy of Apostrophe. I loved that one, and when I saw a Studio Tan cassette for $3.00 in a drug store at the local mall I scooped it up. We were heading for a party in his powder blue 1959 Chevy Biscayne; we popped in the tape and loved every minute of "Greggery Peccary".
We laughed when Zappa used the line "Big Swifty and associates, trend mongers (my last name is Treend, but pronounced Trend). We thought it was cool that my last name was in the song! A few minutes later, the lyric "...and into a strange cave, on the edge of a cliff..." Wow! My first name (Cliff) and my last name both in the same Zappa tune...cool!! I've loved the album ever since.
However, being teenagers, we appreciated the humorous side of Zappa and didn't fully appreciate the musical side. "Greggery Peccary" was the only song on the tape that we listened to, typically skipping past the other "boring" songs. It wasn't until a finally replaced my long lost cassette with a CD copy that I came to appreciate the other songs.
"Greggery Peccary" is classic Zappa storytelling in the style of "Yellow Snow". There are some amazing musical passages to be found in this song...partly bizarre soundtrack music, partly Raymond Scott cartoon jazz--entirely Zappa. The lyrical story line involves Greggery (a pig) who is employed by Big Swifty to dream up new trends. He upsets several people by inventing the calender, and thus has to deal with the results. While the lyrical concept and music may initially come off as goofy, there is some amazing song construction here. This is one that needs to be heard to be believed.
"Music for Guitar..." is a much more serious piece, loaded with bizarre passages, some truly frenzied drumming/percussion, and fantastic guitar work.
"Let Me Take You To The Beach" seems to me to be one of those cute filler songs that crops occasionally on Zappa recordings. While there is some nice playing on it, it is definitely my least favorite song on the disc.
Finally, "RDNZL" (or "Redunzel") is just incredible. It is an instrumental piece of mind boggling complex proportions, and ranks among my top-10 all-time favorite Zappa compositions.
How you may appreciate this recording may well depend upon which era or style of Zappa you prefer. I like just about everything he has ever done (except Man From Utopia), and believe that this is a highly underrated masterwork by one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.