Like anyone with a brain and ears, I seriously love Frank Zappa. Certainly one of the most brilliant, idiosyncratic composers of the 21st century, Zappa's amazing orchestral compositions, unhinged harmonic freakouts, and hilarious lyrics have long been a musical inspiration.
As great as many of his more well-known albums are, the first album that truly knocked my socks off was the less-visible two-disc collection The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life.
It's a collection of live recordings from a 1988 tour with Zappa's big band, a mass of horns, guitars, vocalists and xylophonists that runs the gamut from entirely eccentric to ridiculously burning. Special props to Chad Wackerman for destroying the drums, and the always-great Ed Mann on marimba and vibraphone. I wasn't a huge fan of the start, which features some very out-there stuff, including a funny reggae version of "Ring of Fire" and a long diatribe on the lameness of San Francisco.
But suddenly, they play "Zomby Woof," and things pick up, and the first disc closes out with the tracks I'm going to share below. It's a hell of a collection, and absolutely worth picking up.
Hot damn. This one's a burner from start to finish, with a ridiculous guitar solo in the middle and some incredibly difficult metric modulation going on. "Is there anything... good inside of you? If there is, I really wanna.... know!"
This one takes a minute to get where it's going, but when the chorus hits—"Read 'em and weeeep!" It's hard not to get very pumped. Read 'em and weep, man.
One of Zappa's most famous compositions, this version (which is mislabeled on YouTube) is probably my favorite. I sometimes think I have met the Guacamole Queen. This is also possibly the most unhinged and terrible/great soprano sax solo I've ever heard. In 7!
That's but a taste of the madness on this album. The CD looks to be out of print, but you can find used copies in lots of places, including Amazon. Well worth $20 if only to disprove the title.