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Zappa: Lather vs Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt etc.

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    Zappa: Lather vs Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt etc.

    For Zappa fans:

    Lather (pronounced 'leather') was intended as a 4-disc album by Frank Zappa that was originally released separately as Studio Tan, Live in New York, Sleep Dirt and Orchestral Favorites. I believe the scenario was like this, though I may not remember all the details, it was a little confusing:

    Basically, Zappa wanted out of his contract with Warner Brothers, but still owed the label 4 more albums. He gave them all 4 at the same time, to be released as a 4-record masterwork. The label said hell no, but did release Lather separately as individual albums instead as the aforementioned titles with all the material carved up between the albums. There was legal suing going on and it was a mess. I'm not sure if the artwork on those albums were even approved by Zappa. Maybe someone else has more details about what happened, I forget without looking on wikipedia or something. Eventually, this material was released as Lather after Zappa's death as a 3 CD set, closer to what he wanted in 1977.

    But for those who have heard this material, do you prefer Lather as Zappa original intention (as a 4-record set) or do you prefer the individual albums: Live In New York (1977), Studio Tan (1978), Sleep Dirt (1979) and Orchestral Favorites (1979). Me, I go for the individual albums as those were the ones I grew up with. Sleep Dirt and Studio Tan are two of my favorite Zappa titles ever and some of the first stuff I had heard. I even like the cartoon album covers, reminds me of something out of Marvel's 1970's Howard The Duck. Love those albums. How do I rank them?

    1) Sleep Dirt - originally conceived as Hot Rats III. The Ocean is The Ultimate Solution: killer
    2) Studio Tan - how cool is Gregory Peccary?
    3) Live In New York - the best of the 4, I just have more history with SL & ST. Outstanding, classic Zappa live album. Eddie Jobson on keys.
    4) Orchestral Favorites - more rock with orchestra than the later full on symphonic works like LSO & Yellow Shark

    However, Lather does contain material not on the 4 separate albums, including versions of material that would end up on albums like Sheik Yerbouti, Joe's Garage etc.
    Lather vs. the individual albums, you can't go wrong either way.

    #2
    I've debated this issue on Zappa Facebook pages before. Zappa In New York was the first Zappa album I bought on vinyl back in the day, followed swiftly (or Swifty...) afterwards by Joe's Garage Pt.2, so I got to know the individual albums 25 years before Lather appeared in 1996. As broad and deep and wonderful as Lather is, I still prefer those single albums. Sleep Dirt has become a big favourite, and the last track, The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution, is significantly longer than the Lather version. Some of the other tracks on Lather differ from their versions on the individual albums too.
    Thinking back, I'm not sure I even knew those albums from the late-70s were intended to be part of a boxset project? I may have only learned of it on reading Ben Watson's Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play, and I think that was published about the same time as Lather came out. I knew Ben slightly in the 90s, and got pissed with him one afternoon in 1996 in the student's union bar at UCL. We stayed in touch for quite a while but I've not heard from him now for years.
    With the release of the Zappa in New York 40th Anniversary boxset, which I have, I feel Lather is a bit redundant. It's not my reach-for album when I want to listen to those tracks; I reach for the individual albums, but I'm glad I have it if I want to spin it.
    By the way, the original 1996 Rykodisc of Lather also differs from the Zappa Records reissue in its tracks, and I think some of the mixes are different. The bonus tracks are omitted too. I like the cow on the cover of the 1996 version, with the map of Italy on it's flank and the Zappa moustache. Much preferred to the blackface and mop cover on the reissue.
    Sometimes the lights all shining on me, other times I can barely see.
    Lately it occurs to me what a long strange trip it’s been.

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      #3
      I prefer Läther as it is with the 1996 release. Before that, I was only familiar with Studio Tan I think. And once I got Läther and read the liner notes, I decided to not bother with the separate albums. But I think Orchestral Favourites is the one with the most music omitted from Läther so I might get it one day...

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        #4
        I just checked because I thought I still had Zappa In New York...I may have sold it after buying Läther...Might be a mistake as I'm missing out on some stuff now...

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          #5
          Prior to being rereleased as Lather, it was a popular bootleg with mystical status, like Prince's 'Black Album'. I did pop into a used record store during the early 90's in College Park run by college musos and they were playing it - or a version of it. I remember the 'Little Green Rosetta' part, and asking what Zappa album this was, they were like 'oh, this is unreleased', like a special promo or something. I just said, 'oh.' I didn't know that was Lather - or a version of it at least. It was in a black sleeve, like the Prince black Album. I didn't know about the history of those albums then.

          Also of note - Sleep Dirt was reissued in the 90's tweaked and with severe additions and tampering. Zappa added operatic female vocals to a few tracks, as they were originally conceived to be part of a musical called Hunchentoot which never got far. He also had Chad Wackerman replace some drum parts. Totally didn't like these changes, even if they were more in line with Frank's original vision, and I was disappointed when I got the cd version of Sleep Dirt to update my Zappa collection to CD format. Since I was used to these tracks as instrumental, I felt the singing really didn't fit. Fortunately, Sleep Dirt was rereleased in recent times as the 70's Sleep Dirt that appeared on DisK Reet Records or extremely close to it.

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            #6
            Originally posted by Soundwaveseeker View Post
            Prior to being rereleased as Lather, it was a popular bootleg with mystical status, like Prince's 'Black Album'. I did pop into a used record store during the early 90's in College Park run by college musos and they were playing it - or a version of it. I remember the 'Little Green Rosetta' part, and asking what Zappa album this was, they were like 'oh, this is unreleased', like a special promo or something. I just said, 'oh.' I didn't know that was Lather - or a version of it at least. It was in a black sleeve, like the Prince black Album. I didn't know about the history of those albums then.

            Also of note - Sleep Dirt was reissued in the 90's tweaked and with severe additions and tampering. Zappa added operatic female vocals to a few tracks, as they were originally conceived to be part of a musical called Hunchentoot which never got far. He also had Chad Wackerman replace some drum parts. Totally didn't like these changes, even if they were more in line with Frank's original vision, and I was disappointed when I got the cd version of Sleep Dirt to update my Zappa collection to CD format. Since I was used to these tracks as instrumental, I felt the singing really didn't fit. Fortunately, Sleep Dirt was rereleased in recent times as the 70's Sleep Dirt that appeared on DisK Reet Records or extremely close to it.
            FZ was a guest on a radio station and he played the entire Lather album back in the late 70s because Warner Bros refused to release it. He even pre-warned listeners to get their tape decks ready to record it!
            Sometimes the lights all shining on me, other times I can barely see.
            Lately it occurs to me what a long strange trip it’s been.

            Comment

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