5 April 2013

Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention - Cruising With Ruben & The Jets

This is an album by Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention that actually causes a lot of fighting. Not because people hate it, just amongst people who love the original and hate the 1984 remaster, against people who love the original and really, really, really, really hate the 1984 remaster.  A little bit of a back story - back in 1968 this album was released and was the fourth album by Zappa and the Mothers.  They issued some versions of the album to radio stations under the name Ruben & The Jets which got more air play than the one's with their real names on it. So, this album was a satirical send up of the doo-wop lyrics as Zappa was not exactly known for his love friendly verses.

The first time I heard this was at Mr Chaney's place after one of our sessions (i.e. getting what some people would called steamed, we call getting tipsy) and he put this on to see if I could guess who it was.  Now I had just gotten into Zappa at the time, and I was blown away.  For a Zappa album it is very, very accessible and if your get to hear the original mix of it I can honest advise that there is no finer album in Zappa's collection. Every song is just a little pop gem which is awaiting your attention.  From the beginning of "Cheap Thrills" to the majestic "No No No" via "I'm Not Satisfied" there is not one bad moment on the original press.

However, some pieces of work are not to be fucked with.  This is one of them and what Zappa did in 1984 with this album is one of the few mistakes that Zappa made. It feels wrong saying that but what he did was re-record the bass and the drums only (whilst keeping the rest of the original recordings) was the wrong decision. It is up there with George Lucas making Han shoot second, Ben Affleck in Daredevil, Lady Gaga as a performer, the American version of Life on Mars, an English attempt at an American Fast Food restaurant or trying to open a bank account on a bank holiday. It is just wrong on so many levels.  The sound of "Stuff Up The Cracks" with the new recording just sounds like innocence being taken away by a robber of life. I cannot express enough how poor it is and how much of an affront it is to the rest of Zappa's work. Now it is (or was) his work and his to mess around with as he pleased, but that was awful.

So, for the first time on this blog we are going to have two marks for the same album. One for the original and one for the crime against music (and humanity), that was released by the original artist himself.  I know it is a big think having albums remastered, but sometimes just release it in its original format. It is what we loved about the songs to begin with.  The only reason the 1984 remaster gets any marks at all is due to the fact that the songs are that good, but try to get hold of the original recording, it is far superior, full of a warmth was not available in the 80's. 

Original version - 10 out of 10 - this is proof that there is a God

1984 version 5 out of ten - It could have been a bit better

You can purchase from here

You can listen to the most of the proper version on Spotify here

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