REVIEW: Frank Zappa – Baby Snakes (1983)

Third review from Mike and Aaron go to Toronto…Again!  This Zappa bought at Sonic Boom for $10.99, original green Rykodisc case intact.

BABY SNAKES_0001FRANK ZAPPA – Baby Snakes (1983, 1995 Rykodisc)

Baby Snakes is the soundtrack album to the Zappa film of the same name, famously using clay animation by Bruce Bickford.  This bizarre landmark of a movie deserves a bizarre soundtrack, which Frank ably delivers with his ace band including Tommy Mars (violin) , Terry Bozzio (on two tracks),  Adrian Belew (guitar) and more.

Yet the title track is remarkably accessible.  Sure, there are the typical Zappa elements: high munchkin voices, low Zappa moans, eclectic and humourous lyrics…and playing out the wazoo!  There’s nothing wrong with these “Baby Snakes” as long as you can keep up with the time changes.  (This is an edited version of the same song from Sheik Yerbouti.)

Before you know it, you’re live in funky New York listening to “Titties and Beer”.  These live tracks were recorded Halloween 1977 at the Palladium.  Will Frank sell his soul to the Devil?  Is Frank rough enough to get into hell?  Does he have the style that it takes?  Listen to “Titties and Berr” and find out (I won’t spoil it).

“The Black Page #2” is infamously hard to play, so just listen up and hear how the pros get it done.  The percussion alone makes heads spin.  Another seamless transition goes into “Jones Crusher” which has a classic soul of rock.  The vocal parts are damn fine, the lyrics hilarious, and Frank’s outro solo smokes.  A rock and roll slant on “Disco Boy” is a tad faster than the studio counterpart.  This hilarious ode to vanity and ultimately masturbation is just fun, because who doesn’t love ripping on disco?

PUNKYSide two of the original LP was made up of just two tracks, both long bombers:  “Dinah Moe Humm” and “Punky’s Whips”.  The Ryko CD blends the two sides together without a break.  You can hear the band quote “Sunshine of Your Love”) at one point  in “Dinah Moe” (they quoted “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida” on side one).  “Punky’s Whips” is a completely different deal.  Apparently, Terry Bozzio had a bit of a man-crush, or at least a fascination with Punky Meadows from the band Angel.  This satire poked a bit of fun at the expense of Punky, but who can blame them?  Who could blame anyone?  “Punky’s lips, Punky’s lips, his hair’s so shiny, I love his hips!”  I mean, how can you not make fun of this guy?  Even though the lyrics are distractingly hilarious, the music goes into epic soundtrack mode by the time Bozzio’s shouting “Jack it Punky, jack it faster!”  Frank ends the song with one of his signature guitar jams, a sound that this world truly does miss.

Of note: this album was originally released on 12″ picture disc.  The Ryko CD cover replicates this effect.  I like that.

5/5 stars

Advertisements

7 comments

  1. Interesting. I’ve never owned the soundtrack in any format, but I own the VHS ( a 2 tape behemouth that sent me back about $80 back in about ’93) and the DVD whch cost about $15 new in 1999. Ha. Its a great visual document but man is it difficult to sit thru completely. I’ve done it, several times, but its hard. Especially that claymation. Damn this ain’t no singin’ raisins!

    The band for this entire album incidentally is Tommy Mars and Peter Wolf (not the J. Geils singer but the guy who wrote “We Built This City”) on keys, Belew on guitar, Bozzio on drums (all tracks)Ed Mann on percussion and Patrick O’Hearn on bass.

    Like

    1. Thanks for filling in that info!

      Yeah I have the movie too (never had it on that expensive VHS though) and I have never made it through in one sitting. In fact I haven’t watched it in almost 10 years. No singing raisins indeed!

      Like

    1. Not “rare” per se, but most end up cracked or all scratched up, after this amount of time.

      What’s a bit more rare is the Obi strip that goes up top. Those are always thrown out.

      Like

  2. Love this album. Some of my favorite Zappa tunes all in one place, delivered by those amazing musicians. You perfectly summed up why it’s such a great soundtrack. It’s even more enjoyable after you’ve seen the movie, which I finally did about 10 years ago. 5/5 indeed.

    Like

Rock a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s