Zappa: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Deluxe Edition

It's hard to fathom counterculture icon and multitalented musician nonpareil Frank Zappa left this mortal coil almost three full decades ago in December 1993, given the sheer range of archival and new releases that continue to arise from the vaults of his legendary Utility Muffin Research Kitchen (UMRK)—a.k.a., Zappa's onetime home studio. Fact is, many of them were personally sequenced, mixed, and/or produced by the man himself before his untimely passing at age 52.

Zappa's fascinating life story has also been the subject of numerous documentaries, perhaps none more spot-on than 2020's acclaimed, Alex Winter-directed Zappa. Naturally, said film had to eventually birth an official soundtrack, and thus we have Zappa: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Deluxe, which plastercasts 68 tracks across three CDs. If you're more vinyl-inclined, a 5LP 180-gram version has been earmarked to appear a few months after the CD release. For the record, the standard 5LP release is on black vinyl, the limited-edition 5LP option is on smoke vinyl, and a truncated 2LP edition is on clear vinyl.

According to the word balloon at the top of the spine—whose design is in direct homage to the title blurb emblazoning the cover of June 1966's truly seminal Freak Out! —this soundtrack is considered to be official Zappa release 118. (And yes, before you even ask—I do indeed have all of them.) Oddly, the accompanying 20-page booklet is downright sparse when it comes to providing historical detail. In fact, it doesn't even list the who-played-what credits for a majority of the included tracks. This, frankly, is somewhat baffling, given how thorough archival entries in the storied Zappa catalog usually are. Perhaps the soundtrack designation had some influence over the presentation equation, but when it comes to any multidisc deluxe edition, having more supplemental information as part of the package is always preferred, imo.

Otherwise, the breadth of this soundtrack's various audio elements—ranging from rock to jazz to classical offerings plus 12 unreleased tracks, all duly interspersed with a few choice interview clips and soundbites to round things out—are what really tell the Zappa story. Discs 1 and 2 cull core tracks from the groundbreaking Mothers of Invention era in addition to key Frank solo cuts alongside a few off-kilter entries from the extended Zappa family—such as Alice Cooper's psychedelic, cymbal-heavy "No Longer Umpire" and The GTO's trippy treatise "The Captain's Fat Theresa Shoes," both on Disc 1.


Highlights abound, but among my favorites are The Mothers of Invention's post-doo-wop kazoo call for "Motherly Love" and their madrigal slap at Flower Power in "Absolutely Free" (both on Disc 1), as well as Frank's iconic live rendition of the scathing disco-scene indictment "Dancin' Fool"—taken from when he hosted Saturday Night Live on October 21, 1978—and the grand orchestral gesticulating of "G-Spot Tornado" (both on Disc 2).

The balance of Disc 3 contains 26 tracks of John Frizzell's evocative original score, consisting mostly of strings-centric or piano-based connective snippets averaging about a minute in length each, all of which serve to thread the arc of Frank's life. Naturally, Zappa himself gets the last musical words to close out Disc 3, the final aural straw being a soaring, six-minute live take on "Watermelon in Easter Hay" from 1978. Originally released in its studio version as the penultimate track on November 1979's Joe's Garage Acts II & III, "Easter Hay" is arguably the most emotionally affecting guitar-driven instrumental nestled within the rock column of Zappa's canon.

If this soundtrack is intended as a jumping-off point for further exploration of the mighty Zappa catalog, then it succeeds quite handily. And if, for some reason, you haven't yet delved all that deep into Frank's universe, my somewhat abbreviated starter kit of sonic suggestions would be to continue your Zappa listening journey with June 1966's aforementioned Freak Out! , September 1973's Over-Nite Sensation, March 1983's The Man From Utopia, November 1986's Jazz From Hell, and November 1993's The Yellow Shark for starters, in order to get a taste of the man's range. If you do get hooked, you'll still have over 100 more authorized releases to explore after that—and, of course, there's already much more official FZ material confirmed to be on the way.

Incidentally, the crux of the biscuit can be found in the credit box that's centered on the first, lefthand inner panel in the soundtrack digipak: "The music accompanying this film was composed and conducted by Frank Zappa." They key word there is actually the "and" that appears between "composed" and "conducted," because Frank Vincent Zappa was never about mastering the art of doing just one thing. Not only that, Zappa also followed the mantra of one of his own heroes, French composer Edgard Varèse: "The present day composer refuses to die." Though Zappa may no longer be with us here on mother earth, this can't-miss soundtrack amply confirms his music will live forever.

Label: Zappa/UMe
Audio Format: 16-bit/44-Hz PCM Stereo
Number of Tracks: 68 on 3 CDs
Length: 3:24:32 on 3 CDs
Producers: Ahmet Zappa, Joe Travers (deluxe edition); Tom Wilson (original album tracks); Frank Zappa (original album tracks, live material, and unreleased tracks)
Engineers: Chris Bellman (additional mastering, deluxe edition); Nick Cimity, David Stal (original score); Doug Sax, Robert Hadley, Sangwook “Sunny” Nam (select original tracks mastering); Bob Ludwig (select original tracks remastering); 20 others (original tracks, live material, and remixes)