Friday, August 08, 2008

Go Cruising

Frank Zappa
Cruising With Ruben & The Jets

by François Couture
Frank Zappa loved '50s doo wop music. He grew up with it, collected it, and it was the first kind of pop music he wrote (like "Memories of El Monte," recorded by the Penguins in 1962). Cruising With Ruben & the Jets, the Mothers of Invention's fourth LP, is a collection of such music, all Zappa originals (some co-written with MOI singer Ray Collins). To the unexperienced, songs like "Cheap Thrills," "Deseri," and "Jelly Roll Gum Drop" can sound like an average doo wop song. A closer look reveals unusual chord sequences, Stravinsky quotes, and hilariously moronic lyrics — all that wrapped in four-way harmony vocals and linear piano triplets. A handful of songs from the group's 1966 debut, Freak Out, were rearranged ("How Could I Be Such a Fool" and "Anyway the Wind Blows" give the weirdest results), old material predating the Mothers was recycled ("Fountain of Love"), "Love of My Life," and "You Didn't Try to Call Me" became live staples. [For the album's first CD reissue in 1985, Zappa had bassist Scott Thunes and drummer Chad Wackerman re-recording rhythm tracks for all but one song. Since then, all reissues have followed the 1985 mix, leaving "Stuff up the Cracks" the only surviving example of what Cruising With Ruben & the Jets really sounded like. Unless listeners are particularly fond of Doo Wopl music, this album is definitely not the best place to start in Zappa's catalog.]

1 Cheap Thrills
2 Love of My Life
3 How Could I Be Such a Fool?
4 Deseri
5 I'm Not Satisfied
6 Jelly Roll Gum Drop
7 Anything
8 Later That Night
9 You Didn't Try to Call Me
10 Fountain of Love
11 No. No. No.
12 Any Way the Wind Blows
13 Stuff Up the Cracks


Ron said...

I had this album when it first came out. That makes me an old god.

I used to play it through my home made plywood speakers on an RCA Record Player out the basement windows as the kids poured down the lane way to go to school.

Most of them considered me crazy:

they were right....