Läther

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Läther
Studio album by Frank Zappa
Released September 24, 1996
Recorded 1969; 1972–1977
Genre Rock, orchestral
Length 156:53
Label Rykodisc
Producer Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa chronology
The Lost Episodes
(1996)
Läther
(1996)
Frank Zappa Plays the Music of Frank Zappa: A Memorial Tribute
(1996)
2012 Re-issue

''Läther'' (/lɛðɜr/, or "Leather"), is the sixty-fifth official album by Frank Zappa, released posthumously as a triple album on Rykodisc in 1996.

The recordings for the album were originally delivered to Warner Bros. in 1977. Contractual obligations stipulated that Zappa deliver four albums for release on DiscReet Records, which eventually resulted much of the material on Läther being released on four separate albums: Zappa in New York (1977), Studio Tan (1978), Sleep Dirt (1979), and Orchestral Favorites (1979), only the first of which was produced with Zappa's oversight. Zappa had planned to include much of the material from these albums as a quadruple box set entitled "Läther", but Warner Bros. refused to release it in this format. However, bootlegs of the original recording had existed for decades before the album's official release as a result of Frank Zappa broadcasting it over the radio in 1977 and encouraging listeners to make tape recordings of it.[1]

Gail Zappa has confirmed that the 2-track masters for the planned original album were located while producing the 1996 version.[2] While the official CD version of Läther released is reportedly identical to the test-pressings for the original quadruple album, four bonus tracks were added to the 1996 release and the title of the song, "One More Time for the World" was changed to "The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution", the title under which the same song appears on the album Sleep Dirt. The album does not include "Baby Snakes", a song which was originally planned for the album. A version of the song served as the title of the film from the same era.

Background and release history[edit]

Zappa's relationship with long-time manager Herb Cohen ended in 1976. Zappa sued Cohen for skimming more than he was allocated from DiscReet Records, as well as for signing acts of which Zappa did not approve.[3] Cohen filed a lawsuit against Zappa in return, which froze the money Zappa and Cohen had gained from an out-of-court settlement with MGM over the rights of the early Mothers of Invention recordings. It also prevented Zappa having access to any of his previously recorded material during the trials. Zappa therefore took his personal master copies of the rock-oriented Zoot Allures (1976) directly to Warner Bros., thereby bypassing DiscReet.[4]

In the mid-1970s Zappa prepared the material for Läther as an intended four-LP project.[5] Wary of a quadruple-LP, Warner Bros. Records refused to release it.[2][6][7][7][8]

Test Pressings and separate releases[edit]

Zappa managed to get an agreement with Phonogram to release Läther in its original configuration, and test pressings were made targeted at a Halloween 1977 release, but Warner Bros. prevented the release by claiming rights over the material.[9] Zappa responded by appearing on the Pasadena, California radio station KROQ, allowing them to broadcast Läther and encouraging listeners to make their own tape recordings.[1] After Warner Bros. censored Zappa in New York to remove references to Angel guitarist Punky Meadows, and demanding four additional albums, a lawsuit between Zappa and Warner Bros. followed, during which no Zappa material was released for more than a year. Eventually, Warner Bros. issued Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt and Orchestral Favorites.[2][7][8] The original cover artwork had featured a photograph of Zappa in blackface and holding a mop. This photograph was eventually used as the cover for Joe's Garage, Act I.

CD issues[edit]

Despite officially acquiring the rights to the material in the 1980s, Frank Zappa chose to release the four previously released albums on CD in 1991 with their original artwork. The four albums were each altered or remixed in some way. Zappa in New York was released on CD in November 1991 in its uncensored form, remixed entirely and supplemented with the addition of previously unheard bonus tracks. The original uncensored version of the album has never been made available on CD. Studio Tan was released on CD in October of the same year with the track "the Adventures of Greggery Peccary" entirely remixed. When the CD was reissued in 2012, the complete original vinyl mix of the entire album was used. Sleep Dirt was released on CD for the first time in September 1991 and featured a new overdubbed drum track along with vocals by singer Thana Harris portraying a character named "Drakma: Queen of Cosmic Greed" that Zappa had created in 1972 for a stage musical that never materialized. In 2012, when Sleep Dirt album was reissued, the original instrumental vinyl mix was used. Orchestral Favorites was digitally transferred for CD with a reversed stereo orientation, switching the left and right channels. This mix has been used for all subsequent reissues.

In 1995, Rykodisc reissued Zappa's entire catalog. None of the four albums related to Läther were altered from the original CD issues, though new digital transfers were made. One year later, Läther was released officially for the first time through the Rykodisc label as a triple album with four bonus tracks.

Music and lyrics[edit]

Läther encapsulates various aspects of Zappa's musical styles — rock, orchestral works, complex instrumental pieces, and Zappa's distorted guitar solos, assembled in a seemingly random way.[2]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[7]

The official version of Läther was released posthumously in September 1996. It remains debated whether Zappa had conceived the material as a four-LP set from the beginning, or only when approaching Mercury-Phonogram;[10] In the liner notes to the 1996 release, however, Gail Zappa states that "As originally conceived by Frank, Läther was always a 4-record box set."[2] Along with most of Zappa's material, a "mini-LP" CD edition was also released by Rykodisc in Japan, with the artwork reformatted to resemble the packaging of a vinyl album.[7] In December 2012, the album was reissued with different packaging that better reflected the intended album cover.

Allmusic writer Richie Unterberger praised the album, but wrote that it would "appeal far more to the Zappa cultist than the general listener, though the Zappa cult – which has been craving Läther in its original format for years – is a pretty wide fan base in and of itself."[7]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Frank Zappa. 

Disc one
No. Title Original release Length
1. "Re-gyptian Strut"   Appears on the album Sleep Dirt (1979) 4:36
2. "Naval Aviation in Art?"   Appears on the album Orchestral Favorites (1979) 1:32
3. "A Little Green Rosetta"   Previously unreleased 2:48
4. "Duck Duck Goose"   Previously unreleased 3:01
5. "Down in De Dew"   Previously unreleased (Outtake from The Grand Wazoo/Waka Jawaka sessions) 2:57
6. "For the Young Sophisticate"   Previously unreleased (Overnite Sensation Outtake) 3:14
7. "Tryin' to Grow a Chin"   Previously unreleased 3:26
8. "Broken Hearts Are for Assholes"   Previously unreleased 4:40
9. "The Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit"   Appears on the album Zappa in New York (1978) 12:41
10. "Lemme Take You to the Beach"   Appears on the album Studio Tan (1978) 2:46
11. "Revised Music for Guitar & Low Budget Orchestra"   Appears on the album Studio Tan (1978) 7:36
12. "RDNZL"   Appears on the album Studio Tan (1978) 8:14
Disc two
No. Title Original release Length
1. "Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me?"   Remix of the version that appears on the album Zappa in New York (1978) 4:56
2. "The Black Page #1"   Appears on the album Zappa in New York (1978) 1:57
3. "Big Leg Emma"   Appears on the album Zappa in New York (1978) 2:11
4. "Punky's Whips"   Appears on the album Zappa in New York (1978) 11:06
5. "Flambé"   A longer version appears on the album Sleep Dirt (1979) 2:05
6. "The Purple Lagoon"   Appears on the album Zappa in New York (1978) 16:20
7. "Pedro's Dowry"   Appears on the album Orchestral Favorites (1979) 7:45
8. "Läther"   Appears on the album Zappa in New York (1978) under the title "I Promise Not to Come in Your Mouth" 3:50
9. "Spider of Destiny"   A longer version appears on the album Sleep Dirt (1979) 2:40
10. "Duke of Orchestral Prunes"   Appears on the album Orchestral Favorites (1979) 4:21
Disc three
No. Title Original release Length
1. "Filthy Habits"   A longer version appears on the album Sleep Dirt (1979) Outtake from Zoot Allures' (1976) 7:12
2. "Titties 'n Beer"   Appears on the album Zappa in New York (1978) 5:23
3. "The Ocean Is the Ultimate Solution" (Originally entitled "One More Time for the World") A longer version appears on the album Sleep Dirt (1979) 8:31
4. "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary"   Appears on the album Studio Tan (1978) 21:00

Personnel[edit]

Disc One, Track 1
Disc One, Track 2; Disc Two, Track 7 & 10
Disc One, Track 3 (part One)
Disc One, Track 3 (Part Two)
Disc One, Track 4, 7 & 8; Disc Three Track 6
Disc One, Track 5
Disc One, Track 6
Disc One, Track 9; Disc Two, Track 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8; Disc Three, Track 2
Disc One, Track 10
Disc One, Track 11; Disc Three, Track 4
Disc One, Track 12; Disc Three, Track 8
Disc Two, Track 5 & 9
Disc Three, Track 1
Disc Three, Track 3
Disc Three, Track 5
Production credits
  • Digital Mastering & EQ – Spencer Chrislu
  • Transfer Engineers – David Dondorf, Spencer Chrislu
  • Vaultmeisterment – Joe Travers
  • Bonues Section Assembly, Edits & Mastering – Spencer Chrislu
  • Cover Concept – Dweezil Zappa
  • Forward Motion – Gail Zappa
  • Deep-dish Descriptions – Simon Prentis
  • Cover Execution & Layout Design – Steven Jurgensmeyer

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Slaven, 2003, Electric Don Quixote, p. 248.
  2. ^ a b c d e Zappa, Gail (1996). Läther (Media notes). Frank Zappa. Rykodisc. 
  3. ^ Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 250.
  4. ^ Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 253; pp. 258–259.
  5. ^ Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 15. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 10 December 2014. 
  6. ^ Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 131.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Unterberger, R. (2011). "Läther – Frank Zappa | AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved 22 July 2011. 
  8. ^ a b Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 267.
  9. ^ Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 261.
  10. ^ Watson, 2005, Frank Zappa. The Complete Guide to His Music, p. 49.