13) Sheik Yerbouti - Frank Zappa
Here's one completely out of my wheelhouse. I was 16- working at Best Buy, and a HUUUUUUUGE Nine Inch Nails fan. I was out of work due to a medical issue, and for Christmas, I was given NIN's "Closure" video set. Needless to say, I was in heaven. At one point in the second video, which was a chronicle of the Downward Spiral tour, there was a bit of backstage footage of the band going through their pre-show preparations, while singing what was, at the time, an intriguingly interesting and catchy tune.
After as much research as the 1997 internet would allow, I discovered the artist and title of the song- "Broken Hearts are for Assholes", by Frank Zappa. That led me to this album.
And my stars and garters, what a vulgar, vulgar album it is. But we'll get to that. I don't know an awful lot about Frank Zappa, and truth be told, this is the only album of his that I own. I've been through two vinyl copies, two cassette copies, and three (3!) CDs, one of which is an import that had different track lengths. I love this album. It's so fucking weird.
The first song, "I Have Been in You" (see, the vulgarity starts early!), apes Peter Frampton's "I'm In You". Which is a terrible, terrible song. Don't bother looking it up. Seriously. I love me some Frampton, but that song is hot garbage in the summer Vegas sun. Then comes "Flakes"- a critique of anyone with any sort of mechanical or technical expertise. Plumber? You're a flake. Mechanic? You're a flake. And then Adrian Belew's Bob Dylan impression happens... and it's spot the hell on. WHAT THE HELL IS A "MANDIE"!?
And from there, it's off to the races. You have the amazing "Broken Hearts are for Assholes", which WOULD be the most offensive song on the album, if it weren't for the poppy-yet-excruciatingly-filthy "Bobby Brown Goes Down", which was apparently a massive hit in Europe (go figure). Compare for yourselves:
But at the same time- the whole album isn't just grossouts and parodies. There's a lot of really impressive musicianship to be enjoyed as well; everyone from Terry Bozzio (who as far as I can tell may be the human representation of Animal from the Muppets) to the aforementioned Adrian Belew to the eclectic Patrick O'Hearn (look him up, he's done EVERYTHING). There's jazz-rock numbers that came out of situations entirely too complex to describe here ("Rat Tomago", "The Sheik Yerbouti Tango"), there's ode's to acid-freakouts ("Tryin' to Grow A Chin", "City of Tiny Lights"), and then there's the bizarre pseudo-spoken word/noise bits that don't fit any other way than when listening to the album in full ("We Gotta Get Into Something Real", "Whatever Happened to All the Fun in the World?"). There's a bit of everything, in a way that I've never found on another Zappa album. I guess that's why this is the only one that sticks for me. Oh, and it's almost entirely recorded live. Which is weird, because if you listen to the songs as performed live later, they don't really sound like the album versions. Overdubs are one thing, but yeesh.