Ryko put this compilation together to "celebrate" the move of quite many
Zappa CDs from the full-price to the mid-price range. It contains album versions
only (and an "enhanced CD" portion, with the entire Ryko catalogue in
HTML format), but as "Ned the Mumbler" points out:
David G. elaborates:
While I was down at the Federal Building filling out several dozen Freedom of
Information Act requests for Mr Gula's FBI files, there was, laying upon a desk, an
advance copy of Cheap Thrills, along with related marketing materials,
which seemed to have come as part of a Rykodisc pre-solicitation marketing campaign.
For those who are interested, I thought I might detail a little bit of what I saw and
I do not offer these comments with the intention of attempting to argue the
justification of the release of compilations of previously existing material over the
release of any of the thousands of unissued Zappa masters which have yet to be made
available for commercial sale (there is simply no argument, everyone who likes Zappa would
prefer unissued masters), rather I offer these comments simply as a description of the
piece of product which has been produced.
To begin with the package is stunningly beautiful in that glorious 100% PURE
CAL SCHENKEL way. If you believe that Cal is to Zappa packages as George Martin
is to the Beatles sound, as I do, then you will be simply thrilled to see a package which,
though very basic, is easily the equivalent in tone and style and "vibe" of
either Playground Psychotics or Ahead of Their Time.
Other than the "Enhanced CD" logo and the UPC, there is not a single bit of
typeface anywhere in the package. Everything is in Cal's handwriting. The insert is an
8-page folder which seems to use fluorescent magenta, fluorescent yellow, standard cyan
and standard black inks. The artwork will, to use the expression, blow your mind. The
inside of the inlay card looks as if one might need 3-D glasses to decipher the layers
(if, in fact, anything is there to be deciphered at all).
The 13 tracks of music/voice are 47:71 in length. The music sounds wonderful. And the
edit points between tracks, the segues, are virtually seamless and give this assembly a
surprising coherence one may have thought, from the simple reading of the track titles, it
could ever possibly possess.
The CD enhanced track contains a version of the Rykodisc Zappa on-line catalogue pages.
The opening page contains an revolving series of Zappa album covers. These catalogue pages
are the ones just the way they used to appear on the Rykodisc website before Rykodisc
recently redesigned everything. These catalogue pages include information on every Ryko FZ
release through 200 Motels. The readme.txt file of this
enhanced track says:
Cheap Thrills - Zappa Catalog
Welcome to the Enhanced section of Cheap Thrills, wherein we take an
opportunity to show you the full extent of the Frank Zappa oeuvre, and show you what you
are missing if you don't already own every single one of the releases included here (if
you already do, then go back to pestering us to put out more unreleased stuff).
So, how does this work?
Well, here's what you want to do:
A) If you have a web browser, like Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer,
already installed in your computer ...
- Go to the folder on this disc called "Artist" and double-click on the file
called "Zappa_a.htm". This will launch the catalog.
- Browse around, choose a bunch of titles, and visit your local retailer to buy them. Or
call the number provided at the bottom of the screen.
B) If you do not have a browser installed on your machine ...
- Open the folder called "Netscape." Double click on the file called
"N32E404.EXE" and follow the instructions to install Netscape Navigator on your
machine. When you have successfully installed the program, go to Step 1 listed above.
The HTML files on this disc are viewable on any computer with a web browser installed.
If you are reading this, you have a multisession-compatible CD-ROM drive already
installed, so you should be off to the races.
C) Email any questions or problems to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Zappa was signed to Warner Bros in the 1970s, a single-disc mail order only
sampler (yes, I know, two different versions of this single disc sampler were produced)
was created by the Warner Bros marketing department. It was called Zapped. Its purpose was, ultimately, to invite
as many people as possible, but mostly people who had NEVER listened to
Zappa stuff to become familiar with both Zappa music and Zappa-related music from, and
hopefully become buyers of, existing (and future) Bizarre/Straight releases in exchange
for as little money as possible (which was, at the time, one dollar).
A quarter of a century later, Rykodisc seems to be doing the same exact thing with Cheap
Thrills. Except now is it a CD sold in any store which will stock it with a list
price of 6.98 (which is, more or less, the equivalent of a CD single and which will likely
sell for only 4.99 to 5.99).
All of us are waiting for Rykodisc and the Zappa Family Trust to work together to
release all those recordings we've never heard before. Some of these, such as the Varese
album, we have been "teased" with for years. But, although people who enjoy FZ,
or any music, like to think in ideal terms, the day-to-day practical situation of it is
that if a company like Rykodisc, or any record company, cannot create appropriate retail
sales for an artist, including Zappa, then they begin to lose retail shelf space, they
begin to lose the practical and economic advantages of the Zappa "brand name"
(as it were) and Zappa music in retail stores will slowly but surely disappear and that
shelfspace will used for other product which does turn over.
For good or for bad, according to Soundscan US sales figures, Strictly Commercial (a compilation, like Cheap
Thrills, of all previously released masters, by the way) has outsold every other
Rykodisc title by many times over. Strictly Commercial
has sold nearly twenty times the number of copies of 200 Motels. Yet 200
Motels was a "lost" release which Zappa fans (I among them) begged and
pleaded with Rykodisc to release on CD for years and years. But when 200 Motels
finally does show up, no one, comparatively, bought it.
As discussed already on alt.fan.frank-zappa and
on Rykodisc's Message Board, I think it is clear that Rykodisc's preference would be to
only release packages of unissued Zappa masters, but as that appears not to be possible
right now, it seems Rykodisc is using Cheap Thrills to invite all many
people as possible into the Frank Zappa tent, to broaden the sales base, and to have more
potential ears eager to hear whatever new releases of unissued Zappa masters that will
eventually come than heard, let's say, the begged-for 200 Motels. While
FZ music may be a living, breathing part of the lives of people who are on alt.fan.frank-zappa, for it to become a living,
breathing part of our children's lives or our grandchildren's lives, which it what is
required for it to remain vital, takes equal parts of new important unissued material
finally being released, the continued appreciation and sale of the existing works as well
as a large enough, and EXPANDING, customer base which will support, by
their pu***ase, the titles which are released.
For all of the complaining, Rykodisc has created and released only three compilations: Strictly Commercial, Strictly
Genteel and, now, Cheap Thrills. Every other Rykodisc release has
either been a Zappa-compiled collection he created to be issued after his death or a
Zappa-fan requested "lost" album. Strictly Commercial and Strictly
Genteel are legitimate, necessary collections which, each in its own way, distill
nearly five dozen albums into handy bite-sized pieces. Cheap Thrills is
the worthy successor to Zapped, created for
the same purpose. To invite people into the Zappa tent. Don't we all want as many people
as possible in that tent with us ready and waiting for whatever comes next?