Completed in 1991 but released in 2012, "Understanding America" is a new,
Zappa-compiled release with "America"--and the understanding thereof--as its
theme. The tapes were featured briefly in the "Peefeeyatko" documentary. The ZFT blurb says it all:
"This work is
about love, peace, justice and the American way. It's about compassion and
responsibility. It's about ethics and honor. It's about time and it is about
money. And bogus pomp and circumstance. Predictions and politics. It is the
low-down on high altitudes. Check out the menu for yourself and you will see
that the main ingredients, each in their own persuasion and marinating well into
the next century, have been carefully skewered and roasted to the peak of
perfection by the Master chef, author of one of the all time great cook books,
Understanding America. Oh, and finally, it is about Music. Put some in your
cauldron and please, don't forget to vote!"
ESSENTIAL FOR COMPLETISTS: Yes (mostly for "Porn Wars Deluxe" and especially
for fans of Conceptual Continuity). Note that this does not use the 2012
remasters as its source.
Also released on iTunes. Note that iTunes sets all 10+ minute tracks to
"Album Only," so those just wanting to grab "Porn Wars Deluxe" are sadly out of
- Original 2012 CD (Zappa Records ZR 3892 [in the U.S.] and ZR 0238922
[elsewhere] October 26, 2012)
- iTunes release
- Hungry Freaks, Daddy (remixed version from "Freak Out!" CD)
- Plastic People (pre-2012 CD version from "Absolutely Free")
- Mom & Dad (1980s remix with overdubbed drums and bass. Uses the
beginning of "Bow Tie Daddy" as a segue into...)
- It Can't Happen Here (remixed version from "Freak Out!" CD, edited to
remove instrumental interlude)
- Who Are The Brain Police? (remixed version from "Freak Out!" CD)
- Who Needs The Peace Corps? (1980s remix with overdubbed drums and bass)
- Brown Shoes Don't Make It (pre-2012 CD version from "Absolutely
- Concentration Moon (1980s remix with overdubbed drums and bass)
- Trouble Every Day (edited version from "Freak Out!" CD. Ends early after
"songs about being poor.")
- You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here (remixed version from "Freak
- We're Turning Again (from "Mothers of Prevention")
- Road Ladies (from pre-2012 "Chunga's Revenge" CD)
- What Kind Of Girl Do You Think We Are? (from pre-2012 "Fillmore East
'71" CDs. Contains a big of "Bwana Dik" at the end.)
- Camarillo Brillo (from 1990 Zappa Records version of the
"Apostrophe(')/Over-nite Sensation" CD. We think.).
- Find Her Finer (from pre-2012 CD/Old Masters version of "Zoot Allures")
- Dinah-Moe Humm (from 1990 Zappa Records version of the
"Apostrophe(')/Over-nite Sensation" CD. We think.)
- Disco Boy (edited version from pre-2012 CD/Old Masters version of "Zoot
Allures," ending at 4:18)
- 200 Years Old (from pre-2012 CD/Old Masters version of "Bongo Fury")
- I'm The Slime (edit version from 1990 Zappa Records version of the
"Apostrophe(')/Over-nite Sensation" CD. Ends at 2:34
- Be In My Video (from "Them Or Us")
- I Don't Even Care ("short version" from UK "Meets the Mothers of
- Can't Afford No Shoes (from pre-2012, non-Au20 CD version of "One Size
- Heavenly Bank Account (edited version from pre-1998 CD of "You Are What
You Is," minus the audio glitches! Starts at the first "He's got twenty
- Cocaine Decisions (original mix from vinyl/EMI CD version of "Man from
- Dumb All Over (short edit from pre-1998 CD version of "You Are What You
Is," minus the audio glitches!)
- Promiscuous (from "Broadway the Hard Way")
- Thing-Fish Intro (revised version from "Thing Fish")
- The Central Scrutinizer (edited version from "Joe's Garage." Ends at
"Hi, it's me, I'm back!")
- Porn Wars Deluxe (extended, 25-minute version. Includes "Bow Tie Daddy"
[original mix], portions of "It Can't Happen Here," portions of "Brown Shoes
Don't Make It" [Tinseltown version], portions of "What's the Ugliest Part of
Your Body?" [original mix], portions of "Who Are the Brain Police?" [Freak
Out! remix], SEX [original mix], and portions of "He Used to Cut the Grass")
- Tinseltown Rebellion (from pre-1998 CD of "Tinseltown Rebellion," minus
the audio glitches)
- Jesus Thinks You're A Jerk (from "Broadway the Hard Way")
Porn Wars Deluxe
The only new material on porn wars is mostly spoken words stuff by the guest
vocalists of the MOP album, nothing new by the piano people. There is also a
longer statement by a woman (Tipper Gore?) that apparently was the source for
samples like fire-and-chains or outrageous-filth. The only musical new stuff
that i noticed is a little bit expansion of the
maybe-i-could-make-a-good-rock-star frenzy. I guess this as unused material from
the original version, obviously FZ didn't switch on his synclavier again for the
deluxe version. The new vocal sections are mostly pretty comprehensive
(=boring?), lasting for minutes. The musical excerpts in contrast often pop up
only for a relative short time, especially the mothers material.
Mastered Bob Ludwig 2008, Vaultmeisterment by Joe
Travers 2008, Original Source 1991/2/3 1630 Digital Master by FZ
Impressions and Musings
IMHO the program works pretty good as a compilation. The new combination of
the well known material is often funny and surprising. Especially disc2 has a
very appealing buildup that leads towards porn wars. The central scrutinizer
says "Hi, it's me, I'm back" that segues directly into "The reason for this
hearing...". IMHO the creative value of the album/porn wars is the way in which
the elements are assembled together to build new connections and associations.
In this term it has the same handwriting as the YCDTOSA-series.
weird that FZ cut out the end solo in I'm The Slime but the transition
into BIMV works
Porteresque points out:
First off, this was obviously a project that Frank
was going to release as it is the same tapes that are shown in the
Peefeeyatko documentary. The exact same photos of the tapes boxes are
printed in the insert for the CD. It says the original digital master by
Frank on Feb 3 1991.
It was probably some sort of "best of' idea Frank had revolving around a
political theme. Clearly it was to highlight his "Deluxe" version of Porn
Wars and the strange politics of America.
The entire CD has been mastered with an increased volume and the low-end and
high-ends peaking on almost every track. At some times the high-end seems a
bit too high. Overall the sound is actually quite nice and a great listen.
There are no NEW live versions of any of the tracks on the CD (other than
Promiscuous and Jesus Thinks you are a Jerk which were originally recorded
live when released on BTHW) and after one listen I don't think there are any
different versions other than the PWD track. Regarding PWD, there are lots
more testimony added from the original version intertwined with musically
additions and excerpts from the Freak Out, WOITFTM, LG, AF, "Sex" from "The
Man from Utopia", and some additional Ike Willis ala Thingfish.
After a first listen, the difference in track times in "Trouble Coming
Everyday" is that the song ends before the "harmonica" exit. The difference
in "It Can't Happen Here" is that the piano/snare drum music is cut out in
the middle of the track reducing the track time by 40 or so seconds. There
is quite a few other edits on a other tracks where it seems that Frank
shorten the song by removing music that didn't have relevance to the lyrics
if that makes any sense..
All songs except PWD sound
like Ryko-era masters. After enjoying the new transfers for the last
couple of months they were very noticeably inferior.
I don't think this functions very well as a career overview . . .
[T]he track selection is really strange. [Also], it's dispiriting to
realize that "Understanding America" reverts to the ugly days of
old, where Zappa enjoyed layering reverb over everything and
over-used his favorite digital devices to ill end. . . . Unfortunately, Zappa's over-use
of digital compression adversely affects some of the songs that
might otherwise function as fan-bait, such as the original mixes of
the Man from Utopia tracks which are otherwise hard to obtain on CD.
- Why are the versions of the YAWYI and Tinseltown tracks the same versions
that appeared on the "bad batch" CD, but without glitches? Was Zappa aware
of how bad those discs were as early as 1991? If yes, it's a pity they
weren't corrected until 198.
- Everyone on Zappateers/Zappa.com who chipped in.