Tinseltown Rebellion is a classic Zappa album that was originally released as a 2-lp set and later released by RykoDisc as a single length CD. The album is the first official release that introduced Steve Vai on guitar. It should be noted that Peter Wolf (J Geils Band) is featured on keyboards as well on this album.
The first two song s”Fine Girl” and “Easy Meat” are the only studio tracks released on the album; the remainder of the album is comprised of various live performances between 1978 and 1980. The live tracks are not overdubbed or re-mastered by Zappa as many later albums were such as You Are What You Is (another 2-lp album released in September of the same year).
This album, like many of Zappa’s albums around this decade, provide the listener with an example of the various directions Zappa was capable of taking his music. The third track The Young Sophisticate is a good song and has a Joe’s Garage type feel and tempo, however the next song Love of My Life exemplifies Zappa’s love affair with the doo-wop genre. There are other examples of Zappa’s doo-wop style on later compilation albums such as Cheap Thrills (1998) and Son of Cheap Thrills (1999).
The album quickly shifts gears with I Ain’t Got No Heart, a song that exemplifies Zappa’s innate ability to compose and perform complex arrangements and random time changes. As mentioned in earlier reviews of Zappa, the people he surrounded himself were simply the best of musicians. The monologue Panty Rap and Dance Contest are classic Zappa moments and provides listeners who never had the opportunity to see Zappa live just how interactive and entertaining he was with a crowd; although some may find it offensive I think it’s incredibly entertaining. Clearly Zappa and his band had a panty fetish while on the road, there is another entertaining song/parity on the album Man From Utopia (1983) entitled “The Jazz Discharge Party Hats”, another Zappa classic.
Now You See It – Now You Don’t showcases Zappa’s guitar talent; although a purely instrumental song it fits nicely in the middle of the album; if you would like to hear more of Zappa’s instrumental work I highly suggest Shut Up and Play Yer’ Guitar (1981) or Zappa: Guitar (1988).
The Blue Light is a random song on the album and actually is reminscent of songs off of Man From Utopia (1983); and that album that would not be produced for another 2-years, so perhaps this song is a precursor. Tinseltown Rebellion is the title track for the album and is entertaining on its own. The remaining tracks are all good on the album but nothing specifically unique.
The ending track Peaches III is very cool since it is a live performance of Peaches en Regalia off of Zappa’s early work Hot Rats (1969). The song is awesome to hear performed live (although live versions can be found throughout the Zappa catalog, my personal favorite live version of Peaches in addition to this is Mothers at The Fillmore East 1971). The cool thing about this version is the cameo of guitar great Al DiMeola!
All in all Tinseltown Rebellion is a solid Zappa album and one that a newbie or experienced Zappa fan will greatly appreciate as part of their collection. Give it a few listens and it will quickly grow on you.
Frank Zappa’s Tinseltown Rebellion gets 5 stars!