Frank Zappa Albums Ranked

Frank Vincent Zappa (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American multi-instrumentalist musician, composer, and bandleader. His work is characterized by nonconformity, free-form improvisation, sound experiments, musical virtuosity, and satire of American culture. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa composed rock, pop, jazz, jazz fusion, orchestral and musique concrète works, and produced almost all of the 60-plus albums that he released with his band the Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist. Zappa also directed feature-length films and music videos and designed album covers. He is considered one of the most innovative and stylistically diverse rock musicians of his era.
As a self-taught composer and performer, Zappa’s diverse musical influences led him to create music that was sometimes difficult to categorize. While in his teens, he acquired a taste for 20th-century classical modernism, African-American rhythm and blues, and doo-wop music. He began writing classical music in high school, while at the same time playing drums in rhythm and blues bands, later switching to electric guitar. His 1966 debut album with the Mothers of Invention, Freak Out!, combined songs in conventional rock and roll format with collective improvisations and studio-generated sound collages. He continued this eclectic and experimental approach whether the fundamental format was rock, jazz, or classical. Zappa was a highly productive and prolific artist with a controversial critical standing; supporters of his music admired its compositional complexity, while critics found it lacking emotional depth. Here are all of Frank Zappa’s albums ranked.

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10. Uncle Meat (1969)

“This album…, what to say. I popped it in the player and listened to it 2 TIMES IN A ROW!! WOW! I mean, this album lets you experience many of Zappa’s styles and characters all in one package. If you are new to Zappa, don’t be afraid to order this one. I has some CRAZY moments, but it all makes sense. You have to experience this one from cover to cover to understand the flow of the songs and how they relate to the artwork. The symphonic arrangements are HUGE and complex (as always) and the chaos seems to be contained at bay by the great tunes that surround it.”

9. The Grand Wazoo (1972)

“Probably the best album I’ve heard by Zappa yet. THIS ALBUM IMPRESSED ME, REALLY IMPRESSED ME. It’s got a hysterical blend of jazz fusion and kick ass guitar solo’s. It’s possibly one of the best albums you’ll ever hear IMO. I really thoroughly enjoyed it. Eat That Question is probably my favorite song on this album, the guitar solo is amazing. Check it out! “

8. Sheik Yerbouti (1979)

“Frank Zappa is a man of brilliance. I’ve written so many reviews on Zappa’a music because I keep buying everything he ever made. Why do I keep buying his music, what do I find interesting about his music? Frank’s music is original, he wrote music that he wanted to share with the world, not music that went along with the norm so that it could be popular and make some money. Frank gave the world what he created as a creator of art trough music and he loved doing it and he managed to make a living from what he loved doing, I can hear that in his music, don’t we all wish we could go to work and produce something we enjoyed to do and make a living at it? He was able to do this without betraying his ideas in the name of profit, Frank was a man that evolved as a human being and wrote music for people that had and have a higher standard rather than settle for a temporary trend. I don’t think there will ever be a man like Zappa again he was one in a trillion.”

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7. Joe’s Garage Acts 1, 2 & 3 (1979)

“Not quite as good as Act I, this one drags out a bit. It was a nice album along with Act I to fill a cold January in my dorm room alone during my Sophomore year after my roommate moved out. Some songs in this are okay, Watermelon has a nice guitar solo  and of course there’s the catchy yet so awful Green Rosetta that is the bane of every Zappa fan’s existence. It just feels this drags out a little bit, even for Zappa, but it does have an original concept, and is the last essential Zappa album.”

6. Freak Out! (1966)

“With the exception of track 15, all cuts are quite melodic. Perhaps the best of all Zappa albums, not that I’ve heard them all. Particularly enjoy “Wowy Zowie”, “Trouble Every Day”. As for final cut, its’ influence over albums like “Sgt. Pepper’s” is obvious. Haven’t the listening experience to say whether this is an album that belongs in everybody’s collection, but to Zappa fans, it is.”

5. We’re Only in It for the Money (1968)

“Frank Zappa’s third album, the sardonically titled We’re Only in It for the Money, is a near-perfect satire of hippies and 1967’s commercialized Summer of Love.  But Zappa also takes a number of shots at The Establishment.  Basically, he finds criticism in both culture camps and spends most of the album alternately skewering them.  Yes, Zappa seems to say, the status quo was definitely not working, but the answer was not found in Timothy Leary‘s mantra “turn on, tune in, drop out.””

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4. Over-Nite Sensation (1973)

“My experience is that this album seems to be a love it or hate it album amongst Zappa fans. Well, I’m definitely in the first camp – with slight reservations. “I’m the Slime,” “Fifty-Fifty” and “Zomby Wolf” are not among my favorite Zappa songs, but neither are any of them bad, I just find myself skipping them to get to the three songs I absolutely love (after Camarillo Brillo): Dirty Love (“poodle bites (‘come on Frenchy’) poodle chews it”), Dinal-Moe Hum (“she looked over at me with a glazed eye, and some bovine perspiration on her upper lip area”), and Montana (“I’m moving to Montana soon, gonna be a dental floss tycoon”). The lyrics alone would make these great, hilarious songs.”

3. Apostrophe (’) (1974)

‘One of FZ’s best. This is where we meet the fur trapper who unwisely decided to have the audacity to smack Nanook’s favorite baby seal around with a lead filled snowshoe. A brilliantly executed album: this is the one that introduced me to the music of Frank Zappa. Actually, I had at the time only heard FZ on John & Yoko’s “Live Jam” record (included in their “Some Time In New York City” album). John & Yoko sat in with Frank and The Mothers at the Fillmore East, and it was captured on tape. I didn’t really think much of it and still hadn’t learned to appreciate FZ yet. But then one day in January 1974 I bought the Frank Zappa single “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow” with “Cosmik Debris” on the flip side. I loved it. “

2. One Size Fits All (1975)

“For some reason One Size Fits All doesn’t get as much attention as many other Zappa albums, but it might be his greatest studio album. The songs and musicianship are killer. Zappa’s soloing has never been sharper or more creative than on this album. Inca Roads, Andy, Sofa #1 are among his best. Amazing album!”

1. Hot Rats (1969)

“Zappa’s first solo album after dissolving the Mothers is his finest achievement. Mostly instrumental, it opens with the gorgeous Peaches En Regalia then comes Willie The Pimp featuring Captain Beefheart on vocals and a jaw dropping Zappa  guitar solo. Son Of Mr Green Genes is an instrumental  re-write of Mr Green Genes   from Uncle Meat ,the exotic Little Umbrellas is also excellent track. The Gumbo Variations features wild solos from Ian Underwood (sax) and Sugarcane Harris (violin). The final track ,It Must be A Camel is the weakest track , but its a minor blip on a marvelous record.