Lumpy Gravy

Released: December 1967


  1. The Way I See It, Barry
  2. Duodenum
  3. Oh No
  4. Bit Of Nostalgia
  5. It’s From Kansas
  6. Bored Out 90 Over
  7. Almost Chinese
  8. Switching Girls
  9. Oh No Again
  10. At The Gas Station
  11. Another Pickup
  12. I Don’t Know If I Can Go Through This Again
  13. Very Distraughtening
  14. White Ugliness
  15. Amen
  16. Just One More Time
  17. A Vicious Circle
  18. King Kong
  19. Drums Are Too Noisy
  20. Kangaroos
  21. Envelops The Bath Tub
  22. Take Your Clothes Off

Paul Smith, Mike Lang, Lincoln Mayorga, Pete Jolly (keyboards of all sorts), Emil Richards, Gene Estes, Alan Estes, Victor Feldman (percussional insanity), Ted Nash, Jules Jacob, John Rotella, Bunk Gardner, Don Christlieb, Gene Cipriano (woodwinds), Arthur Maebe, Vincent De Rosa, Richard Parisi, Jimmy Zito, Kenneth Shroyer (french horns, trumpet, trombones), Jim Haynes, Tommy Tedesco, Tony Rizzi, Al Viola, Dennis Budimer (guitars) Bob West, John Balkin, Jimmy Bond, Lyle Ritts, Chuck Berghofer (bass) and an incredibly big truckload of violinists.

10 thoughts on “Lumpy Gravy”

  1. I believe that it was the great philosophical Zappalogogist Ben Watson who categorized “Lumpy Gravy” as Zappa’s most “mythological” album. I can completely understand exactly what he meant the very first time I heard it.

    I first heard “Lumpy Gravy” when attached to the earliest Rykodisc CD “two-fer” released in 1986. This two-albums-on-one-CD release also featured the controversial “remix” of the “We’re Only In It For the Money” album, with the obvious digital drums re-recorded by Wackerman with Arthur Barrow’s re-recorded bass parts.

    But I digress. At least “Lumpy Gravy” survived intact on that early CD, and somewhat like the “Uncle Meat” album, it absolutely baffled me.

    The recording is a masterwork of sound collage editing, featuring specific, cryptic comments that Zappa recorded of friends basically talking and chatting while sitting in the abient environment of a blanketed piano (something like a tent, I believe). Later on, with “Civilization, Phase Three”, Zappa would expound this basic event into something of a cosmically significant eternity, but back in 1967, “Lumpy Gravy” came off as an intimate, VERY analog and claustrophobic sounding recording.

    I have never heard the “Capitol Records” mix of this album, which is supposedly quite different in the editing and instrumental choices, but the official release has some absolutely beautiful instrumental interludes breaking up the talk and banter, particularly the straight-ahead symphonic interludes.

    In his book “The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play”, Ben Watson undertakes arguably the most detailed analysis of the entire running time of “Lumpy Gravy” I have ever read, complete with personal and studied interpretation of every word, implication, symbolic representation, etc…Watson seems to truly believe that the WHOLE ZAPPA PHILOSOPHY of art, music and life in general is completely hidden in this obscure early work.

    I do love “Lumpy Gravy”, whether Watson is making a mountain out of a mole hill or not. It features early Frank trying to be John Cage: random ideas set right next to grand symphonic flourishes, Motorhead Sherwood talking about girls who “put out”, surf music extracts, “Louie,Louie” references, and basically stands today as a perfect recorded audio “snapshot” of the creatively fertile world that young Zappa ripened in during the late 1960’s.

    Frank once made a famous quote (and I’m really paraphrasing here) about the fact that he felt it would one day be the ART of a particular time in history that would tell the real story of that place and time better than the HISTORY BOOKS would.

    When one listens to “Lumpy Gravy” one begins to understand EXACTLY what Frank meant.

    A stunning masterpiece. I think.

  2. This album is Frank Zappa in avant garde composer mode with orchestral fragments intercut with apparently random and improvised spoken dialogue and bracketed with a couple of surf music style pieces, all of which baffled most rock and roll listeners and critics at the time. The basic idea/ approach was updated and expanded on “Civilzation, Phase III” three decades later.

  3. this is one of the best examples of frank the composer,I think.The orchestral interludes are among his best work that I’ve heard.The dialouges are perplexing and very funny.another forgotten classic.

  4. Magnificence, to be sure but as was mentioned earlier this is a claustophobic album – in fact it almost demands to be listened to with fat studio cans under a blanket!
    After this get Civilization Phaze III…

  5. A truly essential FZ album and one that (along with others)defines him as a composer, producer and editor.

  6. “Watson seems to truly believe that the WHOLE ZAPPA PHILOSOPHY of art, music and life in general is completely hidden in this obscure early work”.

    That is because he is an overeducated shithead. I love the early Mothers, am rather fond of Lumpy Gravy, but would not give the steam off my piss for that jizz-soaked-anorak wearing buffoon’s opinion of the weather, let alone anything of cultural significance.

  7. I first bought LUMPY GRAVY when I heard how much people hated it. After purchasing it, I found that it had the roots of Conceptual Continuity, some of the best orchestral work I had heard to date, and the great stories of Pigs and Ponies. I quickly fell in love with this masterpiece, and couldn’t see how anybody could (1.)Hate this beauty, and (2.) Compare it to anything else in his catalogue. Shortly thenafter, I found out about CP III, but couldn’t find it on the Internet or in a store–until Barfko-Swill came into my sight. After over a year of waiting for more piano people, I had the whole collection of recordings released involving the People. Based on my assesment of this album, I highly suggest this album for the beginner out for an adventure or the fan in search of something new.

  8. “Because … Round Things Are Boring”

    My mind pirhouettes like a ballerina on crank when i listen 2 this big steamy treat; not sure if there’d even been ANY such thing @ a collage LP before this, other than maybe the Dadaists putting out something self-consciously horrid 4 their audience of dozens, circa 1917 – compared 2 most avant-gardismo before OR since, LUMPY GRAVY = Weird + Beautiful.

    My ears get off on “Duodenum” every time – i be mucho blessed 2 have a copy of the Persuasions’ Zappa tribute ( he was “discovering” & encouraging the fledgeling accapella group about the same time @ this ) available from my library, so i’d say get that one also, if ye can – RIGHT AFTER THIS …

    If y’loathe the talk on “Civilization Phaze III” or demand oodles of kink/scatology a la Thing-Fish, this is not gonna rock your world – i think even trying 2 draw an analogy w/ this Mutant is silly, but, ahhhh, what th’ fluck: forsooth, ’tis mayhap a medieval-whiffed JAZZ FROM HELL? Not Sonically mind but Subjectively … that one & this both have that wild ride betwixt surrealism & pathos.

    Feh, so much hi-falutin’ lingo just 2 say that if y’stretch yer brain reeeeeeally hard ya can come up w/ a parallel BUT boyoboy i like its Unique Piquant Frisson & what it does 2 my pretty little head … even tho’ the presence of the dubious phrase “Electric Orchestra” is usually a red-alert 2 the listener of impending “Hyper-Seriousness Thinly Disguising Ultra-Cluelessness” there’s no doubt that a freak-genius like FZ can whup those nice musician folks into a magnificent Frenzy plenty fine!

    It sounds 2 me like it very VERY much wants 2 ooze up outta my Hi-Phi so’s 2 glorpf over my shrieking form & ASSIMILATE my ass, & how th’ hell can ya NOT love that?!?!

    “It’s a Vicious Circle, you got it!”

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