There are few artists who were as prolific and professional as Frank Zappa. Despite his free-spirited and creative eye often staring blankly at the establishment, Zappa had a tremendous work ethic. The below playlist, all 2,247 tracks and 182 hours of it, proves that fact.
From his very first moments on the record, Zappa has been a mad man in the studio. During his lifetime, cut all too short in 1993, the mercurial musician made 62 albums, a simply staggering amount. Such was the volume of his content that after his death the Zappa estate released 50 more albums. It makes for an astounding playlist.
One thing we will admit though, it might be tough to get through it all. The experimental genius of Zappa can be heard in his first album Freak Out! with the Mothers of Invention as he begins his journey to creative liberty in earnest, making tunes capable of swirling your brain nearly 60 years later.
As Zappa progressed, he found more and more enjoyable ways to push the envelope. Whether it was flirting with pop or moving toward the elaborate and the orchestral, Zappa was always sure to be slicing himself on the sharpest point of the cutting edge. He may have begun at the forefront of rock and roll but he soon progressed through jazz, funk, pop and the rest of the genres to perfect his sound as the untouchable giant it was.
For anyone with such a volume of work it can be difficult to maintain a strong fanbase as you move through genres and change the blueprint time after time. What it did do though was solidify those fanatics who stuck with him as they point to his plethora of records as evidence of his foundational genius.
The playlist below offers that viewpoint in abundance. Though it may include a few duplicates, thanks to so many live records, it’s worth noting how little they change musically. On stage or in the studio, Zappa committed wholeheartedly to the creation of his art and though live performances were charged with electricity, Zappa rarely dropped his levels in the booth. The playlist also includes some Zappa songs perhaps as they were meant to be heard as the London Symphony Orchestra make good on his empowering arrangements.
All in all, it makes for one of the most complete assessments of an artist we’ve ever provided. But perhaps the most important piece of this particular puzzle is that Zappa always has a habit of leading you somewhere totally new, either through his own work or by putting you on to a style or genre you never thought attractive.
Even nearly 30 years after his death, Frank Zappa is still able to blow your mind like it was the very first time.