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Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch

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Album Review

Released in May 1982, Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch marks Frank Zappa's entrance into the 1980s. From this point on, his rock records would focus on single, simple rock songs (the previous year's You Are What You Is had them organized in interconnecting suites) with occasionally more complex instrumental numbers. The recipe would be extended to The Man From Utopia (1983) and Them or Us (1984). Side one features three studio songs that would never be performed on stage. By 1981, Zappa had become a master at manipulating vocal tracks, a technique featured in each of them, but most successfully in "Valley Girl," where daughter Moon Unit (aged 14 at the time) pastiches rich girls from the San Fernando Valley. Released as a single, it became a novelty hit, climbing into the Top 40 in the U.S., a rare (and not necessarily sought-after) experience for Zappa. Side two presents three live tracks, two of which are difficult rock instrumentals. "Drowning Witch" may be one of his hardest pieces to perform. This album clearly lacks ambition and tends to get lost among the man's humongous discography, but it should not be overlooked. It contains a few good songs ("No Not Now" is quite entertaining), strong guitar work from Zappa and Steve Vai, and it is not defaced by the cold 1980s sound of subsequent albums. ~ François Couture, Rovi

Customer Reviews

One of his finest albums

Gotta love this one! Zappa fan or not, This is one of his few albums that most people can relate to, Whats not to love about his and his daughter's "totally awesome to the max" hit "Valley Girl", I mean it was his only US single hit. Buy this one if you want a goodn laugh and a classic FZ/80's music album.

Post-peak Zappa

No one loves the Zappa and Mothers of the mid-to-late 60s more than I do. Absolutely Free, Uncle Meat and Hot Rats are still at the pinnacle of jazzish experimental rock. But he could not have kept that up forever, and in the 70s, though his output was prolific, his ideas and music began to descend from the heights. By the 80s and albums like this he was mostly doing jokey yellow-snow stuff that shows occasional flashes of brilliance -- like Envelopes -- but nothing like his 60s peak. Sure, this is better than a lot of other crap that came out in the 80s, but it's nowhere near Zappa's best earlier work.

Album Only?

I love the music, but these album only songs NEED to go. It would really make a difference.