Ranking The Frank Zappa Albums #41 Cruising With Rueben & The Jets

Cruising With Rueben & The Jets is the fourth Mothers of Invention album, the cover, by Cal Schenkel, depicts the band as anthropomorphic dogs and this is apparently a concept album, influenced by 1950s doo wop and rock and roll. I don’t really see the ‘concept’ here except for the fact that the band loved doo-wap and perform it quite well. In fact, releasing an album of ’50s-style doo wop and R&B in 1968 at the height of psychedelia was (and may still be) viewed as a joke, but this album is not. Some of the lyrics may parody the lyrical and social conventions of the ’50s, but Zappa and the band loved this music, and he still put a doo-wap song or two on his later albums) and it really shows. There’s a few songs from Freak Out that make the transition from rock numbers to doo-wap ones seemlessly and some I prefer to hear in that doo-wop style (You Didn’t Try To Call Me, Anyway The Wind Blows). Ray Collins hits the high notes so beautifully (check out Anything) and is a great contrast to Zappa’s lower range. There’s a couple of cheesy numbers on here (Fountain of Love, Deseri, No No No) that I usually skip but the standout track is the final number, Stuff Up The Cracks, a tale of a guy threatening to commit suicide if his girl decides to leave him and ending with a beautiful guitar solo from Zappa which is very uncharacteristic for doo-wap songs.

In 1984, Zappa prepared a remix of Cruising with Ruben & the Jets for its compact disc reissue and the vinyl box set The Old Masters I. The remix featured new rhythm tracks recorded by bassist Arthur Barrow and drummer Chad Wackerman, much as the 1984 remix of We’re Only In It For The Money had featured. Zappa stated “The master tapes for Ruben and the Jets were in better shape, but since I liked the results on We’re Only In It For The Money, I decided to do it on Ruben too. But those are the only two albums on which the original performances were replaced. I thought the important thing was the material itself.” I disagree with statement as I never listened to this album much due to the awful 80’s sounding bass and drums mix. After hearing the original mixes of the album on Greasy Love Songs (2009), I realised just how bad the remix really is and what a mis-step Zappa made (he’ll do it again with WOIIFTM and Lumpy Gravy but I’ll deal with that when they arise). I’d recommend listening to Greasy Love Songs over CWR&TJ, you can find both online to hear the differences; GLS has a more warm, organic feel to the rather sterile remix. An enjoyable little album that is worthy of a listen or two. 2.5/5

Ray Collins – lead vocals
Frank Zappa – low grumbles, oo-wah and lead guitar (also drums, piano, bass)
Roy Estrada – high weazlings, dwaedy-doop and electric bass
Jimmy Carl Black and/or Arthur Dyer Tripp III – lewd pulsating rhythm
Ian Underwood or Don Preston – redundant piano triplets
Motorhead Sherwood – baritone sax and tambourine
Bunk Gardner and Ian Underwood – tenor and alto saxes

Published by labarbaazul8067

I'm just a creature from the heap so excuse my savage ignorance.

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