Zappa's Burnt Weeny Sandwich Served and Reviewed on Audiophile Vinyl, Tidal Streaming

It tastes good. Go ahead. Try it. You might like it. 

AR-burnt5a.jpegclassic album by Frank Zappa has recently been reissued in a quite fine form. That album, the amusingly titled Burnt Weeny Sandwichcame out on the relativeheels of Zappa's groundbreaking 1969 release with The Mothers of Invention called Uncle Meat. Together those records stand as (arguably) the pinnacle of musics created by that era of Zappa's band. Some Zappa-philes prefer Burnt Weeny Sandwichfor its concise single-disc presentation of the band and what they were capable of doing. Personally, I love both of these records equally and for different reasons. 

From Zappa's website, here is the technical crux of this biscuit: "Supervised by the ZFT, the record was specially mastered for this release by Bernie Grundman with all analog production and cut directly from the 1970 ¼" stereo safety master tape in 2018. Unavailable on vinyl for more than three decades, Zappa last released this on vinyl in 1986 in the rare Old Masters Box Two. The LP, which will be pressed at Pallas in Germany, will feature the album's distinctive original cover art by frequent Zappa collaborator Cal Schenkel and include the original album's black and white poster, which has never been reproduced in any of the album's CD editions. A limited edition color vinyl version is also in the works to be released at a later date." 

AR-burnt1a.jpegHow does this new reissue sound? Pretty fantastic! There is a sense of presence on this particular version which was not apparent on my earlier (blue label Bizarre Records original) pressing. The vinyl is wonderfully quiet and the album well centered, so no issues there. This was very important for me at the end of side one on the track "Aybe Sea" which mostly features Ian Underwood's harpsichord and piano plus Zappa's acoustic guitar parts. On my original and most every other pressing I've heard this sequence has been marred by slightly off center pressings. This pressing is pretty much perfect so there is no swing 'n sway so the resulting music is just beautiful. The acoustic guitars sound especially realistic and woody.  And, it is a wonder to just enjoy the surface-noise-free silence as the whisper-quiet final piano notes close out the side. 

The drums and woodwinds on "Holiday In Berlin, Full Blown" sound remarkable and present --  I've never really heard them quite like this before. I'll dare to even use the word "revelatory" in describing the rich details we can now hear so clearly. 

AR-burnt2a.jpegGiven the all-analog production of the record there is one teensy-tiny anomaly which you may want to know about: there is a wee-brief tape speed fluctuation about 50 seconds into the first song, "WPLJ." I suspect this is an instance of the original tape stretching over time while in storage. I reached out to Zappa Vault-meister Joe Travers who confirmed its existence as something they needed to live with. Indeed, in the grand scheme of things its not something to fret over. While it might have been fixable in the digital domain, keeping this project pure to the truer-sounding all-analog production aesthetic requires not messing with the tapes along the way. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all... so, I can deal with it and I suspect you will too. 

Apparently, this issue has been around for a while. I listened to the 2012 CD quality version streaming up on Tidal and indeed the fluctuation is audible if you listen closely; it is just a bit more up front on the relatively sonically un-compromised new edition. Really, if you've never heard an early version of this album, then this issue is moot and is no big deal in the grand scheme of things. After a couple listens I even got used to it (its a lighthearted Doo Wop flavored rock song after all). 

AR-burnt4a.jpegOtherwise, the new Burnt Weeny Sandwich sounds pretty tasty and arguably much better than my original pressing which is both well loved (ie. I've played this one a lot!) and was never the quietest pressing to begin with. No, all in all I am quite pleased with this new reissue of Burnt Weeny Sandwich which you can find at Amazon and your favorite retailers. And of course the music here is spectacular as a complete album listening experience, ranging from jazzy rock fusion jams to avant-garde noises to pristine vintage 1950s rock 'n roll and doo wop flavors. 

Oh, about the name of the album which I've marked with an asterisk up at the start of this review, here comes the reference for those who are not familiar with its origin. (*)  Burnt Weeny Sandwichrefers to a favorite late nite snack Zappa used to apparently make in the wee hours when taking a break from his overnight recording sessions. From the wiki:"The album's unusual title, Zappa would later say in an interview, comes from an actual snack that he enjoyed eating, consisting of a burnt Hebrew National hot dog sandwiched between two pieces of bread with mustard." I seem to remember reading somewhere that Frank would toast his tasty weenies indoor-campfire style, sticking a fork in it and holding it over an open burner on the stove -- burnt weeny science! 

So as I said at the start of this review, Burnt Weeny Sandwichtastes real good. Go ahead. Try it. You might like it. 

comments powered by Disqus

Audiophile Review Sponsors