What to Get: The 2012 CD.
Summary: The LP and 2012 CD are the same and sound pretty
good; the EMI CD is also decent, although it's hard to find and most reviews
suggest that the 2012 CD is superior. All other CDs contained an edited master
with major sound-quality problems and are to be avoided.
ESSENTIAL VERSIONS FOR COMPLETISTS: The vinyl, EMI CD, and 2012 CD
all contain the full album in good sound quality; of these, the 2012 CD
is easiest to find. All non-2012 CDs are shorter and sound worse. [completist's
- Original vinyl (Zappa Records SRZ-2-1501 in the US,
CBS 88339 in the UK, February 1979
(March 3 has also been suggested))
- EMI EMC 278 UK vinyl (1979 - is this a later re-issue?)
- Canadian vinyl (Zappa Records, distributed by Polygram, MIPD-2-9357)
- Cassettes (ZT4-2-1501 and CBS 40-88369 (40-88339 in the Netherlands))
- 8-tracks (ZT8-2-1510, 1979, SRZ8-2-1501, 1979)
- Digitally remastereed vinyl re-issue (EMI EN 5001 in the UK, CBS 2608103 in the
Netherlands; gatefold cover with inner sleeve; EME 260811 promo reported
- UK vinyl re-issue (Zappa Records ZAPPA 28, 1989)
- Israeli vinyl (CBS EM5001, gatefold cover (with a little Hebrew print on the back))
- Argentine vinyl (Epic/CBS 47.176/77, without inner sleeves, and with inner spread
printed in two colours; promos also issued)
- Japanese vinyl (CBS / Sony / Master Sound 40AP 1357-8 - virgin vinyl)
- Original Ryko CD (RCD 40162, US, May 1990)
- EMI CD (CDP 7-90076-2, UK, April 1986; CP32-5661 in
- Zappa Records CD (CDZAP 28, UK, May 1990)
- Original Japanese CD (VACK 5038)
- Australian CD (Ryko D30375, 1990)
- Zappa Records cassette (TZAPPA28)
- IRS 970.728 CD(?)
- 1995 CD (Ryko RCD 10528, May 2 1995; VACK 5103 in Japan,
renumbered 5238 in 1998; also in a BMG Record
Club version (1086388))
- 1995 cassette (Ryko RAC 10528, May 2 1995; also in a BMG
Record Club version (1086388))
- Japanese picture CD (VACK 5238, October 5 1996)
- Japanese paper-sleeve CD (Ryko/VACK 1236, April
27 2002 - red inner sleeves with printed lyrics)
- 2012 UMe CD (Zappa Records ZR3859 August 28,
And on the weird side, parts of this album seem to have been issued in Poland as a set
of flexi-disc postcards.
- "Bobby Brown" from the vinyl is "Bobby Brown Goes Down" on
some CDs (including the 1995 and Zappa Records
CDs, but not the EMI - how about the first Ryko?)
- "We've Got to Get Into Something Real" from the vinyl is called "Wait a
Minute" on the Zappa Records CD back cover, on the disc
surface, and in the track listing section of the booklet, but "We've Got to Get Into
Something Real" in the lyrics section of the booklet.
(The working title for this album was Martian Love Secrets - something you can read about in the Weirdo Discography.)
No Relation to Lšther
The songs "Tryin' to Grow a Chin" and "Broken Hearts Are for
Assholes" also appear on the Lšther album, but in both
cases Lšther has a different recording, not the same track at
all. However, a few of the little snippets that link the tracks together (according to
Dave Lane, the official Zappa term is "grouts") appear on both albums. [full Lšther walkthrough by Zoot]
Relation to BABY SNAKES
The same recording of the song "Baby Snakes" appears on both Sheik
Yerbouti and Baby Snakes, but the Sheik
Yerbouti version is a longer edit, with an intro that is not on Baby Snakes.
From Ryan Davenport:
On the original vinyl version of Sheik Yerbouti from Canada, the
back cover showed a track listing of songs on the album. None of the other
versions I've seen (US, Dutch, remastered Canadian) had the track listing on
the back cover.
The Japanese Master Sound pressing has a quality rep - virgin vinyl,
better master, some have even said it was a different mix. From Miles John
I have an uncle who owns a copy of the Japanese vinyl edition of Sheik
Yerbouti with its obi . He hasn't
listened to it in a while, but he knows for sure that the pressing is not a
different mix. It is just a 1/2-speed master edition.
Also, one used record store down in California says the pressing is
probably the rarest in the Master Sound series. The copy they were selling
didn't have its obi but was for sale at $100 (USD).
Carl Smith sends over some information on this variation:
Just some info for you... The Canada release of Sheik Yerbouti did have a
different cover... it had the track listing on the back, superimposed over
Frank's face, and a little "2 records" emblem on the front.
Test Pressing Report
From BjÝrn Olav Herheim, June 2003:
Today i got a new LP in the mail: Sheik Yerbouti white label 7-track
test pressing, side 3 and 4. The label is totaly white and has nothing written
on it; the cover is also white, with handwritten
The only text on the record is stamped and says
From Michael J Popil:
Sheik Yerbouti was my first Zappa experience, and I played that
cassette to death ... literally, as it was eventually eaten in a cheesy car cassette
deck. However, to the best of my recollection, it was identical to the vinyl.
This 8-track was a "twin-pack" doble cartridge set, with all four sides 18:11
long. To accomplish these four 18-minute "sides", the track order had to be
changed around and something had to be deleted. For some reason, someone decided to delete
"Jewish Princess". This is the track list, courtesy of the Duke
and Michael Harrison:
I Have Been in You
Broken Hearts Are for Assholes
The Sheik Yerbouti Tango
Whatever Happened to All the Fun in the World?
We Gotta Get Into Something Real
I'm So Cute
Tryin' to Grow a Chin
City of Tiny Lights
This 8-track is said to include "Jewish Princess". The label is
white, with the cover picture on it, and the cartridge itself is off-white (on
the copy shown to us).
The EMI CD is the same as the vinyl, and until the 2012 CD was released, was the only CD that most fans consider
worthwhile. The sound quality is considered very good.
From Jeff Rocca:
I have both an EMI CD and a Barking Pumpkin CD of Sheik Yerbouti. The
EMI CD is a digital master of the LP. The music content on the EMI CD has not
been altered, as was done with the Barking Pumpkin CD. [The "Barking
Pumpkin" CD is probably the original Ryko CD, even
though the EMI CD too has a Barking Pumpkin logo.]
From Mike Powers:
Only thing you'll find here is a slight bass deficiency, but you can crank that up on
your stereo. All tracks intact, just like the record.
From David G.:
Having lived with the Sheik Yerbouti EMI for a while now, I have to
disagree with some of the raves. It requires a lot of EQ to get it to
sound like the vinyl; it's clearly taken from an EQed sub-master. It's pretty
Original Ryko CD/Zappa Records CD/1995 CD
- Ryko RCD 40162
- Zappa Records CDZAP 28
- Ryko RCD 10528
These three CDs are different from the vinyl, and the sound quality is considered
inferior. "I'm So Cute" is about a minute shorter, with the ending cut. (The EMI CD, which has the full "I'm So Cute" as on the vinyl,
clocks in at around 72 minutes and these at around 70:30. Most tracks are a second or two
longer or shorter, due to minute differences in fades and time codes.) There's
additional mucking about in some of the other tracks. Official Ryko
statement on the 1995 CD: "New master. New timing sheet." [full statement]
Some Harsh Words (THAT ARE MOSTLY OBSOLETE DUE TO THE 2012 CD)
I just listened to the EMI disc for the first time last night. I
listened in headphones, and I was totally surprised at the unsurpassed quality
of this disc that Frank deemed a "rip-off", and replaced with his
Ryko piece-of-shit. I've been listening to the Ryko disc for ten years now, so
I don't even need to compare it to the EMI. I already notice a lot of
differences. Helping my case is the fact that I have never listened to the
original vinyl attentively so I didn't know what to expect.
On the EMI version ... the stereo image is MUCH WIDER. The
dynamic range is 5,000X better. You can hear a lot of things clearly that are
totally "buried" on the Ryko disc. The EMI disc is crisp and
I'm trying to figure out what Frank did to the Ryko master. Does anybody
know? The only thing I can figure out is that it was COMPRESSED. It
sounds totally compressed to me. The EMI disc is clear, wide, and detailed.
The Ryko disc sounds like flat mud. The difference is actually quite stunning
and needs to be heard to be believed (insert cheesy "black & white vs
color TV" analogy here).
Does anyone have an interesting opinion on this?
I have a strong opinion about this because I just found out how horrible
the Ryko Sheik Yerbouti really is, and I can't believe it. I think that
Frank didn't know what he was doing AT ALL when it came down to
re-mastering. He really was too much of a control freak ... he should
have hired someone who KNEW WHAT THEY WERE DOING to take the original
album masters and do it for him. FZ really made some POOR decisions
when it came to his digital catalog ... worse decisions than anyone else
that I can think of in the history of music. FZ gets my "bad
remastering" award. Adding insult to injury is the fact that he DELETED
CDs that were superb quality, and deemed them "rip-offs" only to
replace them with these garbage masters. What a tard!
And we still don't really know what the fuck he actually did to the You
Are What You Is and Tinsel-Town
Rebellion masters to make them sound the way they do. Maybe those were
From RIFF RAFF FROM MICHIGAN:
I agree with other folks on the mix of this CD. It's not that good. The
bass drum hits at the end of "Flakes" are overpoweringly loud ...
Also, the intro to "Dancin' Fool" drives me nuts. The cymbal hits
make the rest of the mix drop in volume, which tells me that compression was
used incorrectly on this (as others have suspected). I found a homemade
recording of Sheik Yerbouti on quarter-inch reel-to-reel (7.5 ips) in a
thrift shop which actually sounds wonderful. I assume it was dubbed from
vinyl. "Dancin' Fool" also appears on a
Dr. Demento compilation CD, and that version doesn't seem to suffer from
the aforementioned bad compression. (Ed: I actually managed to track down
the CD, and yegads, he's right; the version there doesn't suffer from the
audio problems. I'm unsure of where they sourced it from.)
From Spence Chrislu:
I never considered Sheik Yerbouti to be nearly as offensive as Tinsel-Town
Rebellion and You
Are What You Is. It suffers from some digi-titis for sure but it's
difficult to put yourself in FZ's shoes and re-release something that he
specifically approved as being final. I felt I could make a good argument for
the other two as being worthy of fixing but on borderline calls like Sheik
Yerbouti, it becomes a matter of putting my opinions ahead of FZ's and I
really don't feel that's my right."
The frighteningly sharp-eared (as in "perceptive,"
not "Vulcan") Dan Watkins chimes in:
The Ryko CD replaces the first "yeah" in Wild Love with the second one, so
the ones that occur at 0:22 and 1:24 are the same. Kind of an odd edit,
don't you think? [Ed: Dan should be thrilled that
QuAUDIOPHILIAC has the "yeah"s in the correct places once again.]
Some specific issues from David G:
As much as I hate to
disagree with Spence, there are some fairly serious issues on
the post-EMI stock CDs of Sheik Yerbouti. No, it's not nearly as bad as Tinsel-Town
Rebellion and You
Are What You Is, but as those (especially the latter) were borderline
unlistenable, that isn't really saying much. The problems are far worse than a
general "digititis." In particular, the right channel of the album sounds
particularly chewed up, a common problem amongst the "bad batch" of discs.
Something's wrong with the treble in the right channel. Check the right
channel at the beginning of Dancin' Fool, for example. On the vinyl/EMI
CD, the treble information is generally identical between the channels. On the
"bad" CDs, it sounds as if the treble is being muffled by a blanket. This may
not be obvious if you've never heard the vinyl before. Of course, this effect
is made worse by the wavering volume of the intro of the song, a result of
some sort of weird slow-release compression issue.
Some other notable
- The beginning of "City of Tiny Lites"
exhibits some major compression issues. The bass drum at the beginning of
the track causes the cross faded synth drum from the end of "Tryin' to Grow a
Chin" to actually pump in time with the bass drum. This does not
happen on the LP or EMI CD.
- Dig the massive volume swell right at the beginning of "Broken Hearts
are For Assholes," right as Terry screams "Hey now hey." Duh?
- The right
channel generally sounds a bit "wavery." Why?
The disc is clearly unsatisfactory; frankly, I hope it's
first in line for a ZFT re-treatment (and/or I hope the remaster that Spencer
surely made on the sly leaks into our hands. Right? RIGHT?) [Edit: We now have the 2012 CD, so life is golden]
Japanese Paper-Sleeve Version (2001-2002)
Starting in 2001, Video Arts Music released a limited-edition series (2000
copies each) of Zappa CDs in
paper sleeves - miniature LP sleeves. There was nothing special about this
series other than the covers, which were very well done - inserts and
"bonuses" were reproduced, the albums that originally had gatefold
covers got little miniature gatefolds, and cover track lists were exactly as on
the corresponding LPs, even in cases where the CD has bonus tracks or a
different track order. Included in this series were some entries that never had
"proper" LP issues, i.e. Läther. Additionally, some rarities--like the "green/gold"
cover of Chunga's Revenge--were reproduced as special items in this run.
We need to stress that the sound quality of these discs matches the US
Ryko issues, which they are clearly derived from. These are collectors
items, not new remastered editions.
Late-2012-update: It appears as if the Japanese may be warming up the
mini-LP ovens for a new batch based on the 2012 UMe remasters. We'll let you
know if this happens.
2012 UMe CDRemastered by Bob Ludwig. Fixes the right-channel garbage from earlier editions and the weird EQ. Restores "I'm So Cute" and "Wild Love" to their original LP edits. Essential.
Pbuzby notices something up with the liner notes, though:
Gail has taken the opportunity to give
Ahmet shared composer credit for "Rat Tomago" because he came up with
the title. Also, for some reason the printed lyrics have the
consecutive letters "im" replaced with "I'm" in all words where they
appear (e.g. "hI'm" rather than "him," "experI'mental" rather than
Thinman compares the new reissue to the
previous "best-of" contender, the EMI CD:
When putting on the new SY for the first time today, I thought it
sounded good, but from memory I thought my old EMI was sounding equally
good and I could have saved the money. But then I couldn't resist and
made a comparison. The EMI is much thinner and more harsh in the high
frequencies. The bottom end is much better on the new one without being
boomy. The frequency spectrum seems to be very well balanced. The new
one has lots of treble, too, but not the harshness like the EMI. And I'm
having the impression, for the first time, that the 4-track recordings
like SY Tango are "as clear as the rest of the album" now. I have never
heard the fucked up Ryko.
- Mikael Agardsson
- Marcelo Gasiů
- Neil in the UK
- Patrick David Neve
- Steve Jones
- Marrot Thomas
- I think there is too little of everything here.
- Any details on cassette versions?
- Any details on 8-track versions?
- Any regional peculiarities?
- What about the EMI EMC 278 UK vinyl?