||Yes, new You Are What You Is and
Tinsel-Town Rebellion masters were released on
Rykodisc in 1998, packaged identically to the not so popular earlier
(1995) CDs, and the Zappa Patio tried to offer advise on how to tell
the old from the new by looking at - not listening to - the
The advice focused on "matrix numbers", the little
numbers around the rim of the hole in the disc (so known since the LP
But soon, people started mailing in exceptions to
every rule about these matrix numbers. It has now reached a point where
the only method we can recommend is listening to the discs, and so we
have removed all references to matrix numbers from the page.
You Are What You Is
What to Get: The 2012 CD, which mimics the LP
and is easy to find.
Overview: There are three "good" CD versions
of You Are What You Is: the 1980s EMI CD (exactly like the vinyl, hard
to find) the 1998-era Ryko secret reissue (sounds good, but has a
slightly edited "Dumb All Over" and isn't easy to spot), and the 2012
UMe CD (exactly like the vinyl, but sounds better than the EMI CD). All
other CD versions are terrible--and
not audiophile terrible, mind you, but "is my speaker not plugged in
all the way?" terrible--and have a significantly edited "Dumb All
Over." Avoid them.
ESSENTIAL VERSIONS FOR COMPLETISTS: The 2012 CD and the vinyl
are exactly the same and should be your go-to versions. Insane
completists might want to seek out the 1998 CD for the skillful edit
between "Dumb All Over" and "Heavenly Bank Account." [completist's guide]
- Original vinyl (Barking
Pumpkin PW2-37537 in the US, September 1981, gatefold cover; CBS 88560
in the UK, October 1981)
- Canadian vinyl (Epic Records
PW 37538/37539, gatefold cover with lyrics on three sides of the (black
& white) picture sleeves and Shut Up &
Play Yer Guitar ad on the fourth)
- European vinyl (EMI 164 26 0812 3)
- Spanish vinyl (Barking Pumpkin/CBS S 88560, 1981)
- Portuguese vinyl (CBS 88560)
- Japanese vinyl (CBS/Sony 40AP 2217-8)
- Mexican vinyl (CBS LP2S-122, gatefold sleeve, track titles
in Spanish on back cover & labels)
- Cassette (CBS 40-88560)
- 8-track (Barking Pumpkin WAX 37537)
- Argentine vinyl (EMI 58415, no gatefold cover and no "say
cheese" liner notes, but lyrics on the inner sleeve)
- Digitally remastered European vinyl re-issue (EMI EN 5000
- EMI CD (CDP 7 90075 2, UK only, April
- Original Ryko CD (RCD 40165, US only,
- Zappa Records CD (CDZAP 27, May 1990,
- Original Japanese CD (VACK 5044)
- Australian CD (Ryko D30378, 1990)
- IRS 970.727 CD (?)
- Russian CD (Dora JPCD 9801102, black
- 1995 CD (Ryko RCD 10536, May 2 1995;
VACK 5130 in Japan, renumbered
5265 in 1998)
- Remastered 1998 CD (Ryko RCD 10536,
remastered in 1998)
- Japanese paper-sleeve CD
(Ryko/VACK 1242, May 29 2002 - black & white inner sleeve with
Shut Up & Play Yer Guitar ad
& printed lyrics)
- 2012 UMe CD (Zappa Records ZR3864 September 25, 2012)
COSMC: I just got a vinyl copy of You Are What You Is,
which, upon its
arrival, I discovered to be the Canadian Epic pressing. Some
irregularities I was
wondering about: The side sequence is mislabeled. The flip side of side
one is labeled as
side 2, though it is actually side 4. The songs listed are correct, but
the label says
"side 2". The other album, what is labeled as side 3, is actually 2;
labeled side 4 is actually side 3. Again, the songs are correctly
labeled, only the number
is incorrect. Are all the copies of this pressing like this, or was it
9-HI-LOP-LOP: My copy is also mislabelled. Not sure about it
ever being corrected. My
copy was from Columbia House, though it doesn't mention it on the cover
or LPs. Perhaps
this error was with just their copies.
COSMC: ... also, the FAQ lists the Canadian version as a
gatefold, but not the US [it
does now - Ed.]. Does the intended-for-Newsweek article
appear in the US copy?
How about the picture of Zappa? If there were different printings of
the jacket, why is it
devoid of any Epic labeling?
JOHN HENLEY: The Barking Pumpkin LP release of 1981 is
indeed a gatefold sleeve, and
the Newsweek article and a nifty color pic of Frank, clear-eyed,
wearing a bathrobe, are there.
THAT GUY FROM KUNG FU CULT MASTER :
I have to clarify that I only list "gatefold
cover" or "non-gatefold cover" for a vinyl version of an album in case
someone specifically reports a gatefold or non-gatefold cover. In the
case of the US You
Are What You Is (which is nowadays labelled with "gatefold cover"
like its Canadian counterpart), I never meant to make it look like
there was no gatefold
cover. In fact, I've seen the US vinyl dozens of times in record
stores, so the abscense
of a cover specification was due to negligence on my part, not lack of
at least I work for free.
I read an interview way back when and which
I couldn't possibly hope to locate now, in which I recall Zappa saying
that one of the records of You Are What You Is was mastered a
little fast. My hypothesis for years has been that the side 1/4 record
was mastered fast, which would account for a) the difference in speed
between the Crush
All Boxes/Have I Offended Someone? mix
of "Goblin Girl" and the You Are What You Is mix, and b) the
difference in pitch between the outro of "Dumb All Over" and the intro
of "Heavenly Bank Account".
PBuzby elaborates that the speed problem affects the entire record:
The entire album runs fast . . . this is true of all
versions. . . . In fact, side four is
closest to correct pitch.
Those interested in doing their own speed correcting at home might wish
to use the "Offended" version of "Goblin Girl" and the re-recorded
"Thing-Fish" tracks as their guides.
This was probably the last Zappa album to come out on the old
8-track tape format.
From David Pearlman:
I have the 8-track for You Are What You Is, which is
a 1981 release. It's a commercial (not record-company) issue. For you
discographers out there, it's WAX 37537 (Barking Pumpkin records). The
two-record set is on one 8-track.
As for 8-tracks in general, 1980 is about the cutoff for de
facto releases. A trickle of releases (major label, mostly) came out in
'81-'82. After that, they were basically record-club-only. Believe it
or not, the record club continued to manufacture 8-tracks until the
late '80's, although only for select mega-popular releases (and then in
extremely small quantities). The newest 8-track I have is Fleetwood
Mac's greatest hits, which is from 1988. George Harrison's Cloud
Nine, from the same period, also exists on 8-track. Zappa was never
a record club staple, and he was certainly never a big selling artist,
so I doubt any of his stuff from the record-club-only period made it to
8-track. It's possible You Are What You Is was the end of the
8-track line for Frank ...
- Total time of this CD: 69:54
This used to be considered the only good CD issue of You
Are What You
Is. (See "1998" for the new development.)
The sound quality was better than the other [old] CD
and it has the guitar solo intact on "Dumb All Over". It is not
David G. notes that it's "a bit tinny," and Mark Edmonds points out:
The track markers are screwed for "Dumb All Over" so if you
jump to that track, you jump right in where the guitar solo starts.
This CD clocks in at 69:54, compared to 67:24 for other CD versions.
In second-hand record stores, you can recognise this issue by:
- The catalog number CDP 7 90075 2
- The EMI logo on the back cover
- The legend "Mastered by Nimbus" around the inner rim of the
Original Ryko CD
Zappa Records CD
All the You Are What You Is CDs except the old
European EMI CD are considered virtually
defective. The are made from a master
with audio problems and a cropped version of the "Dumb All Over" guitar
This defective master was made and/or approved by Zappa himself. These
- The Original Ryko CD (RCD 40165), a US release
- The Zappa Records CD (CDZAP 27), a UK only release
- The 1995 CD (Ryko RCD 10532 /
- Possibly/probably the Japanese VACK 5044 CD, the Australian
Ryko D30378 CD and the Russian JPCD 9801102 CD
From "Dog Biz":
The first Zappa-approved Ryko release of this album had this
over-compression screw-up and the European Zappa release had the same
screw-up. Ryko said that the problem had been solved with their
definitive re-release and that Zappa delivered new masters for the
re-release. Well, either Frank wanted it to sound that way or Frank's
hearing was fucked. ["He was in too much pain to care that
day" - Mike Keneally]
From "Uncle Meat":
I got the CD a few years ago and wondered if my speaker
wires were loose!!! Certain tracks fade in and out, left and right with
no rhyme or reason. I returned the CD to the record store and got a
different copy, only to find the same thing happening on the new one. I
gave up and bought the vinyl. [The problems seem to have been
corrected in 1998.]
From Steve Wik:
I've bought You Are What You Is three freakin' times
now. The first time I thought "oh, it must be damaged". The second time
I thought "oh, all the copies in Tucson must have come from the damaged
shipment". The third time (Ryko's exciting new
re-release) I thought "what the fuck?!? Zappa approved this?!?".
Now I just never listen to it and try not to think about it. Someday
when I pur***se a turntable I'll buy a vinyl copy ... [The
problems seem to have been corrected in 1998.]
I first noticed the sound problems with the original You
Are What You Is CD the day I bought it, while on vacation
in Maryland. I was 14 years old. I put it in my discman and went for a
walk on the beach to hear the album for the first time. I immediately
noticed all kinds of weird shit going on. Volume fluctuation,
drop-outs, and a swishiness in the cymbals that fights with the
vocals for space. They sort of cancel each other out at times in a
phase-like manner. It is obviously a high frequency problem. I
originally thought it was my discman or my headphones. I couldn't take
it anymore when it got to the ear-piercing "Mudd Club" and I shut it
off, disgusted with the album. Years later I bought the '95 CD and found that it was identical. I finally
bought the original LP and it sounds terrific. Any dissendents
who think that there is nothing wrong with the Ryko CDs or that they
sound better are friggin' deaf! ALL of the Ryko
issues have this sound problem. "Jumbo Go Away" has some really
bad drop-outs in it. [However, the problems seem to have been
corrected in 1998.]
Michael Pierry's Specific Examples of Drop-Outs & Shit
and EQ Introdction
If you can listen to the Ryko [pre-1998] CD with the volume
cranked up, in headphones, without getting a headache ... something
is wrong with your ears! And if you're not listening to You Are
What You Is cranked up through headphones, you're missing a great
deal of the experience of that album! There's a lot goin' on in there,
Whoever EQ'd that CD couldn't hear really high frequencies,
because the digital reverb has some fucked-up frequencies in it. Turn
up the vinyl as loud as you want and you won't get that amount of
harshness in the upper range. Not only that, something about the EQ
makes the cymbals and/or drums keep interfering with the vocals. They
are both competing for the same sonic territory. Can't you tell how
crowded everything is on the CD? The vocals and the cymbals are in
direct competition with each other here. You think this is "brighter"?
"Brittle" would be more like it!
Now, you want specific examples of drop-outs and shit?
Here we go:
- Track 1: There's some kind of weird volume swell or SOMETHING
right around 01:11. What the fuck IS that anyway? Seems to have
something to do with all the digital echo that's been added.
- Track 2: Hilarious volume fluctuations here. Want a
concrete example? Check out the slide guitar in the right channel from
01:20-01:25. What is up with THAT? Don't bother comparing with
the vinyl, I've already done it. It don't happen there.
- Track 6: There's a very clear drop-out in the right
channel at the entrance of the vocals (00:08).
- Track 8: What de fuck gwine on here? What's goin' on in
de right channel during "A beautiful guy" (02:11-02:15)?
- Track 10: Check out the fluctuating volume of the fuzz
guitar, starting around 00:40. Also, there be somethin' funky gwine on
from around 00:15-00:20. I dunno exactly what it is, but it ain't on
the vinyl. It's just weirdness, I think it's the volume.
- Track 13: "Mudd Club" is actually fun to listen to in the
original mix. Here it is just annoying. Oh yeah, the big drop-out
occurs right around 02:17-02:19.
- Track 14: Big volume swell at 00:23.
Okay, that's enough for me. I am seriously getting a
From Ron Spiegelhalter:
I took up the challenge and had my girlfriend listen to the
two discs with headphones (I kept the EQ flat). She was not real
excited about the experiment but she humored me. I put on the EMI disc,
and she looked bored. I let her be bored for a few minutes and then I
took the disc off, much to her relief. Then I played the Ryko [pre-1998]; she looked even more bored as she
had just heard this a minute ago. So she sat there like "whatever" and
then suddenly she got this weird look on her face and said, "What was
that? Is that what I was supposed to hear?" I asked her what she meant;
she vaguely gestured at the headphones and said, "It went all funky in
this ear ... there it did it again! Did you copy this or
something?" Not the most scientific experiment, but at least it
confirmed the existence of the drop-outs to my satisfaction anyway.
Some people do not agree that all such CDs really
sound bad; you can
read about this in the Dissent section.
"Dumb All Over" Guitar Solo
From British Record Collector Magazine, No 171,
November 1993 (?),
provided by Henry Griggs, Sydney, Australia:
The 1981 double album split the up the guitar solo which
links "Dumb All Over" and "Heavenly Bank Account" over two sides, and
it was expected (unfairly as it turned out) that EMI would run these
tracks together on the CD. But the self-styled "Greatest Recording
Organisation in the World" received no small amount of flak when they
managed to issue a CD that mysteriously faded out in mid-guitar solo,
only to start up again with the end of the same track!
It was only when Zappa remixed his own version for CD that
the truth emerged: the split guitar solo was in fact not a continuous
performance and it was therefore impossible to match up the two parts.
Accordingly, the Zappa/Ryko CDs have over two
minutes of guitar edited out to enable the tracks to seque. Again,
completists will need the LP or the EMI CD to fill this gap.
From Frank Zappa (quoted in a publication called the ICE
I never liked that solo anyways ...
Anyway, the solo seems to be back on the Ryko CD from 1998
From Dr. István Fekete:
The Zappa Records CD had a bad booklet (missing some song
lyrics) - later, it has been corrected.
From Juha Sarkkinen:
There are at least two versions of the CD booklet. On both
Ryko CDs "Say Cheese" starts on page four; on the ZAPPA CD it starts on
- "Dumb All Over" track time on this CD 04:03 (both listed
- Total time of this CD: 67:24 (approximate)
Unfortunately, this was one of the CDs that were considered
just like the original Ryko CD and the Zappa Records CD. It does not
have the complete
"Dumb All Over" guitar solo from the the vinyl. However, in 1998,
Ryko got a new master which seems to be great!
Official Ryko statement: "New master. New timing sheet. Louder
dBs than first
Rykodisc CD." [full statement]
"I'm a Beautiful Guy". Lyric booklet reads "atheletic". The
vinyl didn't have this typo.
Not all people agree that all the bad CDs
are indeed bad.
Usually, they think their copy sounds good and must come from a
"good run" or a "good batch"; most people think that these dissidents
just don't hear the difference. (It must be pointed out that no matter
how you look at it,
the EMI CD is the only CD with the complete "Dumb
guitar solo. Only the sound quality can be construed as a matter of
(To avoid any bad blood, the names of dissendents will be
withheld. Note that
this "Dissent" section is only here for fun, and not to be taken
Aparently, some of the You Are What You Is CDs are
fine, yet others exhibit the strange audio problems that you described.
I have a Rykodisc release which is fine. I bought it about two and a
half years ago. The problem may occur only on a certain manufacturing
lot of the CD's. My CD - Rykodisc catalog number RCD 40165 - Has "MADE
IN USA BY PDO", "818 PUMPKIN", and "RCD40165 01!" inscribed on the
track side of the CD - label side of the CD is black with white
lettering except for a light blue "RYKO" on it. Hopefully we can figure
I loved the vinyls, disliked the EMI,
and loved the Ryko. I found the EMI
to lack dynamics.
My CD of You Are What You Is sound[s] absolutely
normal ... in fact, I think the CD has no defect at all. You must
have bought a CD from a bad batch, or what not ... Maybe I
got that CD from a good batch ... A "batch" is not
1 copy. Actually, a "batch" comprises probably 50, 100 or maybe 10000
units. This depends on the title and artist involved, and the market
demand. It's also known as a production run.
Mike Keneally Gets the Last Word
All the horrifying volume swells and drop-outs, the
distracting result of some mangled "stereo-imaging" attempt, are inherent
in that master. They were there in the 1990
FZ-25 Ryko issue and they reappeared in the 1995
"FZ-approved" (which meant he was in too much pain to care that day)
master. The miserably tinny EQ is there in both issues of the master.
The original Barking Pumpkin vinyl sounded amazingly rich for such a
heavily overdubbed album, and the EMI Euro CD sounded
fantastic, since it was just a straight, non-re-EQ'd transfer from
the digitally remastered Euro vinyl master (which Frank deluded himself
into believing was a rip-off - but his attempts to right this wrong
were awful), but without the inherent limitations of vinyl as a sound
medium (scratches and pops).
1998 CD - Remastered; Dandy!
- "Dumb All Over" track time on this CD: 05:45 (but listed as
- Total time of this CD: 69:16
||"Spencer Fuckin' Chrislu, you are a
saint. You are a god. You are a wonderful human being."
|Doug Boucher, "Screw That
Jeezus Guy, I Now Worship Spence Chrislu", alt.fan.frank-zappa, May 18
In May 2000, DK de la Mar was the first to report that Ryko
somehow got a new master of this CD - and that the problems have
been FIXED! Yes, the new printing of the "1995 CD" was a
remaster. Days later, we're proud to present, from the remaster
himself, Mr Spence Chrislu:
Oooh golly this is fun! Geez, you think that you tune out of
a newsgroup for a few months, check back in, and all hell breaks loose!
Did he do it on his own? Did he circumvent the ZFT? Is Ryko secretly
changing all the masters? I understand the breakup was less than
This is so much fun I can hardly stand it. OK, Spencer here
to put your minds at ease (and to piss some of you off as well. I don't
know why, but someone on this newsgroup always gets pissed off about
Some time in '98 after reading the various complaints about You
Are What You Is and Tinsel-Town
Rebellion (and hearing about it personally from Mike Keneally and
Joe Travers) I decided to take it upon myself to re-master those two
titles. However, I did do it with Gail and Dweezil's complete knowledge
and understanding (no intrigue here so stop looking). We used the same
sort of care on these masters as we had done on the Au20 projects
[audiophile versions of Apostrophe (')
and One Size Fits All] and the results, I
think, speak for themselves.
Now for the obvious questions:
Q: Why did the original release sound so bad?
A: I can't answer that one directly other than to
say that FZ was always experimenting with new technology. I believe
that these CD releases coincided with an experiment using a (then)
state-of-the-art digital mastering console with neato DSP compression,
Q: Why the artificial reverb? Was it on the master?
Did you use the original master?
A: Rest assured that I used the original 2-track
master extracted straight from the vault.
Q: What's the deal on the edit between sides 3
& 4? Where's the missing music?
A: As the dukeoprunz so recently pointed out, there
is indeed an edit between sides 3&4 of You Are What You Is.
Why? Because I thought it sounded stupid to have a piece of music on a
CD fade out and then fade back in during a guitar solo. Continuity
(conceptually speaking of course) and all that. And yes, the edit was a
bitch and no, it's not seamless. But I thought it worked and it glues
the whole thing together as well.
Q: How come you didn't tell us about it sooner?
A: Because you would have been moaning and groaning
and complaining that it's sitting there just out of your reach.
Besides, I never knew when (or if) it would be released and letting on
would only torture you guys. I guess you could consider this a present
from me, Gail, Dweezil, and Rykodisc.
Q: Why didn't you do Sheik
Yerbouti as well?
A: 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. Again, let me reitereate that I got Gail
and Dweezil's approval on these projects before ever going forward and
then I got their approval after the work was done (like signing off on
the above-mentioned edit). Who knows? Maybe I'll get to re-master the
whole catalog for DVD-A! There's a lot of Quad mixes down there that
would sound great through a surround system ...
Groan now ...
This has been fun,
(Ryko had a new CD booklet printed up for this remaster, but
some copies of
the new CD still had the old booklet. Curiously, the new booklet gave
The original album was released in September 1981
It was digitally remastered for CD in 1998
at UMRK by Spencer Chrislu
FZ approved master, 1993)
MICHAEL PIERRY: This is unbelievable. Not only are
the drop-outs gone, but the brittleness as well. Whatever was wrong
with the EQ has pretty much been fixed and the guitar solo is back.
It's beautiful. I'm sort of in shock because I never thought this would
happen. I'm seriously hearing stuff I've never heard before on this CD.
The bass is quite a bit more prominent, but without making anything
else suffer. I've never heard these songs with this much clarity. The
difference between this and the "FZ-approved" master is like night and
day. I've never heard the EMI CD but I'd be
surprised if it sounded any better than this CD. Holy cow, Ray White
just sang, "But you don't care ... if it's a lie" and it's
completely dry, no reverb at all. The presence is pretty unbelievable.
And it doesn't have that stale aftertaste ...
DUKEOPRUNZ: I've listened to the edit several times
since I posted, Spence, and I've got to hand it to you - while the
edit is apparent to someone who's listened to the album 1,000,000,000
times (as I have), it's about as seamless as one could possibly make
it, and I don't really feel gypped out of my 10 seconds of guitar
DAVID G: I attempted a little experiment a while
back...basically, I tried to see whether Spencer had been a bit
overzealous, and whether it was possible to somehow get "more" of the
guitar solo, while still making a convincing edit. My verdict: it
isn't, and Spencer is amazing for pulling this one off.
MICHAEL PABST: I don't like the 1998 Spence Chrislu
remastered versions (although better than Frank's), especially some of
the edits and crossfades he did. Think the EMI CDs
are still the best (despite the artwork). [Ed: Mike's presumably happy that the 2012 version went back to the way the LP sounded]
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 CD
by Doug Sax with Robert Hadley and Sangwook "Sunny" Nam at The
Mastering Lab, Inc. Sounds great and no longer crossfades "Dumb All
Over" and "Heavenly Bank Account"; this is now exactly like the
LP, and sounds great in the process.
- Any details on cassette versions?
- The Japanese VACK 5044, Australian Ryko D30378 and Russian
JPCD 9801102 CDs do belong in the "bad" bunch, don't they?
- Any other details on the Russian CD?
- Record Collector magazine #171, November 1993
- Marcelo Gasió
- Neil Schlegel
- Richard Kolke
- Gonçalo Falcão
- Ken Walter