Throughout a long career that produced more than 60 albums during his lifetime, Frank Zappa frequently clashed with the music industry’s major labels. As recently as last year, the Zappa’s estate was embroiled in a legal battle with Rykodisc, a unit of Warner Music Group, which had been the label behind a comprehensive reissue campaign that started in 1995.
Today Zappa catalogue is in a bit of shambles, with many titles no longer readily available. The question of who owns the rights to the Zappa catalogue (The Zappa Family Trust? Rykodisc/Warner? Universal?) hasn’t been fully answered yet, but recent news is that on June 26 a batch of 18 classic Zappa titles will be reissued by Universal. These inclusde Freak Out! (1966), Absolutely Free (1967), Lumpy Gravy (1967), We’re Only In It For The Money (1968), Cruising With Ruben & The Jets (1968), and Hot Rats (1969). It is not clear if these reissues will be remastered editions or if they will include any bonus material. Rumour has it that these albums will also be made available as digital downloads for the first time.
Parallel to this news comes word that Gail Zappa is about to make a “big announcement” on May 10. This should hopelly shed some light on the current state of the Zappa catalogue. As Gail would say: keep watching the skies!