The 10 Best Frank Zappa Albums

Published: March 17, 2014

With over 70 releases (and counting), Frank Zappa's music is truly daunting to get into. Maybe you heard "Hot Rats" once as the background to a late-night dorm philosophy session, or used to giggle at "Sheik Yerbouti" in high school. But you've always wanted to get deeper into his body of work, and didn't know where to start. Just look here, and you'll find the ten best Zappa albums, in chronological order!

  1. Freak Out!

    The one that started it all. Psychedelic garage rock social satire poking fun at middle America. Buy it here.

  2. Absolutely Free

    Zappa takes the "Freak Out!" songwriting style in bizarre new directions. A  loose, free-flowing listen that had a huge influence on German experimental sounds abroad. Buy it here.

  3. Hot Rats

    Jazzy guitar jams with an insane density! FZ described it as "movies for your ears". Buy it here.

  4. Waka/Jawaka

    FZ extends the "Hot Rats" sound into even spacier, Miles-Davis-influenced jams. Beautiful and sprawling. Buy it here.

  5. The Grand Wazoo

    The conclusion of Zappa's early-'70s fusion trilogy, an exciting and upbeat listen. Buy it here.

  6. Overnite Sensation

    Zappa makes the transition to full-blown comedy rock, with top-notch backing session talent including Tina Turner and the Ikettes! Buy it here.

  7. Apostrophe (')

    A best-seller in its time that introduced many people to Zappa's work. Yes, it's got the song about the yellow snow. But it's also got exploratory guitar jams you've gotta hear! Buy it here.

  8. Roxy & Elsewhere

    An astonishing listen, in which Zappa's band is tighter -- and funnier -- than you've ever heard. Cohesive, experimental, and high-energy. Buy it here.

  9. Sheik Yerbouti

    Many of you know this one for its comedy songs, but the loud guitar rock and live atmosphere keeps flowing, as each song crashes into the next. No filler is present at all on this two-record set. Buy it here.

  10. Buffalo

    This posthumous release is an epic live set featuring favorites from "Yerbouti" and several of Zappa's upcoming albums, as well as some hilarious banter and stand-up from Zappa's entertainer phase. Buy it here.

I'd say if you have to get one of these albums, get "Roxy & Elsewhere," but they're all essential in my opinion! And this list is, honestly, just scratching the surface. Grab your pair of zircon-encrusted tweezers and dig in!