“Definitive” Trout Mask Replica reissue

Zappa.com have announced their intention to release the “definitive” Trout Mask Replica in May 2013; initially on CD but with a vinyl edition “coming soon”.

Available for preorder now, Zappa.com states:

The Legends of Lancaster (California) converge. Two albums Produced by Frank Zappa are registered with the National Preservation Board (Library of Congress). This is one.

Note: We here at UMRK determined that the TMR Master was damaged somewhere in the years of its return orbit. The Vaultmeister created almost in its entirety a new Master from our own Vault safety copies. And as if that wasn’t enough chocolate for your Sunday sundae, we had Bob Ludwig remaster the Work for you. What you now have available to you is the definitive TROUT MASK REPLICA. Be the judge. Be the jury. Be the bongo. Be the fury!!!

We’ll post more information as we get it – if you’ve heard this remaster or have any additional information please do let us know or post in the comments below.

On 13 May, Bob DeBorculo wrote to say:

The packaging is nearly identical to the original CD, save for the CD label (no track listing, less busy), the addition of a few notes in the booklet about the 2012 remaster, the credit “Arranged by DON VAN VLIET” now reads, “Written and arranged by DON VAN VLIET”, and some additional Zappa logos.

Here are my initial impressions following some A/B comparisons. The recording itself is significantly louder than the previous version, making comparison a little trickier. Beyond that, to my ears the new version sounds noticeably better. Vocals and instruments are substantially more clear, distinct and dynamic, particularly the bass. The old version seems flatter and muddier compared to the new. I’m very glad the Zappa organization redid it.


  1. Does anyone know if any of the proceeds from this and Bat Chain Puller goes to the Van Vliet estate? Or for that matter to any of the original magic band musicians?

    I really hope that the Zappa family are not, since the death of Beefheart, cashing in on it.

    1. Just heard from John French, and no members of the Magic Band are involved in this release.

  2. ..and here I’ve been grooving, all these years, to what must now be considered a ‘less than definitive’ version!

    For those who only speak English, my interpretation of the Zappanese used above is ‘we had planned to re-master, discovered the original had deteriorated, Joe Travers got the scissors and Scotch tape out and patched in some safety copy material before passing it to Bob Ludwig for re-mastering’

    Basically it might sound clearer but we’ve now got a further two folk standing between us and the Trout House shenanigans.

  3. Remember: Ye Olde Fans must not complain. Imagine if you were 13 again and couldn’t acquire a copy without paying big bucks. As far as I know, TMR has never been out of print outside of the last year or so.

  4. Please,oh, please, packaged in a mini lp sleeve!

  5. ..and please,oh, please follow this up with LMDoB!!

    1. Allegedly, I hear that’s going to happen

      LMDoB, CS and TSK

      Watch this space


  6. I always found the original to be a little muffled and muddy in places, always assumed that was because of Kunc recording in a house instead of a studio. Turns out it was just a rotten ol’ master.

    Ludwig’s done some great remasters before and I’d love to see what he does with this. It’ll be interesting to hear missing-defects of which I used to think were part of the songs. Tho I’m not holding hope for alternate takes or extra material… not only would it be blashphemous but there’s a world of difference between a remix and a remaster.

    It’s great Gail’s realized how formidable a cashcow Beefheart’s become. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bat Chain’s sales have overshadowed her other releases. Makes me wonder what else is lurking around the vaults… post-Strictly Personal KANDY KORN? more dialogue? more CHINA PIG improvs? Anything else like ALLEY CAT?

    …John did mention a grisly recording of how Don wrote My Human Gets Me Blues…

  7. Tony, sleep easy and rest assured that the ZFT are not doing this out of altruism for The Magic Band and the players’ welfare. My guess is Don’s estate will get his due publishing royalties.
    The only other avenue for fiscal reward ,I believe, would be additional/new sleeve notes and perhaps the band licencing contemporary personal snaps for reproduction.
    (Following last year’s BCP ‘Hoboism’ debacle, I wouldn’t actually be that surprised if they managed to drop Drumbo’s name off the sleeve again – just to ensure it’s even more like the erroneously credited original! )
    Here in Scotland, I always find Barfko purchases take a very long time to get delivered. G&S Music, in the UK, have advised me that they expect to stock it for around £22.00 (incl. P&P).
    It’s a straight (no pun) remaster, no outtakes!

    1. Spin Records are now advising a 13th May release. £22.99 including P&P!

  8. Screw Drumbo, that was resolved long ago. Is it not time Gary Marker gets his credit?

  9. Hmmm, me thinks Madame Gail knows exactly what she’s doin’. “Bat Chain Puller” magically appears “shortly” after Don’s passing. Don’t get me wrong, I will indulge in these offerings, but these reissues could have materialized many, many moons ago.

  10. Gail seems to be a genuine admirer of Don. There is no nefarious plot. If ya follow the posthumous FZ release activity it comes as no surprise that CB is making it into the mix.

  11. Pre=order? and wait how long? I don’t think so, I think I can get by with my alleged crap copy

  12. I recall that the total sales number for the original vinyl release of “Trout Mask” was 20,000 worldwide. Does anyone have more recent sales statistics on the album (LP, CD, cassette…mini disc!)

    TMR is known as an influential album, but I wonder if the sales numbers reflect this (??)

  13. Got it today. No extras. Sounds GREAT. Worthy purchase.

  14. This re-issue stays pretty close to the original CD as far as packaging and layout goes. The difference is that it has a translucent jewel case and there are some new notes/credits (not much though). The big difference is the sound. To my ears this remaster sounds incredibly good. Louder, warmer.. and some of the high frequencies aren’t as shrill and distorted.(Though, the guitar on Vermont will still make your ears bleed). On some of the tracks, vocals and instruments seems like they are balanced better. Still listening.

  15. Yes, it has never sounded better indeed! But the packaging is lousy. Why on earth did they not make this in a state of the art mini lp package is beyond me really!!

    1. So ya are compelled to buy the new (coming) vinyl issue, too, of course!

      1. Author

        I’m saving myself for the vinyl edition, but all this enthusiasm for the CD is making it feel like a long wait.

        1. Sorry, Graham — Lord only knows how long it will take. Could be 2 weeks, could be months! your pal, beep

  16. Audiophiles usually agree that if a remaster sounds louder, then it is better. (Trust me, this isn’t just silly science.) Unfortunately, sometimes the remaster will apply the same cleaning technique to every song, so some songs will come out sounding clearer, others will come out flatter.(As much time and money was spent on The Beatles 2009 remasters, this was still an issue!) TMR is so diverse in its song arrangements that this could be a problem. Also keep in mind “Moonlight on Vermont” and “Veteran’s Day Poppy” were done with inferior recording equipment. (You can hear unintentional hisses on the original CD) For those who have purchased this CD and have an above average sound system, what is it like? Also, will the Zappa estate release a vinyl to replace the Warner Bros 180 g version? Would prefer this because of the DAC compression.

    1. Where do you get that Moonlight and Veteran’s were recorded on inferior equipment? They were both recorded at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, one of the most famous and best-sounding studios of all time (Google it), and on brand new, state of the art machines. Gary Marker has stated that Zappa was totally at sea with the higher recording rates and couldn’t get a handle on the EQ – not to mention the inherent hiss you’d get when turning Zoot’s amp up to 11.

  17. Did you read this?


    I get the feeling from this post that Gail is not a nice person. Makes me want to boycott ZFT, including but not limited to their release of TMR. But maybe you guys have more information than I do. Does anyone have any current (2013) news on Jan Van Vliet and her feelings about all this? Maybe it’s none of my business, but then again, I’d love to hear anything that she has to offer fans of her late husband. From what little I have read about her, she is very private, but everyone loves her. I may already be a fan of hers. But fan is short for fanatic, so maybe I’ll stop here.

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