An extract on #openmyworld
Around 1986, Zappa undertook a comprehensive re-release program of his earlier vinyl recordings. He personally oversaw the remastering of all his 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s albums for the new digital compact disc medium. Certain aspects of these re-issues were criticized by some fans as being unfaithful to the original recordings. Nearly twenty years before the advent of online music stores, Zappa had proposed to replace "phonographic record merchandising" of music by "direct digital-to-digital transfer" through phone or cable TV (with royalty payments and consumer billing automatically built into the accompanying software). In 1989, Zappa considered his idea a "miserable flop".
The album Jazz from Hell, released in 1986, earned Zappa his first Grammy Award in 1988 for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Except for one live guitar solo ("St. Etienne"), the album exclusively featured compositions brought to life by the Synclavier. Although an instrumental album, containing no lyrics, Meyer Music Markets sold Jazz from Hell featuring an "explicit lyrics" stickera warning label introduced by the Recording Industry Association of America in an agreement with the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC).
Zappa's last tour in a rock and jazz band format took place in 1988 with a 12-piece group which had a repertoire of over 100 (mostly Zappa) compositions, but which split under acrimonious circumstances before the tour was completed. The tour was documented on the albums Broadway the Hard Way (new material featuring songs with strong political emphasis); The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life (Zappa "standards" and an eclectic collection of cover tunes, ranging from Maurice Ravel's Bolro to Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven); and Make a Jazz Noise Here. Parts are also found on You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, volumes 4 and 6. Recordings from this tour also appear on the 2006 album Trance-Fusion.
Zappa's output is unified by a conceptual continuity he termed "Project/Object", with numerous musical phrases, ideas, and characters reappearing across his albums. He also called it a "conceptual continuity", meaning that any project or album was part of a larger project. Everything was connected, and musical themes and lyrics reappeared in different form on later albums. Conceptual continuity clues are found throughout Zappa's entire uvre.
During his lifetime, Zappa released 62 albums. Since 1994, the Zappa Family Trust has released 47 posthumous albums, making a total of 109 albums. The current distributor of Zappa's recorded output is Universal Music Enterprises.