Sunday, May 6, 2007

Frank Zappa - Fillmore East June 1971 - 320 CBR

That's right, you heard right, the secret word for tonight is "Mud Shark." But for this bawdy tale from the not-so-briny shoals of Seattle, Washington alone, this is required listening. Of course, instrumental fans who hunger for something more filling from Fillmore will find it in tracks like "Lonesome Electric Turkey" and the evergreen "Peaches En Regalia." This live record (one of the last from the Fillmore East if memory serves) is one of my favorites from the Flo & Eddie experiment, showcasing their unique stage presence on the dialogue- driven "Do You Like My New Car?" and cascading into a delirious version of The Turtles' "Happy Together." Unlike some of ZAPPA's live releases, Fillmore East retains the atmosphere of a live show from beginning to end, with a minimum of post-doctoring and a maximum of spontaneous energy (or as spontaneous as a band playing a tortuous track like "Little House I Used To Live In" can get). Among the other ZAPPA/Mothers albums out there, Fillmore East reminds me most of the 200 Motels soundtrack, where a similar mix of complicated instrumentals and transcendently strange songs co-existed happily (although I understand that Uncle Meat tasted about the same too). As an oral history of rock stars and the groupies who love them, Fillmore East puts Professors Flo & Eddie at the podium, overshadowing the rest of the band much of the time. Ordinarily, their monkeyshines steal the spotlight from the erstwhile top banana (FRANK) and his phenomenal fretwork. But Fillmore East finds a better balance than Just Another Band From L.A., for example, alternating between the profane and the musically profound in a way that satisfies both camps.
Link in comments.

Frank Zappa - Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar - 320 CBR

100% pure and sure guitar solos from the ZAPPA man!. 3 CD's full of tantalizingly exquisite improvised compositions, mostly culled from live performances during 1979-80. Backed by a host of different bands and musicians, ZAPPA makes his instrument express stuff more blasphemous than any mere words could ever convey. "Five-Five-Five" and "Hog Heaven" draw his most brutal and metallic tones; "Ship Ahoy" puts ZAPPA's distorto-funk shuffle over a cooking rhythm section. "Canarsie" lays ZAPPA's sinuous SG against bizarre rhythm passages featuring Warren Cucurullo's sitar. "Treacherous Cretins" finds him soloing over a reggae riff; "Variations on the Carlos Santana Secret Chord Progression" lives up to its title with the band aping a Latin percussive groove; "Beat It With Your Fist" is two minutes of maximum-velocity metal. But there's also some prettier moments here, like the reflective "Pink Napkins" and "Canard du Jour," an improvised duet with FZ on bouzouki and Jean-Luc Ponty on violin. Well known guest musicians include Steve Vai, Peter Wolf, Eddie Jobson and Terry Bozzio. These albums were originally released only by mail-order and now have been all put together in one lovely CD package. Essential from the ZAPPA vaults!
Well, it´s the best place to listen to the Shut Up... Zappa solos. A great collection of songs from these albums with nice sound quality and performances. I simply cannot understand why people try to argue that albums like this one are only like a "Zappa masturbation", what is not true. Zappa normally released two or three very heterogeneous albums in sequence and them released a more oriented album, or an experimental one. We can easily check it o his discography. In the beggining of the eighties, altough famous as a guitar hero and as a magnific composer. he decided to put some astonishing guitar solos in an album. It worked. Many musicians used the first Shut Up... album as a reference for guitar technic or for guitar sounding in the beggining of the decade. The band may sound too much 80´s sometimes, especially the drums, altough still very complex and not too common in the tracks. The rest of the musicians, altough only making a "support" troughout the album, are very skilled and make this box set an essential recording for fans of Zappa or for guitar affictionates. Off course the album is not recommended for Zappa begginers, because the two discs are lenghty and quite repetitive, and the money you may use to get it can be used to get other Zappa albums that may show another (and more complete) side of this genious. Like the box set Läther, some guys say it´s another way to get money. This time it can be true, because Läther is a "never-released" release, and Shut Up... box set is a compilation. The real thing is that the two box sets get Zappa in a unique peak of creativity in two different decades, what is often rare for many rock artists. Well, anyway, Shut Up... is a good effort to teach how to play a real guitar, to show Zappa´s rhythm complexity and band envolvement, and to reveal some inspiring instrumental interludes from a rock´n roll genius in the plastic 80´s.
Get it.
Links in comments.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Frank Zappa - Buffalo - 320CBR

This is the second Vaulternative live concert recording. Recorded on 25th October 1980, this CD features a pretty good line-up of Zappa back up musicians, most notably the superb Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, and the excellent, if somewhat underused Bob Harris on vocals. Indeed, the vocals are a highlight on this album, with Ray White and Ike Willis on top form throughout. The sound quality is top notch, as one has come to expect from Zappa live concerts.There are many highlights to be found across these two discs. The first is a storming version of 'Keep It Greasy' which sounds amazingly fast in comparison to the studio version. Great vocals and musicianship all round. 'Honey, Don't You Want A Man Like Me' features a very different arrangement, and apart from Zappa forgetting the words a number of times, is a really enjoyable song. Another highlight for me is 'Pick Me, I'm Clean'. Fantastic vocals and a trademark Zappa guitar solo. Great stuff.Disc two opens with 'Easy Meat'. Always a showcase for Tommy Mars' brilliant keyboard skills and Zappa's guitar prowess; this track features both in abundance. The next highlight is a twenty-three minute 'Torture Never Stops'. Amazing guitar solo, followed by keyboard and drum solos. This may be heavy going for some, but I could listen to music like this all day. The wonderful 'Andy' is another classic track. This must be one of the most underrated gems in the Zappa back catalogue. This is another majestic example. Excellent.This really is a nice document of the 1980 band in all its 'Warts And All' glory. It's nice to hear whole concerts because I'm sure Zappa himself would not have released some of this material. The fluffed vocal lines (and there are a few) would never have made an official release, but to me this is more favourable than multiple edits between different shows.

Links in comments.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Frank Zappa - The Yellow Shark - 320 CBR

The Yellow Shark was a fitting epitaph to the music of Frank Zappa. Old pieces and new performed by the 'Ensemble Modern': and a superb job they made of it too. Favourites like 'Dog Breath', 'Uncle Meat' and 'The Be-Bop Tango' are given new life in their orchestral guise. Of the new songs 'Outrage At Valdez' is my favourite. A very sombre piece of music, but a beautiful theme, played with such feeling. Of course there is always room for a little bit of silliness, and 'Food Gathering...' and 'Welcome To The United States' offer a little light relief from the 'Serious' compositions. It's also great to hear 'Exercise 4' here. An unreleased gem from 1973, it's very short, but adds a great end to another old classic 'A Pound For A Brown'. The very best is left until last. Notably 'G-Spot Tornado'. An almost impossibly fast synclavier song reworked for the orchestra: it is a mind blowing rendition, and brings a great album to a superlative end. An Excellent album.

This is "THE" farewell record; he recorded it a few months before he died. Being this a postumous record, it shows the gradiosity of a man that crossed almost every boundary from rock, jazz, fusion, prog, punk, avant-garde and modern classic, to contemporary music. Being such a master derives into a greatest position in music, it doesn't matter what people say about him... just take a look at his tablatures and you find out the complexity of his compositions and arragenments. This record has been featured into the classical realm and has joined several sceptics into prog rock and viceseversa. The music is just fantastic. a collection of past gems and new compositions, but the main event, is when Frank Zappa himself (ill, and tired because of the cancer) conducts the "food gathering in post industrial america" and "welcome to the united states" pieces, a magnificent performance of jokes, theater and music, along a protest to the inmmigration system in the USA. A masterpiece to the hard listener, hey, is not an "easy listening" record, it may take at least 3 times to achive it, but worth the risk.
Links in comments.

Frank Zappa - Orchestral Favorites - 320 CBR

Progressive/Classical albums with orchestra have always impressed me! It is the case here: there are numerous musicians involved with tons of different instruments: trombone, trumpet, violin, viola, cello, oboe, flute, TONS of miscellaneous percussions (small bells, cowbells and xylophone among others), French horn, bass trombone, piano and harmonica. There are outstanding horns & strings arrangements, not too broad: it sounds contemporary classical music. Bozzio's drums are really impressive, very scattered. Zappa's guitar is present mainly on the catchy "Duke of prunes"; the bass does not take all the room too. You think it is not enough? You guessed right! I forgot the keyboards, which are excellent too, not too omnipresent in order to let the acoustic instruments give the show. The compositions consist in EXTREMELY changing & elaborated patterns, never the same, very loaded of instruments mentioned above. The album contains very structured, nervous, dissonant and complex music. You have to listen to "Bogus Pomp": one of the best songs from Zappa: it deserves 6 stars! "Bogus Pomp" contains TONS of brief, complex, catchy and addictive airs put together through nicely dissonant textures: the ensemble remains EXTREMELY structured and pleasant to listen: it is so easy and satisfying to entirely listen this track. It is like to listen to a fantastic told story. "Pedro's Dowry" is much more dissonant and colder than the other tracks, despite you can feel all the cohesion and structure involved: however it will be harder for the average listener to get addicted. "Strictly Genteel" sounds like a catchy army anthem (loud horns). It should need more than one listening to fully appreciate the ensemble.
Links in comments.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Frank Zappa - Sleep Dirt - 320 CBR

This album has an interesting history. According to Zappa, the material on it was supposed to be part of a four-disc set called Läther, which was split into individual albums when Warner Brothers refused to release it in its original format, fearing lack of sales due to the high price of a quadruple-album. This may or may not be true, as when Läther finally was released after Frank's death, it didn't exactly match the four discs that supposedly came from it (Zappa in New York, Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt and Orchestral Favorites). But regardless of how the album came about, Sleep Dirt remains one of Zappa's better works.
The original vinyl release was entirely instrumental, with styles ranging from the howling feedback of "Filthy Habits" to the lounge jazz of "Flam Bay" to the pomp of "Regyptian Strut" to the mellow acoustic guitars of the title track to the lengthy avant power trio of "Ocean". With the first CD reissue, Zappa added a female vocalist to three tracks ("Flam Bay", "Spider of Destiny" and "Time is Money") who sings lyrics taken from Frank's unrealized sci-fi opera Hunchentoot. Fans have been griping ever since about the lost instrumentals, but the release of Läther made them available again (although in shorter versions).
All in all, this disc (along with the related albums) are prime Zappa and are definitely worth picking up. Or you could just buy the three-CD release of Läther, but if you do you may end up going back and buying the individual albums anyway. Why? Läther doesn't include the song "Sleep Dirt", which gives a rare view of Zappa's mellower side, and the version of "Ocean" on this CD is five minutes longer than the one on Läther. In New York and Orchestral Favorites also include extra material not found on Läther. Ah, hell with it, just buy 'em all.

In my youthful Zappa explorations, I became increasingly wary of later releases, and glossed this one over, among a few others. A few years ago, I read a review of this slab, which touted it as holding true to some of Zappa's greatest instrumental work. Since I don't remember where I read that, I'll repeat it here for others who were unaware:
This is a great Zappa album.
As became the norm for his late '70s work, Zappa compiled this album from recordings of various line-ups, set to tape over the course of years; in this case 1974-76. If you find the vocals in Zappa's work often annoying and obtrusive, you won't be surprised by Harris' work here. Her voice and style are right in line with Frank's and Ray's and Ike's, although a tad less goofy. The four tracks featuring her vocals aren't completely forgettable, and are certainly not out of place. Sometimes operatic, sometimes loungey, she provides some of the best vocals ever set to Zappa's work. However, the true gems here are the first and last tracks.
"Filthy Habits" teams Zappa and Bozzio with Dave Parlato on bass. Parlato comes in with a dark and haunting bass line, which shifts key and cadence occasionally, but is basically repeated throughout the song. As the other half of the rhythm section, Bozzio is given carte blanche by this repetition to go absolutely ape-shit on drums. And he does. Over all that, Frank sets up some keyboards for filler and then goes to town with multiple guitar tracks. He combines a Hot Rats like style with some distorted feedback, and pollutes the bass line with astounding grace. This easily could've been on one of the Guitar comps.
"The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution" is also driven by Bozzio's drums, but Patrick O'Hearn is brought in to add an explosive dynamic to the bass. These three present an instrumental orgy with sonic climaxes happening all over the place, leaving you to either clean up or sleep in the wet spot afterward. Bozzio shuffles along, conducting percussive experiments with bonus snare work and a flashy kick drum pattern in 5/8 that resolves the chaos from time to time. For the first half of the song, Frank's comping and strumming only ceases momentarily to let O'Hearn bust out some super fancy bass riffage. The liners only credit him with bass, but it sounds like an acoustic double bass and brings Mingus to mind. After O'Hearn's explosions, Zappa gains a partner in another double guitar track, and adds an extensive solo throughout the second half of the song. With a few changes in pace and energy, this song ebbs and flows all the way to the disc's delta, where it quietly fades out, leaving resonance in your head and your hand reaching toward the play button to repeat the whole thing again.
I may be biased toward his instrumental compositions, but I wouldn't hesitate to call these two of my favorite Zappa songs ever.
Link in comments.

Frank Zappa - Baby Snakes - 320 CBR

Beginning with an introduction from future Zappa backing guitarist Warren Cuccurullo about his New York shows, it breaks into a ripping version of Baby Snakes (which is essentially the same version from Sheik Yerbouti). Titties 'N Beer has always been a favorite of mine mainly because I love the vocal improvs between Zappa and Bozzio. This version is quite nice, but there are versions of it available. Special credit goes to Adrian Belew who would wear a dress during this part and perform the "female" vocal. I'm quite fond of the version of The Black Page #2, the synthesizers are quite lush and they make up for the missing horns quite well. Visually during this piece they are having a dance contest (which brings some great humor while watching it).Jones Crusher was never a terribly great track even on Sheik Yerbouti, but I like this one. Belew's vocal is dynamic and Zappa's guitar work is great. Disco Boy might be the only song on this album that I like better than the original version. The original was too guitar driven, and this one has the perfect mix of guitar and great keyboards from Peter Wolf and Tommy Mars. Ed Mann is also a treat on this song. Dinah-Moe-Humm gets a nice sped up version and Zappa really rips through it vocally. The final piece on this album is Punky's Whips, which is one of my all time favorite Zappa songs. This version has no real differences from the other versions of it, except Don Pardo doesn't give the great introduction, and the horns are missing. But other than that, this is a ripping version that has a great Zappa solo at the end.In the end, this is a nice audio collection, but on the whole the original versions of these songs are better, there are a few exceptions of course (Disco Boy). The other thing is he had a lot better songs to put on here. Where's the Camarillo Brillo/Muffin Man medley, San Bern'dino, Black Napkins, or City of Tiny Lites? Other than that, this is a nice collection that is fun and there's a lot of humor here. Good, but not essential.
Link in comments.

Free Web Counters
HTML Hit Counters