REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/21/2005
With the release of Guitar, Frank Zappa's second two-CD collection of guitar solos, one had to question just what Zappa was trying to prove.
After all, here was a musician who was actively trying to establish himself as a legitimate composer of serious music, as well as someone who had already put out a collection of his guitar solos (as Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar) a few years prior. Why on earth did Zappa feel the need to release a second compilation like that? More importantly, why did we, as music consumers (as well as those who are Zappa fans), need a second set?
If anything, Guitar acts as further example as to what Zappa unintentionally proved on Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar - while he was indeed a genius on the guitar, the solos removed from the context of the concert are just damned boring.
Whether you're a diehard Zappa fan or not, the fact is, without having the track listing in front of you, this collection of 32 solos is going to become a huge mish-mash of speed-freak guitar licks after a short period of time. While some of the tracks are recognizable (such as "In-A-Gadda-Stravinsky," with a certain bass line that should be recognizable to any child of the '60s), Zappa, for the most part, happily noodles away on these snippets culled from 1979 to 1984, all progressing along away from their rightful place in the live stage shows they came from.
And that, kids, is where Guitar fails the most. It's one thing to grab one or two of these tracks at a time, and listen to them just to clear out the pipes. But after a while, you almost start wishing for vocal tracks to kick in at some point, just to break up the repetitive nature of these tracks. At least, you may think, it would have been nice to have heard the songs these solos were pulled from, even if only for a point of reference.
It's not that Guitar is bad; tracks like "Sexual Harrassment In The Workplace," "Swans? What Swans?" and "That Ol' G Minor Thing" do provide some enjoyment. But I found that I could take no more than eight to ten tracks at a time before I had to turn the CD player off, walk away and clear my head. Remember when our parents told us that you could even have too much of a good thing? Guitar proves this to be absolutely true.
Make no mistake, Zappa rightfully belongs enshrined in any kind of guitarists' hall of fame that one can imagine, and Guitar does contain many of those performances that make the argument for Zappa's inclusion. But this set breaks no new ground over Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar, and is recommended for only the true die-hard Zappa fans.
2005 Christopher Thelen and "The Daily Vault." All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of the Zappa Family Trust / record label, and is used for informational purposes only.