Frank Zappa Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa: A Memorial Tribute

Frank Zappa

Barking Pumpkin, 1996

http://www.zappa.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/28/2005

On paper, even the most diehard Frank Zappa fan would have to ask themselves these questions when looking at Frank Zappa Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa: A Memorial Tribute: "Seven songs? Only four different songs? Is this really worth my money?"

Let's answer the last question: Yes, it very much is.

While I don't know exactly why the powers that be selected what they did and how they did for this release, it's pretty obvious that it wasn't done half-assed. While some people may decry the lack of variety in the songs, this actually works to the disc's advantage.

Listen, for example, to the opening two tracks, versions of "Black Napkins" that were recorded in Yugoslavia in 1975 and Japan three months later (the latter being the version heard on Zoot Allures). The way these two tracks intermingle is amazing, even if there is a little bit of a pitch adjustment when the versions change. The way that Zappa and the band's playing was able to work itself together to create one cohesive, interesting track is nothing short of amazing.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The 15-minute version of "Zoot Allures" (which also includes "Ship Ahoy") further demonstrates the magic that Zappa could bring to the stage, taking such a long piece of music and keeping the listener interested in every note. While the second version - the album version of the track - almost seems unnecessary, it is intriguing to see how the piece was compacted into something just as interesting without losing any of its power.

As for the two versions of "Watermelon In Easter Hay," what more can be said other than "perfection"? The live version from Germany in 1978 working its way into the studio version, complete with Zappa as the Central Scrutinizer (as well as one add-on, a live snippet of Zappa saying good night to an audience), is flawless. Once again, Zappa is able to keep the listener's interest with every single note, and not a second is wasted by either musician or listener.

The only weak link on the disc is "Merely A Blues In A," and even there calling it a bad track is a misnomer. It's kinda fun to hear Zappa cut loose as a blues guitarist, even if the lyrics seem improvised, but it's not quite of the same caliber as the other three titles on this disc. Still, on any other live disc that Zappa released in his lifetime, this would have been a welcome addition, so I don't want to say anything too negative about it.

Frank Zappa Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa seems to orient itself as one of the numerous memorial discs that were released around this time by the Zappa family. As writer Matthew Turk noted some time ago, Have I Offended Someone? seemed to highlight Zappa as the misogynist, Strictly Genteel focusing on Zappa the serious composer. In that vein, Frank Zappa Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa seems to highlight Zappa the guitar god. This one isn't the easiest to find, but it is a worthy addition to your Zappa collection.

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.

Rating: B

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© 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 Barking Pumpkin, and is used for informational purposes only.