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Frank Zappa - Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention: In the 1960's CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.21 | 10 ratings

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3 stars The product description on its page here at Prog Archives is a more or less complete review by itself of this DVD documentary, a beginner's guide to the beginnings of Frank Zappa's career as a musical provocateur. The program is likewise a straightforward but comprehensive history of the band many fans believe was the best of the many Mothers of Invention, and that's not a claim I'm prepared to argue against.

It was produced without the blessing of the Zappa estate, which may explain the lack of biographical data not directly related to the music, and the scarcity of actual concert footage and/or archival interviews with Frank himself (early blues icon Howlin' Wolf gets more screen time in the opening scenes). Goodness knows the Zappa family had little reason to withhold their approval: the show is nothing if not complimentary, sometimes to an almost hagiographic degree (modern music wouldn't be the same without him, and so forth).

The DVD does an excellent job putting the original Mothers in the proper historical / social / critical perspective, and the priceless anecdotes by many surviving band members paint an invaluable (if not always flattering) portrait of Zappa's singleminded genius. But the polite talking-head presentation of facts and interviews can appear somewhat dry at times, hardly a fitting technique for discussing such a lively and irreverent iconoclast. Too bad a more distinctive documentary filmmaker like Errol Morris (or better yet: Werner Herzog) isn't a committed Zappaholic.

The program comes briefly to life, for example in the montage of Watts riot TV footage set to the proto-rap blues of 'Trouble Every Day', and during Zappa's 1963 guest appearance on the Steve Allen show (looking impossibly young, clean-cut and nerdy).

Elsewhere, despite all the scholarly insight and informative chatter (biographer Ben Watson is especially articulate), the DVD is best approached as a primer for neophyte Zappa fans (like myself at the time), certainly worthwhile but nowhere near as valuable as the music itself.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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