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Frank Zappa - Sleep Dirt CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.62 | 261 ratings

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3 stars One of Lather's shavings, "Sleep Dirt" is an instrumental record that revives ZAPPA's "serious" side. There are some brilliant moments on here, from the musical nightcrawler "Filthy Habits" to the mid-album achievement of a clarity of the surreal that recalls the peaks of "The Grand Wazoo". And yet "Sleep Dirt" is ultimately too smart for its own good. Melodies devolve into dissonant chaos, notes stacked atop one another like tiddlywinks in an ungainly sculpture of obtuse art. As a classical jazz composer, FRANK ZAPPA has juggled his balls better; only Jazz From Hell is more standoffishly notey. Still it's important that "Sleep Dirt" (and the superior Orchestral Favorites) come to light, if only to form a link between the classical jazz achievements of the early '70s and the mathemental (i.e., mathematical/instrumental) music of the '80s. The absence of any immediate followup to "The Grand Wazoo" created the impression that ZAPPA had abandoned semi-orchestral arrangements for the time being, when in fact he was just channeling it into a hidden reserve. The material here, drawn from 1974 through 1976, dates from a period when ZAPPA seemed to favor celerity over sound (no wonder with weapons like Ruth Underwood and Chad Wackerman at his disposal). And there are plenty of passages on "Sleep Dirt" that will please speed freaks or folks who think jazz is supposed to scare people. What's missing is the warmth, the self- deprecating humor that marked his most successful forays into classical/jazz/rock hybrids. For that, you'll need to look into "Hot Rats", Weasels, Weeny, Wazoo, etc. Only after you've sampled those albums should you venture into "Sleep Dirt". Note that some of this music was originally conceived for an abandoned musical called Hunchentoot, which may account for the album's uneven nature.
daveconn | 3/5 |


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