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Frank Zappa - Sleep Dirt CD (album) cover

SLEEP DIRT

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.60 | 189 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
2 stars NOTE: These are thoughts I originally jotted down about this album before I heard them in proper context, in the full Läther album. My opinion is somewhat different after hearing Läther itself.

The Läther fallout continues, though this album is even more piecemeal than its predecessor. Three of the seven tracks found here were originally intended to be part of a musical called Huchentoot (two of these, "Spider of Destiny" and "Flambay," later were intended for use on Läther); in the original release, these tracks lacked vocals, making this album entirely instrumental, while the CD release restored the female vocals that Zappa had apparently always intended. Vocals or no, though, these three tracks are, if not awful, then unlistenably bland. Instrumentally, they're generic-as-hell bits of cocktail jazz, light rock and showtunes, and the vocals don't tend to impress or remotely amuse me (are these weird lyrics supposed to be funny??!!). Goodbye three tracks.

The remaining four are instrumental, and they range from boring to great (my enjoyment of them is totally linear to their placement on the album). The opening "Filthy Habits" has some ok parts to it, mixing blues with noisy jazz rock with occasionally decent results, but while it may be accomplished from a technical perspective (as most tracks coming from Frank's bands tend to be), it gets really tedious over seven minutes, and some of the feedback noises are awfully headache-inducing. Better is the pompous, regal- sounding "Regyptian Strut," which does a decent job of milking Zappa's jazz-classical abilities, thanks largely to some surprisingly moody trumpet themes and cool basslines. It's not among Frank's very best work (for all these cool little elements, it's still too rambling for my preference), but it's definitely not among his worst either.

Skipping ahead, we have the title track, which has Frank and James Youman engaging in a fun little bit of acoustic dueling, with Frank coming out on top after three minutes and Youman basically conceding defeat. If nothing else, it's pretty and even kinda emotional sounding, which is always a nice thing to get from Frank. And finally, there's the main reason to get the album, the 13-minute bliss of "The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution," which spends six or so minutes dithering in every possible direction with acoustic (or electric ones sounding sorta acoustic) guitars (over cool basslines and erratic drumming) before spending the rest of the time dithering around on "pure" electric guitar and doing a really really interesting job of it. I probably wouldn't like this track as much as I do were it entirely electric-based; as is, the acoustic portion does a good job of building up the tension which the electric portion delights in releasing, and the fact that both portions have some very pretty moments (wow, two tracks with prettiness on one Zappa album) only helps things.

Still, seeing as I have absolutely no use for the three Huchentoot tracks, and I'm not a fan of the opening seven-minute jam, the great music that can be found on this album isn't enough to lift the whole very high. Look for the title track, "The Ocean" and "Regyptian Strut," and try to avoid the rest.

tarkus1980 | 2/5 |

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