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Frank Zappa - Sleep Dirt CD (album) cover

SLEEP DIRT

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.60 | 193 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Part of the historical Lather set, Sleep Dirt came out at a time when Zappa was trying to desperately break away from his record company to find a new promoter and distributor. This is the jazziest of the albums that were subsequently released from Lather, those being Studio Tan, Zappa in New York, Orchestral Favorites, and this one, with it returning to a Hot Rats/style with mainly instrumental pieces but a few vocal pieces as well. The musicianship is fast, frenetic, emotional, snearing, biting, moody, it ranges through all kinds of emotions and for the most part comes off effectively. That said, the album does tend to drag a bit, and the vocal pieces are marred by the vocals, which are way too operatic for the style of piece they are in my opinion. They aren't bad at all, they just aren't up to par with the rest of the album, that's all.

It all opens with the dirty and biting Filthy Habits, a 7 minute instrumental with some very great guitar work from Zappa (this is essentially Sleep Dirt's version of a Zoot Allures type piece). It surprising that no one really mentions this piece when they talk about the great Zappa guitar pieces (not to mention best overall Zappa riffs), as it really is a fantastic piece with a great rhythmic performance from both Roy Estrada and Terry Bozzio. Flambay and Spider of Destiny are two tracks that segue with each other via a link in the vocals from Thana Harris. These pieces have a very loungy feel with an operatic yet jazzy vocal performance from Harris. It's a bit out of place for Zappa, but it isn't that bad, his ability to adapt to many different styles coems through wonderfully here. Regyptian Strut comes next and is a fantastic instrumental piece that has a majestic feel via the extensive use of horns in the piece. The tight grooving rhythm also gives the piece a catchy and somewhat addictive feel to it.

Time is Money is the final vocal piece, with the rest of the album being exclusively instrumental works. It feels like a continuation of Spider of Destiny but is not because of the Regyptian Strut interlude. Of the three vocal pieces on the album, I would say this one is the best of the three mainly because of Zappa's great guitar/vibe interludes (kudos to Ruth Underwood throughout the album). Sleep Dirt is an acoustic based piece, with some underlying piano and Zappa belting out a great acoustic guitar performance (a rarity among the Zappa collection is that of an acoustic guitar performance from Zappa), playing the acoustic as if he were playing his electric with his frenetic guitar runsa dn zany melody lines. The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution is the 13 minute finale to the album. Incredible acoustic guitar and absolutely mindblowing acoustic bass work lay out the framework at the beginning of the piece, with Bozzio keeping it all together on the drums. It's one of the more underrated Zappa instrumentals that rounds out this exceptional and underrated Zappa album mainly because of the incredible and high velocity musicianship on the acoustic instruments.

In the end, Sleep Dirt is a very solid album musically, although the vocal pieces are the only real drag to the album. They aren't really that bad in the end, but I would have preferred this album to have been entirely instrumental. If you like Zappa's music in the vein of Waka/Jawaka, Hot Rats, and The Grand Wazoo, this album will certainly be right up your alley as all the elements that made up those albums are here (except for the big band presence). 4/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 4/5 |

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