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Frank Zappa - Sleep Dirt CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa


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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
5 stars This album is Hot Rats part 3 (part 4 in my book as the Grand Wazoo should also be in that series), this is again killer jazz-rock with Bozzio, Duke, Chester Thompson and Underwood. One of my fave Zappa album and easily the best of the later 704s album, staying away from Frank scatological obsessions of these years, Sleep Dirt (by all means not an innocent title) is an almost instrumental album and is (as you'd expect with the Hot Rats) heavily jazz-rock slanted and one of his proggiest in the more purist form.

Re-Gyptian Strut can only confirm what I said above but everything here is worthy of the Hot Rats series. Indeed, Filthy Habits is probably the most Crimsonian track Zappa's written, with its dark and menacing mood. The flamboyant Flambay and the great title track are the other stand-outs. No less interesting is the awesome 13-mins+ Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution with its wild interplay and awesome instrumental passages.

Apparently this is the instrumental version of the album, and there is a version with vocals on the Läther release that was lying dormant in frank's vaults and it was finally released post-mortem in the mid-90's. Having heard both, personally I prefer having SD home (especially with the longer Ocean track version) and eventually rent the Läther CDs.

Report this review (#29955)
Posted Monday, April 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars I love this album!! with or without the Thana Harris vocals (not on the vinyl or in Lather but on the CD re-release). "The Ocean Is the Ultimate Solution" is just fantastic, particularly how the electric guitar blast's in at the end segment - pure genius on every track. Another Zappa must buy.
Report this review (#29956)
Posted Tuesday, April 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
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.
Report this review (#29958)
Posted Tuesday, May 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is another excellent instrumental ZAPPA album. It opens with a dark and bizarre track "Filthy Habits", full of howling guitars: a rare floating moment with ZAPPA! The next track "Flambay" is absolutely delightful: a perfect jazzy combination of piano, xylophone, drums and acoustic bass, giving a real cabaret ambience. "Regyptian Strut" is a mix of bottom-boosted bass, xylophones and anthemic & catchy brass. "Time is Money" has slightly the sound of "Studio Tan", being very rythm changing, complex and melodic: impressive. "Sleep Dirt" is a beautiful mellow & nostalgic track, acoustic guitar oriented: very Spanish; rarely you'll hear ZAPPA play such an elaborated acoustic guitar: WOW! The last track, "Ocean is the Ultimate Solution", is an outstanding piece of IMPOSSIBLE acoustic bass, acoustic & electric guitars and drums: very loaded, rythmic, fast and addictive: it finishes with a emotive & insistent fast guitar solo, like if you were plunging in the ocean in order to clean all the heavy dirt!

My rating: 4 1/2 stars

Report this review (#29959)
Posted Tuesday, September 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars An excelent example of how Zappa could elaborate a complex jazzy-powerful-orchestral- movie-soundtrack-like album with tons of complex guitar, keyboards and percussion work. There are some "operatic" vocals and very nice rhythm variations that only Zappa knows how to do (see The Grand Wazoo, Ovenite Sensation, One Size Fits All and many others from 70's). The arrangements are just big stuff, remembering sometimes a big-band, just like in The Grand Wazoo. The acoustic guitar work in Sleep Dirt is memorable. Arf ! This is a very good album, try it!
Report this review (#29961)
Posted Tuesday, February 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Sleep Dirt" is a collection of instrumental pieces that showcase Frank Zappa's eclectic compositional genius. The kick ass opening track "Filthy Habits" (originally slated for a double album - "Night Of The Iron Sausage" - later to become "Zoot Allures") features a very nasty sounding ostinato over which FZ experiments with very dynamic guitar feedback, (very reminiscent of the composition "Zoot Allures"). The whole piece has a rather Arabian vibe to it modally but ultimately it veers into a psychotic little march toward the very end. A classic Zappa guitar excursion.

Track two, "Flambe", is a parody of the popular standard "Laura". It is a cocktail tour de force with the versatile George Duke doing his best "Art Tatem -ish" imitation. Chester Thomson (drums) and Patrick O'Hearn (bass) add to the drunkenness of the piece while Ruth Underwood on marimba emphasizes the constantly building melody sometimes in tandem with the piano. After a slight variation of the main theme, FZ steers us off into a very cartoonish section that is very regimented and far from the loose drunken feel of the previous passages. There is even a little "yelp" one can hear mid way through this section as if a cartoon character is being put in some uncompromising position. FZ had such a great sense of humor and here his mastery of comedy and serious art is in fine form. After this short excursion into cartoon land we are brought back to the cocktail bar scene again. This time the band is a bit more laid back but the expressive melody in marimba and piano soon build to a beautiful climax and end on a very regimented / stern sounding section that seques nicely into "Spider Of Destiny".

Like "Flambe", "Spider Of Destiny" contains vocals for FZ's unfinished musical "Hunchentoot". And although Thana Harris sings well on these tracks if you can find the original vinyl recording of this album listen to that instead. For me, the vocals are too distracting and the compositions here are so strong they don't need any words to cloud up the brilliance of what's going on below. On "Spider of Destiny" we are treated to a catchy whole tone melody that is almost nursery rhyme like in spots. The form is very clear and very structured in a "German kind of way". where the guitar part works with the ensemble instead of just as a purely solo vehicle. The work ends with a jab of very dynamic guitar outbursts and then a seven note passage (variation on the main theme) repeated and augmented by some twisted sounding chimes. The piece ends on a chime hit and bang! The drums kick into the "Regyptian Strut" a funky brass laden processional that dates back from the "Grand Wazoo" days. This master work features some crackling, low funky bass playing from James "Bird Legs" Youman, a perfectly slow, funked up groove from Chester Thomson, surprising gospel type piano jabs from George Duke, jangling and scraping percussion from Ruth Underwood and of course the brilliant trombone playing of Bruce Fowler who executes all the basic melodies and chords. A recurring five note melody is actually a quote from "Saturn" by Gustav Holtz a work FZ admired. Here he exploits this melody on top of a plodding ostinato, building on it like he was constructing an Egyptian pyramid. The brass parts keeps piling up and the tension mounts until just when you think FZ can go no further he pulls out all the stops and takes us up a half step! The result of which is nothing short of orgasmic. The entire processional exclaims the main majestic melody and proudly ends with the beating of a major chord with a seventh in the bass leaving the listener elated and exhausted.

The next piece, "Time Is Money" is a progressive jazz/ rock work. Again there are words here that do nothing to enhance what is already a lovely melodic piece. Avoid the singing when possible. In fact, you can find a version without vocals on the "Lather" collection. The sweet melody of "Time Is Money",played by FZ on guitar, is constantly being broken up by question mark segments that consist mainly of drum rolls on the bell of cymbals, angular vibes, piano chord clusters and synth bass. These segments go into a very precise mechanical riff (enhanced by an array of cowbells) that is reminiscent of clock gears. Some of it reminds me of a section from the "Roxy and Elsewhere" number "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing". The overall work is very visual in a "Greggery Peccary" sort of way.

Next we are confronted with an FZ rarity: an acoustic guitar number. It's the title track "Sleep Dirt". FZ prepares us for this touching acoustic guitar work by saying "Arf" just so we don't take it too seriously. Here he is solely supported by James "Bird Legs" Youman who plays a somewhat melancholy chord progression while FZ improvises over the top. Frank is in fine form here, constantly inventing new melodic passages with odd rhythmic groupings. There is an almost Eastern European flavor that emerges in the types of scales FZ favors which makes the whole event extremely exotic sounding. Eventually, the piece comes to a fragmented end with FZ asking, "Gettin' tired?" To which Youman replies' "No, uh uhh - my fingers got stuck."

Quick edit right into the the last piece, "The Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution". It begins with a casual rock groove with Terry Bozzio on drums and Patrick O'Hearn on bass. I believe this was O'Hearns actual audition for FZ. In any event, there is a structured melody here with typical FZ melodic jumps and a quick, progressive unison passage that goes into a funky groove emphasized by FZ's chorused drenched strat. This is a progressive rock instrumental with clearly defined sections that ultimately ends up in an eight minute jam that exploits O'Hearn's bass prowess and burns with Zappa's fiery electric guitar chops. Outstanding musical communication.

Overall this is an excellent album (marred in my opinion by unnecessary vocals and awkward Chad Wackerman drum overdubs) that showcases the restless mind of Frank Zappa. Find the original vinyl for best listening results. If you like this CD you will also enjoy it's two siblings, "Studio Tan" and "Orchestral Favorites".

Report this review (#29962)
Posted Sunday, March 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album is one of the last LP's I enjoyed from Frank. There's much of musical effort, and none of the "titties and beer" jokes, which sadly started to take a more firmer grab of his works. "Filthy Habits" sounds a bit like a KING CRIMSON composition, with a nice oppressing feeling and power chord driven riffs. Also " Regyptian Strut" and "The Ocean Is the Ultimate Solution" are great instrumental tracks. "Sleep Dirt" is a short acoustic duo, which ends abruptly. "Gettin' tired, huh?". Hmm. There's also few songs with female singing, all bit jazzy and OK tracks, "Time Is Money" stayed most clearly of them in my memory.
Report this review (#29963)
Posted Tuesday, April 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
Man With Hat
Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
3 stars This review is for the CD version, with the vocals added to some tracks. This album is a very mixed bag. The instramental songs are all spectacular. Unfortunatly, the songs with vocals are not. The vocals really drag the songs down. First of all, i dont care for the singer. And the vocals seem to follow the melody, for the most part, and really add nothing new to the songs. Also, the lyrics are not the most interesting. But, enough of what is bad about this album. Let's get to the good stuff.

The instrumentals really steal the show. All four are soild songs, with three of them being fantastic, and two boarder classics. Filthy Habits is a wonderful song. Great guitars, fantastic drum work, all the ingrediants of a great song. Also, everything seems to flow seemlessly. Great stuff! Next is the majestic Regyptian Strut. This song seems like it would be better suited on The Grand Wazoo, as its very much in vien of that style. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful song. It has a great majestic quality that is a nice touch. Again great playing by all. The next song (which is track six) is Sleep Dirt. A nice, short acustic piece. It is really interesting to Zappa's playing here, as it is differnt then most of his electric guitar work. The final piece on the ablum is the classic, The Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution. This one is executed with the utmost percission. Starts off nice and "gentle" with great acustic guitar and bass (with one hell of a bass part). Over the course of the song, a musical journey is taken and at the end you wind up with Zappa's Electric guitar taking control. This song is a classic through and through.

Overall, this album is very good. Songs like, The Ocean Is the Ultimate Soulton, and Flithy Habits should not be missed. The songs with the vocals are presented much better on Lather (that is, without the vocals). Unfortunatly for Lather, the instumental songs are much better here. Don't dismiss the album just because of re-workings of a few song. A definate for Zappa fans, and a good idea for fans of guitar, or just great instrumental work. Recommended.

Report this review (#62603)
Posted Saturday, December 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
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.

Report this review (#89320)
Posted Saturday, September 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars First of all i'm reviewing the cd, which unlike the LP has vocals. This is important because I know people who have the all instrumental album who rate it as one of the very best Zappa records. These same people who have heard the cd with the added female vocals say it's a big step down in comparison. Part of the reason is that the vocals are a little annoying, bizzare, funny, almost Dagmar Krause-like at times. The thing to remember is that this is what Frank wanted, for better or worse. I still have a hard time getting past the vocals but I am used to them, I just don't enjoy them. The LP is the only way to get the original recording. Even the Lather compilation that has the Sleep Dirt cd in it is different than the original, although it has no vocals some songs have been shortened and some changed somewhat.

"Filthy Habits" is my favourite track on here and actually one of my favourite Zappa tunes period. It is a dark instrumental where the guitar and drums absolutely shine. Check out the way Zappa holds the notes on the guitar, and the chunky bass. Keys before 4 minutes. Marching style drums 6 1/2 minutes in to the end of the song. "Flambay" is where we hear vocals for the first time as she sings accompanied with piano. There is almost a burlesque flavour to this tune and singing. The xylophone and light drums that follow are overshadowed by the annoying vocals. "Spider Of Destiny" is the song that made me think that maybe she's singing so badly because it's funny. Some nice angular guitar though. She even rolls the "r" at one point.

"Regyptian Strut" is thankfully an instrumental. It opens rather dramatically before drums and horns take over. Xylophone follows from Ruth Underwood. It's a good tune. "Time Is Money" is all about the vocals, they are the focus throughout she even wails 2 1/2 minutes in. "Sleep Dirt" is cool as dual acoutic guitars are the only instruments played in this instrumental. "The Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution" is the 13 minute closer. Like the opening track it is performed by a trio.This track is so interesting to really listen to. The interplay, and it's all so complex and intricate at times. This song along with the opening track really stand out as two of Frank's better compositions.

The Lp would easily be 4 stars, but I can only give this one 3 stars because of the vocals.

Report this review (#164241)
Posted Tuesday, March 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Sleep Dirt was one of 3 albums that Frank Zappa supplied to his record label, Warner Bros in order to fulfil his contract, the other 2 being Studio Tan and Orchestral Favorites. They declined to release them leading to a Lawsuit and Zappa set about combining much of the material into what was going to be a 4 record set titled Lather which was stopped from being released by Warners claiming they owned the rights to the material despite not choosing to release them! Lather finally saw the light of day on cd in 1996.

Sleep Dirt was given a release in 1979, 3 years after the mastertapes had been originally presented to Warner Bros but to complicate matters further the cd re-issue in the nineties had vocals added to 3 of the tracks, Flambay, Spider of Destiny and Time is Money which had been intended for an abandoned musical.

The cd is book-ended by the 2 best tracks on the album, Filthy Habits and The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution, both instrumental slabs of Fusion with some great guitar workouts. The brilliant Terry Bozzio drums on both pieces the former track having a wonderful laid back groove whilst Zappa solos away over the top. The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution is even better and more complex too and in its 13 minutes has many twists and turns and gear changes, the track really exploding in the second half and ends up being one of Zappa's most satisfying instrumental pieces ever.

Of the 3 vocal tracks, supplied by Thana Harris, Flambay is a piano dominated piece of Jazz, (supplied by old Mothers member George Duke) with Harris' jazz styled vocals on top. Spider of Destiny and Time is Money have more Jazz tinged vocals from Harris too but I would have preferred them to have been left as instrumental as the vocals do tend to grate.

Of the other 2 tracks Regyptian Strut is the better, a Brass dominated instrumental though title track Sleep Dirt is a satisfying acoustic guitar piece featuring Zappa and James Youman.

Overall then a good but at times patchy album with some brilliant moments though not enough of them to lift this album to the heights of Zappa classics. It would be great to see this album released on cd again one day with the original vinyl mix.

Report this review (#169164)
Posted Wednesday, April 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars A mostly instrumental album that attempts to be in the vein of Hot Rats and The Grand Wazoo, Sleep Dirt seems more an attempt by Frank to get away from the commercialism that was starting to claim all of his writing.

Its positioning in the (previously) pipe-dream album Lather marks it as part of Zappa's last stand for longer tunes, more progressive styles, thicker sounds, unique orchestration, and a lack of long-winded vocal pieces about creepy and dirty things that Frank found funny. The album almost has a flow to it, which is usually not a trademark of Zappa music, but here he almost crafts and album that can truly stand together as a unit greater than its parts. The greatest struggle this album has, though, is the female vocalist who wails and croons like a lounge singer for a good portion of her contribution to the album. She is not particularly interesting at first, but is certainly quite talented, but over the course of the album, we begin to understand why Zappa gave her all the vocal parts on this release. This album really has some fun with her wide range of talents, if you'll just listen to her and give her a chance. None of the songs save maybe the first one really stand on their own at all, but an album that flows together is kind of a fun change in pace for Frank, so the album is certainly not a loss.

Filthy Habits is the opening instrumental, a catchy bass-driven track with one of Frank's strongest guitar solos in the center. A lot of exotic musical elements give this song something of a Middle Eastern flair, though not quite exactly--especially not with the pervasive distorted guitar work. In some ways, this is the highlight of the album, as the band sounds the tightest and most creatively together here. Flambay introduces Thana on the vocals, wailing away about some sort of slight from a lover (or perhaps something else; you never know with Frank). It sounds more like a long segue track with a vocal layer over it rather than a song with purpose or direction. Spider of Destiny is a direct continuation of of Flambay. The pace picks up, the guitar takes a more frontal role, and a vocal melody comes in that actually stands as a catchy piece to sing along with. The final twenty seconds or so feature some terrifyingly neat vocal parts, though, and then the song turns to the instrumental Regyptian Strut, a popular Zappa live tune. It kicks off with an epic sort of feel, quickly turning to a more Mothersy sort of vibe (complete with Ruth doing her xylophone deal, too): all in all a much more classic Zappa tune, and a very fun listen with an inevitable Egyptian tone to it.

Side two opens up then with Time Is Money, bringing the return of Thana, wailing away with a catchy tune again a la Spider of Destiny. Her abilities get stretched and tested with some particularly difficult vocal pieces, turning what could be an average instrumental track into almost a contest of stump the talented chick. A short pause brings Sleep Dirt, an acoustic instrumental with Frank laying down some folksy blues in a way that the man basically never did before or after. On the footsteps of this comes the wild The Ocean Is the Ultimate Solution, a long Grand Wazoo sort of track with that wonderful Zappa clean guitar sound. Right from the get-go, difficult bass lines and oddly syncopated guitar chords turn this track into a devilish whirlwind of some kind of insanity. Absolute brilliance, especially when paying attention to Bozzio's nearly impossible drumming and some intense bass guitar work. Some say Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch is Zappa's most complicated song, but I believe this one is a mighty rival to this claim. Halfway through, a distorted guitar kicks in for a long-range solo, giving Frank the room to shred and tear in another example of why we should really consider this man one of the greatest guitarists in rock history. And what's more, we get a lot of double bass drumming here, something not common in Zappa's music--an added bonus. Look what Bozzio can do, too! With the guitar still in the lead, the song evolves further into more complexity and massive amounts of layers, closing the album off with a bang.

In short, if instrumental Zappa appeals to you, or if you like to listen to the man making his musicians jump through hoops just for fun, this album is a good bet. Certainly go for Hot Rats or The Grand Wazoo first, but if those appeal to you, this is the high point of the four Lather albums.

Report this review (#190508)
Posted Tuesday, November 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#307777)
Posted Monday, November 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars The LP version of "Sleep Dirt" was the best of the three culled from the Läther set, and released without any liner notes (other portions were released as well, but they were given better packaging).

The music was all instrumental at this time, and featured a wide array of Zappa compositions, all of them great, two of them unusual (for Frank). Filthy Habits starts the album with a fine guitar solo over a very dark rhythm. Flambay and Spider Of Destiny (both written for the opera/stage show "Hunchentoot") sound like Zappa's rendition of lounge music. With piano highly featured, the music sounds as close as Frank might come to something played in a 60's singles nightclub.

Regyptian Strut is a nice fanfare style song, notable for trombonist Bruce Fowler playing an array of brass instruments. Time Is Money goes back to the loungy style. Sleep Dirt is another highlight. It features a rare, and unusually subdued guitar duet by Zappa and James "Bird Legs" Youman.

The Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution makes this album a necessity (if you don't own Läther). Zappa solos throughout, in a style not heard on any other song, where he plays only chords, while Patrick O'Hearn plays impossible licks on an acoustic bass, and Terry Bozzio plays like, well, Terry Bozzio. This track is a masterpiece.

The vocals by Thana Harris, added on the CD version, give an interesting view of the "Hunchentoot" songs, but other than the historical value, they detract rather than add to the songs.

4.5 stars for the LP, 4 for the CD.

Report this review (#440072)
Posted Thursday, April 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Supposedly, the planned title for this Zappa album - part of the Lather treasurebox - was "Hot Rats III". If that's true, I suspect it was wishful thinking (or a truly uncharacteristic lack of ideas) on Zappa's part - this album is no Hot Rats. Hell, it barely reaches the standards of Waka/Jawaka (the second part of the purported trilogy).

It doesn't help that most of the editions available these days include a horrible remix job imposed by Zappa years after the fact, adding quasi-operatic vocals about a woman in love with an evil spider to some of the songs (apparently cast-offs from his failed musical Hunchentoot). But even when you look beyond that, the instrumental backing here consists of subpar filler material nowhere near as inspiring as Zappa's prior fusion classics. A disappointment however you slice it.

Report this review (#550204)
Posted Friday, October 14, 2011 | Review Permalink

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