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Frank Zappa - Does Humor Belong In Music? CD (album) cover

DOES HUMOR BELONG IN MUSIC?

Frank Zappa

RIO/Avant-Prog


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Jim Garten
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Retired Admin & Razor Guru
3 stars Taken from an open air concert on the 'Them Or Us' tour in 1984, 'Does Humor Belong In Music' captures one of the tightest, and most stripped down lineups Zappa took on the road; three perfect pairings, in fact (sorry Mr Fripp):

Thunes & Wackerman playing off each other constantly (with Thunes providing many a comic moment), Martin & (the rarely seen) Zavod, facing each other at the back doing their level best to out-do each other (Martin winning due to superb vocals throughout) and the inspired pairing of Willis & White sharing guitar & vocal duties with the Man himself.

Despite the vast range of material played live by this lineup, the DVD concentrates largely on the comedy songs (hence "Does Humor....."), and while there's nothing wrong with this, I feel the film does not do Zappa justice; although the classics 'Trouble Every Day' and 'Hotplate Heaven' are included, the excerpts included clock in at less than four minutes in total. The only times we really get to see Zappa do what he does best (ie shut up & play his guitar) are in the opening 'Zoot Allures', the set closer 'Cozmik Debris' and the marvellous final encore 'Whippin' Post' (yes, the Allman Brothers' song). For the rest of the time, he is Zappa the entertainer/ringmaster, proving that avant garde rock, blues parodies, satire and downright smut can be easy bedfellows.

Throughout the film, we are also treated to clips from interviews with Zappa, where he shares his varied views on everything from cigarettes (berating the citizens of Los Angeles who believe they "wil live forever if they stamp out tobacco smoke"), women, and the high levels of drug abuse at Barry Manilow concerts...

When this was originally released on VHS in 1984, it was snapped up due to the lack of any decent concert material available on film. Now don't get me wrong, there is nothing at all wrong with this DVD if you like Zappa's comic moments; if, however, you prefer to see Zappa the musician, I would recommend you try 'Baby Snakes' first.

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Send comments to Jim Garten (BETA) | Report this review (#35015)
Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Of all the Zappa videos available, this is probably my least favorite. Now don't get me wrong, this isn't a terribly awful video, it's just it doesn't show Zappa as a musician, but more as a comedian. There are moments here and there where he really lets loose on guitar, but for the most part this set is just for the comedy numbers and the ones that are supposed to make you laugh. In the end, though, I was never terribly fond of the album that is toured for this video (Them or Us) and the material played here from that album doesn't really change my opinion either. The audio quality is a usual Zappa affair, nicely balanced and everyone gets a little piece of the mix. The video, though, is not to the best quality that it can be, it feels a bit low-budget in my opinion.

Anyway, this concert (although it's only parts of it) focuses mainly on the funnier and more obscene songs in the Zappa catalogue and most of the songs are less than 4 minutes in length. Because of this there is a lot of material played within the 50 minutes from a wide variety of albums. It opens nicely with a cool rendition of Zoot Allures with an (pun intended) alluring Zappa guitar solo. After that, expect short pieces that focus mainly on vocals and little instrumental snippets. Tinseltown Rebellion gets a rousing version here with some nice interplay between Thunes and Martin. It's one of the better pieces on the entire video, really good stuff here. Trouble Everyday and Hot Plate at the Green Hotel follow with some nice vocal harmonies from Ike Willis and Ray White, but nothing more than that.

The Dangerous Kitchen is a song that Zappa shouldn't have ever played live, in my opinion. It's such a disatrous song that Zappa should have kept it on the studio album where it gets a zanier and more enjoyable presenation. Some of the You Are What You Is material here is somewhat decent, but I wasn't too fond of that album, either. The best songs following Zoot Allures are Bobby Brown Goes Down, which has always been a favorite of mine, Honey, Don't You Want A Man Like Me?, another favorite, and Cosmik Debris, which is always a fun song when played in the live realm. Everything else, though, is a bit underwhelming and I'm not terribly impressed with the presentation. The live interview segments with Zappa act as little interludes between the music, and they offer a little humor from Zappa with his comments and his cynical sense of humor.

In the end, Does Humor Belong in Music? Yes, it does. Is this a great video? Not a great video, but there are some redeeming moments in it. If you want to see Zappa as a musician and not a comedian, you may want to steer clear of this video, as there are two other videos that more than show his musical talents. I would get this video last if you are a collector, but if you're a fan of this type of Zappa and this era of Zappa, you may also find some enjoyment out of it. Overall, though, Baby Snakes is a better video in terms of comedy and in musicianship and pretty much everything else. Not bad, but not terribly great. 2.5/5.

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Send comments to Cygnus X-2 (BETA) | Report this review (#83916)
Posted Monday, July 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
Matti
COLLABORATOR
Neo-Prog Team
1 stars Note: take this as a friendly warning if you're unsure whether you like Zappa or not. DO NOT start here! All the others are adviced not to waste their time reading my angry 'review'.

Several times I have given Frank Zappa a chance to get me interested in his music, but it never has turned out right for me. I believe I might enjoy One Size Fits All or other albums in that style ('Inca Roads' was OK on some V.A. compilation), but the ones I've listened from start to end have been more or less junk to my ears. But this very concert material (shot in New York 1984) that I happened to borrow from library is my ultimate "I CAN'T STAND FRANK ZAPPA" -experience. I nearly threw up.

The opening instrumental 'Zoot Allures' was pretty good and intelligent jazzy piece, but the rest is awful "humorous" riff-raff with fast-paced vocals, both solo singing and 'barbershop'- type ensemble singing, and complex time signatures just for the sake of it. Often it really doesn't sound any better than an improvisatory joke singing emphasized on the lyrical content would sound. The playing is skilful, no doubt of that, but WHAT they play is mostly irritating to me. And when they are tastelessly mocking gays on 'He's So Gay', my measure was full (I don't know any gays personally, but it looked VERY offensive).

If I can help someone like me to decide NOT to waste his/her time on this stuff (guaranteed to unplease if sharing my taste), this silly review is justified. Besides, the visual quality can be judged quite poor objectively too. Anyway, I still have perspective enough to think that this probably was the worst possible item for trying to get into Frank Zappa's music. IF I come across into some more suitable album, I'll give him ONE more try.

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Send comments to Matti (BETA) | Report this review (#116631)
Posted Thursday, March 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars I think this is a great start to Zappa,i find these songs easily listening in comparison to Zappa's otherwork,the music itself is still musically changeling compared to other music dvds but compared to Zappa's standard you could almost dance to it. Humour is a big factor for this dvd with the songs and the visual throughout but if your looking for more then just a live preformance i highley reccomend baby snakes.

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Send comments to mrcozdude (BETA) | Report this review (#134780)
Posted Saturday, August 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars For one who grew up on "Hot Rats" and an admirer of Zappa's pre-'80s works, this release is rather a non-event. Indeed, if it was my first experience of his works, it's very likely that it may have ended up to be my last, too.

There is nothing really wrong with the performance, but nothing much right either - that's in comparison. I bought the CD release many years ago, but I've let it go just after one spin. Still, there is little material available on Video (and sadly, hardly anything of his '73-'75 period many considers as his best). With that in mind I've obtained this DVD, not really expecting much from it.

So what's "not right" with it? A few things. Undoubtedly, the musicianship is generally excellent. bordering on shamelessly confident perfection and the song selection covers different periods. But Frank knows how to ruin an otherwise well-crafted tune and he is rather prone to do that far too often.

Re-writing a piece may represent improvements, but with Frank it's often the opposite. The hurried delivery of "Dinah-Moe Humm" is a prime example of that and enough to create disappointment. Unfortunately, such sped-up versions of otherwise great compositions appear quite frequently in his live renditions, representing a huge let-down. As if Frank was treating his audience with a degree of contempt.

On a different matter, I have become quite weary of the presence of Scott Thunes (bass). He plays with clinical - and rather robotic - precision that I find extremely irritating. On his blog- page, he admits to difficulties with improvising. Well, that is painfully obvious to me and practically it means that wherever he is featured represents my least fave Zappa releases. (Sorry Scott, but I just had to touch on this.)

My overall impression of this DVD is that hired hands delivering what Frank has paid for, but the true essence of the music is not really present.

If you are keen to watch an absolutely brilliant Zappa DVD, then "Zappa Plays Zappa: by Dweezil is the one. Great song selections with fantastic, heartfelt delivery fill that gap that Frank has largely ignored in his lifetime.

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Send comments to BORA (BETA) | Report this review (#880334)
Posted Saturday, December 22, 2012 | Review Permalink

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