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Frank Zappa - Jazz from Hell CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.43 | 254 ratings

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3 stars This has to be one of the most misleading album titles ever. With the title Jazz From Hell, and a listed lineup with many of the same people as on albums like Them or Us, you'd expect a lot of noisy jazz fusion. Instead, only one track, "St. Etienne," features the live lineup listed in the liner notes. It's a nice instrumental bit taken from a 1982 performance (of "Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch"), and Zappa's expressive guitar playing has mood and atmosphere to spare. The other instrumentalists don't do much outside of a pure supporting role, and the track feels like it would have just gotten thrown into the Guitar release had it not been put here, but it's a real treat.

The rest of the album, somewhat shockingly, is all Synclavier compositions, showing Zappa's greatest committment to the instrument yet. Seven tracks of this strikes me as a little monotonous, and I don't find all of them that entertaining, but there are some tracks on here that I like a lot. In particular, I'm fond of "G-Spot Tornado," where the main "melody" line is just so wild and bizarre, and the synthetic bass and percussion work so well with it, that I can't help but see it as one of Zappa's best instrumentals. I'm also rather fond of the opening "Night School," which has some elements of 80's adult pop, but which also has some very screwy melody ideas that sound like quintessential Zappa. The title track sounds like a dark synthetic version of a 1970-era instrumental, and the closing "Massagio Galore" is just so awkward and bizarre that it ends up with a lot of power.

The other three tracks don't interest me a lot (one of them, "While You Were Art II," is apparently a transcription of an old Shut Up N' Play Yer Guitar track, but at 7 minutes even that novelty doesn't keep my interest forever), but they're ok. They kinda sound to me like outtakes from the Mothers of Prevention sessions, though I could be all wet on that. Anyway, if you're allergic to the Synclavier, you'll obviously want to avoid this, but it's a worthwhile purchase otherwise.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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