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Frank Zappa - Frank Zappa Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa: A Memorial Tribute CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.74 | 38 ratings

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4 stars In 1993, Frank Zappa passed away way too early in his life. His son asked his father what he would consider were his most definitive guitar solos and Frank said "Black Napkins", "Zoot Allures" (both of there from the Zoot Allures album) and "Watermelon in Easter Hay" (from Joe's Garage). Dweezil then put together this collection of guitar music to represent FZ at his best as a guitar virtuoso. The album is arranged by taking each one of these 3 titles and featuring an amazing live performance followed by the original recording of the same song. This may sound redundant, but, if you are familiar with Frank's amazing live performances, you know how that is not true. This album, which is available only by download from the official Zappa website, is an excellent example of how Frank was so versatile and prolific in his live performances and how much his music would vary as Frank would make each performance unique.

This collection starts out with "Black Napkins" performed live in Yugoslavia on November 22, 1975. This is a previously unreleased excerpt of that concert and featured the song before it was completely developed. It is definitely recognizable as the main melody is played, but takes on it's own life as Frank's improvised part commences. This is followed by the version off of the Zoot Allures album so it's easy to compare the two.

Next up is a 15 minute live version of "Zoot Allures" as performed in Tokyo, Japan on February 5, 1976. This long track seems to go by quickly and is an amazing version of the well-known solo. At about the 10 minute mark, Frank slips away into a version of his rare work "Ship Ahoy" which features some very nice and atmospheric guitar work that is quite minimal, especially on the part of the back up band, with a nice echoing melody that those familiar with the "Ship Ahoy" song will recognize. After this track, the pattern is temporarily disrupted by an original previously unreleased song called "Merely a Blues in A", which is not available anywhere else. This is an improvised piece done live at Paris, France in 1974, when the crowd demanded an encore and the band had run out of material to perform, so they improvised this on the spot. Again, another excellent example of Frank's ability. It is a simple blues base with Frank playing his guitar over it all. Following this is the original version of "Zoot Allures" from the album of the same name, as we find ourselves placed back into the pattern.

The next live performance is that of "Watermelon in Easter Hay" which is a favorite of a lot of Zappa fans because it is such a beautiful melody and an excellent starter for great improvisation. The live version is performed in Germany on February 24, 1978. The rhythm on this version is a little faster than the original and has very little backup from the band. To me, it is hard to compare this favorably to the excellent original version which follows. This version is from the "Joe's Garage Vol. 2 & 3" album and it also features a live version of Frank's solo with studio backing from the band. This is, like I said before, the most beautiful and memorable of all of Frank's solos.

This is an excellent collection of Frank's most inspired guitar work, but it's weakness is in the repetition of the songs, even if it is a minimal weakness because of the treatments of the songs here put together for your comparison. I can't fault the album too much for that, but there are a lot of other great guitar collections that are available from FZ. I will say, though, if you don't mind the high price tag of this collection, that this is still a 4 star collection just because it is the master, after all, doing what he does best. There are no vocals except for some announcements from Frank while conversing with his various audiences and a little bit of other minor interaction. The focus is entirely on Frank's guitar work.

TCat | 4/5 |


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