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Frank Zappa Sleep Dirt album cover
3.66 | 362 ratings | 19 reviews | 22% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1979

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Filthy Habits (7:33)
2. Flambay (4:54)
3. Spider of Destiny (2:33)
4. Regyptian Strut (4:13)
5. Time Is Money (2:48)
6. Sleep Dirt (3:21)
7. The Ocean Is the Ultimate Solution (13:18)

Total Time: 38:39

Line-up / Musicians

- Frank Zappa / electric & acoustic (6) guitars, keyboards (1), synth (7), percussion (4)

Vinyl & 2012 Universal CD editions
- George Duke / keyboards (2-5)
- Bruce Fowler / brass (4)
- Dave Parlato / bass (1)
- James "Bird Legs" Youman / bass (4), acoustic guitar (6)
- Patrick O'Hearn / bass (7), double bass (2,3)
- Terry Bozzio / drums (1,7)
- Chester Thompson / drums (2-5)
- Ruth Underwood / percussion (2-5)

1980s & 1990s CD 'remixed' editions
- Thana Harris / vocals (2,3,5)
- Chad Wackerman / drum overdubs (2,3,5)

Releases information

Recordings from the period 1974-76

Artwork: Gary Panter

LP Discreet - DSK 2292 (1979, US) All instrumentals

CD Barking Pumpkin Records ‎- D2 74238 (1991, US) Remastered by Bob Stone; vocals added and drums overdubbed on tracks 2, 3 & 5
CD Rykodisc ‎- RCD 10527 (1995, US) Reissue of 1991 remaster
CD Zappa Records ‎- ZR 3858 (2012, US) Mastered by Bob Ludwig from original 1977 Analog Master

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to darkshade for the last updates
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Buy FRANK ZAPPA Sleep Dirt Music

FRANK ZAPPA Sleep Dirt ratings distribution

(362 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(22%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(44%)
Good, but non-essential (26%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

FRANK ZAPPA Sleep Dirt reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
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.

Review by daveconn
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.
Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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

Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.
Review by Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by 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.

Review by 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.

Review by Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by LiquidEternity
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.

Review by tarkus1980
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.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by Warthur
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.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars

Frank Zappa continues to be the most misunderstood person in rock music, and his album "Sleep Dirt" continues to be one of the most misunderstood albums in his discography. It seems that there are conflicting stories out there about this album that is causing a lot of confusion, and I hope this review will help clear things up.

The Story of "Sleep Dirt"

"Sleep Dirt" came into being because of the now famous lawsuit with Warner Bros. that plagued Zappa and his music during the last half of the 1970s. For those that don't know the story, Warner Bros. (WB) demanded more albums from Zappa than what he was legally obligated to give them. This dispute came about because Zappa had given them a 4 disc album called "Lather" and WB rejected it because they thought they couldn't market a 4 disc album. So, to be nice, Zappa made 4 individual albums with material that came from these 4 discs: "Zappa in New York", "Studio Tan", "Sleep Dirt" and "Orchestral Favourites".

WB released "Zappa in New York", but then insisted that Zappa still owed them 4 more albums. Frustrated, Zappa then tried to release "Lather" on another label and WB sued, so he had to put that project on ice. WB grew impatient and in 78 and 79, released the other 3 albums without Zappa's consent. The label also commissioned album art that Zappa didn't approve, and the recordings were taken from the tapes that Zappa had provided WB without any overdubs or other studio enhancements. The sound was not up to Zappa's standards, plus the songs were taken out of sequence and other tracks were used that were intended for the shelved albums.

"Sleep Dirt" ended up getting the blunt end of the deal. First of all, Zappa wanted to call the album "Hot Rats III". Second, only two of the tracks that appear on this album were intended for this album; "Flambay" and "The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution". The other 5 tracks were meant to be used on "Lather". WB took the liberty to use the shelved tracks and released the record without vocals that were intended to be added before the music was released. Hence, the original LP version does not have vocals, but the tracks are all instrumental. When the CD was reissued in 1991, the vocals (sung by Thana Harris) were overdubbed in along with drums by Chad Wackerman, and this turned into a completely different album. Thirdly, as I mentioned before, WB used the master tapes without Zappa's consent. Zappa had the dolby versions of the tracks, but was not part of the production process since WB released the album without his okay.

In other words, if Zappa had his way, and if these 4 albums had been released as originally intended, we would have had an epic 4-disc album that showcased most of Zappa's styles. Instead, we ended up with 3 albums that were sort of sub-par, yet interestingly enough, still attest to Zappa's brilliance in music, just not as well as they should have. We would have also had what would probably have ended up being an excellent album called "Hot Rats III", which, by the way, would have sounded very little like what "Sleep Dirt" ended up being. As far as "Lather" is concerned, it was released later posthumously.

The main reason for explaining all of that is to clear up the reasons why this album is so strange and inconsistent, it originally wasn't supposed to be an album. But, this is what we ended up with. So, if you own an original vinyl, you probably have the all-instrumental versions of the tracks. If you own a CD after 2012, you have overdubbed vocals and drums. Either way, Zappa didn't have any say in the final production of this album.

Now let's get on with the tracks, because they all have stories of their own.

Track by Track History and Analysis

The album begins with "Filthy Habits" (7:33), a track that, in his live shows, Zappa used as part of the famous "Poodle" routine which was made up of "Stink-Foot", "Poodle Lecture", "Dirty Love" and finally "Filthy Habits". This track was originally intended to be on another Zappa-shelved 2 disc project that was to be called "The Night of the Iron Sausage". The album that was released in its place was "Zoot Allures" which was a single album and this track was left off of that album. This track also shows up on the posthumous "Lather" as it was intended, in a shorter version (6:02). This instrumental features Zappa on guitar and keys, Dave Parlato on bass and Terry Bozzio on drums. The edits on "Lather" come at 2:59 ? 3:07 and at 4:49 ? 6:04 in case you were interested. This is a dark and moderately slow instrumental featuring Zappa's moaning and whining guitar work. Completely recorded in-studio in 1976, it is a bit dissonant and quite heavy.

"Flambay (4:54)" is one of the vocal numbers. Since the vocals were added in later editions, it is apparent that this must be a part of some other idea in Zappa's head that didn't quite come to fruition as he would have liked. This track was part of a longer comedy sketch type opera that has become known as the "Hunchentoot" comedy. The tracks included on "Sleep Dirt" are out of order from their appearance in the comedy, and, of course, is not the entire story. The vocal numbers in the CD version are from the character named "Drakma, The Queen of Cosmic Greed". Again, WB released this unfinished and out of sequence, but at least Zappa was able to get Bob Harris' wife Thana Harris to sing the somewhat goofy operatic parts. The music is definitely of the avant-garde style, is done in a sort of dramatic way, as it would have been in the sketch. The track was basically recorded in 1974 with the overdubs added much later. Along with Harris and Wackerman, we have George Duke on keys, Patrick O'Hearn on bass, Ruth Underwood on percussion and if you have the LP, Chester Thompson on drums. On its own, it doesn't make much sense, but with the explanation above, it might make a bit more sense, but taken out of context, it just doesn't seem to fit with what Zappa intended. If you have the original LP, then it just sounds like a complex instrumental, which in my opinion, is better. The version on "Lather" is called "Flambe" and is cut to 2:05 with the vocals removed.

The following track "Spider of Destiny" (2:33) is another vocal taken from this comedy sketch. It has the same lineup as the previous track except Zappa contributes some guitar to it.

"Regyptian Strut" (4:12) was intended for the "Lather" album, but again was place on WB's "Sleep Dirt" album. It is thankfully an instrumental which starts with it's regal introduction and then showcases the band. The versions on "Sleep Dirt" CD and "Lather" are the same. The "Sleep Dirt" LP has Chester Thompson's drums while the 1995 CD has Chad Wackerman's overdubbed drums, but all other issues are the same as the original LP. Other than that, you get Zappa on percussion, George Duke on keys, Bruce Fowler on brass, James "Birdlegs" Youmans on bass, and the excellent Ruth Underwood on percussion.

"Time Is Money" (2:47) is the last of the vocal tracks. It pretty much has the same line-up as the other vocal tracks. It also makes a reference to the "Sofa" from past Zappa hijinx that Zappaphiles with understand, but other than that, it just doesn't stand on it's own the way WB used it.

"Sleep Dirt" (3:21) is one of the very few examples of an acoustic guitar solo recorded in studio by Frank Zappa, which he admits is one of his best in-studio examples. He complained that he never got a good in-studio guitar solo except for this one. The only other person along for this track is James "Birdlegs" Youmans playing acoustic rhythm guitar. At the end of this quite amazing piece of solo work is some banter between Zappa and Birdlegs when Zappa called him out on the tempo and he complained that his fingers got stuck. This unfortunately brought a premature end to the track.

The album ends with a track that was intended for the Hot Rats III album, "The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution" (13:15). This one involves some very interesting guitar from Zappa where he tuned his guitar strings all independent of each other, sort of similar to the sound heard on some Captain Beefheart tracks. I won't go into details because only a guitar player would appreciate it, but it results in a very interesting sound. You almost would believe that Zappa sped up the guitar part on the recording as he was known to do that, but that is not the case. At 7 minutes, Zappa changes to a guitar tuned "normally". The original intention of this track was to edit it down to 5:32, which is how it appears on the "Lather" release. The "Lather" release skips the first 4:43 minutes, then edits out a short 4 second section at the 7:30 mark. The line-up for this amazing instrumental that shows off Zappa's skills is FZ on guitar and synth, Patrick O'Hearn on string and electric bass, and Terry Bozzio on drums.

In Summary

So, that long spiel will hopefully clear up some questions on this odd album. It is actually a mixture of various tracks that were available that were meant for other projects and released by a greedy record label against Zappa's will. Obviously, all of these tracks would have been better off if kept in their original formats and then finalized by Zappa as most of the rest of his music was. All in all, it's not a bad album, especially if you get the version of it without the vocals. When they are added, they are out of place and completely inconsistent with the rest of the album, and it is no wonder that people listen to this album with a big question mark over their heads. But this is what we are now stuck with, and if you mostly ignore the vocal tracks, it's quite good, a bit more avant-garde than most of his "rock" albums, but I still enjoy it and own the original vinyl. That is how I would suggest you get this album. Or get the "Lather" album.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Sleep Dirt" is an album release by US artist Frank Zappa. The album was released through DiscReet Records in January 1979. It´s the successor to "Studio Tan" from September 1978. All material from "Sleep Dirt", was originally meant to be featured on the shelved "Läther" box-set. The original version of "Sleep Dirt" is entirely instrumental. Some of the tracks were initially written in 1972, and imagined with vocals, for a shelved stage musical titled "Hunchentoot". In 1982 Zappa opted to hire female vocalist Thana Harris to add vocals to "Flambay", "Spider of Destiny", and "Time is Money". He also made Chad Wackermann overdub drums on "Flambay", "Spider of Destiny", and "Regyptian Strut". The 1991 CD reissue of "Sleep Dirt" features these changes, which makes the 1979 original vinyl version and the 1991 CD reissue version of the album very different listening experiences. All original instrumental tracks were recorded between 1974 and 1976.

"Sleep Dirt" opens with one of the most intense, dark, and almost sinister sounding instrumentals in Zappa´s discography in "Filthy Habits". It´s an instant album highlight. "Flambay", "Spider of Destiny", "Regyptian Strut", and "Time is Money" follow, and it´s easy to hear that these clever, tightly arranged, and classical music influenced rock could have appeared as part of a stage musical. They are dramatic, theatrical pieces of music, with the occasional more fusion influenced touch. Having listened to the original versions without vocals, I personally have a hard time appreciating the versions featuring the added vocal parts, and the overdubbed drums are completely unnessary too (to the point where they lessen the listening experience), so my recommendation is to listen to the original instrumental versions. "Sleep Dirt" is completed by the beautiful acoustic guitar duo title track and the impressive 13:20 minutes long jazz/fusion instrumental "The Ocean Is the Ultimate Solution".

While "Sleep Dirt" may not have been released exactly how Zappa originally planned, this is the album release which ended up being presented to the fans, and as it is (the original instrumental version), it´s through and through a high quality release, featuring a powerful, detailed, and organic sounding production, high level musical performances, and intriguing songwriting. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Review #153 "Sleep Dirt" was released in 1979 but recorded between 1974 and 1976 and it was originally released as "Hot Rats III" (being "Waka/Jawaka" the second part of the unofficial trilogy"); even when this record is completely (or mainly, depending on the version you're hearing) instrume ... (read more)

Report this review (#2638012) | Posted by Uruk_hai | Sunday, November 28, 2021 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Sleep Dirt was released against Zappa's will, as a result of one of the multiple battles the maverick genius had against the record-company industrial complex. Despite this, it stands out to me as a not only great but balanced album. You can hardly find anyone more in love with Zappa's music, al ... (read more)

Report this review (#2204133) | Posted by handwrist | Monday, May 20, 2019 | Review Permanlink

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 ostina ... (read more)

Report this review (#29962) | Posted by | Sunday, March 6, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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, Ov ... (read more)

Report this review (#29961) | Posted by | Tuesday, February 8, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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. ... (read more)

Report this review (#29956) | Posted by | Tuesday, April 20, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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