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Frank Zappa Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar album cover
3.73 | 72 ratings | 4 reviews | 31% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Boxset/Compilation, released in 1981

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. five-five-FIVE (2:31)
2. Hog Heaven (2:44)
3. Shut up 'n play yer guitar (5:30)
4. While you were out (5:53)
5. Treacherous cretins (5:26)
6. Heavy duty Judy (4:35)
7. Soup'n old clothes (7:40)

Total Time: 34:19

Line-up / Musicians

- Frank Zappa / lead guitar
+ Arthur Barrow / bass (1-2-3-5-6-7)
- Vinnie Colaiuta / drums
- Warren Cucurullo / rhythm guitar(1-3-4-5)
- Bob Harris / keyboards (2-6-7)
- Ed Mann / percussion (1-3-5)
- Tommy Mars / keyboards (1-2-3-5-6-7)
- Steve Vai / rhythm guitar (2-6-7)
- Denny Walley / rhythm guitar (1-3-5)
- Ray White / rhythm guitar (2-6-7)
- Ike Willis / rhythm guitar (1-2-3-5-6-7)
- Peter Wolf / keyboards (1-3-5)

Releases information

LP, Barking Pumpkin BPR 1111, May 11, 1981

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Bj-1 for the last updates
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Buy FRANK ZAPPA Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar Music

FRANK ZAPPA Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar ratings distribution

(72 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(31%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(39%)
Good, but non-essential (22%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

FRANK ZAPPA Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Petrovsk Mizinski
3 stars As well as being an influential composer, Frank Zappa was known (although perhaps to a lesser extent) as a great guitarist. A historical note that has always been very important to me about this album, even years before I had even heard it, was that Steve Vai, a virtuoso guitar hero of mine, transcribed a fair amount of this album, but at the time I had no idea how difficult the task would prove for Vai. Now, years later, I have finally got the chance to hear Zappa's Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar, and a fairly difficult task it must have been for Vai to transcribe the songs, especially when he was only getting paid 10 dollars per song he transcribed.

This is a fairly interesting album and very jazzy at times too, but there are many flaws about it that meant I couldn't seem to enjoy it as much as I hoped I would. Sure enough, we have a fine opening track, five-five-FIVE , which has the main musical idea of featuring two bars of 5/4 and one bar of 5/8, hence the title of the track. It sounds really crazy at the beginning, and it overall an enjoyable track and makes me think of an espionage mission, although I have no idea and doubt it was the intended feeling of the track, but regardless it sounds great. The rest of the album is of good quality in general, but it just doesn't always seem that great at capturing my interest and attention throughout it's duration, which is really unfortunate as I expected something really captivating from Zappa.

I have a great deal of respect for Zappa's abilities on the guitar, don't get me wrong, but it seems it wasn't just the compositions that failed to excite me that much, but Zappa's guitar work too is not always the most interesting and lively here.

Perhaps it could have had a saving grace in the form of being highly influential on the guitar world as well, but to be honest it doesn't seem to be, especially compared to Steve Vai himself, Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Tony Iommi et al. While I imagine this did influence Vai to a fair extent, I can certainly hear more Hendrix, SRV and Joe Satriani whom was his Vai's guitar teacher for a while, in Vai's playing.

A good album, but definitely not at the top of the guitar world heap, or Zappa's own discography either.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This album is kind of marginal Zappa's release, but dedicated listener will find there plenty of joy to his ears!

In fact, all this album is just a collection of live recorded guitar solo improvs played by Zappa (with support of his band, including great drumming of Vinnie Colaiuta and Steve Vai on rhythm guitar),and musical pieces is coming from some different sessions.

I agree that very often such kind of musical materials could be nothing but endless guitar noodles. Not there though. Frank genius even guitar improvs transferred to interesting compositions, with their own melodies and structures. Frank plays absolutely great guitar, and bigger part of music just sound as pre-composed pieces. Guitar technique is great, but all this album is far not technique demonstration. More like jazz-rock improvisation miniatures, played by real Master. Quiet accessible listening, this album is great for repetitive spins.

For sure more conservative listener should better search for more song-oriented Zappa's releases, but any Frank's fan, and anyone with love to great electric guitar jazz-rock improvs should pay attention to this album.

My rating is 3+.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Frank Zappa had this crazy idea that he wanted to create an album of just guitar solos taken from some of his favorite performances. He ended up culling enough material that he thought was great enough for 3 albums. The first of these albums was called "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar" which contains 7 tracks that, in the end, were mixed so that they flow from one track to another. Yet, it is still easy to discern one track from another mostly because of the changes in rhythm and texture of the song. Zappa wanted these albums to be for guitar-fetishists, no words, no tune, no lyrics, just one guitar solo after another.

These solos are not "stand-alone" tracks, at least not originally. Each one is edited out of a longer performance, usually of a song that Zappa fans would be familiar with if they heard the entire performance. For example, the first track on this album is called "five-five-FIVE", but it is just the guitar solo edited out from a performance of "Conehead" performed at Hammersmith Odeon in London on February 19, 1979. The title of the track as it appears on this collection comes from the fact that the meter that it is played in is 5/8, 5/8, 5/4. Zappa suggests that you count it like this: "One two one two three, one two one two three, one-and two-and three-and four-and five-and" repeat.

Continuing on with the album, the next track is called "Hog Heaven" which is the guitar solos from performances of "Easy Meat", the first part in Tulsa, OK on October 18, 1980 and the 2nd part from an unidentified place. At the end of this track, you can hear conversation, and you will hear that from time to time. When asked about that, Zappa said that he decided to add those little exchanges because he felt the record felt too flat without them. The title track "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar" is the solo from "Inca Roads" performed at Hammersmith Odeon in London of February 17, 1979.

One of the exceptions to the formula of editing the guitar solos out of existing performances is on the track "While You Were Out". Zappa always said it was hard to play a guitar solo in studio because he doesn't feel inspired so much in that setting. This particular track was however, recorded in studio with Warren Cucurullo on rhythm guitar and a drum track that already existed, recorded by Vinnie Colaiuta. Strangely enough, I find this one the best track on the album because it seems to be the most diverse from the others. It definitely has a unique sound and feel to it. The track titles "While You Were Art II" from the "Jazz from Hell" album was supposed to be a transcribed version of this track made for orchestra, but it didn't quite work out right, so the title was changed on the Jazz from Hell album.

"Treacherous Cretins" probably comes from a performance of "Inca Roads" though it most definitely comes from the concert at Hammersmith Odeon on February 17, 1979 and also contains overdubs recorded in studio on May of the same year. It has a definite reggae beat to it all the way through, which lays a great foundation for Zappa to solo over. "Heavy Duty Judy" was the inspiration for the jam of the same name from the album "The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life". However, the performance heard here is recorded at Berkeley Community Theater on December 5, 1980, so this was recorded 8 years before the version heard on "The Best Band?.". I'm not sure if this came from the performance of another track or if it is just a jam. The last track (and longest one) is called "Soup 'n Old Clothes" and comes from the guitar solo that was part of the performance of "Illinois Enema Bandit" at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on December 11, 1980.

Out of this album came two other follow up albums based on the same formula. There are plenty of Zappa-philes that want to just hear nothing but the amazing guitar solos by their hero. Frank got that one right, and always seemed to know what kept his fans going. Some may think these guitar heavy albums are a bit too much, too technical and heavy, but the more you listen, the more you appreciate them. The fact that Frank kept this album down to 35 minutes probably meant that in the back of his mind that sometimes too much of a good thing can be too much. Anyway, there is no denying his talent, and he is definitely one of the best. I prefer the albums with more variety on them, especially the ones more influenced by jazz and the inclusion of other players, but sometimes, you are just in the mood for Zappa's guitar. There is also the fact that this album is very well edited and mixed, without that choppy feeling that some of his heavily edited albums can have.

Latest members reviews

5 stars This colection of improvised guitar solos has become part of my life! If you are initially put off by the statistical density of it all just give it a few 100 spins.It helps if you are familiar with Zappa and his propensity to take long jazz like solos.Some of the best musos on the planet prov ... (read more)

Report this review (#30275) | Posted by | Saturday, December 18, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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