Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Classic Zappa

Classic Albums: Apostrophe (‘)/Over-Nite Sensation
By Frank Zappa
Eagle Vision

Frank Zappa has always been a rock artist with strong jazz crossover appeal. He was originally signed to the pop division of Verve Records, the jazz label, and if anyone fit Downbeat’s designation of “beyond” it was him. Two of his breakout records, featuring George Duke on keyboards, Apostrophe (‘) and Over-Nite Sensation are examined in the latest installment of the Classic Albums DVD series.

Zappa had a host of influences, including blues and doo-wop. We hear him discuss his early attraction to composer Edgard Varese, recalling:

“I just thought it was beautiful. I couldn’t understand it when my mother would start screaming at me to take it in the other room because it bothered her while she was ironing. I said but listen to the siren.”

Former Zappa band keyboardist George Duke’s on-screen interviews will interest fusion fans. At one point he gives props to Zappa’s blues chops:

“Frank could play the blues with the best. His technique was excellent and he was very creative as a guitarist.”

The level of commentary here is actually higher than in most rock docs. Alice Cooper, for instance, gives Zappa credit for lampooning hippies as well as the government. Audiophiles will also enjoy listening to Dweezil Zappa find buried treasures in his fathers master tapes and extol the virtues of analog recording.

Zappa was arguably an early post-modern ironist, whose outrageous humor sometimes veered into the explicit. He was certainly never boring, and it is hard to deny the appeal of a band with a transduced marimba. His loyal fans will enjoy this examination of his music, and the bonus material, which includes complete musical performances.