ZAPPA PLAYS ZAPPA (CD Review)
By HAL HOROWITZ
Published in The Sunday Paper (Atlanta) - June 8, 2008
It’s not just son Dweezil playing dad Frank’s music for the “Zappa Plays Zappa” tribute. He brings along an extended and jaw-droppingly talented band, including Zappa alumni Steve Vai, Napoleon Murphy Brock and Terry Bozzio, to faithfully reconstruct the late Zappa’s live show.
Whittled down to a more manageable single disc from the double, two-hour plus DVD, “Zappa Does Zappa” does papa Frank proud with high-energy recreations of the elder’s better-known catalog selections. But the point of the Zappa Plays Zappa band is presenting Zappa’s music live for those who missed it the first time, or forty- or fiftysomethings wanting to relive the experience.
That makes this high-quality rehash fine as a concert souvenir, but of questionable worth for others. Since these songs are already easily obtainable in their original and arguably definitive versions, buying faithful reproductions seems to contradict Dweezil’s concept of exposing Frank’s music—not covers of it—to a larger audience. Additionally, tracks like “Florentine Pogen” and “Cosmic Debris” are already available in multiple studio and live configurations by Frank and his original band(s), making these admittedly excellent renditions somewhat superfluous.
For newcomers, Zappa’s combination of progressive rock, jazz, doo-wop, classical, metal and blues, all driven by his deep, dry, spoken vocals and devastatingly sardonic sense of humor, is unique and timeless. Revel in this music’s subtleties, acrobatic time changes and challenging, often confrontational rollercoaster intensity. And after you’re dutifully impressed, buy some of his dozens of albums or compilations, all of which have been zealously kept in print by the Zappa family. Dweezil won’t mind. 2 STARS