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Monthly Archives: May 2014

Zappa part 2: the mother of inventive music

Almost a year ago now, I delved into the tireless mind of Frank Zappa, scratching the surface of his vast back catalogue of immense music. It is time to continue my dedication, solely focusing on the output of Zappa’s original band – The Mothers of Invention. Tune your ears.

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We’ll begin with that crappy old tune, Status Back Baby, lifted from the Mothers’ second album Absolutely Free. An album that heavily doffed its hat to many classical influences, particularly Stravinsky, Status Back Baby is a breath of poppy fresh air emanating from the album’s madness. Why does the whistle at 0.14 and 2.09 fit so perfectly? With doo-wop, a brilliant sax break at 1.09, abrupt staccato from 1.54 and comedic lyrics, this tune is a particular highlight from potentially my favourite Mothers album.

Fast forward to 1970, and we have Igor’s Boogie and Overture to a Holiday in Berlin taken from the album Burnt Weeny Sandwich. Music such as this is quintessentially Zappa – complex and intricate yet simple and digestible. Overture to a Holiday in Berlin is particularly apt, starting from 0.36.

A song based on double knit suits for portly gentlemen, Eddie, Are You Kidding? is taken from the live album Just Another Band from L.A. A bopping blues number with a great chorus, the real strength of this song lies right at the end with three beautiful minor chords, just after the vocal harmony interlude.

An instrumental number with unmistakable Zappa guitar work in between a superbly crafted melody, The Orange County Lumber Truck is taken from the predominantly live album Weasels Ripped My Flesh. Check out the persistent groove after the cacophony of instruments.

Looking back to 1966 and the release of Zappa’s first ever album with the Mothers, Freak Out!, and we have Any Way The Wind Blows. A straightforward love song with what sounds like a marimba, or maybe a xylophone, it was a sign of things to come.

Clocking in at just over a minute and a half, Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance from third album We’re Only In It For The Money (complete with Sgt. Pepper mock-up album cover) is a lighthearted gem with hooks to boot.

The Legend of the Golden Arches, my how I love this song. The instrumentation, the cascading opening lines, the layering, the restless grooves, the unpredictable drumming, the odd time signatures, the trickling nature of the latter part of the song, I could go on………..taken from the Mothers’ fifth album Uncle Meat.

To finish, a song that is right up there with Peaches en Regalia and Bobby Brown Goes Down in terms of stature, Let’s Make The Water Turn Black is the Mothers’ tour de force. Recorded for the album We’re Only In It For The Money, the ring of the opening piano gives way to a melody that will keep you humming for hours. It is truly infectious. For the album version with vocals, click here, but enjoy the live and speedier instrumental medley version below, taken from the album You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 1.

Bring more Zappa into your life! Enjoy.

Ok, ok, ok, ok…….I’ll give it a listen.

I cannot seem to get away from hearing about Snarky Puppy. Selling out gigs here, releasing new albums there, they crop up in articles, emails and clinics.

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The trouble is, is that I just can’t make my mind up about them. I imagine they are pretty mind-blowing live, as the below video for What About Me? (taken from latest album We Like It Here) clearly demonstrates. There are no problems in the talent department, and What About Me? is a riff laden, red headphoned monster.  But what of the rest of the album? It certainly has variety and mood swings, but for some reason hasn’t hooked onto me yet. Is it the overly crisp production? The feeling of being a little too precise?

Let’s cast aside the lingering doubts for a minute and get this straight – riff at 0.45, jazz organ at 1.30, drums from 5.13 to 5.55. Too good.

I usually love this kind of music, so I am befuddled as to why I feel like I am trying to like this behemoth super group. Perhaps I will have changed my tune in a week or so.

Anyhow, you’ve probably heard of Snarky Puppy by now. If not, welcome.

Scratch, crackle and pop

It’s dark, raining and overall thoroughly miserable outside. I, however, am stowed away in my warm flat, looking out on the gloominess with a feeling of serene comfort. What perfectly accompanies my mood?

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If I ever needed a song to bring me out of a cold temperament and place me into a warm slumber, then this is it. If you have yet to experience Miles Davis in your life, then shame on you! Rouge is arguably my favourite jazz tune ever. Taken from one of the best jazz albums ever, Birth Of The Cool. The twisting, opening brass lines, the glorious production and the perfectly understated solos make this a desert island disc.

And so to the next legend, a certain Mr. Charlie Parker with Marmaduke. Though we are treated to a blaring melody to begin with, the arrangement softens as it goes on and finds its way to those cockles.

With a clearly apt title, Bill Evan’s arrangement of Here’s That Rainy Day is delicate yet forceful,  the exertion of the playing upon the keys distinctly clear. Sink back and stay there.

Finishing with a modern piece by an almighty force on the current British jazz scene, Troyka’s Crawler is dark, minimalist, and very bloody creepy. It could literally be a black, stormy night.

If you are not able to hear the rain at night, I take pity on you. But, you can just listen to these tracks instead and imagine my inner peace. Enjoy!