The Battalion. (College Station, Tex.) 1893-current, December 12, 1986, Image 20

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"Jazz from Hell"
Frank Zappa
Barking Pumpkin
To say that Frank
Zappa is one of the
strangest figures in
American music would be
an understatement. For
20 years, he has been
making innovative music
that defies both
classification and mass
Strong social criticism
and bizarre music have
been Zappa’s specialties
since he released his first
album, “Freak Out,” in
1966. Zappa’s music
often contains some of the
most satirical and
offensive lyrics in the
history of rock ’n’ roll. He
is not afraid to tackle any
issue and will not be
subtle in his attacks. His
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outspokenness has made
him one of the music
industry’s worst enemies
and his participation in
last year’s “Pom Rock”
hearings did not earn him
many new friends.
As a musical innovator,
Zappa has few equals. He
combines rock, blues, jazz
and avant-garde styles to
achieve a unique blend of
music. Aside from albums
of rock music, Zappa has
released musicals, operas,
concertos and
symphonies that have
achieved critical, if not
financial success.
“Jazz from Hell” is a
fully instrumental
synthesis of jazz, avant-
garde and space age
music. Except for one
song, the entire album is
performed on the
Synclavier, a high-tech
combination of
synthesizer and computer.
The Synclavier, the most
advanced instrument of its
kind, has unlimited
possibilities. It can
produce almost any
sound or combination of
sounds imaginable by
either producing the
sound through electronic
means or by “sampling”
sounds from other
sources and reproducing
them in various fashions.
It can be played like a
keyboard or programmed
like a computer. You
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Zappa took music of
different jazz styles, added
some of his own ideas and
ran everything through
the Synclavier to get the
music on “Jazz from
Hell. ” It’s easy to hear a
be-bop jazz influence on
“Night School, ” the first
track on the album. It’s
harder to place specific
styles but the rhythms of
jazz infest each track.
Newer musical styles
can be heard on “The
Beltway Bandits” and
“Damp Ankles. ” Zappa
uses a minimalist style
similar to the works of
Philip Glass for “The
Beltway Bandits. ” “Damp
Ankles” is more
mechanical and sounds
like a European industrial
piece. The title track has a
unique rhythmical style
that’s vaguely African.
“St Etienne” is the
only song performed by a
band. Guitarists Steve Vai
and Ray White,
keyboardists Tommy
Mars and Bobby Martin,
bassist Scott Thunes,
percussionist Ed Mann
and drummer Chad
Wackerman join Zappa
for this hot little number.
After hearing Zappa’s
guitar work on “St
Etienne, ” you might wish
he had gotten away from
the Synclavier for more of
the album.
Zappa is a great
musician and composer,
and the Synclavier is a
fantastic instrument that
needs to be exploited, but
there is a major problem
with “Jazz from Hell. ”
The Synclavier is so much
a computer that it’s hard
to tell if the incredibly fast
riffs on “G-Spot
Tornado” and
“Massaggio Galore” are
the product of Zappa or
the machine. With a
machine like the
Synclavier, a musician
could become obsolete.
—Review by Karl
"Havin' a Bad Day"
Dweezil Zappa
Barking Pumpkin
If Dweezil Zappa’s
father had released
“Havin’ a Bad Day,’’you
might think the album was
a joke — a parody of
heavy metal music. But
Dweezil seems to take
himself too seriously to
invite a laugh at the music
he’s making.
Dweezil’s father, Frank
Zappa, has made some of
the most strange and
interesting music in rock
’n’ roll history. It comes as
no surprise that other
members of the Zappa
family try their hand at
making music. In 1982,
Moon Unit Zappa and her
father released “Valley
Girl.’’The song was a
smash hit but few people
got the joke.
“Havin’ a Bad Day” is
Dweezil’s first album. The
entire Zappa family
participated in some
fashion — father Frank
produced, and mother
Gail, sisters Moon and
Diva, and brother Ahmet
Rodan provide vocals.
Drummer Chad
Wackerman and bassist
Scott Thunes, who have
played with Frank for
several years, provide the
rhythm section for the
The first two songs on
the album, the title track
and “Blonde Hair, Brown
Nose, ” are almost too
typical examples of heavy
metal garbage. Dweezil
tries to pattern his guitar
work after Eddie Van
Halen and his vocals after
David Lee Roth. At least
the lyrics to “Blonde Hair,
Brown Nose have a
slight satirical flavor.
“You Can’t Ruin Me”
is a little slower, a little
better and features Moon
on lead vocals. There is a
slight hint of teenage
rebellion in the lyrics but
Moon’s voice isn’t strong
enough to give the song
much of a bite. “Let’s
Talk About It, ” the other
song that features Moon
on lead vocals, combines
a childlike innocence with
a social conscience.
The two instrumental
numbers, “The Pirate
Song” and “Electric
Hoedown,”show that
Dweezil has a little bit of
talent. “The Pirate Song”
has some hot guitar licks
that would be more
interesting if Dweezil
wasn’t copying Van
Halen. “Electric
Hoedown” is a nice
country synthesizer piece.
Comedian Bob
Goldthwait is guest
vocalist on “1 Want a
Yacht. ” Backing vocals
are provided by Ahmet
Rodan Zappa, Gail
Zappa, Diva Zappa,
Kathryn Thyne and Bob
Rice, a.k.a. Yachtly Crue.
The best song on the
album is “I Feel Like I
Wanna Cry. ” Dweezil
mellows out and plays
some simple guitar licks. If
Dweezil would stop
banging his head and start
playing more stuff like this
he may have a future.
“Havin’ a Bad Day”
shows that Dweezil may
have inherited some of his
father’s talents but doesn’t
know what to do with
—Review by Karl