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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Fido Plays Zappa

Atlantis and Elsewhere

Review by Gary Hill

Frank Zappa was arguably one of the most liberated song-writers out there. I say that in terms of not being restricted to most rules and certainly not genre. For that reason, his music is ripe for musical interpretation. This German outfit has made a career out of such license (it's right there in the name), and they create some killer Zappa music. This live album is a great example, and a very effective release. They manage to capture the madness and magic of Zappa in a way that both takes liberties and respects his vision.

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Track by Track Review
The Idiot Bastard Son (Intro)
A definite classical music element with something akin to Gregorian chant is on the menu here.
Weird jazz and rapid fire Zappa shifts and changes make up the bulk of this cut. I dig some of the piano parts and the guitar sound. The vocals at times lose me, though. This number is particularly dynamic and diverse. The soaring guitar solo section is particularly noteworthy.
Inca Roads
Coming out of the previous tune, the early parts of this has some definite space elements. The track works to more of the freaky jazzy Zappa sounds. This has vocals in English, but also plenty in other languages, too. This is tastefully weird and shows some incredibly intricate shifts and turns. The exploratory instrumental section after the two minute mark is trademark Zappa in terms of progressions and sounds. This is a powerhouse cut that works really well. There is some pretty crazed jamming that emerges later as this continues driving forward. Don't get too comfortable anywhere, though, as this has a lot of different movements and changes.
Eat That Question
This is a dynamic and intriguing piano solo at the start. It covers jazzy territory, stuff that feels quite classical and more. Around the three minute mark drums join as the number gets more involved.  Guitar and other instruments rise up further down the road as this turns into a hard rocking grind that is very cool.
San Ber`dino
With some musical oddities at the start, it's about a minute before the familiar strains of the Zappa classic emerge. I love the hard-edged blues rocking part of this cut.
Sinister Footwear II
Keyboard soloing of the synthesizer variety is on display with this killer instrumental jam. Other instruments join later as this becomes a killer fusion jam. It shifts more toward electronic prog near the end.
One of my favorite Zappa tunes, these guys put in a killer live performance. They take it a bit jazzier on the jamming sections. The only thing here that doesn't fit quite so well to me is the vocal performance, but it's all about the pronunciation of the words. In other words, that's about the fact that English isn't the first language for this vocalist. Still, it is quite an effective version of a great tune.
Jewish Princess
Another classic Zappa tune, this feels a bit more world music based than the original. That said, they take it out into a full=on jazz treatment with lyrics in German mid-track. It's an energized and fun rendition of the cut. It works well.
The Black Page #2
Trademark Zappa styled fusion is on display with this killer energetic jam.
Dupree`s Paradise
Another instrumental movement, this does a good job of extending out from the previous number.
I dig this one a lot. It's a dynamic cut that includes a great balance between faster paced rocking sections and mellower movements. It has a Bob Dylan styled vocal on the mellower section. There is even a bit of "Hey Jude" at the end of this.
Evelyn, A Modified Dog
This is a cool bit of Zappa weirdness.
Bobby Brown Goes Down
A harder rocking jam is on order here. A fun Zappa cut, I like the difference in flavor on this performance. They manage to catch all the important things, but still make it their own.
Uncle Remus
I love this version of the classic Zappa rocker. There is a real bluesy element at play here, and they really capture that.
Echinda's Arf/Don't You Ever Wash That Thing
The killer off-kilter jam that makes up the first section of this track is trademark Zappa. They deliver it with major style, too. The second gets into much more of a full-on jazz treatment that is so cool.
Cosmik Debris
I dig this version of the Zappa tune. It's another song that's among my favorites. While the pronunciations aren't all perfect, there is a little of a twisted dark rock edge to this that is so cool. There is a weird little interlude mid-track after a miss-cue. They through a cool blues rocking jam into the middle of this. They bring it back out into the song proper in fine style later and really rock it out.
Sofa No.2
With a lot of German speaking at its heart, there is a bit of country edge to this little number. I'm not sure if the speaking is more stage banter or actual lyrics. We get some German sung vocals later, though as more Zappa twists emerge in the process.
Dirty Love/Magic Fingers
A hard rocking jam, this is classy stuff. It has high energy and some great hooks. Of course, the tune at the core of the first half of this two-fer is one of my favorites from Mr. Zappa. The full piece works well in this live treatment.
Brown Shoes Don't Make It
Another killer Zappa tune, this has a lot of diversity and works through some interesting changes. Some of it is more successful than others, but that's a lot more to do with the weirdness factor than anything else. I really dig the cool jazz groove section quite a bit. It dissolves to some trippy space further down the road, too.
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