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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Frank Zappa

Burnt Weeny Sandwich (vinyl)

Review by Gary Hill

This album, the final credited to The Mothers of Invention, features two vocal tracks, with the remainder of them instrumental. There is some intriguing music here. As you can always expect with Zappa, it's quirky and sometimes "out there." I like the majority of this set quite a bit.

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Track by Track Review
Side 1

This is an odd little doo wop tune. It's bouncy and fun.

Igor's Boogie, Phase One

This instrumental piece twists and turns with symphonic instrumentation going in odd direction. It's a short piece running just 46 seconds.

Overture to a Holiday in Berlin

Here we get another short instrumental, but this one is about a minute-and-a-half long. It's also rather symphonic, but seems twisted and almost chemically altered. That brings an air of psychedelia to it. It ends abruptly.

Theme from Burnt Weeny Sandwich
A sound like a whip crack begins this track. The number builds outward gradually, turning toward a cool rocking groove as it does. Odd incidentals come across all over the place as this instrumental drives forward. It's very much trademark early Zappa.
Igor's Boogie, Phase Two

Phase two of this is 35 seconds long, and definitely feels like part of the same piece. It has a bit of a strange circus music feel to it, also, though.

Holiday in Berlin, Full Blown

The neo-Classical elements that bring this in feel almost like a continuation of the last number. This grows out to more of a trademark Zappa jam from there. They take us through a number of twists and turns as this instrumental plays through. It drops way down as almost a reinvention near the half-way mark. This eventually becomes sort of a psychedelic rock jam before it ends abruptly.

Aybe Sea
Intricate and classical in nature, this piece is quite pretty. I love the harpsichord, but that is one of my favorite instruments, so it's no shock. It does have some Zappa trademarks built into it at times. It works into some stranger zones for a while and some acoustic guitar gains a level of prominence. Piano takes over later and holds it by itself to the end.
Side 2
Little House I Used to Live In
At over 18-and-a-half minutes, this is the epic of the album. Piano starts the cut in a jazz turned classical way. It holds the track for more than a minute-and-a-half and serves as the introduction. The full band jump in from there with a trademark Zappa arrangement that is decidedly progressive rock oriented. It dissolves into some weirdness for a short time around three-and-a-half-minute mark. Then it explodes back into twisting and turning Zappa jamming from there. There is a guitar soloing over drums movement further down the road. It turns to almost a blues jam as violin powers through some soloing. They work out into a fusion-styled jam while that instrument is still driving it all forward. They take it into some really killer territory as they work onward. Eventually drums and piano get sole control of the piece. That piano gets pretty crazed at times. the violin returns to join them as this marches forward. They make an abrupt, jazzy, timing change as that violin wails like crazy. This thing pounds out from there with a more full treatment. It seems to reach a peak, but then it gets reinvigorated and drives onward. That gives way to a noisy crescendo with some screaming soloing. It drops away leaving just the violin for a time. Then a completely new arrangement with a mellower keyboard magic emerges. The cut works forward from there, feeling a bit like soundtrack music. There are easily recognizable Zappaisms in this building section. It explodes out into fast paced controlled chaos as it continues. They take it out and there is some stage banter and such that serves as the actual ending here.
They end the album the same way they began it, with a 50s styled rocker. This time around it's a cover of a song by Jackie and the Starlites. Neither of the 50s things are the kind of thing I generally enjoy, but the bookmark effect of the two vocal, song things at the beginning and end of the disc works pretty well.
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