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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Ed Palermo Big Band

The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren

Review by Gary Hill

I reviewed an earlier disc from this outfit and loved it. Well, this keeps up that tradition. These guys take songs from other artists (last time they were focused on British Invasion stuff, and this time it's Frank Zappa and Todd Rundgren) and turn them into a jazz rock pieces. Yet they do it all with a great sense of fun. This is just a good time waiting to be popped into your CD player. I suppose it doesn't hurt that I really have a deep respect for the source material, but I would enjoy these even if I didn't. It earns points for the cool CD cover, too.

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Track by Track Review
The Solemn Z-Men Credo
With a bit of a science fiction TV show blast of sound, we get an acapella chorus after that.
Peaches En Regalia
They create a killer jazz arrangement for this Frank Zappa classic instrumental. It works very well in this format. I really love the horn section on this thing. There was always a lot of jazz leaning in this cut, so this version seems very appropriate.
Coming in almost like an extension of the previous cut, they create more killer jazz sounds on this number. Todd Rundgrenisms still manage to emerge in the melodies, but this is very much a big band piece here. There is an awesome violin solo section later in the tune.
Yer Fast
A bouncy cut, this is fun. It's the first to have vocals. I love the horn soaked section later. I know that this was originally done by Rundgren, but it really sounds like Zappa here.
Absolutely Free
A melodic movement opens this and the cut evolves into a different section from there. We're back into Zappa territory, and this does a great job of merging prog rock and jazz stylings. I like the changes and melodies on this a lot.
Breathless, Pt. 1
Coming from the musical visions of Todd Rundgren, this is a great melodic jazz prog tune here.
Big Swifty
This feels so much like the way Zappa might have done it as a jazz treatment. The quick shifts and changes are obviously Zappa. This is weird and fun.
Kiddie Boy
This is fun, bluesy rocker based on Todd Rundgren. This is another cut with vocals. I love the guitar fills on this thing.
They do a somewhat faithful rendition of this, but with a bit more of a jazz edge to it. The vocal arrangement feels very close to the original. I suppose I'm biased because this is one of my favorite Frank Zappa songs, but I think this is one of the highlights of the disc. The instrumental section is classy stuff, bringing a lot of pure jazz to the equation.
Emperor of the Highway
Bouncy and goofy, this is a fun piece. It's definitely weird and old fashioned in nature, but it entertains. The multiple layers of vocals are interesting.
You Are What You Is
Another Zappa cut, I love the guitar sound on this. The jazz stylings work really well. The violin soloing brings a lot to the table. This instrumental is classy and energetic.
Echidna's Arf (Of You)
This cut features The Louisiana Swindle Swingers. A bit goofy, it is also fun. I dig the scat singing on this. The whole vocal arrangement really drives it and makes it work. I think that it goes on a bit long, though.
Hello It's Me
This seems to come right of the previous piece. They play it pretty straight at the start. It does feel a bit slow to me, but that could be faulty memory. The sea of voices on parts of this works really well. The horn adds an almost Chicago kind of vibe.
Big Swifty Coda
This has some great jazz stylings built into its instrumental passages. It feels a bit like an extension or conclusion of the previous cut, despite coming from Zappa.
Wailing Wall
A mellow and quite pretty jazz arrangement permeates this. The melodies are classic Todd Rundgren. The full big band treatment serves this slow moving piece well.
Florentine Pogen
Coming in harder rocking and energized, again this instantly recognizable, this time as Zappa. This one gets more vocals that feel very much like Zappa, too. This has a cool jazz based jam mid-track. An organ solo section takes over later in the piece.
Bouncy and a bit off-kilter, while this is from Rundgren, it sounds more like Zappa in a lot of ways. This instrumental has some cool jazz stylings. At times it almost sounds like soundtrack music from some old movie.
Marqueson's Chicken
I love the cool jazz rock stylings on this instrumental. The back-and-forth between the guitar and saxophone is very classy.
Song of the Viking
This bouncy number is one that's from Rundgren's catalog, but seems like Zappa in a lot of ways. The vocals early bring that comparison. Still, later Rundgren stylistic elements emerge. This is definitely fun.
Janet's Big Dance Number
Coming out of the previous piece, this starts tentatively with just a bit of piano at first. Then the horn screams out and solos like crazy.
Broke Down and Busted
Piano starts this off before the vocals and other instruments emerge creating a cool jazz arrangement. This has a great groove to it. I love the instrumental section late in the piece. It really rocks. There are definite Rundgren melody elements here.
Breathless, Pt. 2
This short instrumental almost feels like a continuation of the previous number.
Zoot Allures
We're back in Zappa territory with this song that shifts this way and that.
Yer Fast (Reprise)
Here we get a reprise of the earlier cut. This has a really fast paced rocking sound here. The violin really delivers.
Hidden Track
There is a 25th track that's not included on the track listing. This starts with a lot of silence. Then piano enters and we the vocals delivered on track of that. It sounds like Rundgren. but apparently it's original. The lyrics are funny, and apparently the title is " Why You Bustin' My Balls Today?" It's an irreverent and funny way to end the disc.
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