The acorn rolls back towards the tree…
Hard to believe Dweezil Zappa celebrates his forty-first birthday today, but if Return Of The Son Of is any indication, he’s just getting warmed up. This two-disc collection of majestic live music runs the table – rock, blues, jazz, swing and comedy. This could have easily fit into the Zappa Plays Zappa catalogue, but considering that unit was based on…well…Zappa playing Zappa, let’s forgive the nomenclature. It’s the music that matters.
The tracks were recorded over the past two years with most culling from a three-night stand in Chicago. Having seen the band three times during this period, I can attest to the flawless sound, dynamic arrangements and precision instrumentation that Frank Zappa fans always expected. When Dweezil started working on the ZPZ project a few years back he woodshedded for over a year to hone the style of playing that would do his Dad proud. Considering that Dweezil was already an established shredder of an axe man, that speaks volumes.
The title of the record harks back to and pays homage to Frank’s Shut Up And Play Yer Guitar series; in the liner notes Dweezil admits that his favorite moments are the lengthy solos where connects most with Frank’s music. “Each time I play a solo I try to imbue my own playing with some of my Dad’s idiosyncracies, both technically and sonically. At the same time I try to react to the moment and spontaneously create something melodic and musical. It’s not easy to do but I enjoy the process.”
The track listing is fabulous, from esoteric workouts like “King Kong” and “Inca Roads” to popular favorites from “Dirty Love” to “Broken Hearts Are For Assholes”. Probably most impressive are the tempo-shifting “Bamboozled By Love” and the incredible suite of “Billy The Mountain” (first done on Just Another Band From LA with Flo and Eddie handling the vocals).
The musicianship is phenomenal and the vocals are top-notch; there’s not a disappointing moment on either disc. It’s great to hear a band so in tune with each other that they are borderline telepathic (although Dweezil claims there are some mistakes). Everyone is solid but for me the unsung hero here – and at the live shows I saw – is Zappa archivist and drummer extraordinaire Joe Travers.
Live, no overdubs, and in all its pristine glory, this is one of the year’s best.
Happy Birthday, Dweezil, and thanks for the gift!
Dweezil Wiki page