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Frank Zappa

Zoot Allures

Review by Gary Hill

This 1976 release was Frank Zappa's only set on Warner Brothers Records. It has the usual type of Zappa weirdness you would expect. Guitar madness is one of the biggest driving factors here. In fact, several of the pieces feel like guitar showcases more than songs. I previously reviewed the album's closer on Strictly Commercial. For the sake of consistency that track review is used here.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 1. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
Wind Up Workin' in a Gas Station
This starts with a hard rocking introduction. Percussion brings it in from there. Then the tune explodes to a gritty and fast paced jam that has a bit of a punky edge to it. The guitar is noisy and crazed. This works through a number of changes in an arrangement that is so typically Zappa that it's scary. It has plenty of weirdness and strange shifts in it.
Black Napkins
Some particularly tasty and expressive guitar leads this out. There is a soulful edge to the rhythm section and hints of backing vocals that are heard over the top. This is basically a killer guitar solo.
The Torture Never Stops
A cool sort of jazzy groove brings this thing into being. It almost feels like you've come in to the middle of something. The piece is the epic of the set at nearly ten-minutes long. This piece is a fairly straight-line approach, but it gets pretty exploratory at times. There are some female vocal sounds that don't really seem like "torture" or at least of the unwanted variety. I dig the whole mellow vibe of the piece. The guitar soloing is classy, too.
Ms. Pinky
A scream from the previous piece begins this cut. The number grinds out with a particularly low pitched element. This is fast paced, strange and so cool. The instrumental break takes it into some crazed bluesy zones.
Find Her Finer
There is a bit of a psychedelic edge to this in some ways. The cut has some hints of funk and blues, too. It's all trademark Zappa, though. I dig the changes and the groove of the piece.
Friendly Little Finger
The opening bit here has some hints of jazz and psychedelia. It's fast paced and tastefully strange. The cut works out to some killer guitar soloing based psychedelic fusion from there.  This instrumental is classy.
Wonderful Wino
This comes in with an almost heavy metal jam. The vocals bring in classic Zappa weirdness. There are some jazz elements in the mix, too. The hooks on this are contagious. The cut has some intriguing shifts and changes. It also has some tasty guitar fills.
Zoot Allures
One of the more purely progressive rock based pieces here, this instrumental covers some intriguing territory in an arrangement that has some definite jazz built into it.
Disco Boy
If you want weirdness here it is. The music is pretty straightforward through much of this, but the vocal arrangement is quite weird. The track, though, is quite cool.
 
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