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Published: 2007/06/25
by Brian Ferdman

Frank Zappa Classic Albums: Over-Nite Sensation and Apostrophe()

Eagle Rock
It works like this. If you take a kind of a melody, I dont care if its Hawaiian music or whatever it is, and you play it with a Fuzztone guitar and a certain kind of a drum beat, people will call it rock n roll. But what you got is a Hawaiian song, so how are you going to categorize it? Frank Zappa
With a career that spanned over thirty years, over 60 officially released albums, and thousands upon thousands of hours of live concert footage, Frank Zappa has a cannon of work that can appear quite daunting to the outsider. Where does one begin when attempting to understand a prolific artist of this magnitude? Well, the Classic Albums series would like to direct the uninitiated toward Zappas Over-Nite Sensation and Apostrophe(), as both albums are profiled in a new documentary that draws on archival interviews with Zappa, along with recent chats with Dweezil Zappa, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Alice Cooper, Steve Vai, Billy Bob Thornton, and more.
As Zappas style would evolve and incorporate new sounds, his band would continually change. However, he essentially had the same unit intact for the recording of these two seminal albums in 1973 and 1974. A notorious taskmaster, Zappa rehearsed his ensemble religiously, and they were in fine form when they went into Ike Turners studio to begin recording Over-Nite Sensation. In one of the more interesting aspects of the documentary, it is revealed that Tina Turner and the Ikettes sang uncredited backup on this album, each collecting a surprising $187.50 for seven contracted hours of work. Later, during Dweezils deconstruction of the mix, Tina Turner is heard singing Zappas trademark ridiculous lyrics, such as Dont bite me, on the song Zomby Woof.
Speaking of this deconstruction of the mix, Dweezils efforts here are the sure-fire highlight of the film. As he removes track upon track from the sound, we begin to comprehend Zappas genius. So many layers went into his compositions, creating a dense sound that was filled with intricate subtleties and nuances that only made sense when compiled together. We also learn the advantages of recording in analog as Dweezil discusses how the vocals of Dirty Love were recorded at a slower speed and then pitched backed up, something that is impossible to accomplish when recording digitally. In addition, Dweezil demonstrates how the bands own sense of dynamics had Dinah-Moe Humm mixed well before the engineers even started playing with the levels.
The extras on this release are really essentials. Dweezils lengthy efforts on the mix are included here in their full glory, and we learn how Ruth Underwoods marimba was electrified by drilling transducers into each one of the bars. However, the real stars are the live cuts, particularly the jazzy Montana from 1973 and Im the Slime from a 1976 episode of Saturday Night Live. The latter is especially thrilling because Zappa did what few other artists did at the time or have done since, as he turned his promotional gig on SNL into a real performance art piece. It was indicative of Zappas unique approach to his art: always thinking on a different plane and staying on the cutting edge. That attitude permeates both Over-Nite Sensation and Apostrophe(), and its rightly celebrated on this informative and entertaining film.

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