Frank Zappa - The Freak-Out List DVD Review ~ BrooklynRocks: NYC Music Blog

Friday, May 28, 2010

Frank Zappa - The Freak-Out List DVD Review

Frank Zappa - The Freak-Out List DVD ReviewIn 1966, Frank Zappa listed 179 names as influencers in the inside cover of the Zappa & the Mothers debut release Freak Out. The Freak-Out List takes an in-depth and fascinating look at a cross-section of names from this list. Zappa's influences from three musical genres are explored in detail - classical, doo-wop and jazz.

The disc starts with an in-depth look at classical composers Edgar Verese, Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg and how their composition style (twelve tone technique, cut & paste writing, etc.) directly influenced Zappa's music. There are some great clips of Zappa from the Freak Out era (unfortunately, there are no complete songs) along with a later-day clip of Zappa directing a performance of Verese's "Ionisation". One of the narrators mentions that Zappa recorded an unreleased album of Verese pieces entitled The Rage & The Fury.

The doo wop segment highlights how the vocal harmonies (with groups like Hank Ballard & the Midnighters and Richard Berry & the Pharaohs) and blues guitar riffs (Johnny Guitar Watson) of this era influenced Zappa's late-60's albums. A lot of focus is given to Johnny Watson and his friendship with Frank. Watson played on One Size Fits All (1975), Them or Us (1984), Thing-Fish (1984) and Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention (1985) and Zappa stated that Watson's "'Three Hours Past Midnight' inspired [him] to become a guitarist".

The final segment focuses on Zappa's pioneering fusion of rock and jazz sounds. This segment focuses on musicians like Miles Davis (and how Hot Rats predated the the sound of Bitches Brew). There are some great interviews with George Duke and he talks about joining the Mothers as the band's influences started moving away from doo wop and toward the jazz sounds that were on Waka Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo.

This is an engaging DVD as the story of Zappa's influences is told by music historians, Zappa biographers Ben Watson and Greg Russo and Mothers Of Invention members Ian Underwood, Don Preston and George Duke.

Frank Zappa