Dweezil Zappa’s new album – Via Zammata’ features him playing Fretless Guitar, Glissentar and Oud in what is certainly his best album to date. Dweezil Zappa’s father, Frank Zappa also played Fretless Guitar and it is really hard when a famous musician’s son comes to create his own music. Inevitably there are comparisons and that is just the way things work. You can hear the father / son influences but that is not a bad thing as Dweezil is one hell of a good guitarist and musician, you only have to listen to this album to verify that statement.
Track List & Credits
- Funky 15
- Rat Race
- Dragon Master
- On Fire
- What If
- Jaws of Life
- Just The Way She Is
- Billionaire’s Son
Produced and arranged by Dweezil Zappa © 2015
This is Dweezil’s fourteenth solo album, and this one firmly establishes him as a musical force in his own right. For many years he has fronted the band “Zappa Plays Zappa” keeping his Father’s music alive and available to fans. So it is a bit of a treat to hear something Dweezil has put together. You can hear influences from the sixties and seventies, which is very true to the openness of his Father Frank, who would often guest very varied musical acts into his shows.
Let’s take a look at the album track by track, don’t worry, I’ll point out the Fretless Guitar bits!
The album starts off with “Funky 15”, and this is a great instrumental and the closest to his father’s work on the album. It could almost be off “Hot Rats” and is a complex work in 15/8 timing.
“Rat Race” was a song Dweezil wrote back in the early 1990’s which was updated for the album, the female group the Songbirds provide nice tight vocal harmony.
“Dragon Master” (the only track that Frank and Dweezil wrote together) starts off with an Oud riff which leads into a very over-the-top Heavy Metal number – ‘Satan is the Dragon Master’ repeated again and again, lots of tension and a very nicely chopped finish. Dweezil’s fretless Gibson SG features on the guitar solo. Frank Zappa wrote the lyrics in 1986, Dweezil Zappa wrote the music, Vocals by Shawn Albro.
“Malkovich” features actor John Malkovich reading Plato with a heavy surf (did I say that?) background. It is nicely constructed almost as if Kraftwerk had come out of California rather than Germany.
“On Fire” (written 1992) takes on a more “Beach Boys” harmony set with Dweezil also playing Sitar and Banjo, but you will have to listen carefully for them. (Sitar around 1:50)
“Nothing” written in the early 1990’s this harkens back to a very 1960’s psychedelic feel, all played with his Hendrix/Zappa Fender Stratocaster through a cranked up Marshall amp.
“Hummin” original version from 1993 also featured Fretless Guitar and this new re-arranged version features the Songbirds with Fretless solo using Dweezil’s Gibson Fretless Autotune Sustainiac SG. There are a lot of closely stacked vocals on the track, quite a treat.
“Truth” is by far the best track for Fretless Guitar on the album and in this instrumental the Fretless takes the place of the original vocals. The are some very Beatles like orchestral parts, think “I am the Walrus” or “Eleanor Rigby” and you will be close. The solo has a great fuzz tone.…
“What if” is a really catchy pop song that ends with a shimmering chord, very reminiscent of the famous “Hard Day’s Night” chord at the beginning of the Beatles single. Dweezil says he was aiming for “The Cars” meets “Gary Numan” on this track. A lot of this was recorded on analog tape.
“Jaws of Life” played on a Fender Telecaster tuned to “Open G” there are some great lyrics in this song: “You were probably smarter when you were a kid” for a quick example.
“Just the Way She Is” Dweezil says he borrowed the recording technique from his Father slitting the guitar signal many ways and including a clean direct sound, he uses an Eric Johnson model Fender Stratocaster for the solo.
“Billionaire’s Son” is pretty whacky, with a Mexican Trumpet section at the start, which runs into some slide parts reminiscent of George Harrison (at 1:15) played on the eleven string Fretless Glissentar, then the middle break goes into 1940’s vaudeville section (The Songbirds again) I think Dweezil does believe that humour belongs in music.
What an album! I like this CD the more I play it, it is so complex and I’m still trying to guess at some of the influences, it is almost like being a wine taster; I’m getting hints of The Who and the Beach Boys, with a dash of Small Faces and a finish (aftertaste) of Beatles, but there is an awful lot more I’m still trying to work out.
In a World of ever dumbed down music, this is a gem, and it features Fretless Guitar, so it ticks all my boxes, the production is impeccable and I look forward to more music, maybe it is time for “Dweezil Plays Dweezil”?