An Evening With Frank Zappa During Which...
The Torture Never Stops

Frank Zappa

By the 1980s, Frank Zappa was well-established and totally independent, running the show and assembling dozens of musicians to play and interpret a vast variety of music — from progressive fusion tomes peppered with provocative, tongue-in-cheek lyrics to more complex, orchestral pieces. His label, Barking Pumpkin Records, as his launching pad, Zappa multitasked as producer, arranger, composer, conductor, singer and guitar player. In the process, he introduced a sensational crop of players to the world’s stages, including guitarist Steve Vai, drummer Chad Wackerman, keyboardist Tommy Mars, guitarist Ray White, multi-instrumentalist Bobby Martin and bassist Scott Thunes. These were the musicians who joined Zappa for a festive 1981 Halloween evening in New York City. The night was captured by a camera crew, and after numerous showings on various cable outlets and reissues, a 2010 edition of An Evening With Frank Zappa During Which…The Torture Never Stops has been scrubbed down, cleaned up and enhanced with a few extras to make it that much more special.

To get things started Zappa, dressed down in a red jumpsuit, wipes up the floor with “Black Napkins,” then ditches his ax to assume the dual role of singer and conductor for ‘Montana.” Zappa steps it up on the podium for the Baroquian stylings of “Easy Meat,” but eventually straps on the guitar to add some meandering fun. For the most part, however, Zappa plays frontman, ceding the steady guitar work to Vai and White, and getting plenty of vocal support from White and Martin, who’s especially captivating on the bluesy “Bamboozled By Love.” The jazzy intonations of “Broken Hearts Are For Assholes” give way to the marvelous “You Are What You Is,” “Mudd Club” and ever-so-poignant “The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing.” But then FZ trollops through “Jumbo Go Away” and you’re left wondering why this stuff isn’t universally loved.

Zappa and Vai exchange leads and fashion ideas on “Spanking Steven,” but for what Zappa refers to a “traditional Halloween number” — “The Torture Never Stops” — seems to hit all the right spots. At end of an encore of “The Illinois Eniema Bandit” from 200 Motels, the spirit and musicality of Frank Zappa is ever looming. Dig a little deeper into DVD’s menu by clicking on Yes & But Also, and you’ll discover a treasure trove of goodies, including maestro’s discography, DVDography, Liner Notes, Credits and Extras, Click on Extra and you get three extra tunes, “Teen-age Prostitute,” “City Of Tiny Lights,” and apparently another performance of “You Are What You Is.” There’s also a black and white photo gallery if you’re into that sort of detail. For the never-discerning Zappa fan looking for an entertaining overview of the man, the myth, the legend, An Evening With Frank Zappa During Which…The Torture Never Stops is something to behold.

~ Shawn Perry

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