FRANK ZAPPA — Shut Up n' Play Yer Guitar [3 Disc Box Set] (review)

FRANK ZAPPA — Shut Up n' Play Yer Guitar [3 Disc Box Set] album cover Boxset / Compilation · 1981 · Jazz Related Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
M.Neumann
Maybe a better title for this vanity act would have been "Shut Up While I Play My Guitar". Talk about self-indulgence: how about a 3-Disc compilation of his own guitar solos, culled by Frank Zappa from a wealth of concert recordings (Zappa and his various bands played a lot of live music over the years, and he taped just about everything).

The good news is that the music is never less than excellent, and frequently outstanding. Zappa was always an underrated musician, being considered more of a thematic artist, bandleader, and below-the-belt satirist. But he expected only the highest caliber of musicianship from his players, including himself, and even in piecemeal form the talent (his own and his band backup) is impossible to deny.

Also: the myriad performances here were edited seamlessly together into what could almost be one long instrumental medley. It might have been nice to identify specific concert dates, but you could always argue that the lack of any frame of reference forces the listener to engage with the music on its own terms. Removed from whatever context they might have had in the framework of a particular song, the solos by themselves take on an entirely different character: approaching the rarified strata of pure, undiluted music.

Three CDs of edited guitar jams might seem like too much of a good thing. But each disc is only 35-minutes long, more or less, and the entire package could have easily fit on a pair of CDs (or, with only a little more editing, on a single disc).

And after being dragged through the gutter of "Joe's Garage", or suffering the crude sexual sarcasm and homophobic muckraking in songs like "Jewish Princess" or "Bobby Brown Goes Down", it's almost a relief to hear nothing but guitar heroics, played by an ace.
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