Frank Zappa: Sleep Dirt

By Cole Springer

Trouser Press, May 1979

FRANK ZAPPA Sleep Dirt DiscReet/Reprise OSK 2292

By the time you read this, Frank Zappa's newest new LP, Sheik Yerbouti, will be available on the newly-formed Zappa Records label. I'm sure it will be a good album, but it will have to go some distance to beat February's Sleep Dirt. For my money, Dirt is quite simply the most exciting and complete album Zappa has released in at least four years.

Zappa's title for Sleep Dirt was Hot Rats 3 (Reprise changed it) and it 's easy to see why after just one listening. It's a purely instrumental LP, spotlighting Zappa's guitar and his jazz-tinged compositions and arrangements. A heavenly chorus of overdubbed feedback guitars gets things underway on the first track "Filthy Habits ." An ironic title, since it features some of his cleaneast guitar playing ever and shows him to be a master of feedback control. There's even a backwards guitar track on this baby!

"Flambay / Spider of Destiny" is an extended piece in a quasi-waltz tempo which begins with a quartet comprised of piano, marimba, acoustic bass and drums. After the two lead instruments take turns in stating the elusively beautiful theme. Zappa's guitar is introduced and proceeds to embroider the proceedings. The first side ends with "Regyptian Strut," a swinging big band number. The arrangement is exquisite, a heady blend of horns, piano and marimba underpinned by a massive electric bass part.

Side two opens with 'Time is Money," a short burst of melodic guitar interspersed with crazed percussion figures as only Zappa can compose them. The title track follows and it alone is worth the price of the album. It's a live acoustic guitar duet with an unidentified rhythm guitarist which shows us a whole new side of Zappa. I've always known the man could find his way around a fretboard, but his playing here still makes my head spin in amazement.

The final track, "The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution," is a lengthy uptempo blast. The bassist cooks away as Zappa plays clipped, jazzy chords on what sounds like a hollow-body electric before switching to a more solid tone for the solo which brings the album screaming to a stop.

This is definitely one of the best record albums Frank Zappa has ever made. Period.

- Cole Springer