Frank Zappa "Halloween"

By Patrick Cleasby

Hi-Fi World, January 2004


Zappa is shortly to be honoured with the Surround Pioneer Award at the 2003 Surround Music Awards. He released a couple of albums in quad versions in the seventies and had a multi-speaker set up at home long before such things were remotely common! Were he still alive there is no doubt that he would be actively involved in one or other of the high-resolution surround formats.

In his absence what could be better than recalling Joe Chicarelli, the original recording engineer of these 1978 live tapes, to assist Zappas eldest son Dweezil with the surround mix for this new DVD-Audio-only album? This is the second release from the Zappa family's new label, Vaulternative records, and it's a cracker. Now available here since DTS Entertainment arranged UK distribution, this title has shot into's DVD-Audio Top 10 sales chart, and the UK's residual Zappaphiles will be enjoying the immersive live experience this disc gives. Abandoning the 'proscenium arch' presentation more commonly used for surround mixes of live material, the intention here was to place the listener in the centre of a very noisy New York crowd. This may not be to everyone's taste.

Recorded one Halloween later than the fantastic performance immortalised in the Baby Snakes film, which is shortly to be reissued on DVD-Video, the band here is the short-lived double bass player line-up, playing up a real storm, and for bass lovers the low end is wonderfully fat and rich. Vinnie Colaiuta was the drummer, and the 24/96 surround mix features Zeets a wonderful, although completely unreal, drum solo spinning around the room. Unfortunately there was only room for a 24/48 version of the stereo mix of the album, but as this was conceived from the outset as a surround project, in this case the nevertheless excellent stereo version can justifiably be considered a bonus.