Frank Zappa
Sleep Dirt


3.0
good

Review

by Robert Davis CONTRIBUTOR (288 Reviews)
March 6th, 2015 | 44 replies


Release Date: 1979 | Tracklist


Despite not being Zappa's most memorable career effort, 1979's Sleep Dirt has a substantial amount of trivia surrounding it. Firstly, the album is Frank Zappa's first completely instrumental album. Secondly, it was one of three albums to be released as a result of Warner Bros. Records rejecting Läther, which followed the company demanding more albums (ironically enough, given the man's extensive discography) than Zappa's contract apparently allowed. Thirdly, it follows the grandiose rock opera of an album Joe's Garage, which many agree is one of Zappa's masterworks.

Putting all this aside however, Sleep Dirt often seems to have been forgotten about since its release-even by Zappa's most devoted fans. The exclusion of vocal input and a concrete concept running throughout the album-which was arguably the catalyst for previous album Joe's Garage-is non-existent. So, with Sleep Dirt, it was literally left to eccentric musicianship and the direction and structure of each song to hinder any flaws getting in the way. It obviously didn't prove successful, as at least half of the album is either too self-indulgent or not impressive enough to grant another listen-that is, unless you're used to Zappa's way of making music. For this reason, the second half of the album is naturally more powerful and explosive than the first. Because of how laidback songs like opener "Filthy Habits" and "Flambay" are (though not forgetting the evident jazz fusion within both tunes), one always gets the nagging feeling that something is missing-a piece of the ever-spiralling musical world gone walkabouts, if you will. It also doesn't help that the musical direction of these songs, along with "Spider of Destiny" and the entirely filler-based "Time is Money" seems to either go everywhere or nowhere at all. This causes a knock-on effect and eventually what we're left with is a forty-minute album where perhaps only ten-fifteen minutes is decent.

Thankfully, that's really the only flaw. Because as much as you'd want to hear Zappa's frenzied, zany, madcap vocal effects over his extensive, versatile use of musical experimentation, here it just wouldn't work anyway. The thing is, songs like the quirky "Regyptian Strut" and explosive closer "The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution" are instrumentally so powerful in their sharp delivery that vocals couldn't possibly improve the experience-more to the point, it would probably make it worse for the listener, in all honesty. Even the weaker tracks here have their own little magic, so that in the end the result is above average. The evocative percussion of "Spider of Destiny", the creepy, slow-moving jazz attack of "Flambay", even the more guitar-oriented style of the title track-everything here seems to have a mindset of producing a well-inspired collaborative effort. So, instrumentally, despite its inconsistencies, there are quite a few moments here to indulge yourself in.

That said, Sleep Dirt is really just a "good" album rather than a "great" one. Sitting down and listening to this album will, for the newcomers, definitely offer a taste of better things to come (or which had already come beforehand), and on the contrary give nothing new to the devoted fan-base. But each of the seven songs here all display a little piece of Zappa's musical forethought, something which he is remembered for more than anything else. To put it simply, Sleep Dirt is Zappa's version of uplifting elevator music, the elevator in question probably spiralling into unknown dimensions.



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user ratings (98)
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
ExcentrifugalForz
March 7th 2015


2124 Comments


an album I would've never gotten around to checking out if not for the good review

definitely worth a listen

Veldin
March 7th 2015


3889 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I freaking love this album. Side B is absolutely incredible imo

menawati
March 7th 2015


16587 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

last 2 tracks are golden, nice review

Veldin
March 7th 2015


3889 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Lather is the best thing ever

sleepdirt
March 8th 2015


511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Sleepdirt was released before Joe's Garage.

ArsMoriendi
September 17th 2015


27721 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

How does this only have a 3.0 for a review?

Digging: King Crimson - Red

sleepdirt
September 17th 2015


511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Maybe people have only heard the version with Thana Harris' vocals? They can be a bit off putting.

ArsMoriendi
September 17th 2015


27721 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I have both versions on my iTunes, you're right that the fully instrumental version is better

altertide0
September 17th 2015


3027 Comments


fav post-1970 Zappa together with Joe II & III and just behind Yellow Shark

ArsMoriendi
September 18th 2015


27721 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Rate it then! It desperately needs a boost

altertide0
September 18th 2015


3027 Comments


Haha, I'd give it a 3.0 so I don't think that would help ;)

ArsMoriendi
September 18th 2015


27721 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

But you said its your favorite post 1970 Zappa... what the hell would you rate One Size Fits All... :o

altertide0
September 18th 2015


3027 Comments


2.5, strong technically but tasteless and unoriginal.

This has all the technical prowess of One Size with much more free-form structures, broader sonic palette and none of its lame comedy, so this >>> One Size, no brainer.

ArsMoriendi
September 18th 2015


27721 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"2.5, strong technically but tasteless and unoriginal."



I love the comedy, it keeps it fresh, plus as much as I love Sleep Dirt, One Size is more palatable. I'd call it far from unoriginal, but okay...



It's a 5.0 in my opinion since it's everything I look for in a 70s album, technical, entertaining, lighthearted, and experimental... it's my favorite Zappa album other than We're Only In It

altertide0
September 18th 2015


3027 Comments


Comedy in rock music is great as long as it's, well, great. See Safe as Milk, Zappa's 60's stuff, The Who Sell Out, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band's first couple of albums etc. But post-1970 Zappa is usually toilet humour level.

It's pretty similar to Over-Nite Sensation and the 200 Motels period, not a shameless rip-off for sure but can't honestly call it fresh. Experimental? Well I wonder what surprised you on this album but ok.

ArsMoriendi
September 18th 2015


27721 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I mean I love Safe as Milk and Zappa's 60s stuff, but I felt that his 70s stuff is in the same vein with a bit more of a commercial tinge and I don't see how that really takes away from the value of the music.



Inca Roads is pretty out there, but I guess the rest of it really isn't, but I appreciate it a lot, I guess you don't really care for his more jazz-fusion oriented prog...



Also 200 Motels was a mess (one of my least favorite Zappa releases) and I wouldn't compare it to One Size even a little. And Over-Nite was mostly funk oriented and One Size doesn't even have any funk even on it... so are you sure you know what you're talking about?

altertide0
September 18th 2015


3027 Comments


"in the same vein with a bit more of a commercial tinge and I don't see how that really takes away from the value of the music"
It takes away from the value of music because what I highlighted is a very good definition of "boring".

"Inca Roads is pretty out there"
It is pretty complex technically but does that equal being "out-there"?

"I guess you don't really care for his more jazz-fusion oriented prog..."
Yeah, and that's why Sleep Dirt is my top3 of his post-1970s period (closely followed by Waka/Jawaka and The Great Wazoo btw). :D

"Over-Nite was mostly funk oriented and One Size doesn't even have any funk even on it... so are you sure you know what you're talking about?"
Yeah, Over-Nite has some funk, Apostrophe is a bit more straightforward, and One Size is more jazz-fusion, but does that really make them so different that it's hard for you to accept me saying that they're similar? Aren't they all accessible comedy records mixing mainly prog, hard and jazz rock?

ArsMoriendi
September 18th 2015


27721 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"because what I highlighted is a very good definition of boring."



I disagree since Zappa's already was already incredibly weird and creative as hell in the 60s, but was slightly less incredibly weird and creative as hell in the 70s but in a more palatable way.



"It is pretty complex technically but does that equal being "out-there"?"



Other than the crazy amount of time signatures, It's spacey as fuck, and has strange vocals mixed in and makes use of xenocrony, so yes.



"Yeah, and that's why Sleep Dirt is my top3 of his post-1970s period (closely followed by Waka/Jawaka and The Great Wazoo btw). :D"



That's also why it's still only a 3.0/5.0 in your mind, which means even at his best, Zappa didn't wow you at all in the 70s,



"Yeah, Over-Nite has some funk, Apostrophe is a bit more straightforward, and One Size is more jazz-fusion, but does that really make them so different that it's hard for you to accept me saying that they're similar? Aren't they all mixing mainly prog, hard and jazz rock with comedy and pop?"



And since when is mixing 5 different styles uninteresting in the slightest? You also forgot blues by the way since they all have their bluesy moments. Honestly although I consider We're Only in It to be Zappa's best, the 1973-1976 era of Zappa is my personal favorite. Hell, you can't honestly say most prog contemporaries were even half as diverse as Zappa during this period. King Crimson probably being an exception.



altertide0
September 18th 2015


3027 Comments


"Other than the crazy amount of time signatures, It's spacey as fuck, and has strange vocals mixed in and makes use of xenocrony, so yes."
Look I'm not saying it's a typical prog song but it's not that experimental either, compared to... oh but fuck it. Apparently it's impossible to generalize even a little when talking to you. "You also forgot blues". How could I



IHateRadiohead
September 18th 2015


342 Comments


Boognish does have a point. Plus he's not a bee.



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