Frank Zappa
Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar


4.5
superb

Review

by Zig'haloperidol USER (62 Reviews)
October 22nd, 2016 | 11 replies


Release Date: 1981 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A big collection of Frank's improvisational art.

Official Release #31 #32 #33

As well as being an influential composer, Frank Zappa was known, although perhaps to a lesser extent, as a great guitarist. Here it is a 3-CD's worth of nothing but all instrumental, improvised guitar solos, most of them recorded live between 1979-81, with really solid support from his backing bands; originally released as three separate LP's and later as a box-set. This trilogy consists in Shut Up 'N' Play Yer Guitar; Shut Up 'N' Play Yer Guitar Some More; and Return of the Son of Shut Up 'N' Play Yer Guitar. Depending on your attitude towards lengthy guitar improv in general, you'll love this one or despise the living daylights out of it.

The best thing about Frank as a guitarist is that he doesn't repeat himself much, if at all. There's no other guitar player alive able develop a solo the way Zappa could. The lead guitar on this album is really the focus, but listen carefully and you'll really dig the rhythm section a lot. There are some really nice and well composed drumming parts and bass sections along with keyboarding. Most of the time he solos over a static harmonic backdrop, or as Zappa himself liked to call it an "harmonic climate" usually consisting of no more than two chords played over and over. Above this "harmonic climate" Zappa improvises his sometimes demonic, sometimes very beautiful solos which are generally modal and exploit the harmonic ambiguities of the amp. For instance, the solos in each of the title tracks, from the three albums, come from performances of 'Inca Roads', yet each of them has its own personality and development. With all the tracks in general, the solos are clearly intended to be melodic and interesting and entertaining, never excessively drenched in feedback and never going into atonal mode.

Shut Up 'N' Play Yer Guitar: Opening with 'five-five-FIVE', named because one of the signature features of the song is the use of two bars of 5/4 and one bar of 5/8, in a flurry of ascending eastern scales. The title track is a furious take with otherworldly drums provided by Vinnie Colaiuta. 'Treacherous Cretins', an amazing beautiful solo over a "quasi-reggae" riff, is one of my all-time favorite Zappa's improv. Meanwhile, Shut Up 'N' Play Yer Guitar Some More starts off well enough with 'Variation on the Carlos Santana Secret Chord Progression', a take from 'City of Tiny Lights'; there is some cool guitar playing here and the track seems to flow nicely for me. On 'Gee I like Your Pants', I do like the fretboard pick tapping licks, not a common guitar technique at the time. Closing this second part is 'Pink Napkins', a jazzy version of 'Black Napkins', it clearly shows the Wes Montgomery's influence on Zappa.

In the third and final part, Return of the Son of Shut Up 'N' Play Yer Guitar, the title track is a great example of Zappa's ability to rework a song or solo. There were even points in the song where I ended up focusing a bit more on Vinnie Colaiuta's drum work, which of course serves to highlight the excellent sense of band dynamics I pointed out earlier. 'Stucco Homes' was definitely the stand out piece of 'Return of the Son...', Frank really bares his soul on this song. Delicate playing, with many well executed phrasings add up to a transcendental experience. I was so immersed in the dynamics, the emotions and the guitar playing in this song, I barely realized the track was indeed quite lengthy. 'Canard Du Jour', the real odd duck of the album, this one features Zappa on bouzouki, which for those wondering is a long necked balkan folk string instrument, and Jean-Luc Ponty on baritone violin.

All in all, this is a classic release from Zappa; a good effort to teach how to play a guitar, to show Zappa┬┤s rhythm complexity and band involvement, and to reveal some inspiring instrumental interludes from rock 'n' roll to jazz. However, if you do not like guitar oriented music this is certainly not the album for you. Having said that, there is a good amount of variety thrown in that keeps the album fun and moving smoothly, something which I find lacking in certain guitar releases. Any Zappa fan would surely find something to like on this album, but if you're new to Zappa's world, I don't advise you to start with this album.



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user ratings (109)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Zig
October 22nd 2016


1639 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

With this one, I wrote six reviews in one mouth (I mean, month), all about Zappa stuff. Gonna take a break.

Hope you like it!

Digging: Yoshiko Sai - Mikkou

ArsMoriendi
October 22nd 2016


25311 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

That 5... um

Digging: Depeche Mode - Black Celebration

sleepdirt
October 22nd 2016


508 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Zappa was playing out of his mind on the 79 tour, arguably to the best of his ability and particularly the Inca Roads from the European leg. Arthur and Vinnie let Frank go further on stage than what seems humanly possible. Joe's Garage was built around solos from this tour for crissakes.

Lord(e)Po)))ts
October 22nd 2016


41642 Comments


I wrote six reviews in one mouth

Digging: Edyth - Bare II

ArsMoriendi
October 22nd 2016


25311 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Since it's Zappa, it was probably my mouth



I'm such a whore ;(



Veldin
October 23rd 2016


3795 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

pos'd, mate. Zappa absolutely obliterates on these albums

tef
October 23rd 2016


197 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great work on the FZ discography man! 5 stars for this collection however is not quite accurate imo. You may like the album very much but you said it yourself; it's all solo's from other (original) Zappa compositions. As such the album doesn't qualify as a Classic in the way I go about this terminology. Keep on the good work of reviewing this brilliant guys albums. Gonna write one up myself too again I think

wham49
October 24th 2016


4528 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

although these albums are good, they are not at the top of ZApp's output.

Digging: Grateful Dead - Cornell 5/8/77

sleepdirt
October 24th 2016


508 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

What makes you say that?

wham49
October 24th 2016


4528 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

they are just extended jams, picked out from other things, not a fulled developed album, and as much as I like zappa jazz pieces, I do love his lyrics as well,

ArsMoriendi
October 24th 2016


25311 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This is the kind of album where the songs would make a lot more sense if you were actually at the concert listening to them...



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