On Music: DVD captures Frank Zappa at his best

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

While streets buzzed with trick or treaters on Halloween 1981, Frank Zappa was playing two shows at New York City’s Palladium concert hall. Both shows were filmed, and only short, edited versions were released over the years. This year, however, the entire performance was released on DVD and appropriately named The Torture Never Stops.

Known by critics as an artist caught somewhere between blues, heavy metal and comical rock and roll, Frank Zappa made a career out of making statements other artists wouldn’t or had the creativity to flirt with. The 102-minute, 18-track The Torture Never Stops is chock full of vintage Zappa and the antics that made him famous.

Admittedly, Zappa was not all things to all people. Those who understand his genius won’t blink an eye at this project. Backed by the legendary Steve Vai on guitar, footage captures Zappa in rare form, conducting opus-like versions of “Harder Than Your Husband,” “Black Napkins,” “Dumb All Over,” and others.

While Vai’s brilliance is noted, watching The Torture Never Stops provides an inside look at Zappa’s masterful guitar playing, which has been overlooked by the satire that’s made Frank Zappa, well…Frank Zappa. The DVD showcases textbook chops, incredibly complex arrangements only Frank Zappa could invent, and wizards like Vai, Tommy Mars (keyboards), Scott Thunes (bass), Chad Wackerman (drums), Ed Mann (percussion) and Bobby Martin (saxophone and keyboards) could accompany.

While the material is anything but rare, seeing Zappa on guitar and waving a baton through a rash of punk, jazz, blues and straight-up rock improvs gives new meaning to “winging it.” The Torture Never Stops also includes additional live footage and a short film, which, in itself, is worth the DVD’s MSRP of $14.98.

Largely a collector’s piece, The Torture Never Stops embodies a piece of art that is as timeless as anything released in pop culture since the Beatles first played the Ed Sullivan Show. Keep in mind, however, this is Frank Zappa. You either get it or you don’t.

Eagle Rock Entertainment is a worldwide distribution company specializing in film, music and multi-media programming. Its extensive roster of talent and projects can be found at eagle-rock.com. Frank Zappa’s lair is at zappa.com.

From the Dec. 1-7, 2010 issue

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