Concave (Burnt Weeny Sandwich, Permanent Damage)

By John Loquidis

Chinook, March 19, 1970

It has become apparent that any rock fan worth his salt should own the complete works of Frank Zappa. More than anyone else, Zappa is the cartographer of the aesthetics of rock music whatever they may be. His own records and various 'discoveries' (Beefheart, GTO's, etc.) are, without doubt, music of first importance, created by musicians that have long forgot the sometimes awesome vagaries of technique.

'Burnt Weeny Sandwich' (Bizarre, RS-6370) is, of course, the latest release from the now defunct Mothers (there are supposedly about nine more albums by the Mothers awaiting future release); it is part of a continuing story. By now one can only expect products of extreme wit and intelligence from Zappa; and what we have here is no deviation.

The first song 'WPLJ' is a remnant from 'Ruben...'' sung by Zappa with touching wryness as he outlines the joys of white part and lemon juice, hence the title, with a portion of excited Spanish doing the same. Long ago Zappa learned the trickery involved in studio production, and his finesse shows up to perfection in this song as it does in everything he turns out.

The rest of side one is devoted to an instrumental work which is Zappa at his creative best somewhere in the landscape of Germany. There are six parts: Igor's Boogie, Phase One; Overture to a Holiday in Berlin; Theme from Burnt Weeny Sandwich; Igor' s Boogie, Phase Two; Holiday in Berlin, Full Blown; and, Aybe Sea. The music is a little bit of everything that comes out with reality. The playing is superb, especially that of Zappa on guitar and organ. His solos, launched over strictly simple but lilting rhythmic counterpoints, are gems of melodic invention and sublime power. Usually Zappa's main compositional concerns begin with rhythm, but here the importance is placed on melody as pure as it can be. A result, probably, of Zappa's interest in certain avant-garde musicians whose base is modal and therefore melodic.

Sugar Cane Harris came out of the r&b outfits of Johnny Otis, but has been utilized by Zappa for an entirely different effect, biting jazz violin. He first showed up in a brilliant long solo on 'Hot Rats,' and he repeats his explicitness on 'Little House I Used to Live In' which takes up most of side two. Introduced by some lovely piano noodling by Ian Underwood, the piece soars when Harris takes over, showing how jazz violin was always meant to be played: singing lines of sheer harmonic invention and clarity. Zappa plays fine organ on this cut also in a languid musical environment.

The album closes with another 'Ruben' relic, 'Valerie' that is very idiomatic and very fine. As with 'Hot Rats,' Zappa seems to be paring down the influences, thus elements Is, of his music. There is a lot less Stravinsky and Shepp and therefore more Zappa as a result; a Zappa who seems to be exploring the rhythmic and melodic possibilities inherent in the medium of rock: enclosure does not seem to be a problem. It bodes well for the future of rock as an aesthetic category. This record should be obtained.

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Zappa produced the GTO's (Permanent Damage' Straight, STS-1059) who are, as you probably know, a segment of the most outrageous groupies in and around L.A. The spoken parts are a powerful document. The music, although always impeccably produced, is of a somewhat ephemeral nature. The lyrics were all written by the girls with music by a number of rock luminaries. The performers include a number of Mothers plus Jeff Beck (on three cuts) and Rod Stewart (on one); but the singing and the lyrics strike one as being cute and of not much lasting value.

But, as I said, the spoken sections (bout half the record) show at: sub-culture monkey business. There are raps about high school gym-period antics (' How embarrassing it is at only 13 to have to take showers in front of a dyke gym teacher ...'); hot-ass spades who stand in front of the Wiggy-A-Go-Go trying eternally to pick up our little 'mini'mama;' moche-monsters who pick up the girls when they are hitching for devious intent (blowjobs, etc.); and an 11-year-old cat who looks like Brian Jones ('He has captured my heart ... Bart') ; and, conversations with Chicago's own GTO's, Plaster Casters who make casts of the proud pinnacles of rock stars. The raps rate an A as pure entertainment as does the entire record. It will floor you.