DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Frank Zappa: Apostrophe / Over-nite Sensation (2007)

Well-done "rockumentary" with lots of extras will excite Zappa fans

Published on October 24, 2007

Frank Zappa: Apostrophe /  Over-nite Sensation (2007)
Frank Zappa: Apostrophe /  Over-nite Sensation (2007)

[The definitive authorized story of the albums]
Frank Zappa: guitar and vocals
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
Video: 16:9 widescreen color
Audio:  LPCM stereo
Extras: Live performance videos, Discography, DVD-Rom features, Featurettes
Length: 97 minutes
Rating: *****

This extremely well-done “rockumentary” from Eagle Rock chronicles the backstory behind Frank Zappa’s two most influential albums from the Seventies, “Apostrophe” and “Over-nite Sensation.” Very much in the style of similar exposes on VH1 such as “Behind The Music,” this part documentary, part loving tribute combines extensive live concert and interview footage with FZ himself, along with recent interviews from a host of former Zappa band members and family members. The entire Zappa clan, including wife Gail and children Dweezil, Ahmet and Moon make extensive contributions; especially Dweezil. An accomplished musician himself, he’s obviously taken on the role of preserving and continuing his father’s legacy; his knowledge Frank Zappa’s recordings is encyclopedic, and he can play most of FZ’s guitar solos note for note! There are also contributions from artists as diverse as Alice Cooper and Billy Bob Thornton, although the inclusion of the latter struck me as somewhat of a stretch and not really essential to the success of an already first-rate package.

The two albums under the microscope are both undeniable classics of the Seventies. Gail Zappa offers several enlightening commentaries regarding FZ’s work ethic and choices for album material; he wrote constantly, with a dozen or more projects continually in process and in various states of completion, and he wrote about subjects that either he knew well or held a particular place of importance for him. The humor in his work is omnipresent; just check out songs like “Yellow Snow,” “I’m The Slime,” “Cosmik Debris” and “Stinkfoot” for really hilarious examples of the ever-present Zappa wit. He also wrote a lot about sex, a topic that Gail Zappa says he really later learned to regret; his most infamous sexually-oriented song, “Dinah-Moe Humm,” was also far-and-away his most requested tune, and he really tired of playing it in concert for the millionth time ad-nauseum!

The live footage of the band and various band and family members is classic; particularly poignant is one of several interview segments with marimba and percussion player Ruth Underwood, who shows FZ’s original three-page score for her classic marimba solo on “St. Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast,” and then proceeds to play the music, note for note and almost perfectly. She then confesses that this is the first time she’s played that particular music in almost thirty years! And by the way, Zappa’s hand-written music notation was flawless. Moon Zappa admits that as a child, she was greatly embarrassed by her father’s out-there and overtly sexual lyrics, but also adds that her father was a really quiet and reserved person around the house, to the point of being almost monk-like – in dramatic contrast to the persona he played both live and in his recordings.

While the sound is only PCM stereo, it’s really quite good and more than serviceable for this type of presentation. The video is 16 x 9 enhanced for widescreen, and with the exception of some graininess on some of the vintage concert footage, the picture quality is really very good. The substantial bonus features almost equal the length of the main feature, and are quite entertaining, especially the concert footage (watch for a particularly amusing rendition of “I’m The Slime” from a vintage Saturday Night Live taping). For Frank Zappa fans, this one’s a no-brainer. Very highly recommended!

– Tom Gibbs
 




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