Friday, May 31, 2013

Frank Zappa 17: Over-Nite Sensation

The recent fusion experiments inspired him to apply that updated sound to some actual songs his technically proficient combo could play. Over-Nite Sensation turns away from extended improvisation (for the most part) to make a play for FM radio, which had become permissive enough to handle tracks that more than hinted at sexual perversions (and if the lyrics weren’t clear enough, the miniscule details all over the album jacket drove the point home).
“Camarillo Brillo” is loaded with precise rhymes and references to other Zappa signposts, launching some more in-jokes in the process (“is that a Sears poncho?”). A heavy wah intro brings in the slightly funky “I’m The Slime”, which also introduces his deep half-spoken voice, both a trademark and an excuse to eschew melody. “Dirty Love” is fairly straightforward, though his fascination with poodles (and their use by some fetishists) is still puzzling. “Fifty-Fifty” features the truly challenging voice of Ricky Lancelotti; that it’s one of the few Zappa songs only available in one incarnation, studio or live, speaks to its disposability, though the electric violin solo makes a nice distraction.
“Zomby Woof” is another reinterpretation of a monster movie motif, or maybe it’s a metaphor. Ricky sings the second half of it, so there’s that. The more literal “Dinah-Moe Humm” became a regional hit, considering the appeal of the lyrics, helped along by the backing singers who obviously found union scale preferable to raising objections over what they were singing. Finally, “Montana” is apparently where one goes to make a fortune farming dental floss.
Over-Nite Sensation is a good album, but not a great album, trying too hard at times to be goofy. Still, it’s one of those Zappa albums that makes a good gateway, since it delivers one of the main stereotypes of his image.

The Mothers Over-Nite Sensation (1973)—3

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