"Automatic" (Favored Nations; 2000)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

Because I’m a fan of the Zappa brand -- be it Frank, Dweezil, Via, Belew, or Cuccurullo -- I’m always up for listening to the music those geniuses create. Dweezil flies solo on this disc and despite the name, “Automatic” (which could be considered a “put it in drive only” mentality), he goes on to prove that definition does not apply to this release. Just about every direction, speed and turn that a guitar could take shows that Dweezil is on talent patrol.

There is some weird stuff on this disc. You knew I had to say that, right? Dweezil performs the theme to Hawaii Five-O and brother Ahmet helps with “You’re A Mean One, Mister Grinch.” If anybody else tried that they would be accused of wearing the white jacket that makes you hug yourself, but this is Zappa, so no explanation is required.

Dweezil practically ties his guitar in a knot and produces some mind-bending guitar. Being on Steve Vai's label most likely allowed Dweezil some hints and tips from Vai himself, plus Zappa probably had carte blanche to do whatever he wanted to do. Sometimes a song arrangement is so far out there you question whether to follow it or not. I usually let it come back to earth even though it's got aliens crawling all over it.

Fans of Dweezil will no doubt bow at the guitarist's feet for another release since he had a nine year itch between “Confessions” and this release (although, he did release a couple of albums with brother Ahmet during that time). In conclusion, I forgot to mention some more trippy tunes Dweezil pens, but I’m not going to allow you to just read the back cover, you need take a mind trip courtesy of Dweezil Zappa. Let me know when you get back.

For more information, check out http://www.dweezilzappa.com

"Confessions" (Barking Pumpkin; 1991)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

Being the son of someone as famous as Frank Zappa can have its ups, and its way downs. Dweezil Zappa practically has a bunch of friends over to play here with Nuno Bettencourt on guitar and Josh Freese banging drums (Freese played for Blues Saraceno on “Hairpick”). 

I’m a fan of Dweezil’s guitar playing primarily because he had Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai hanging around his house a lot, but this release causes me to be a fair-weather fan at most. 

This album is very loose, the arrangements are goofy and when they cover The Beatles “Anytime At All” you can just picture the studio dancing around like circus clowns. They also cover a Bee Gees song, and butcher that one, too. I mean, I’m not a fan of the Bee Gees, but to cover a bad song doesn’t make it right. I’ve heard Dweezil get down on the guitar and write some wild stuff that caused a circuit overload but this stuff is thinner than a Pringle, and just as tough. 

Although this disc was released in 1991 you would think it was collected works from the 80s. The guitar is here, the ripping solos, the Vai and Van Halen riffs, licks and chops, but you'll have to listen to the whole disc and note them when they emerge, which isn't often enough. Kind of like taking the macadamia nuts out of the cookie. I’m disappointed at the lack of originality; with so many influences, maybe it’s just too hard to choose one and go with it. 

The best cut is the Eddie Van Halen-inspired track titled “Gotta Get To You.” It ends with the harmonics he used on the song, “Let’s Talk About It.” Another track that shines on Zappa's instrumental ability is “Obviously Influenced By The Devil.” I wish the whole album sounded like this track. 

For more information, check out http://www.dweezilzappa.com

"Havin' a Bad Day" (Barking Pumpkin; 1986)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

This was the first disc with the son of Zappa on guitar, and what a guitar player's disc it is! Throughout his musical career, Frank Zappa met and became friends with tons of musicians. Eddie Van Halen was a huge influence on Dweezil and you can tell by listening to this early recording. Dweezil handles all the guitar riffs and solos, most of the vocals and his sister Moon Unit sings on a couple of songs as well. The most memorable song would be "Let's Talk About It" -- it was featured via a video on MTV when Dweezil worked there for a stint.

The guitar is straight-forward, meaning there are no loops, dubs, goofy sounds or delays. Not that those don't have a place in music today but this was written and recorded in 1986 when solid playing was praised. If you want a great disc to warm up to then this is the one. Dweezil's history on the guitar spans 25+ years and he was just getting started on "Havin' a Bad Day."

This is a great first disc for Dweezil because the fire in his guitar playing hasn't been heard in a while. Every time I play this disc it takes me back to when I started playing guitar and those are good memories to have. The production isn't bad and for a hard rock CD of songs and instrumentals it stands tall among Dweezil's guitar works.

The song "I Want a Yacht" has Bobcat Goldthwait introducing the track with a phone call and then he comes in later with some funny ranting stating that "I am a yacht guy!" This disc was recorded under Frank Zappa's record label Barking Pumpkin Records and was also produced by Frank Zappa.

For more information, check out http://www.dweezilzappa.com.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Revised: 14 Aug 2022 15:50:08 -0400 .