Zappa’s acerbic humor and his band’s white-knuckle musicianship are both well served by the visual medium of a concert DVD.

Frank Zappa
The Torture Never Stops
Eagle Vision

For many, Frank Zappa is an acquired taste. Few would dispute his genius or the stunning complexity of his compositions and arrangements, but not everyone is up to the demands Zappa places on an audience. If you count yourself among those who scratch their heads listening to a Zappa album, you might find a new appreciation for his work by seeing it performed. Zappa’s acerbic humor and his band’s white-knuckle musicianship are both well served by the visual medium of a concert DVD.

Filmed on Halloween in 1981 at the Palladium in NYC, The Torture Never Stops serves as a great introduction to Zappa’s orchestrally inspired rock. This new edition contains a high-energy two-hour show, plus extra songs, liner notes, a visual album and DVD discography, an extensive photo gallery, and more.

The eight-piece band is in full costume (though today, it’s a bit hard to tell how much of this was prompted by Halloween and how much was simply new-wave hair and fashion) and all members are revved-up for the show. Of particular interest to guitarists will be the 21-year-old Steve Vai, who had joined the ensemble fresh out of Berklee and was about a year into his tenure with Zappa’s group when this concert was filmed.

The music is amazing. Often played at breakneck speed, the unison lines and instrumental interplay rivals any jazz or symphonic music in its sophistication, and it’s exhilarating to watch the musicians execute their parts. In Zappa’s band, the standards were always incredibly high, yet you have to wonder how these players could memorize such intricate material. At the pace they were playing, there’s not much time to sight read.

During the show, Vai gets several chances to burn—albeit with a reedy little tone—but it’s drummer Chad Wackerman, mallet percussionist Ed Mann, and vocalist Ray White who keep you riveted to the screen.

The big surprise here is Zappa’s own mindbending guitar playing. Given his penchant for lampooning TV evangelists, bankers, drug addicts, hipsters, and politicians in song, and his fascination with genital hygiene and excreta, it’s easy to overlook the fact that Zappa was a masterful improviser with a unique melodic perspective and blazing chops. Zappa delivers solo after angular solo on his sunburst Les Paul—which was heavily flanged for the entire concert—with impeccable technique and burning intensity.

The film is plagued with annoying hyper-fast jump cuts, but despite this, we get to see a lot of Zappa’s fretwork. We also get to watch him sit and smoke cigarettes, sniff panties tossed onstage, conduct his raging ensemble as they move from reggae to odd-meter rock to swinging electronica, and even get a haircut. Pure theater. Multiple cameras provide varied and detailed shots of his hard-working musicians too.

If you're feeling bored with your own playing or tired of the predictable chord progressions and rhythms of popular music, spend some time with The Torture Never Stops. Almost 30 years after this epic concert, Zappa’s music and guitar playing still has the power to shock, inspire, and entertain.

Equipped with noise reduction and noise gate modes, the Integrated Gate has a signal monitoring function that constantly monitors the input signal.

Read MoreShow less

A blind horse wouldn’t be impressed, but this beautiful, double-horned instrument with one-of-a-kind engravings helped make luthier Tony Zemaitis famous.

Though they never reached the commercial success of some of their peers, the Faces have no doubt earned a place as one of the seminal rock ’n’ roll bands of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Combining influences as varied as instrumental funk à la the Meters, traditional folk music, and a heavy dose of rhythm and blues, the Faces brand of rock ’n’ roll can be heard in some way or another in the music of countless bands that followed. After the Faces folded in 1975, all five members went on to continue making great music, but their chemistry together was undeniable.

Read MoreShow less

Oh no—it finally happened! Now the big question: How long before my verve for guitar recovers from Covid?

This past Sunday I awoke to a very un-Sunday sensation. Hovering on the edge of consciousness, as yet still incapable of contemplating what Sunday mornings are for (lounging in bed till coffee’s made and lunch plans are set, of course!), I was suddenly struck by a godawful stench. As one does, I wrinkled up my nose, lifted my head to look around in disgust, and took a couple more sniffs to see if … I don’t know—maybe I’d dreamt it? Or woke up incontinent? Then I tasted the putrescence. Then … nothing.


Read MoreShow less