Inca Roads a la Mike Keneally


Before you vote comment on the Ben Thomas rendition of Inca Roads with ZPZ, I suggest you watch these two clips: the first has Mike Keneally performing Inca Roads in Swindon, UK, in October of 2008; the second clip is an acoustic cover of Inca Roads (with Brian Beller) performed at Guitar Center, Seattle, Washington, October 7th, 2002.

98 Responses to “Inca Roads a la Mike Keneally”

  1. Graffiti on the Wall says:

    Before you vote on the Ben Thomas rendition of Inca Roads with ZPZ, I suggest you watch these two clips:”

    Now why would I need to watch Mike Keneally singing Inca Roads
    to convince me on some Voting Trend.
    Society is all down hill.
    It’s just so fucking ridiculous to VOTE.

  2. Kevin Hoover says:

    I totally respect what Dweezil and his crew does. Plus his solo was totally bitchin’.

    But. When you place these versions side by side, it’s plain who most approaches the music in a fresh and innovating way, rather than settling for a hypercompetent recitation. And who has the most fluid, so to speak.

    I guess it’s only a natural human compulsion to make comparisons.

  3. Graffiti on the Wall says:

    A quote from Kevin Hoover:

    I totally respect what Dweezil and his crew does. Plus his solo was totally bitchin’.

    But. When you place these versions side by side, it’s plain who most approaches the music in a fresh and innovating way, rather than settling for a hypercompetent recitation. And who has the most fluid, so to speak.

    I guess it’s only a natural human compulsion to make comparisons.

    I think Mike Keneally would be the first to say these are very stripped down arrangements. We could just as easily place this by any of FZs arrangements and the only freshness would be the fake lemon scent in pledge. Oh they are very nice performances but very minimal in the orchestral sense of what the composition is.

    Mike Solo or Mike arrangement with Bryan Beller are minimalist in comparison to FZs original & ZPZs arrangements that require a level of due diligence that is beyond how many bottles of Lemon Pledge I can packaged for $5 at Costco.

    Hey don’t get me wrong Mike made some interesting arrangements for some solo performances, it’s performed very well but stripped down Inca Roads is no comparison to FZs originals or how due diligent ZPZ faithfully perform it day.

    Inca Roads being has always lent itself well as one of those grand compositions that also lent itself to many of FZs varied Chicken & Spider Air Sculptures. You can see DZ doing the same over several tours where the solos have drastically changed in compositional structure.

  4. Kevin Hoover says:

    I’m just looking at how much vibrance was infused into the renditions, regardless of how elaborate the supporting arrangement might be.

    There’s a nimbleness and elasticity to Mike’s treatment that really keeps the music alive. It’s great how he implants little Jazz Discharge squibs in there.

  5. Thinman says:

    If this site gets trendmongerized and that guy at the same time complaines about this site on the other forum, I’m off.

    Th.

  6. Mike Pierry says:

    What Keneally does in performing Inca solo is to create a kind of drama, albeit a humorous one, of himself battling the “impossibleness” of Frank’s music. So that when he doesn’t reach every note, it doesn’t read as simply a “mistake” but as a kind of inevitable defeat against the superior force of Zappa’s composition. In other words, you watch him and you notice immediately what a grasp he has of the song, and when, as happens toward the end, the melodies start to approach the speed of light, you get this sense of “He’s only one man. Can he possibly grab all those notes??” It’s not just notes now, it’s drama. And so instead of being like, “well it was good but he fucked up the end,” you think, “my God he nearly got it, and he was all by himself out there. Amazing!” It’s a great example of how imperfection can often increase, rather than detract from, one’s enjoyment of a piece of music.

  7. Thinman says:

    @Mike Pierry: This analysis is totally fitting! It can’t be told any better. You saved my day! Good to know that there are still people out there who notice the difference. A performance like this has everything that ZpZ is lacking IMO.

    Th.

    P.S.: Trendmonger, go away!

  8. Thinman says:

    To use Mike Pierry’s words: Keneally is drama here, FZ is drama anyway, ZpZ is just notes. Period.

    Th.

  9. Barry's Imaginary Publisher says:

    A quote from Mike Pierry:

    It’s a great example of how imperfection can often increase, rather than detract from, one’s enjoyment of a piece of music.

    It’s called “eyebrows”.

  10. Kevin Hoover says:

    A thought experiment: Imagine Mike playing that with a band of ZPZ’s grandeur.

    Oh right, there was Zappa’s Universe.

  11. Bálint says:

    We are not the same – and I like it (I mean the fact, that we are not the same). I hope you do, too, so I’ll tell the way I see it:
    Well (you might have guessed already): I dont really like this performance above. To me it is not a “drama”, but a hard rush after the melody – okay, not a “tragedy”, but still not a success. And I don’t really care about the tiny mistakes, but I’m talking about the whole thing. Keneally tries to play a rich textured tune with one instrument only (at a time), and it is just not enough. All of us remember the whole song, and we make it complete in our head. But when the orchestra changes totally, the arrangement sould also change totally. I think.

    The mistake of Keneally (in my opinion) in this case is not the few wrong notes, but that he tries to imitate as if he had a whole band behing him, and he tries to play it mostly the same as it was played “originally”. No, there is not a band – and playing a guitar line is not enough here. Or: it should have been played more nicely. Sorry: the way he sings is still not very nice… 😉

    And it (the original) is still a beautiful melody – how nice it would be to hear it in itself, on one instrument. But this way he always keeps on remembering the whole orchestra – makes US remember the whole orchestra – and meanwhile the playing is not so beautiful, its simply a rush after the tempo and a dirty way of playing it.

    It goes totally the opposit direction to the version I was listenning today – the one on The Lost Episodes. Its slow, its short – its BEAUTIFUL. Each note executed perfectly… it made me a wonderful afternoon.

    Keneally’s version is not about the music – but about the person who plays it (“Look, what I can do!!”).

    I’m much more interested in the music itself – but that’s only my opinion. 🙂
    (Next week I can tell you how I liked Ben Thomas – the tickets were just fixed today. 😉 )

  12. Kevin Hoover says:

    Obviously I process the performance differently.

    What seems rushed to you strikes me as exuberance. I would counter the impression that Mike’s rendition is about “Look at me!” by pointing out that virtually anyone who plays this song is going to be aware of the show-off factors.

  13. urbangraffito says:

    Does humour belong in music? I suppose so (except if you are Mike Keneally, of course). One of the reasons I posted these two versions – besides the obvious comparison to the vocal ability of one, Ben Thomas – was to underline how much Keneally and Beller are reminiscent of Ray Collins and Frank Zappa when they performed in bars as a mock folk duo called Sin City Boys and Loeb & Leopold (not that I actually saw Loeb & Leopold), especially in terms of minimalist musical instrumentation, and overall vaudevillian approach.

  14. Federico Diaz says:

    For being such frank zappa fans you really are ignorant, mike keneally is one of the best musicians alive. An ex zappa alumni, come on man, if you want to hear a ¨Complete¨ version of inca roads played by mike , go to radiokeneally.com and hear a version where NMB sings and mike dose both the piano and guitar solos.

    be a little open man.. dont be so uptight. its about the music right? i learned quite some time ago that music isnt about what you play it about what it transmits to the listener. to me this shows that Mike is the only one that has the balls to do such rendition. How about you doing a better one?

  15. Bálint says:

    (Hi Federico – we are talking about MUSIC right here, not about each other. Thank you for sharing your opinion about the video – its much more interesting than calling anyone (or me… 😉 ) “ignorant” or “uptight”, just because I might have a different opinion.
    I definitely will NOT make a better arrangement, of course – I’m not a musician. I just like to listen to music, and like to share my thoughs – and read other people’s thoughts. 🙂 )
    My main point is – just as I’ve said above – that its REALLY good to hav so much versions and arrangements – and really good to have a place to talk about it.

  16. Graffiti on the Wall says:

    Given the context of the live performance situations the two arrangements Mike Keneally fit into that context. Mike Keneally was
    not touring 100 striped down versions of Zappa compositions.

    That is why these comparisons and voting are so fucking lame.
    I appreciate Mike Kenally for what Mike Keneally does and these
    striped down versions are just what they are.

    Inca Roads is a monster compositions. FZs arrangements have showed that the composition lends itself to varied arrangements that include diversity in Chicken and Spider Air Sculptures.

    ZPZ has taken on Inca Roads very much in the same way that Frank
    Zappa composed and performed various arrangments. I think that ZPZ/DZ give stern due diligence to the composers intent. They use that song as vehicle and it is only part of some 100 Zappa arrangements they perform.

    Mike Keneally is doing what Mike Keneally does. These stripped down arrangements were done on tours that showcased stripped down arrangements. It’s not that I throw all stripped down arrangements into some dungeon. love what Mike Keneally has been doing with Steve Vai compositions for solo piano but these versions of Inca Roads are more suited for just what they were delivered as.
    Pat of some solo and acoustical gigs. Do I want to see 100 stripped down Zappa songs toured as stripped down concerts for the next ten years. Not if Jimi Hendrix came back from the dead.

  17. Mike Pierry says:

    I think pretty much everyone here is onto something (except for the guy who says we’re all ignorant, fuck that guy). I think all the performances of Inca that we’re comparing are valid and worth listening to. I happen to enjoy Keneally’s performance most, but I’m also very much a Keneally fan, so I couldn’t say I’m unbiased. I think Balint’s opinion is perfectly legitimate as well; in fact, rarely have I heard someone justify so well an opinion I happen to disagree with. And he’s right, The Lost Episodes version is great! So are the other pre-OSFA versions of Inca that you can find on live tapes. It’s actually astonishing (and instructive) how many changes Inca Roads went through on its way to becoming the version we all know and love. Have any of you heard the original “lounge” arrangement of the vocal section? When Sal Marquez sings it, it’s like Sinatra walked in the room – probably the last thing I would’ve expected from a Zappa arrangement! (While I’m off on this side-topic, someone should really make one of those cool web “mixtapes” showing the evolution of a bunch of Zappa’s songs, including Inca, maybe Easy Meat and Dong Work For Yuda, etc.)

  18. Roland says:

    A quote from Mike Pierry:

    While I’m off on this side-topic, someone should really make one of those cool web “mixtapes” showing the evolution of a bunch of Zappa’s songs, including Inca, maybe Easy Meat and Dong Work For Yuda, etc.

    There´s a guy out there – called urbangraffito – who might be interested in doing a project like this. I was never disappointed by his work.

  19. Mike Pierry says:

    However, I do have one bone to pick with Balint regarding Keneally’s performance. I don’t think the drama, vis a vis performance of the song, is intended to point toward Mike himself, but rather is a sincere tribute to FZ. As in, the reason Mike is trying so hard to grab every possible note, recreate everything possible on one instrument, is a tribute to Frank in its finest sense – striving to perform at the utmost, reaching to (and beyond) his highest level as a performing musician. How many times have we heard about FZ that he made his musicians do just that, both in rehearsal and live on stage? And if you hear Mike tell the tale, his audition with Frank consisted mainly of Frank calling out song titles from his catalogue and Mike quickly putting together some sort of solo rendition, out of his head, right on the spot. So the solo “Inca” performance strikes me as perhaps just a poignant continuation of their professional relationship (poignancy factor being, of course, the lack of FZ being around to command Mike or listen to the results).

    Again, not something that I think necessarily would change anyone’s mind about how much they like the performance. But I don’t think it’s fair to characterize it as being for the sake of showing off.

  20. Graffiti on the Wall says:

    I have been a Keneally fan since he made his NY debut with Zappa on the 88 tour. I admire everything he puts his artistic will at but with regards to Inca Roads the stripped down Keneally arrangement only exists within the context of what it is, a very talented performance for solo and acoustic Keneally & Beller shows.

    God knows Mike put lots of effort into those stripped down arrangements but ZPZ shows they not only have paid due dilligence to the composers arrangements but that Dweezil has soloed with a variety of Air Sculptures very much like Frank had over the yeears.

    Could Mike Keneally fit in well with the ZPZ core? Yes definitely
    but to sit arround and play some American Idol Voting game
    of a Mike Keneally Stripped Down Arragement and whatever one wants to pick what ZPZ has done over the last 4 years is totally fuckign prepsterouis.

    Mike Keneally does what he does. If and when Miek Keneally is ever part of ZPZ I will welcome that expecting amazing things, until then I will look at what Mike Keneally does as what Mike Keneally does and what DZ/ZPZ does where that is digging deep into the composers cannon.

  21. Kevin Hoover says:

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