ZPZ Featuring Ben Thomas

Posting this here now for later viewing (work etc): Ben Thomas and ZPZ perform Inca Roads at l’Olympia, Paris, 18/05/09:

Your verdict?

(via)

37 Responses to “ZPZ Featuring Ben Thomas”

  1. Chuck says:

    Well he sings it well but it lacks something but of course that is to be expected as he has only just started in the band. If ZPZ continues I think he could grow into being an interesting member.

    Problem is for a singer you are so much of the character of the band and seeing ZPZ can be a bit flat he really has his work cut out. Someone like Ray just add character galore.

    I complain more about Dweezil’s endless imitations of his Dad’s solos… start with a familiar theme, then get a bit dweezil, mess around a little, throw in some familiar FZ notes.. waffle a bit and then some more familiar FZ notes and then waffle, shred and finish. He isn’t up to creating a unified extended guitar solo.

  2. Paul Sempschi says:

    Well I agree, he does sing it well… though it would be nice if they added a bit more variance to the song, I mean, there really is no use in playing it exactly like the album; it’s a Hell of an accomplishment but then again, you could stay at home and listen to the album.

    Out of curiousity, do you think the removal of the mo(u)ldy old Alumni was a bid to help their groupie status?

  3. pet a llama says:

    more beer

  4. Graffiti on the Wall says:

    Some of the Youtube vids popping from the beginning of the current ZPZ Euro Tour while failing to show fidelity standards are showing a glimpse of how Ben Thomas and ZPZ continue to evolve. While I have yet to see this new Phase of ZPZ with Ben Thomas live the majority of those attending and giving a review not only seem to be very impressed with the overall progression of ZPZ with their new singer but report they think it will continue to develop in a positive way.

    Fans overreacting to the new addition based on Youtube seem like some down-on-their-luck alcoholic lawyer. A change takes place and the old yearning for the Alumni Quotient has them hitting the bottle of negativity. That potion of ill will where they can’t even appreciate the current phase of ZPZ is out there doing is something I have no desire to wear.

    Now to add some Youtube analysis beyond the Inca Roads that was from the 3rd show there are quite a few Youtube videos from several shows. In giving respect to this larger sampling of less than fidelity standards I still get the impression of a fine addition with a fresh vocal presence.

    In Willie The Pimp Ben is sounding quite a bit like Tom Waits & Captain Beefheart in a blender. Throughout each arrangement Ben has performed what comes across is a fine sampling of vocal theatrics. What is missing in fidelity one can see the inflections that Ben is using where these are skillful adaptations. I found it quite interesting that Dweezil has given Ben some solos where in King Kong there was a fuision of Classical Indian and Modern Beat Rap.

    In conclusion from my point of view things remain extremely positive. The combination of not only new vocalist but ZPZs ever expanding ZPZ/FZ playbook including many Hybrid arrangements is out there.
    I not only welcome the changes but have the ability to pause for a moment telling myself how fucking great it is to be alive. I am glad to see this show live for who knows when the show stops and for how long. I am eager to witness the ever growing vocal tonalities that Ben is bringing to ZPZ. While seeing any given vocalist standing solo with mike and a wire romping around on the stage is something new to a Zappa show the diversity of what Ben Brings in his Vocal Theatrics is quite appealing. I don’t feel the need to let preconceived notions get in the way. My eyes and ears remain open looking forward to a US performance but the ever expanding positive reviews ZPZ and Ben are getting as the make their way across Europe.

  5. Thinman says:

    After this Trendmongering, something short:

    I you want to enjoy FZ’s music ZpZ might not be helpful.

    Th.

  6. Bálint says:

    A quote from Graffiti on the Wall:

    In conclusion from my point of view things remain extremely positive.

    Exactly my sentiments – I just got in contact with a ticket office in Wienna, I’m planning to see a show next week. Yes: mostly because of Ben Thomas. Nice, strong voice – and the changes in the band gave them new blood, new feel – as I see it. Or: I WILL se next week, hopefully.. :-)
    See some collected videos here.

  7. voice on the wall says:

    great maybe was time to have a new singer and even it hurts a bit maybe DZ answer to the old was to hire a new singer so all is new except the songs and ZPZ is its own band with its own members.
    Ben jumped in ,its a lot for a short notice with a passport. There is a lot more to see happening now then ever since most is fresh even crispy
    sheila has one person to support her powerful voice. Excitement is coming to town lets see what that all sounds like. Keep going Ben,
    can only get better as time progresses.

  8. tombo says:

    Is it just me or is ZPZ lacking stage presence? Don’t argue with me over how a crappy cell phone video can’t capture the live atmosphere and sound quality.

    None of the semilegal videosnippets pulled off of NTSC VHS recorded TV broadcasts in the eighties & mutilated by youtube compression can do that. Still, there are bands that still come across, like the original FZ.

    ZPZ totally fails to do that for me, no matter how well they play their notes.

  9. Kevin Hoover says:

    I’ve always had a bit of a bias against “singers.” That is, someone who only does that. Seems like you could get someone that doesn’t just stand around during the instrumental passages.

  10. m.kenyon says:

    he’s not even in the ballpark

  11. m.kenyon says:

    … and the king kong improv is fucking lame; yoko’s was far more interesting and musical

  12. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from tombo:

    Is it just me or is ZPZ lacking stage presence? Don’t argue with me over how a crappy cell phone video can’t capture the live atmosphere and sound quality.

    None of the semilegal videosnippets pulled off of NTSC VHS recorded TV broadcasts in the eighties & mutilated by youtube compression can do that. Still, there are bands that still come across, like the original FZ.

    ZPZ totally fails to do that for me, no matter how well they play their notes.

    No, it’s not you, tombo.

    The entire band does come off somewhat stilted. Musically, they are on base. Theatrically, though, they are still somewhat deadpan in their performances (at least from the clips of the ones I have seen and attended). Even when I saw them last year, they still had the problem of just standing around and barely interacting with one another (one of the highlights of every Zappa band and tour – the nightly interaction between Zappa and his bandmates and audience). Poor Ben Thomas seems to be constantly waiting off to the side for his cue. Of course, this is not his fault. The personality of a band comes from it’s leader. Perhaps if Dweezil spent a little less time (I approximated that Ben Thomas sang for, perhaps, a minute and a half in Inca Roads, tops) wanking on his guitar and spreading the spotlight around, this band might develop some real personality of it’s own (i.e. Roxy Band, Hot Rats Band, Petit Wazoo Band).

    What are you going to do when Dweezil drags a phonebooth on stage and and asks you to step inside to sing with two pieces of cardboard under your arms, a jar of jam in hand, a bag of flies, with your head between your legs?

    Best of luck, there, Ben.

  13. Chuck says:

    Maybe the person that should go is Dweezil?

    He has no stage presence; he plays too long guitar solos that are average; he can’t sing and he suppresses everyone elses personality. His only positive is that he plays some “stunt guitar” type parts, but sometimes they are a bit in the way and are there just because he can. Oh! he has the Zappa name that he can use to promote the thing.

    Then how ’bout they bring in Keneally to sing and band lead and just really understand the music. Oh and hire Matts and Morgan too so that Joe Traver can spend more time doing work in the vault.

    Give Keneally, Matts and Morgan a decent amount of money so they can do a tour and have enough to fund their own projects.

    Well that’s what I would do if I ruled the world.

  14. Matt says:

    Was just watching the Einhoven video of More Trouble Every Day–check out Ben lurching around in the beginning like Phil Anselmo on model glue–painful.

    So glad that Project/Object is coming to my neck of the woods this summer.

  15. urbangraffito says:

    I vote Chuck for enlightened despot!

  16. profusion says:

    This kid is a good singer. Really good.

    It’s a big job, and not just dealing with all the time signature stuff. Trying to cover the stylistic range of FZ, NMB, George Duke, Beefheart, Adrian Belew, Ray White, and Ike Willis (have I forgotten anyone?) is quite a task. He’s probably overdoing some things, but I think he could grow into the job very nicely.

    What’s missing is the element of fun. What made NMB’s tenure in the band most memorable was his interaction with FZ and Duke–they played off each other and looked like they were having a lot of fun up there on stage. The “Front Desk” bits always crack me up no matter how many times I listen. The fact that the fun is mostly missing now has to be Dweezil’s fault. He doesn’t have to be the wit that his father was, but it would be nice if he could loosen the reins and let these talented musicians put the eyebrows on it all.

    That’s the inherent problem of treating FZ’s music as a museum piece–it misses the spirit of it entirely. On the other hand, maybe ZPZ perfectly captures the overly cautious and maudlin times we live in. I can only imagine how much FZ would hate the spirit of the times.

  17. Grizpy says:

    Dweez sounds great but Mike is more fun

  18. Robert says:

    Mike is *way* more fun. But then again, he probably is simply the smarter guy. He figured one thing out long ago: There is no point in trying to mimic FZ. A musician playing FZ stuff has to find his own turf, so to speak. Mike did exactly that. He found his own compositional style (which is, of course, heavily influenced by FZ but i for one perceive his pieces as original). He applied the same smart reasoning when he decided to play Inca Roads unplugged and with only an accompanying base player. Since such an “orchestration” never can reproduce the original piece correctly, it allows Mike and his base player to succeed nonetheless by showing fine stunt guitar & base playing expertise. Dweezil on the other hand has a much harder time because he decided to deliver the original pieces perfectly (orchestration wise and performance wise). Bearing the last name Zappa does not make the task easier. So the two actually play in totally different leagues and have different intentions.

  19. Jeroen says:

    I attended ZPZ in Amsterdam monday. Loved it. I agree that Dweezil soloed too much, although there were highlights in his playing (I don´t know if Outside Now from monday is on youtube somewhere, but is was great) – if they can find a new keyboard player to solo a couple of times that problem should be solved. Over all I can hear growth over the years. There arrangements get a bit pulled back from the originals, the segues are surprising sometimes in stead of copies from FZ’s live albums. They start to be a musical force in themselves. And if you want someone to look at: Pete Griffin, the bass player, is absolute fun to watch for two hours. He’s really out there all the time.

  20. Bálint says:

    A quote from Robert:

    He figured one thing out long ago: There is no point in trying to mimic FZ.

    Hi Robert – its interesting what you say, though my experiences are a bit different. For example it was Mike Keneally who played a note-for-note Zappa-solo on Zappa’s Universe (Bariton Women?…), and last year when he was in Hungary, he (with Ed Mann) played a meddle of FZ-tunes. It was half improvised, but the whole thing was quite zappa-ish, the way he played the original tunes.

    On the other hand these two versions are also very close to the original – when making stupidity, he also quotes a Zappa-tune (Jazz Discharge…). So I apprechiate his musicianship, but I dont see a really strong will of trying to be different. As I see it, peolple like him because he WAS THERE, he’s “original”…

    New and different things are (for example) in the works of Ed Palermo: clearly new arrangements, funny things, and – at the same time – totally respectful covers. Or the ones ZW mages on the Midi-Jam session page. And so on.

  21. voice on the wall says:

    well one day it happened FZ went out and got a synclavier dodging all of his musicians working on his own with a few engineers around him. I know why, maybe he got tired of dealing with the real thing and it was time for him to move on …………. maybe it was time for DZ to move on with a new singer for better and different. WE all change and such is the world and hanging on to the old sometimes only slows down progress so welcome the new and treasure the old. That is why zappa has a vault.
    Churches have archives and government have records. Keep going Ben
    the old one day grow deaf or they get to lame to get to the concert. And usually people forget …. i call that the hendrix syndrome they still cry today about the past then searching for the new and enjoying it and giving it a chance. I remember the speech FZ about composing……….. go read that folks! Nothing new ever happens unless you change something. I one year from now you be rocking singing zappa
    better and better all will come .Takes a while but not long for you :)

  22. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from profusion:

    This kid is a good singer. Really good.

    It’s a big job, and not just dealing with all the time signature stuff. Trying to cover the stylistic range of FZ, NMB, George Duke, Beefheart, Adrian Belew, Ray White, and Ike Willis (have I forgotten anyone?) is quite a task. He’s probably overdoing some things, but I think he could grow into the job very nicely.

    I think it is far too early to judge the vocal abilities of Ben Thomas (or this edition of ZPZ for that matter – I agree, this is a band currently in transition). Just as every other Zappa vocalist made these songs their own, Ben will no doubt put his own particular stamp on them as well. It’s a risky move of Dweezil’s to bring in a complete unknown, yet at the very same time, people’s expectations (and mine) are also at their lowest point. I am ready to be really surprised by this young upstart. Who said only Zappa alumni and well known musicians should ever perform FZ’s material?

  23. Brown Shoes says:

    A quote from Brown Shoes:

    It’s a risky move of Dweezil’s to bring in a complete unknown, yet at the very same time, people’s expectations (and mine) are also at their lowest point.

    I don’t think it was a risky move as much as a move of necessity. As ZPZ either won’t sufficiently pay or have pissed off any alumni that could definitely get the job done.
    Good luck for Ben. Its a tough position to be in.

  24. Roland says:

    A quote from Roland:

    Who said only Zappa alumni and well known musicians should ever perform FZ’s material?

    Judging the music played by ZPZ from DVD it is – as mentionend before – a note by note thing without any spirit and character. Dweezil has absolutely no stage karma, the whole band looks like High School students playing for a paid dance. Jukebox musicians. As soon as a former FZ band mate joins the show, you can see what character means.

    Leave me alone with cover bands, even when there is a band member named Zappa with his surname.

  25. Bongo "Fury" Bob says:

    too many haters on this site for sure… I love FZ’s music and ZpZ means I can hear it in person. Is it as good as FZ? Dumb question… Frank has passed and I never got to see him in person, so ZpZ will have to do. I think they rip and Scheila is a blast to watch… much stage presence. Mine only complaint about ZpZ and the ZFT is that they do seem to have a rep for being hard to work with (I wish they still made the beers!).

    Do you some of the negative people on here sit around all day criticizing?

    I would be interested in seeing project/object if they came to the west coast.

  26. voice on the wall says:

    DZ is doing this since 2006 so 3 years give the men a bit time, seems that this is sometimes so unfair of how we classify DZ. I dont know DZ or any other zappa per-sonly but usually described here any remaining zappa is a Jerk or they pissing of ex musicians which have played or sang before for them. You guys know so much more then me about them but when the facts come, they are so shallow and unreasonable.
    I think ZPZ has a great spirit and great voices SG what a voice. And what i read people having fun going to the shows. I have seen zappa in munich twice. Zappa walks in hello welcome to the show and after 2.5 hours thank you for coming to the concert good night. DZ has some action takes time after the show sign autographs . Does a hagstroem give away. Makes shows downloadable so suddenly something goes wrong like our lives are smooth and we never had a problem ? I love the girl from the bus with the big boobs making people laugh. You know the screwed one is DZ, his dream hasn’t come to live he is playing FZ music. Does he like it i dont know:)
    he is keeping FZ alive around the globe. If may father would ask me to carry on his architectural artwork i would show him a big finger.
    PIcture this so DZ gets home after tour he gets a days rest then there is the kids and the wife, then UMRK, then gail asking can we finish lumpy paper, then he as to report to the ZTF why his knitting sister is questioning him with disapproving looks. Then keyboard player and ray white is leaving and then like we all had before we needed the rabbit out of the head. He is all the way on top there and he is making his experiences. Frank had 40 + years in the music business and DZ is out there swimming and doing a good job. Ray White , Ike Willis,
    Nap are great singers my main influences (been a singer). Ben is young talent, zappa always gave young talent a chance that was what made him outstanding in the industry. So DZ has a fine band and so a powerful singer to be (BEN) and for BEN a lot of recognition if all works out iam sure DZ is opening the way for a young talent. And so on he is doing in may ways what FZ did and he works hard just as frank. And im sure DZ will lighten up in a few years and his stage appearance will be better and better takes a while only few are born with such gifts. So go buy a ticket and request some stage dancing and booty wiggles and all will be just right on time……………:)
    i love to hear moon unit sing some zappa tunes she has incredible vocals maybe one day DZ will take her along and on top of good music we get a lot to laugh. And i think if ben sings and DZ invites all the great vocalists which one sang for Zappa as a surprise then it only can get better. And ike willis is a great song writer and his music is excellent i rather hear him playing his music which one day will happen. Or get BM for a surprise the possibilities are endless……….
    maybe i get to sing a bit backup for him just once :) Write DZ an E mail be active go on their forum do a singer survey tell them what you want ask …………be nice :)

  27. Roland says:

    A quote from voice on the wall:

    If may father would ask me to carry on his architectural artwork i would show him a big finger.

    Been a pleasure reading your comment, voice on the wall, and I can follow your thouhgts perfectly. But with all my respect to your father, do you really think, that Frank Zappa asked his children to carry on with his work? See his children, knitting, writing little horror stories for kids, marrying or playing a bit of a guitar in a cover band and so forth … does it makes it?

  28. voice on the wall says:

    no roland i dont think zappa had any demand on his children . Zappa would however given you and me a chance to grow in any direction.
    so give DZ and ZPZ a fair chance which i think you do and lets let DZ grow.
    And the other Zappa kids too plus the once we dont know about :)

  29. Roland says:

    A quote from voice on the wall:

    so give DZ and ZPZ a fair chance which i think you do and lets let DZ grow.quote]

    Everyone gets his / hers place in this universe once in a while.

  30. voice on the wall says:

    ROLAND I BE THERE WHEN YOUR TURN COMES ……LOL :)

  31. profusion says:

    A quote from Bongo “Fury” Bob:

    Do you some of the negative people on here sit around all day criticizing?

    Speaking only for myself, I give both praise and criticism to ZPZ. Some of the criticism I’ve seen has been unfair, but why should we blow smoke up Dweezil’s ass just because he’s a product of FZ’s loins?

    I have seen all three U.S. tours and enjoyed them. But I think the project will lose steam unless they start taking the music into some new places. I already felt a bit of drift setting in on the “You Can’t Fit That On Stage” tour. There’s a lot more to the live music of FZ than just being note-perfect.

  32. Bálint says:

    I know to whom Ben Thomas makes me remember: Jason Newsted, ex-bass player of Metallica! Hah!

  33. Andre/Project Object says:

    A quote from Graffiti on the Wall:

    …Fans overreacting to the new addition based on Youtube seem like some down-on-their-luck alcoholic lawyer. A change takes place and the old yearning for the Alumni Quotient has them hitting the bottle of negativity. That potion of ill will where they can’t even appreciate the current phase of ZPZ is out there doing is something I have no desire to wear……

    Trendmonger!!!! Good to see you here. Hope you’ve been well !!

    There’s about 500 giveaways when you post here under your assumed name(s) — but , um, leave out trademarks like “yearning for the Alumni Quotient” and maybe you might fool a couple people.

    On a better note – YES Project/Object plans to come to the west coast again—- stand by –we’re trying to plan for this fall or spring 2010. I have to see what my schedule with Adrian Belew is (Tour Manager) and then I’ll work around that. (Also Project/Object’s drummer Eric Slick joined Adrian’s band a couple years ago, another reason we have t o juggle schedules a bit)

    I just spoke with Ray White – he called to say hi and we decided he would come up and do a few songs with Project/Object – we are on the same Festival as him in Acme PA on July 4. So — that will be cool, we haven’t performed with Ray since 2001, I believe. And to hear Ray and Ike harmonize is one of the greatest things in the Zappa canon. More on all this at a better time.

    Great thread here tho’.

  34. Robert says:

    A quote from Andre/Project Object:

    to hear Ray and Ike harmonize is one of the greatest things in the Zappa canon

    I always felt that Ike is unable to be the single vocalist on stage, probably due to his lack of pipe stamina, which quickly renders his voice to sound as if his throat is sore. But augmented by (e.g.) Ray, Ike’s voice gives that certain additional grumbling and coarsity to the vocal arrangement.

  35. Jake St. Vitus says:

    A quote from Jake St. Vitus:

    Project/Object plans to come to the west coast again

    Reety-Aw-Righty! As a east coast ex-pat out in SoCal I am always missing P/O shows. Get ‘em all together and get ‘em out here Andre….and if things seem slim just send an email to get your local P/O fans to roadie. (We did a great job at the Middle East in Cambridge MA many years ago…didn’t drop a thing.) Last saw you at Toad’s with Ike and Ed Mann. Must admit, Ed’s got the stage presence, Ike’s got it, Andre’s got the eyebrows.

    ZPZ could learn from those who blazed the trail before them. I’ve seen them multiple times now, and I always enjoy myself but there is a certain lack of spontaneity to keep the whole show alive. I appreciate what they are doing, I think that somehow the other bad behavior (litigation ad nauseum) does taint the performances – at least in the “imagination of the imaginer”. I bet that those fans that know nothing about ZFT’s cease and desist letters hear sweeter notes than those of us that do.

  36. voice on the wall says:

    make sure if ike and ray get to sing you post that and maybe you get them to sing one of ikes songs which would be nice.

  37. Andre/Project Object says:

    Well cool – will do. You mean — one of Ike’s songs as in ‘from one of his 2 albums’……or a Zappa song he is well known for..???

    Either way cool. We did do the 1st song on his debut album “biznis as Usual” for a whole tour once, a blast.

    Right now they will perform together on July 4, we are talking in the background about some other times to get together. there are a LOT of plans for us this year — we will play at Zappanale with Ike, Don, Denny, Napoleon and Robert Martin. I’m sorry – I just think these guys are real important.

    We will surely revisit the whole of Ray leaving the band , also. You know me — once I get clearance from these guys to talk about certain stuff — I put their official story out there. All I can say right now is — there’s way more to the “creative story” that we all heard from the “official source” on that whole event.

    Remember how..weird the story was, and seemed like stuff was kinda missing? Well some of you said as much and your instincts were right.

    I’m striving to stay on the positive side as much as possible — and just get out and play the MUSIC, as Frank himself asked us to do.

    Oh wait — Gail said in the NPR piece that SHE MADE THAT UP. So — what reason do we have to believe ANYTHING she or her camp says? Like show-download schedules etc.

    Dammit!! there I go again – -calling them on their own promises.

    Anyway, positivity time!! Celebrate Zappa music (and ALL music) — with WHOEVER is playing it — just …know that there’s a lot of spin out there. I on the other hand will stand proudly for ANY word I have ever written here or on any other forum. I’ll answer to any challenge because I never have anything to hide.

    Have a great day!

Comments for this entry have been closed.