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: