Sore TappaZ Plays Zappa – Amsterdam Blue Note, June 2010

Based in Leverkusen, Amsterdam – band leader and vocalist Christopher Klassen‘s home town – Sore TappaZ plays Klassen‘s original compositions as well as and the music of Frank Zappa.

In June 2010, Klassen finished his studies at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam with the Master of Music Degree. During his Master Research he wrote a Method for improvised vocal arrangements for Jazz standards (a method to have a Jam-session with singers without any instrumental accompaniment).

Klassen continues to compose, write arrangements and play in various projects such as the Christopher Klassen Quartet, a Classical and Jazz Music Croossover, the Pop Cover Band “GSI”, Kicks and Sticks (Landes Jugend Jazz Orchester Hessen), the Big Band “Blowshop”, Vocal Band Project, and of course, Sore TappaZ.

The clip, above, of “Spider of Destiny” as well as the unique covers of Frank Zappa’s “Easy Meat”, “Montana”, and “Penis Dimension” (below) performed at the Amsterdam Blue Note on June 9th, 2010, bring an interestingly unusual combination of vocal and jazz elements to these classic Zappa songs.



Sore TappaZ is:

Christopher Klassen – Vocals
Jos Zwaanenburg – Flute and Live Electronics 

Benni Von Gutzeit – Viola 

Tine Grgurevic – Keys 

Laurent Warnier – Percussion
Martin Hiltawski – Bass

Igor Plzak – Drums

15 Responses to “Sore TappaZ Plays Zappa – Amsterdam Blue Note, June 2010”

  1. Dark Clothes says:

    I’m one of those mothers who actually enjoy Thana Harris’ vocals on Sleep Dirt, but the vocal rendition here I think is downright awful. Do I have to tell you why I think so? Well, it’s that misplaced bogus pomp in the voice, combined with terrible diction and poor phrasing.

    The instrumental backing is heavyhanded also. In my view, this is not a a good cover version, and perhaps an example to illustrate Thinman’s thesis that even correct notes can sound wrong.

  2. Dark Clothes says:

    Please note that the above comment was directed at the version of Spider of Destiny, not necessarily the other tracks.

  3. Balint says:

    Yes – it’s interesting to see that while the vocalist is the boss (Master of Music Degree?…), he seems to be the weakest in the band… FZ tunes really need strong voices – this is not one.

  4. Plooker says:

    Yeah, I love the rhythmic aspect of Franks vocals, you have to sing them like playing a drum. I think that is kind of missing, I still like it though.

  5. jonnybutter says:

    A quote from jonnybutter:

    I’m one of those mothers who actually enjoy Thana Harris’ vocals on Sleep Dirt,

    Me too. But I thought Christopher’s vocal here is ok. The operatic pomposity was pretty appropriate, I thought. And I thought his timing was OK. The problem I hear is that he changed the best line in the song! Drachma originally says: “..the moon and the stars/And the space in between/All the comets AND STUFF/Will be ours!” Christopher sings ‘comets AND STARS’.

    As if ‘owning’ ‘All the space in-between’ wasn’t an absurd enough illustration of Cosmic Greed, Zappa added ‘All the comets and stuff will be ours’.

    An understandable mistake for a non-native English speaker, though, especially a non-American one.

  6. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Dark Clothes:

    I’m one of those mothers who actually enjoy Thana Harris’ vocals on Sleep Dirt, but the vocal rendition here I think is downright awful. Do I have to tell you why I think so? Well, it’s that misplaced bogus pomp in the voice, combined with terrible diction and poor phrasing.

    The instrumental backing is heavyhanded also. In my view, this is not a a good cover version, and perhaps an example to illustrate Thinman’s thesis that even correct notes can sound wrong.

    I was one of those old freaks who found it difficult to love Thana Harris’ vocals on Sleep Dirt after falling in love with the instrumental version. Yet after the Lather release, I find I listen to both versions now with equal affection.

    It’s interesting how universally that non-English speaking groups covering FZ sometimes miss the nuance and meaning of some lyrical phrasing in some songs.

    As Drachma originally says: “..the moon and the stars/And the space in between/All the comets AND STUFF/Will be ours!” is supposed to be really over the top, complete with operatic pomposity. Unfortunately, Christopher misses this by screwing up the phrasing.

  7. jonnybutter2 says:

    A quote from jonnybutter2:

    I was one of those old freaks who found it difficult to love Thana Harris’ vocals on Sleep Dirt after falling in love with the instrumental version.

    Yeah, it took some getting used to for me as well. I might even prefer the instrumental versions, but I like both, and am glad I know the words!

  8. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from jonnybutter2:

    A quote from urbangraffito:

    I was one of those old freaks who found it difficult to love Thana Harris’ vocals on Sleep Dirt after falling in love with the instrumental version.

    Yeah, it took some getting used to for me as well. I might even prefer the instrumental versions, but I like both, and am glad I know the words!

    I really cannot imagine a true Zappa freak not embracing both versions, or preferring one over the other, especially since it was Warner Bros who rushed the instrumental version into release, and the lyrical version was always Zappa’s intended version. Disliking the vocal version is akin to disliking “Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague” because of the operatic interludes.

    “Won’t you please hear my plea?”

  9. Thinman says:

    I am also one of those old freaks who has problems with the vocal versions. Not because of the vocals. But I first heard the vinyl version when it came out in 1979 and never thought that these versions where incomplete (nobody knew that in those days). So later the vocals didn’t “add” something to the music which I considered perfect instrumentals for years.

    Besides that I always thought that the versions with vocals sounded a little too constructed.

    If the vinyl version was really an accident caused by ignorants at Warner Bros. then this to proof that sometimes in art accidents can produce good (or even better) results.

    Th.

  10. Thinman says:

    A quote from Thinman:

    I really cannot imagine a true Zappa freak not embracing both versions, or preferring one over the other, especially since it was Warner Bros who rushed the instrumental version into release, and the lyrical version was always Zappa’s intended version. Disliking the vocal version is akin to disliking “Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague” because of the operatic interludes.

    Of course it is possible to be a huge and true Zappa freak and still be critical about certain aspects and details of his work. Zappa was not GOD or something!

    And HE intended most of the instrumental versions to be released on Läther in the first place.

    Th.

  11. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Thinman:

    I am also one of those old freaks who has problems with the vocal versions. Not because of the vocals. But I first heard the vinyl version when it came out in 1979 and never thought that these versions where incomplete (nobody knew that in those days). So later the vocals didn’t “add” something to the music which I considered perfect instrumentals for years.

    Besides that I always thought that the versions with vocals sounded a little too constructed.

    If the vinyl version was really an accident caused by ignorants at Warner Bros. then this to proof that sometimes in art accidents can produce good (or even better) results.

    Th.

    I don’t quite understand what you mean by “constructed”, because if FZ wrote the lyrics during the year after the Rainbow Theatre incident in December of 1971, how exactly could they later be “constructed” when Thana sings them word for word?

    Admittedly, Thinman, you make a fantastic point “that sometimes in art accidents can produce good (or even better) results”. For all FZ’s intentions, it was the instrumental version that Warner Bros. released that fans fell in love with en mass (even if Zappa later said the recording was inferior), and it would be Zappa’s newly released vocal version which began FZ’s (some would call tampering) altered versions of other albums – even if he intended most of the instrumental versions to be released on Läther in the first place (which it wasn’t), so we fans can only conjecture.

    Of course, Zappa was not GOD, and individually and personally each Zappa freak can be critical about certain aspects and details of Zappa’s work and still be a big fan. I only make the supposition, Thinman, that both versions are essentially Zappa, and to dislike one, or prefer another, seems rather peculiar to me.

  12. Alex says:

    I don’t know…I don’t like the vocal version, simply as a matter of taste. I’d like to think my dislike of it doesn’t disqualify my cred as a Zappa fan.

    I love listening to the original record, it’s woefully underrated as his first all-instrumental release and a nice array of rock, jazz, and some madcap instrumental prowess from FZ, O’Hearn, Bozzio, and the Roxy band sounding like a goddamn orchestra on “Regyptian Strut.”

    The vocal/remixed version is like a separate release in the same sense that ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Let It Be Naked’ are two different albums. And for reasons that simply boil down to “Because one sounds better to me than the other,” I prefer ‘Naked’ over the original.

    Anyway, I’d like to see the vinyl mix get an official release on CD, but since the camp seems evenly divided and/or indifferent about the album, it might just be a dream.

  13. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Alex:

    I don’t know…I don’t like the vocal version, simply as a matter of taste. I’d like to think my dislike of it doesn’t disqualify my cred as a Zappa fan.

    I love listening to the original record, it’s woefully underrated as his first all-instrumental release and a nice array of rock, jazz, and some madcap instrumental prowess from FZ, O’Hearn, Bozzio, and the Roxy band sounding like a goddamn orchestra on “Regyptian Strut.”

    The vocal/remixed version is like a separate release in the same sense that ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Let It Be Naked’ are two different albums. And for reasons that simply boil down to “Because one sounds better to me than the other,” I prefer ‘Naked’ over the original.

    Anyway, I’d like to see the vinyl mix get an official release on CD, but since the camp seems evenly divided and/or indifferent about the album, it might just be a dream.

    Of course, your dislike of the vocal version doesn’t “disqualify” your “cred as a Zappa fan” Alex, anymore than my dislike of “Valley Girl” does. Only that “Valley Girl” is more a novelty song and Sleep Dirt’s vocal versions of “Flambay”, “Spider Of Destiny”, and especially “Spider Of Destiny” uses Thana Harris’ voice as another musical instrument. Zappa has a long history of using the human voice as a musical instrument on many of his albums – Uncle Meat, Sleep Dirt, and Them or Us come immediately to mind.

    The comparison of The Beatles ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Let It Be Naked’ with the vocal and all instrumental version of Sleep Dirt really isn’t an adequate comparison, Alex. Paul McCartney’s remixed and remastered ‘Let It Be Naked’ removed the orchestral overdubs and embellishments which were added by Phil Spector. Both versions of Sleep Dirt were both essentially produced by Zappa, the vocal version adding to it, while ‘Let It Be Naked’ took away.

    By the way, Alex, I prefer ‘Let It Be Naked’ myself. I never much cared for Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” technique.

  14. Alex says:

    I like the “wall of sound,” but on records by The Shangri-Las and all those other great pop singles. It doesn’t translate too well with The Beatles. Makes them sound a little too gilt-edged.

  15. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Alex:

    I like the “wall of sound,” but on records by The Shangri-Las and all those other great pop singles. It doesn’t translate too well with The Beatles. Makes them sound a little too gilt-edged.

    Try listening to Leonard Cohen’s “Death of a Ladies Man”, Alex.

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