FiDO plays ZAPPA – Too Big To Fail (2011)

FiDO plays ZAPPA – the Swiss 10 piece orchestra – has been one of my absolute favorite Zappa tribute bands since I first heard their CDR, FiDO plays ZAPPA Live @Sudhaus Basel in 2007, followed by their incredibly energetic 2008 DVD, FiDO plays ZAPPA on the Dental Floss. Now in 2011, FiDO plays ZAPPA present their first studio album: Too Big To Fail.


I knew at once this was no ordinary collection of Zappa covers (including four original compositions by the band). Gone was the heavier, electrically driven band that I was familiar with; in it’s place was a more acoustic, acid jazz, free wheeling improvisational group that bandied from laid-back lounge vocals to country grooves to funky soul to the outrageous avant-garde – all the while placing their own unique “eyebrows” on many Zappa classics. For instance, the album opens up with a familiar, yet entirely unique rendition of Zappa’s ‘Yellow Snow’ / ‘Nanook’ / ‘St.Alphonzo’ / ‘Father O’Blivion’ set. My only criticism is that the set comes to an end too soon (and some of the 17 tracks that make up this CD are just too damn short):

Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow

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Nanook Rubs It

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St. Alphonzo’s Pancake Breakfast

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Father O’Blivion

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That said, though, FiDO plays ZAPPA does end this CD with mammoth original composition that more than makes up for any shortcomings:

Musician’s Salary

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Final analysis. Pick this one up.

21 Responses to “FiDO plays ZAPPA – Too Big To Fail (2011)”

  1. stefan says:

    Is that the octopus from Peter Engel’s Origami from Angelfish to Zen?

  2. Thinman says:

    Sounds like a bunch of drunken sailors in an (empty) quayside bar to me. It is ok if someone has fun doing this live on stage, but why record this in a studio and put out a CD?

    Sorry,
    Th.

  3. Balint says:

    analysis:
    half of the 88 band meets Lumpy Gravy in an acoustic mood.

    evaluation:
    10/10

    (one) highligt:
    Black Napkins

  4. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Thinman:

    Sounds like a bunch of drunken sailors in an (empty) quayside bar to me. It is ok if someone has fun doing this live on stage, but why record this in a studio and put out a CD?

    Sorry,
    Th.

    Having listened to FZ’s 73 and 74 ensembles heavily, what FpZ do on this CD isn’t really too much different from what Zappa and his own musicians did. They just mixed it up a little differently. Listen a little closer.

  5. Thinman says:

    A quote from urbangraffito:

    … Having listened to FZ’s 73 and 74 ensembles heavily, what FpZ do on this CD isn’t really too much different from what Zappa and his own musicians did. …

    In that case it would be even more superfluous (for me).

    Th.

  6. Thinman says:

    But seriously: I can see no sense in trying to imitate stuff somebody else already did in perfection.

    Th.

  7. Dark Clothes says:

    At a very superficial first listen, this sounds like something I would enjoy in concert, but I don’t crave the CD – just as I really enjoy ZPZ in concert, without ever feeling an urge to buy their CDs.

  8. Balint says:

    A quote from Thinman:

    But seriously: I can see no sense in trying to imitate stuff somebody else already did in perfection.

    Th.

    I might be wrong but it seems to me that you react of what Urb had said, not the music. On the other hand (I think) he only noted that the attitude is similar to FZ’s – if you listen again, you’ll see that the music really has it’s own life, does NOT imitate FZ at all – on the contrary: it’s very much a free interpretation of the original.

    The real vaule is exactly this (to me): hearing the same tunes but through another perspective – with fun an with musical pefection. Very zappaesque – not imitation at all.

    At least the way I see (hear) it. :-)

  9. Dark Clothes says:

    I did enjoy the Musician’s Salary track, although Thinman’s comment about drunken sailors is rather appropriate. I wonder how they would interpret Naval Aviation In Art?

  10. Balint says:

    Well, not belonging to a nation that has an own sea, I cannot tell, but IF a bunch of drunken sailors play with such precision, then… Navigare necesse est! :-)

  11. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Balint:

    A quote from Thinman:

    But seriously: I can see no sense in trying to imitate stuff somebody else already did in perfection.

    Th.

    I might be wrong but it seems to me that you react of what Urb had said, not the music. On the other hand (I think) he only noted that the attitude is similar to FZ’s – if you listen again, you’ll see that the music really has it’s own life, does NOT imitate FZ at all – on the contrary: it’s very much a free interpretation of the original.

    The real vaule is exactly this (to me): hearing the same tunes but through another perspective – with fun an with musical pefection. Very zappaesque – not imitation at all.

    At least the way I see (hear) it. :-)

    Obviously Thinman is not a big fan of bands that cover Zappa material (which is his right, btw). Certainly, the innovative and fresh interpretation of Zappa classics that draws me to listen to these FZ covers will never replace the originals. That said, Thinman has every right to like or dislike whatever piece of music he hears. It’s a matter of taste and a matter of personal opinion.

  12. Chuck says:

    I like it… its got its own nice feel and all.

    I think some of the worst FZ covers were done by FZ himself… so its nice when people of pull of something different and do it well.

    I do agree though that I prefer an FZ cover in a live context… the only FZ covers in the studio I play regularly are Ed Palermo’s.

  13. Thinman says:

    @urbangraffito: That’s probably right, though I never thought about it. It must be very simple for me: I concentrate on FZ’s lifetime official releases, because he was good in selecting releasable material.

    I never have been too enthusiatic about bootlegs and covers. Out of the many FZ cover-projects I know (and own, BTW) there is only one I really can enjoy so far: Ensemble Ambrosius – The Zappa album.

    Th.

  14. Slap says:

    Well, one man’s cover is another man’s toilet paper, I suppose….!

    Me, I enjoy seeing others take the compositions and make a good effort at reinterpreting them through their own prism. The level of success at such endeavors, to me, is a bit less important than their audacity. I’m always willing to give props for bravery — and in my mind, there’s very little that’s more courageous than attempting to interpret FZ. (Speaking from a purely musical standpoint, here — the issue of confronting the Trust is a different kettle of monks altogether.)

    Oddly, what I enjoy more are finding people who have clearly been influenced by FZ’s music, but who make their own way. My favorite example is/was an Italian band called Picchio dal Pozzo, who sound like the Mothers after crash-landing in Canterbury. Here’s an example:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tp-_rtI6CpE

    I’m definitely interested in others, as this is an older example. But I love these guys!

  15. Dark Clothes says:

    I remember one track by Picchio dal Pozzo from a ReR sampler, Uccelin’ del Bosco – very good, heavy RIO!

    Ensemble Ambrosius is extremely worthwhile, they even nailed the improvisations, as in Zoot Allures and Inca Roads! The best alternative for laid-back, baroque interpretations of Zappa for sure.

  16. Dark Clothes says:

    A quote from Balint:

    Well, not belonging to a nation that has an own sea, I cannot tell, but IF a bunch of drunken sailors play with such precision, then… Navigare necesse est! :-)

    It sure is, Balint! Listening to Musican’s Salary now – the music is swaying, as drunken sailors are wont to be. I have an alternative title for the track: The Klangfarbenmelodie of the Jazzy Seamen’s Church :-)

  17. Nowski says:

    A quote from Slap:

    …I’m definitely interested in others, as this is an older example. But I love these guys!

    Do you know the Swedish band Samla Mammas Manna? They are also from the seventies, but in my personal top-of-the-pops list, they belong right next to Zappa.
    Have a listen to this Lang ner i ett Kaninhaal (Way Down a Rabbithole).
    I think it’s wonderful.

  18. Balint says:

    A quote from Dark Clothes:

    Listening to Musican’s Salary now – the music is swaying, as drunken sailors are wont to be.

    I was thinking about all the FZ-covers on the album, not their own tunes, because the discussion was about whether they are “just the same again” or do they have their own value. (At least I thought) the “drunken sailor” thing was also about the covers, on which I was pretty surpised.

    …anyway, I keep on listenning (loving) to this album drunken sailors or not, usually after Make a Jazz Noise. Hehe.

  19. Dark Clothes says:

    It sure is interesting to note that they model their Black Napkins after the Jazz Noise arrangement, and add their own special flavour. And isn’t there even a 1988 sample in Musician’s Salary (from the Jazzy Seamen’s Church)?

  20. dave says:

    A quote from dave:

    (from the Jazzy Seamen’s Church)?

    yes sir there is a sample,
    and thanks for being interested in our work,it is great to see people talking about one`s work (doesent matter pro or con).we are a bunch of zappa fans and just love it…..
    dave (singer, and the engineer behind the record)

    thanks again

  21. Dark Clothes says:

    A quote from dave:

    A quote from Dark Clothes:

    (from the Jazzy Seamen’s Church)?

    yes sir there is a sample,
    and thanks for being interested in our work,it is great to see people talking about one`s work (doesent matter pro or con).we are a bunch of zappa fans and just love it…..
    dave (singer, and the engineer behind the record)

    thanks again

    You’re welcome! How did you spend your Musician’s Salary? Good track!

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