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Eddy Loves Frank

Eddy Loves Frank

by The Eddy Palermo Big Band
Cuneiform Rune, Silver Spring, MD, 2009
CD, 285, $15 US
Distributor’s website:  http://www.cuneiformrecords.com.

Fear Draws Misfortune

by Cheer Accident
Cuneiform Rune, Silver Spring, MD, 2009
CD, 276, $15 US
Distributor’s website:  http://www.cuneiformrecords.com.

Reviewed by Michael R. (Mike) Mosher
Saginaw Valley State University, Michigan


Eddy Loves Frank, the second of the Eddy Palermo Band's two CDs of the music of Frank Zappa, whose reputation as a composer (hidden during his life by the notoriety of his humor) has increased since his 1995 death.  Early in the first cut, "High School", I found a softer edge to Zappa's music than I remembered, or perhaps that's only how Palermo’s band plays it, gentler than the acerbic Zappa of yore.  "Echindina's Arf (of You)" is lively and loping, reminiscent of a big 1960s show band like Doc Severinsen.  "Regyptian Strut" has a military rhythm, while "Dupree's Paradise" feels mainstream.  "Let's Move to Cleveland" has the quickly changing dynamism of Carl Stalling's scores for Warner Brothers cartoons.

Then Palermo hits a wrong note with the inclusion of "America the Beautiful".  The song's arrangement is interesting enough; it's performed well with agreeable vocals by Bruce McDaniel and would be welcome at my town's annual Fourth of July concert and fireworks display.  It's even justified in the CD booklet as dedicated to Eddy’s own father, a World War II veteran, in protest of the Iraq War.  Yet on an album otherwise devoted to the iconoclast Frank Zappa (who asked, in one song, "Would you go all the way for the U.S.A.? Would you go all the way for the U.S.O.?"), it feels very much out of place.  That whirring sound is the skinny, agitated Mr. Z. in his grave.

Cheer Accident is a band of up to 18 musicians led by Chicagoan Thymme Jones, who also must count Frank Zappa among their influences.  “The Canal Garish City”, on their CD Fear Draws Misfortune, begins with the Chicago dynamism you’d see in 1930s Century-of-Progress documentary movies on the city, then stampedes into stockyards rock.  Vocalists come in as tour guides to the Frank Zappa Chorale Music Museum, or some institution based on that aforementioned composer's use of massed voices.  “Blue Cheadle” is prog rock, reminiscent of Rush, and the song title must have behind it a great stoner pun on Blue Cheer.  Perhaps Jones was watching “Hotel Rwanda” with the sound turned down and (having played in some form or another since 1981, the band is nearly old enough to own Blue Cheer albums) Vincebus Eruptum on the turntable.  It’s reasonable to parse song titles for Thymme Jones' band, a group whose name supposedly was inspired by the label on a rack containing greeting cards appropriate for occasions ranging from expression of good cheer to commiseration for accidents.

“Disenchantment” is a moody dance march, ‘80s British Techno music at its most anthematic and echoey; then all Simple Minded Bunnymen step aside to the soundtrack for a movie about industrial espionage. “According to the Spiral” boasts French Riviera continental piano trajectories (ooh la la, Monsieur Jones) fit to lubricate Jason Bourne planning an escape, while “Your Weak Heart” is dreamy and complicated.  “Sun Dies” begins with what sounds like Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band’s guitar; it’s Cheer Accident’s Weimar cabaret show tune or its post-Sondheim off-off-Broadway number.

If I were in Chicago, I’d go to see Cheer Accident play.   Thirty-five years ago Howlin’ Wolf was advertised as playing in a club, but another student cautioned me not to go to that rough neighborhood.  I didn't, and a month later Wolf died.  Not with much cheer, and not directly (though he’d earlier suffered one) from an accident.

Last Updated 1 April, 2010

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