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Strange News from Mars

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Album Review

Guitarist Jon Larsen has assembled a crew of Los Angeles based musicians to play music that, in no uncertain terms, pays tribute to Frank Zappa without performing his music. Some of them, including trombonist Bruce Fowler, keyboardist Tommy Mars, and drummer Jimmy Carl Black (cameo only) are former members of Zappa's ensembles. Rob Waring expertly assimilates the rich marimba sound of Ruth Underwood. But Larsen himself does not sound at all like Zappa, and in fact takes a backseat role to the music in general. There are several narrative quips and snippets included which don't enhance the music and embrace wing nut territory, but for the most part they are harmless. The music starts with electric bebop on "Goodbye to Earth" morphs into campy rock during "The Eons Are Closing," goes to dramatic film sounds with "Cinderella on the Event Horizon of a Black Hole," contemporary funk on "Conseptual Continuity of the Red Planet," and hits up reggae for the excellent "Capt. Zurcon's Cranberry Cocktail," and "Unwanted Sexual Attention in Space." Waring's wooden vibes are heard in essence on the slow, soulful "Mutant Fromage," the rock road song "Dachs Reduction," very reminiscent of Pierre Moerlen's Gong and a feature for Fowler, and the easy jazz swinger "Air Sculpting in Vacuum," with Mars on organ and Larsen stepping up a bit. Also included are some spacy instrumental and vocal asides à la Sun Ra; "A Windy Day on Mars," "Norwegisher Schweinhund," and "Tax the Churches." This fun and funny (read peculiar) recording has its own depth, humor, silliness, stoner wit, and charm, which clearly connects to Zappa, and is an association his fans will appreciate. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Strange News from Mars, Jon Larsen
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