Who is the band? What is their history? What motivates them?
“Frogg Café is a 6 piece band from the New York metropolitan area making music that incorporates elements of Zappa-esque progressive rock, pop melodicism and fusion jazz.” “Frogg Café’s music is also peppered with an appealing variety of other flavors including Latin music, bluegrass, modern chamber music and avant-garde/experimental.” “Their energetic live shows feature extended flights of group improvisation that would draw grins from any hardcore jam-band fan.” “All of the members of Frogg Café are university trained in music composition and performance, and this education and experience is quite evident in their mature compositions, prowess on multiple instruments, and wildly entertaining live performances.” “Frogg Café started out life in 1998 as a band called Lumpy Gravy, performing the music of their hero, Frank Zappa” (Source: Frogg Café‘s MySpace, 2010).
Terra Sancta – Sitar – like opening to this one, and I’m enjoying it right from the start. Then the signature ‘Frank Zappa –like’ horns and percussion chime in. The melody builds slowly with more and more instruments added. The drums are good as are the little guitar riffs that find their way through the storm like drums and sounds that surround. The vocals enter with impending doom lyrics mixed with that playful music that Zappa was so famous for producing. After the lyrics end, the band moves into an inspired jam session of the best music on the album. Solid guitar riffs come and go. They have a fantastic element of Steve Hackett mixed with Jimmy Hendrix, or Hackett with some distortion added in, but still very clean. The production on this one is excellent. Every note can be heard in all of its glory. At 12:26, one of the longer tracks, but it’s so good, you still want more. The final acoustic guitar notes close this one perfectly.
Move Over I’m Driving – This one is more of a Latin/jazz combo. A much looser piece that just kinda rocks and grooves with an early Sunday morning café feel to it. Since the title has driving in it, maybe it’s a drive out to the Hamptons. A cool jazz journey complete with solid bass, drums, horns all over the place, violin, and some lead guitar sprinkled in for fun. The bass in the middle is well pronounced and leads the trumpets and guitar on through the maze being created.
Pasta Fazeuhl – Lots of interesting sounds being played along with the bass and horns. But it really doesn’t pick up until the drums slowly build to announce the entrance of synthesizers, lead guitar and more funky rhythms than you can dare to imagine. Even sounds like a flute thrown in with that traditional ‘Zappa’ ‘amplified marimba, vibraphone, and xylophone – like’ sound. Then an awesome acoustic makes entry, but only for a brief time. Back to the full blown ‘Zappa attack’, until they even throw in a little ‘Chicago – like’ horn section. All of sudden the action comes to a halt and the bass takes over with cello, cymbals, lead guitar and drums. Cool contemplative music which almost lulls you into a dream state. All manner of sounds including what sounds like grinding glass, before a beautiful violin dispels the chaos.
Under Wuhu Son – This is the big epic on the album at 20:14. The second best song on the album for me.
I. In the Bright Light – A three stage epic opening with cool strings and lead guitar. Violin and cello are added to flavor the essence as the melody builds. Another comfortable almost Sunday afternoon melody, until the glockenspiel sounds enter again, this time with a more menacing tone. The acoustic enters with the best vocals on the album. A sad epic storyline develops here. “On a bridge, by the riverside.” “She will hope that a stranger finds bundled tight late last night.” Acoustic guitar, strings and bells creating an incredible sound alongside the cello, soft drums, and violin. A sad story about discarded children. “On a boat down a river strong.” “Where you live, where you breed.” “And the oats that you seed can just be left for dead.”
II. Left for Dead – A very ominous guitar and drum rumble with trumpets and viola mixed with violin and cello. Definitely Zappa inspired. Lots of drama and those sounds and instruments which enter the tiny crevices of your mind and ears where most other bands dare not tread. Flute, hand percussion, and glockenspiel gliding perfectly between bass, soft drums and all manner of horns. Closed with thunder and rain.
III. Brace Against the Fall – Flugelhorn, glockenspiel, trumpets, and drums building a rhythm and melody to finish off the storyline of this song. “Look inside an empty nest.” “Soft teddy bears in painted chest.” “Swim against a river flowing so strong.” The impossible odds that confront the protagonist are highlighted with trumpets, roaring guitar and glockenspiel. A river of endless tragedy.
From the Fence – Anthem like lead guitar heralds the opening of this one. Then cool acoustic bass. “Today I woke with flowers and song.” “With praise for people and blinders on.” Nice female vocals supporting. Sitting comfortably on the fence of decision making, while pondering the universe.
Belgian Boogie Board – Wow, when you read the credits you find out how amazingly complicated this song truly is. “It is a barebones composition written for two clarinets and two electric basses.” But they have added a ‘few’ instruments into the mix. This is Zappa unleashed. All the funky mass instrument experimentation with sounds that flavor his best works brought to bear in one dynamic 10:31 explosion of sound. Pianos, violins, clarinets, and as the credits say, “a 28 page score written for at least twenty – seven different instruments.” They add, “the recording of this piece has given Bill a headache at least twice…per hour.” Luckily we just get to sit back and enjoy every instrument in all its glory. Banjos, drums, violins, glockenspiel, cellos, bass, all sorts of strings and brass. It is an amalgamation of instruments, each taking their turn to provide highlights. One of the better songs on the album.
Rating: 8/10 – This is an interesting album full of adaptations of some of what Frank Zappa brings to the table of prog and music. They know, like Zappa, how to find those nooks and crannies of the mind and ear that rarely get stimulation from pop, rock, and most of the prog genre. The album provides these sounds in wonderful almost three dimensional effect. The sound is so clean and well recorded.
This is much more accessible to me than much of Frank Zappa’s works. Though I must admit I have not listened to many of his albums. Not a big fan. But this is interesting and I consider it much different. Flighty and challenging with its sounds, but grounded in a storyline with well written lyrics and vocals.
If you’re a fan of Zappa’s music you will probably love this. But even if you’re not, give this a try, to hear their interpretation of his effects. Very interesting and different.
Reviewed by Prof on July 2nd, 2010