Friday, 29 November 2013

Friday Thing: Random Jon Poole - What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?

While not consciously inspired by the Monty Python reunion, this week's Thing is nonetheless something completely different. 

I became aware of Jon Poole through his bass playing with the Wildhearts/Ginger, and subsequently heard of the mythical album of Zappa covers he recorded on a 4-track cassette machine in the mid-nineties. Being a Zappa fan, it piqued my interest a lot and upon tweeting Jon about its availability was informed it was long out of print. 

Enter the Internet. The album has now been uploaded to my favourite music depository Bandcamp and can be downloaded for £5.


The album covers a good cross section of Zappa material from 1965-69, and captures the distinctive sound of that era using (besides guitars and Jon's voice) a Yamaha DX7 synth and Alesis HR-16 drum machine.

In the liner notes of the original album I'm informed Jon says the HR-16 is

"a primitive thing with the brain of a toaster. One song can take up the entire memory if it has a lot of different drum patterns - and we're talking Zappa here. Besides this, every so often you have to dismantle the machine and clean out the innards if you want the buttons to work."

Along with being limited to 4-track recording, this a good indication of what he was up against in terms of equipment, not to mention the music he was recording.

After I shared this album on reddit in the Zappa subreddit, one commenter, while expressing that he was impressed, said that the recordings are so close to exact transcriptions you might as well listen to the originals and "get almost the same exact experience". I don't necessarily agree. I mean, if I just wanted to hear the music then of course I'd listen to the originals. I already know everyone who played in a Zappa band was an incredible musician and I've always been in awe of the complexity of Zappa's music. One man recording these songs so proficiently on primitive equipment (even for 1994) then blows my mind and makes the experience of listening to this so much more incredible.

Of course, it probably helps to like Zappa in the first place.

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