TechnoFILE is copyright and a registered trademark © ® of
Pandemonium Productions.
All rights reserved.
E-mail us Here!
Frank Zappa - Halloween

Frank Zappa - Halloween on DVD Audio

by Jim Bray

Proving there is life after death, this DTS Entertainment DVD Audio disc exhumes the late great entertainer and gives his music new life thanks to today's audio technology.

First, full disclosure up front: I've never been much of a Zappa fan, though I acknowledge his position in modern music history and his influence. But a new concert disc that uses state-of-the-art audio technology to bring twenty-five year old analog recordings to the present is too great an opportunity for an audio/videophile to turn down, so I tackled this review with gusto.

In the end, I'm more of a Zappa fan than before, though this concert doesn't come close to replacing The Who as my band of choice - and I'm a bigger fan than ever of the potential of music on DVD.

The previously unreleased concert, culled from Zappa's Halloween and near Halloween concerts at New York's Palladium, was originally recorded on 24 track analog tape, and DTS enlisted the original engineer, Joe Cicarelli, to mix this new 5.1 channel version. Zappa's son Dweezil produced, and the whole effort appears to be a genuine labor of love from beginning to end.

So the concert, which has been cut to about 70 minutes to fit onto the disc, has been lovingly and seamlessly assembled and really does sound like a single show. And the performances are top notch; Frank Zappa had a knack for bringing on board some of the best musicians of the time and this disc is no exception.

The concert flows well from beginning to end and the engineers have, with the exception of the excellent drum solo "Zeets," made you almost feel a part of the audience with the music filling the soundstage in front of you and the ambience and audience surrounding you. That drum solo makes you feel almost like a fly on the drum kit as the 5.1 mix zips around you from channel to channel, front to rear, left to right, etc. etc. It isn't realistic, since the drums would have been on stage and not all around the hall, but it's sure neat.

Zappa was if nothing else one heck of a guitar player and there are some wicked solos on this disc, too.

The audio, especially considering its "ancient" and analog origins, is outstanding. Except for the two channel PCM track which offers conventional CD quality sound, DTS has used 96K/24 bit technology and it shows - even if your playback equipment doesn't support 96/24 the audio quality is first rate, with terrific dynamics, deep bass, and a wonderful live feel.

They’ve also piled on the extras, including a full libretto and copious liner notes (which are repeated on the disc itself). There’s also a very entertaining radio interview with Frank, who appears not to suffer fools lightly (which makes him okay in my book) and two videos: an excellent live version of “Suicide Chum” and his performance of “Dancin’ Fool” from Saturday Night Live. I remember this latter performance; I liked it then and it has aged well. Audio of the videos is unremarkable; the real meat is on the audio tracks themselves.

There’s also a full discography of Frank’s many, many albums and his “official biography,” which won’t take long to read. You also get the DTS story, a brief history of the company.

The extras are fine, but they’re the icing on the cake. It’s the advanced resolution DVD-A and DTS 5.1 (for DVD video players) tracks that are the star of the show, and they do, indeed shine.

Okay, while I’m still not hooked on Zappa’s music (though his lyrics, song and album titles are great!), I’m even more hooked on DVD Audio than I was before. My first experience with the format, though not with DTS’ handling of it, came with Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s “Brain Salad Surgery,” which is easily the best recorded version of that classic album. I can think of a large number of other classic album titles I’d love to see released in this format, and though I’m completely out of touch with today’s new artists (being a middle aged fart) I’d love to see as many albums released with this type of audio quality as possible.

Unfortunately, since this is a release of previously unavailable material one can’t compare this version with an earlier one. But I’m confident that if I’d bought an earlier CD of this concert I’d be throwing it away about now and firing up the DVD player for its replacement.

Frank Zappa Halloween, from DTS Entertainment
Approx. 70 minutes (plus extras), produced by Dweezil Zappa


Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think













Support TechnoFile
via Paypal

TechnoFILE's E-letter
We're pleased to offer
our FREE private,
private E-mail service.
It's the "no brainer"
way to keep informed.

Our Privacy Policy

Updated May 13, 2006