Home > Music > Frank Zappa – Over-Nite Sensation(1973)

Frank Zappa – Over-Nite Sensation(1973)

folderFor better or worse, much of Over-Nite Sensation is either based in fairly ‘standard’ 1970s rock tropes, or the equivalent funk/soul records marketed along racial lines. Major jazz-fusion influences remain, although compared to other Zappa works there aren’t many overt classicisms. Either way, this record is generally considered (along with its successor, Apostrophe) one of Frank Zappa’s more accessible. Furthermore, it saw some reasonable degree of commercial success, reaching #32 on the Billboard pop charts – a figure that meant more back in the 1970s than it does today.

Over-Nite Sensation really, dramatically excels in its solos to an extent that the progressive rock surrounding it is rendered green with envy. For this album, Zappa was able to get his hands on huge quantities of guest musicians, most notably Jean-Luc Ponty (who’d only a few years before released an album of Frank Zappa covers), and the Ikettes featuring Tina Turner. Most of these musicians had plenty of experience in jazz music going into this; combine this with Zappa’s traditional, heavily through-composed approach and you get an interesting contrast, to say the least. Furthermore, I’d say Jean-Luc Ponty’s electric violin solos are the best of an already distinguished bunch; his choice of chord progressions seems most appropriate for the compositional display on here.

The key to understanding much of Zappa’s early work (outside of sound collages and extended pieces) is that he often alternated between using pop standards and more complicated works; Absolutely Free provides an example of this. On this album, however, the two are often fused. The local jazz influence is probably to blame, since that genre allows for lots of complicated improvisation within what potentially is a very simple method for constructing songs. In comparison to Zappa’s 1960s work, though, the pop on display isn’t based in doo-wop or folk rock – I presume Frank Zappa (or one of his session musicians) was listening to a lot of funk and soul records at the time and enjoying them, and then furthermore trying to extend the formula. While the songs here are often guitar and bass driven, there’s plenty of brass stings, and the frequent presence of Turner/Ikette vocals to push the aesthetics. The only real exception to this, ironically, is the first track (“Camarillo Brillo”), a rather countrified excursion for Zappa; Edgard Varèse it is not.

Describing Over-Nite Sensation as a product of its times seems accurate… but not particularly useful, as most musical recordings are not made in a vacuum. Still, the album’s musical palette may render it more topical and less “timeless” than other Zappa works. However, this also potentially means fans of the constituent genres (jazz fusion, funk, soul, etc.) might get particularly enjoyment out of this recording.

Highlights: “I’m The Slime”, “Fifty Fifty”, “Zomby Woof”

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  1. 2014/02/08 at 12:54

    I’d say “I’m the Slime” resonates more today than it did when he released it. Nice review.

  1. 2015/03/12 at 14:36
  2. 2016/11/06 at 15:34

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