The Ed Palermo Big Band - The Adventures Of Zodd Zundgren,
There is no doubt in my mind, and also in that of many others, that two of the most important musicians to come out of America in the Sixties were Frank Zappa and Todd Rundgren. They both had/have a unique take on music, and were never afraid to follow their own paths and do exactly what they wanted. I was lucky enough to see Todd in concert, when he made his first appearance on NZ soil a few years ago and he was incredible, but sadly only really started investigating Zappa in the last five years or so, long after his passing. Ed Palermo has now brought together two major influences from his high school years, and has created the album ‘The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren’, which is a homage to both of them. Here we have 25 songs, from either Zappa or Rundgren, fully arranged for his big band. Some are treated as instrumentals, while others do have wonderfully laid-back vocals, and the result is an album that captures the spirit of both of these musicians, and is absolutely essential to anyone who has ever remotely enjoyed their music.
Zappa’s soaring fanfare “Peaches En Regalia” is inspirational, with a particularly eloquent alto sax solo by Cliff Lyons, while a brisk and forthright version of Rundgren’s “Influenza” showcases violinist Katie Jacoby, Palermo reaches deep into the Rundgren songbook for “Kiddie Boy,” a stinging blues from 1969’s ‘Nazz Nazz’. Drawing from the original horn arrangement, Palermo displays some impressive guitar work on a vehicle for Bruce McDaniel’s blue-eye vocals. Napoleon Murphy Brock delivers a poker-faced rendition of Zappa’s surreal “Montana”, (one of my personal favourites, both as the original and on the album) and McDaniel and Brock join forces on Rundgren’s deliriously silly “Emperor of the Highway”.
I really do feel that I could rave about this album for hours, with numbers such as “Song of the Viking” (Todd) just superb with an introductory arrangement for harpsichord and tuba that is inspired. The original was on the classic ‘Something/Anything’, and one has to say that playing one after the other I actually prefer the new version! Apparently Rundgren has also given this release his seal of approval, as I saw some photos on Facebook the other day of him attending one of the gigs promoting this, and having his photo taken with the band. This is an essential purchase, as is the case with many of Cuneiform’s albums.