When Frank Zappa died in 1993, he had spent much of his remaining time and energy completing a number of projects before the end finally came. Why the majority of them are still unreleased as of late 2006 is anybody's guess, but perhaps the long awaited release of Trance-Fusion is a good sign. Trance-Fusion is another collection of guitar solos, forming something of a trilogy with the Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar set and Guitar. As FZ fans know, Frank had his favorite vehicles for soloing and careful listening to the albums as a group gives you a good idea which songs these are. "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar," "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar Some More," "The Return of the Son of Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar" (Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar), "Systems of Edges" (Guitar), and now "A Cold Dark Matter" are all excerpted from the solo section of "Inca Roads." "Variations on the Carlos Santana Secret Chord Progression," "That Ol' G Minor Thing Again," and now "Scratch & Sniff" are all lifted from "City of Tiny Lites." "The Torture Never Stops," "Easy Meat," "The Black Page" and a couple others have also contributed multiple tracks to this series. So why pick up Trance-Fusion if you've already got the others? Well, as the hardcore know, Frank was an endlessly creative soloist who often referred to his solos as "instant compositions." On three successive nights, Zappa could take the same two-chord vamp to three entirely different universes. In 1988 he incorporated some radical new tones and new playing techniques, so even the same vehicle/vamp can sound very different from tour to tour. The Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar set covered mostly 1979-1980, Guitar focused on 1984, and Trance-Fusion is more than half 1988 material, so each album really sounds different from the others, but there's a nice sense of progression. The vast majority of Trance-Fusion features the Wackerman/Thunes rhythm section, but Bozzio/O'Hearn and Colaiuta (presumably with Arthur Barrow on bass but there is no bass credit) each cover a track. Dweezil plays with Frank on "Chunga's Revenge" and "Bavarian Sunset," but, of course, the star of the show is the guitar playing of Frank Zappa. Check out the nice flanging on "Butter or Cannons," the wicked whammy bar work on "Scratch & Sniff," or the feedback on the title track. He sounds like no one else. Trance-Fusion took way too long to see the light of day (and with cover art more suited to a Kitaro album), but for the FZ faithful it was worth the wait. Keep your fingers crossed for more.
AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard