Author Topic: The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #39 - 'The Perfect Stranger'  (Read 41059 times)

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Offline Nihil-Morari

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Re: The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #36 - 'The Man From Utopia'
« Reply #700 on: May 17, 2017, 02:03:20 AM »
Thanks for joining in on the fun! The more the merrier.

Next album (Baby Snakes) coming up in a few days!
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Re: The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #37 - 'Baby Snakes'
« Reply #701 on: May 22, 2017, 04:18:19 AM »
Official Release #37 - 'Baby Snakes'
(Released 03/1983)



Background Information:
The soundtrack to the movie with the same name. Although the concerts that were filmed took place in 1977, and Zappa was quoted in December 1977 saying ‘… which we ought to have out by summertime’, it took Zappa until December 1979 to finish the movie. Zappa had a hard time trying to find a distributor for the movie. The 168-minute film about ‘People who do stuff that is not normal’ wasn’t easy to sell. After shortening it to only 90 minutes there were still no takers.
In the end Zappa decided to do it all by himself. Around Christmas `79 the movie was playing 24 hours a day at the Victoria Theatre. Zappa was still looking for a distribution deal, and he was hopeful: ‘...don’t have a distribution deal yet’ (Februari 1980), ‘it’ll be coming out in June’ (March 1980). In the end Zappa even did the distribution himself, releasing the movie through his Honker Home Video in October 1987. It was as late as 2003 that the movie finally became available for the great public via a DVD release.
In the meanwhile Zappa worked on a soundtrack to be released as album number 37.

The Album Itself:
Originally released as a picture disc LP not containing the ‘Intro Rap/Baby Snakes’ track, this album is exactly what it set out to be: a best of kind of soundtrack to a movie that most fans probably hadn’t seen. Although the album is from 1983, it isn’t surprising to see a lot of similarities to the New York album, which was recorded only 10 months earlier. Titties & Beer, The Black Page #2 and Punky’s Whips add up to over 20 minutes of material also played on Zappa in New York. Jones Crusher was a new song (to be released on Sheik Yerbouti, where it states that the original (pre-overdub) track was recorded on October 31st 1977), where Adrian Belew really shines.
This is Zappa’s first album (not including Mothermania) where all tracks had been released by the time this album came out.
Fun fact: the fan in the Intro Rap is actually Warren Cuccurulo.

Essential Tracks:
Jones Crusher
Punky’s Whips
« Last Edit: May 28, 2017, 04:23:59 AM by Nihil-Morari »
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Offline Orbert

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Re: The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #37 - 'Baby Snakes'
« Reply #702 on: May 22, 2017, 10:50:10 AM »
Saw this one a few times, but didn't know the background, and like most I hadn't heard of the movie (yet), so it was just another live album from his "later" (at the time) period which I wasn't really that interested in.  Bummer.  I'm sure every live release has at least something to offer, but I can't listen to every live release.

Offline Nihil-Morari

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Re: The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #37 - 'Baby Snakes'
« Reply #703 on: May 22, 2017, 02:51:26 PM »
This album is possibly in the top 10 of least important albums to check out if you're a casual fan. Since the DVD it's even less special. There is talk of a box set of all the shows from that 3 day run around Halloween `77 and that would be the final blow to this album  :lol (but man I'd love to hear an entire show of that band)

In all fairness though, the album sounds good, and it's a short all killer-no-filler type live record. No new songs (when it came out) sorta like a live hit record.
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Offline Mosh

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Re: The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #37 - 'Baby Snakes'
« Reply #704 on: May 22, 2017, 11:03:38 PM »
This album is definitely one of his more redundant releases. I always skipped it because, even though it's a band I like, I had all these songs. Also, the ZFT recently released the full length version of the soundtrack in digital form. There are also other posthumous releases from around this time that are better, although none with Belew iirc. So this really is for completists only. It's a good song selection though. Maybe not essential, but it wouldn't be a bad intro to Zappa. Best approached as a sort of greatest hits imo.

Watched the movie tonight, it's entertaining but pretty long. I like seeing all the behind the scenes stuff, but I could've used a little more concert footage.

Count me in for that Halloween 77 box set. This was one of the greatest Zappa bands and unfortunately it was shortlived, so I'm up for whatever is out there.


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Offline ChuckSteak

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Re: The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #37 - 'Baby Snakes'
« Reply #705 on: May 23, 2017, 12:09:22 AM »
I don't think it is redudant. I think 90% of the live albums he ever released were excellent. I mean also the ones released after his death.

Road Tapes, Venue #1, 2 & 3, Roxy By Proxy, A Token of His Extreme, Carnegie Hall, Hammersmith Odeon, Philly '76, One Shot Deal, Wazoo, Buffalo, Imaginary Diseases, FZ:OZ, You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6, The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life, Make A Jazz Noise Here, Swiss Cheese / Fire, Just Another Band From L.A., Fillmore East June 1971, Roxy & Elsewhere, Bongo Fury, Zappa In New York, etc, etc. All excellent and worth checking out.

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Re: The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #37 - 'Baby Snakes'
« Reply #706 on: May 23, 2017, 07:42:26 PM »
Also worth mentioning that, unless I'm forgetting something, this is really Zappa's first "archival" release. There would be a lot of these in the 80s, albums that showcased old bands. Obviously there's stuff like BWS and Weasels which came after the original Mothers had broken up, but at the time that was still his most recent group. This was the first time he went back into the vault, so to speak. There'd be a lot more of these in the 80s of course. Did the popularity of Baby Snakes lead to You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore?
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Offline darkshade

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Re: The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #37 - 'Baby Snakes'
« Reply #707 on: May 24, 2017, 07:48:42 AM »
"A MAD-man."

This short live album, as others mentioned, is a bit of a redundant Frank Zappa album, but still worth a listen. This is the first Zappa album that didn't feature his most current bands or projects. The Zappa NY stuff is different enough, but if you have the Baby Snakes DVD, you've heard it all already. In fact, the entire Baby Snakes DVD audio got released in digital form, and it's essentially the audio from the DVD and tracked, released a few years ago (Baby Snakes: The Compleat Soundtrack---Official release #95) and with the new box set coming soon, this album becomes even less necessary to hear or own. But you know what, if you only have about a half hour and need some funny, live Zappa, this is a nice album to pop on.

The intro is directly from the movie. Baby Snakes the song is the same as on Shiek Yer Bouti, which then cuts right to Titties and Beer. Similar to the ZNY version, but obviously Frank and Terry Bozzio ad lib a bit, and remember ZNY is littered with tons of cuts and edits, whereas this seems more uncut. "I was signed with Warner Bros for 8 fucking years!" O'Hearn plays a little Cream tease during the song.

In comes The Black Page, this is a great version, if a bit similar to the ZNY version as well, but with more keys from Tommy Mars. Jones Crusher is not too different from the SYB version. Disco Boy is wayyyyy faster here than the studio version on Zoot Allures. In fact, Dinah Moe Humm is even faster than its studio counterpart. The album closes with the prog humor tune Punky's Whip, and well, it's a tiny bit different here and there (and has no horns like the NY version) but it's essentially the same as the ZNY version.



Also worth mentioning that, unless I'm forgetting something, this is really Zappa's first "archival" release. There would be a lot of these in the 80s, albums that showcased old bands. Obviously there's stuff like BWS and Weasels which came after the original Mothers had broken up, but at the time that was still his most recent group. This was the first time he went back into the vault, so to speak. There'd be a lot more of these in the 80s of course. Did the popularity of Baby Snakes lead to You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore?

Actually, from what I've read, the idea of the Stage albums goes back to late 60s/early 70s. Frank made an album called "Finer Moments" in 1972 which was meant to be the live versions of songs, some not found on studio albums, mixed with improv, jams, and other stuff, spread across different lineups, making the ultimate live album. It was scrapped for some reason, maybe Frank dropped it because he was not satisfied with the 60s Mothers and Flo n Eddie lineups, as he had started working with more serious and talented musicians on Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo. The album was eventually officially released in 2012 (Official release #92) but some stuff found itself on YCDTOSA vol 5 and The Mystery Disc, so Frank didn't forget about it.

In the mid-70s, Zappa wanted to release a live album called "The Impossible Concert", which was created with similar intentions, but was scrapped for one reason or another, mostly Zappa was dissatisfied with the final product I think, but it can be found for free in great sound quality on Zappateers https://www.zappateers.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=25690 I think by the mid 80s, when Zappa started working on the Stage series, he felt he had enough strong material spread throughout his career to finally release those kinds of live albums. Being that there's a lot from the 80s bands and late 70s bands on those albums, I think Frank preferred the better sound quality, from having better recording equipment later on, digital technology and all. His live bands also got so tight and technically capable of playing anything he wanted them to, compared to earlier bands, especially pre-'73 lineups. But of course, there's stuff from '68-'76 spread across the series as well.

Both The Impossible Concert and Finer Moments contain music not found on any other albums.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2017, 07:54:02 AM by darkshade »

Offline Mosh

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Re: The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #37 - 'Baby Snakes'
« Reply #708 on: May 24, 2017, 10:10:17 AM »
In comes The Black Page, this is a great version, if a bit similar to the ZNY version as well, but with more keys from Tommy Mars. Jones Crusher is not too different from the SYB version. Disco Boy is wayyyyy faster here than the studio version on Zoot Allures. In fact, Dinah Moe Humm is even faster than its studio counterpart. The album closes with the prog humor tune Punky's Whip, and well, it's a tiny bit different here and there (and has no horns like the NY version) but it's essentially the same as the ZNY version.

I'm pretty sure the version of Jones Crusher on SYB comes from this performance, minus whatever overdubs were added.

Quote
Actually, from what I've read, the idea of the Stage albums goes back to late 60s/early 70s. Frank made an album called "Finer Moments" in 1972 which was meant to be the live versions of songs, some not found on studio albums, mixed with improv, jams, and other stuff, spread across different lineups, making the ultimate live album. It was scrapped for some reason, maybe Frank dropped it because he was not satisfied with the 60s Mothers and Flo n Eddie lineups, as he had started working with more serious and talented musicians on Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo. The album was eventually officially released in 2012 (Official release #92) but some stuff found itself on YCDTOSA vol 5 and The Mystery Disc, so Frank didn't forget about it.

In the mid-70s, Zappa wanted to release a live album called "The Impossible Concert", which was created with similar intentions, but was scrapped for one reason or another, mostly Zappa was dissatisfied with the final product I think, but it can be found for free in great sound quality on Zappateers https://www.zappateers.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=25690 I think by the mid 80s, when Zappa started working on the Stage series, he felt he had enough strong material spread throughout his career to finally release those kinds of live albums. Being that there's a lot from the 80s bands and late 70s bands on those albums, I think Frank preferred the better sound quality, from having better recording equipment later on, digital technology and all. His live bands also got so tight and technically capable of playing anything he wanted them to, compared to earlier bands, especially pre-'73 lineups. But of course, there's stuff from '68-'76 spread across the series as well.

Both The Impossible Concert and Finer Moments contain music not found on any other albums.
OK cool, interesting history. We'll get to it at some point, but Finer Moments is one of the best posthumous albums IMO.
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Offline darkshade

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Re: The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #37 - 'Baby Snakes'
« Reply #709 on: May 26, 2017, 07:19:24 AM »
I enjoy Finer Moments as well. For me it's in the top 5 best Zappa albums post-Lather.

Offline Nihil-Morari

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Official Release #38 - 'London Symphony Orchestra Vol. 1'
(Released 06/1983)



Background Information:
After years of trying his best to get his orchestral music recorded, Zappa finally managed to get the London Symphony Orchestra to play his music. Recording the orchestra was again a big ordeal. The room where the recording took place was way too dry to have any reverb, and the stage was too small to fit the musicians (a couple of viola players had to go home and get paid just as well). Because of the acoustics and the little room on stage Zappa had to get creative with his microphoning, which in turn was making the musicians nervous.
The backstage bar didn’t help the recording either. So in the end Zappa finally had his orchestra, but the sound wasn’t what he imagined, and the orchestra didn’t play the music correctly. Luckily for him the music was recorded on a 24 track digital recorder, so when he went to mix the album  he had the possibility to edit out false notes. The next step was to add a different atmosphere to each section of music. All of a sudden the dryness of the room was a blessing. A different digital reverb could make a ton of difference in terms of sound for each section of music. Adding more reverb meant further concealing mistakes.
The vinyl version (of L.S.O. Vol. 1, released in 1983) is the mix Zappa originally made, a couple of years later (1986, a year before L.S.O. Vol. 2 was released) a CD was released containing material of both volumes.
L.S.O. Vol. 2 (but more on that later) sounded just as lush and romantic as Vol. 1 (although most mistakes couldn’t be edited out), the double-CD reissue (released in 1995) is a totally different mix. The reverb is cut way back, the sloppiness of the orchestra is much more audible, but the sound is more direct and transparent. It actually fits the music, and Zappa’s sound better.

The Album Itself:
Zappa’s orchestral work has always been about contrasts. Massive percussion with tiny melodies on top, switching from dark brass to sweet clarinets in the blink of an eye, very loud chaotic passages to dark moody pieces. Everything can happen anytime, and it does.
Sad Jane is titled appropriately, it is one of the saddest pieces Zappa has ever made (sadness isn’t an emotion that’s often apparent in Zappa’s music). The first movement is a dark and moody piece, very un-Zappa like in sound and timbre. In the second movement the percussion comes in, and more and more melodic material enters the composition, and it starts to sound more familiar. Flashbacks of the original format of the Bebop Tango (Farther O’Blivion) and even The Black Page #2 can be found in the piece. After the rhythmically most dense part the piece has a small coda riddled in the sadness it started with.
Pedro’s Dowry has a more Zappa-esque sound. Lots of percussion, big crescendo’s, challenging rhythms but with a fairly steady backbeat. After all the incredible difficulties the ending seems like a classic Zappa joke.
Envelopes is a wonderful version of this track. It’s a really immersive experience, listening to this with headphones, Chad Wackerman’s toms go all around you.
The big piece is Mo ’N Herb’s Vacation. The first movement is essentially a piece for bass (brass in this recording), drums and clarinet that Zappa took from his guitar solo in Cruisin’ For Burgers off of Zappa in New York (the melody is exactly copied in the opening vocal line of Wet T-Shirt Night). The second movement is sharp, wild and loud. The percussion is a direct nudge to Varèse’s Ionisation (where it all started off for Zappa). The third movement has a bit of everything, resulting in the fact that it’s probably the most dynamic piece on the album.

Essential Tracks:
Sad Jane
Mo ’N Herb’s Vacation, First and Third Movement
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Offline Orbert

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I picked this up (on vinyl obviously) when it first came out.  I was kinda trying to get back into Zappa, though that didn't really work out.  At this point in my life, I didn't have the time to play new albums over and over and really get into them, really absorb them, but I listened to it a few times.

It was not what I'd hoped for, but pretty much what I expected, which is both good and bad.  This was my introduction to Kent Nagano, but not the London Symphony Orchestra, of course.  The playing was fine, but the music was a mixed bag.  It mostly felt like some of the odd, meandering instrumental sections during pieces like "The Adventures of Greggary Peccary" only expanded to feature length.  Interesting contrasts of melody and rhythm, but no really catchy melodies to be found, or if they showed up, it's not like they repeated enough to set a groove or anything.

At the time, I was still expecting anything played by a symphony orchestra to be "classical music" or at least sound like it, and this album set me straight on that.  This is not neo-classical anything; this is Frank realizing one of his dreams, which is to have his music played by a symphony orchestra, but it's Zappa music through and through, nothing classical about it.  Just a larger ensemble, a larger canvas for him to work with.

I also picked up The Yellow Shark years later (more on that when we get to it) and it felt the same. As much as I can admire the compositions themselves, I've come to the conclusion that orchestral Zappa just isn't my thing.

Offline darkshade

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Oh man, now we're up to the part of the Zappa canon that is not for the faint of heart. There's some seriously challenging music on this album, and subsequent albums. I have to say, I thought we were going to treat the LSO sessions as one album, as LSO vol 2 is from the same sessions as LSO vol 1, and both volumes have been released together as one album on CD with different track listing, essentially mixing 1 and 2 together. The CD version is what I have, but I've always wanted to hear the vinyl mix of these two albums. I guess I'll only listen to the LSO vol 1 tracks for this thread.

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The vinyl really does sound different. Zappa wanted to paint different moods and even pretend like different parts were recorded in different rooms by adding tons of reverb. The sound really differs. Not always to the better, but it is what Zappa had in mind, apparently.
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Offline ChuckSteak

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I rarely listen to these Orchestra albums. I don't like them very much.  :-\

Offline BanksD

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Ahh, Zappa's classical output. Now this is where things start to get interesting.

The LSO albums aren't my favorite from this section his output but they are some damn good modern classical music.

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Didn't realize the LSO CD was a different track order. I thought it was just a compilation of the two volumes (like Joe's Garage and SUAPYG). Luckily I read the OP first so I was able to do a playlist of the original LSO.

Anyway, I haven't heard this album yet but I like Zappa's orchestral work. The original version of Lumpy Gravy and The Yellow Shark are awesome. 200 Motels and Orchestral Favorites have their moments but meander a little too much for me.

Sad Jane is a really cool piece. As Nihil-Morari said, it's a level of melancholy you don't usually get in Zappa's work. It's very pretty sounding. Not as much of the typical Zappa weirdness. Movement 2 is more typical Zappa but still cool. The subtle callbacks to other pieces are cool.

The original version of Pedro's Dowry never made much of an impression on me, but this version has a lot more going for it. For one, it's much more dynamic. There are some really intense crescendos that I don't remember on the original version. I guess this version has also been revised. Either way, it's pretty cool. I can see how someone looking for a good melody wouldn't enjoy something like this, but for me it just proves that sometimes the notes are secondary to the rhythmic ideas.

I don't know what it is about Envelopes but every time I listen to it I kinda space out. Happens with Drowning Witch, happened on this album. It's a cool piece but by the time it's over I've forgotten what just happened.

Mo n Herb was extremely dense. That's going to need more listens.

Glad we're doing the two albums separately, because just the first disc is a lot to digest.
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Offline darkshade

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For me the "London Symphony Orchestra" albums have always been the hardest albums to get into, in regards to Zappa's "serious" works. I am always apprehensive to listen to it, as it contains some of Zappa's most dissonant music, and definitely gives you that feeling of tension and nervousness, not to mention the fact that Zappa's serious classical work can get VERY loud, often suddenly. Listening to it in the order in which volume 1 was originally presented, I find myself enjoying the music much more. I'm able to stay focused on the music more, and its inner beauty can be found more easily. Album flow is always important, and I think the 2 disc edition with both volumes messed that up by rearranging all the tunes from the LSO sessions. I would still like to hear the vinyl mixes some day, but for now, I may never listen to my copy in the CD track order again.

LSO vol. 1 opens with Sad Jane, a new tune. I never gave Sad Jane a proper listen, it is second on the LSO I&II edition and follows some seriously dissonant music. Presented as the opening tune makes it easier to digest, and I feel silly for overlooking this piece. It is hauntingly beautiful.

The rendition of Pedro's Dowry here is also better than I recall. This piece is from the '75 Orchestral Favorites recordings. I know the piece from other releases but never realized how rich the harmonies are in this version. It goes into a little improv section, even some funky Latin percussion, that pops up near the end. Really cool.

Envelopes appears here, after appearing on SATLTSADW, and the piece goes back to the late 70s as well. This version is not my favorite, I actually prefer the rock version, but it's good nonetheless.

The album ends with another new piece, Mo n Herb's Vacation. A giant piece akin to The Adventures of Greggary Peccary. What is there to say, this is 20th Century Classical music with Zappa's sensibilities felt throughout. Zappa's orchestral music sounds like a mix of Stravinsky and Varese, with a little more humor involved; but that is one reason this is my least favorite of his serious works. The humor is missing. The performances seem too serious, and sometimes the music is just too scary. I really have to be in the mood for this music to enjoy it, it requires concentration, and is not something you can throw on in the background or while driving. You could but it probably wouldn't be a good idea. There is one moment in the piece that makes me laugh out loud, though, it's somewhere in the middle, the trumpets do something funny sounding, like blaring their horns. Knowing they were at a bar in between takes makes me wonder if it was intentional by Zappa or something the trumpet players did because they had been drinking.

Also, for the first time, we hear what sounds like a bubble popping during a few moments in this album. This is a recurring sound that appears throughout the rest of Zappa's albums, particularly in the Classical or later electronic (Synclavier) albums.

Offline darkshade

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Seems like this album is scaring some away, admittedly this is a harsh album. If you have no experience with 20th Century Classical music, Orchestral music, or Classical in general, or avant-garde music, I can't imagine it being enjoyable. Most of FZ's albums up til this point I could throw on the instant I feel like it. With LSO, not so much. Other Classical and Synclavier albums I enjoy as well, but this album is just scary. It has it's prettier moments, but overall it's a dark album. For the most part, this is the music Frank really wanted to make, and the Classical music is the most essence of Zappa, it's likely the sound of what he heard in his head; again, the lack of humor in these sessions makes it my least favorite of his Classical work, and adds to the scariness of the music, but repeat listens reveal Zappa's genius. Of course, even as big of a Zappa fan as I am, I don't listen to LSO much, even when I'm on a big Zappa kick, and wouldn't likely have put it on any time soon if not for this thread. I like a lot of FZ's Classical stuff, just not so much this album. Still good, but tough to handle sometimes.

Offline BanksD

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This album is certainly not for the faint of heart. I must be weird though, because Zappa's classical works are probably some of my favorites by him. Stuff like Civilization Phase III, Lumpy Gravy, The Yellow Shark would easily be in my top Zappa albums. This one is definitely a little lower on the list compared to those however, and is quite different in a lot of ways. His later orchestral works are a little bit more streamlined and in some ways more accessible (even if only slightly). Even though his classical albums tend to be some of the more impenetrable of his catalog, they're still just as diverse as his rock/jazz albums.

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Yeah nothing from me again, as I don't own this. Other than that his classical work is a challenge to get into. I first heard some of his classical skills on ' 200 Motels'  and was severely taken back at the start. I will say that there are some lovely pieces on ' The Lost Episodes'  from his earliest efforts. 
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Offline darkshade

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Yeah nothing from me again, as I don't own this. Other than that his classical work is a challenge to get into. I first heard some of his classical skills on ' 200 Motels'  and was severely taken back at the start. I will say that there are some lovely pieces on ' The Lost Episodes'  from his earliest efforts.

I'm with others that prefer other 'serious music' albums over LSO. I don't think 200 Motels is a great representation of Zappa's classical work. The best classical albums have yet to come.

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No, it was a weird batch of classical and rock, but he forshadowed his better work with the finale, Strictly Genteel though.
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Offline Mosh

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I'm really not a fan of 200 Motels. I've tried many times to get into the soundtrack but the rock songs seem subpar and I can't get into the orchestral stuff at all. Also still haven't been able to bring myself to sit through the movie.

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Update coming next week. I'm in the middle of all sorts of deadlines (hooray for teacher-life).
If you want to pre-listen, check out 'Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger'
The FZ Discography Thread! https://www.dreamtheaterforums.org/boards/index.php?topic=44650.0
Nihil-Morari is generally considered the resident Zappa person.

Offline BanksD

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Oh boy, I totally forgot about that album! I'll have to brush up on that one.

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The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #39 - 'The Perfect Stranger'
« Reply #726 on: June 27, 2017, 10:36:24 AM »
Official Release #39 - 'Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger'
(Released 08/1984)



Background Information:
It started when Zappa sent Boulez some scores and simply asked him if he could conduct his music. Zappa was a fan of Boulez as a composer as well as a conductor and wanted his music to have the Boulez-treatment. Frank arranged three tracks for the small 29 piece, chamber-like orchestra Boulez had under his wings (the ‘Ensemble InterContemporain’) and recorded those three tracks to the highest standard. Publicity wise the combination was great, both Zappa and Boulez were big names in their respective genre, and the collaboration got some media attention.
The actual process of rehearsing the music wasn’t as smooth as that though. According to Kasper Sloots (zappa-analysis.com), Zappa demanded perfection and actually sent away musicians that weren’t ‘performing up to his standards’. It isn’t hard to see why that the (extremely serious) orchestra wouldn’t take such repercussions from a guy who got they still saw as the Frank Zappa that got famous during the 60’s.

The Album Itself:
This is an entirely different album compared to LSO or Orchestral Favourites. Firstly the orchestra is way smaller and (very noticeably) lacks a drumkit and secondly only three tracks are actual live performed music, the rest being Synclavier tracks. Or as Zappa put it: ‘The Barking Pumpkin Digital Gratification Consort’.
The 23 minutes of orchestral music (The Perfect Stranger, Naval Aviation in Art? and Dupree’s Paradise) are still fitting to Zappa’s big, dense, rhythmic way of writing classical music. Atonal, subdivided rhythms, big contrasts, you get the picture. The big difference between this album and the two orchestral albums before this one is the clarity. The smaller ensemble meant that each part is easier to discern. It results in a less daunting listening experience as well.
The Synclavier pieces are really diverse. The Girl In The Magnesium Dress started off as synclavier-program leftovers (number to control parameters but then assigned to a pitch instead of the original parameter) “So what I did was take the rhythm of the dust and impose pitch data on the dust and thereby move the inaudible G number into the world of audibility with a pitch name on it”. A real modern way of composing, sort of like the aleatoric music of Xenakis, Ives, Cage and others (Boulez was actually one of the first to use the term ‘aleatoric’ for this ‘chance music’).
Outside Now Again is a transcribed guitar solo taken from Outside Now, transcribed by Steve Vai and then fed into the synclavier. Dynamics could only be achieved by adding more or less instruments. And irregular groupings could only go as far as triplets back then.
Finally ‘Jonestown’ is an early Synclavier experiment, more a sound collage than an actual piece. It shows Zappa experimenting with a new type of composing, a new way of getting his message across. A couple of sounds are really haunting, a sound Zappa would steer clear from in his rock outing, but somehow caught his attention in his classical output (see: Sad Jane off of LSO Vol. 1)

Essential Tracks:
The Perfect Stranger
Dupree’s Paradise
Jonestown
The FZ Discography Thread! https://www.dreamtheaterforums.org/boards/index.php?topic=44650.0
Nihil-Morari is generally considered the resident Zappa person.

Offline BanksD

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Re: The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #39 - 'The Perfect Stranger'
« Reply #727 on: June 27, 2017, 04:51:54 PM »
This album is an interesting one, its a lot more refined than LSO I think, and definitely shows Zappa beginning to get a grip on the types of Classical stuff he was interested in, but I don't find myself listening to it a lot. Its quite good though, not for those who don't prefer the classical stuff though.

Offline Pragmaticcircus

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Re: The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #39 - 'The Perfect Stranger'
« Reply #728 on: June 28, 2017, 04:13:21 AM »
It's a great record, doesn't stick with me as much as LSO or Yellow Shark though. It's still amazing that Boulez ended up conducting it, I'm a bit of a fanboy for mr Boulez's work  :hat



Just a nitpick though:  :angel: Xenakis and Ives didn't compose any aleatoric music, they both occasionally used ad libitum sections though.
"The thing that kills me is all these bands that use huge words in their lyrics, 'I'm swimming in a vortex of apathy.' I'm like, 'What?' I don't walk up to a friend and go 'That's a stylin' looking vortex of apathy you've got there pal. I was swimming up a river of deceit myself."
- Devin Townsend
"poop" - Ziltoid
Prog for life, all hail metal, I'm very Avant Garde,  God give me back my razor, and all that shit!

Offline Nihil-Morari

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Re: The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #39 - 'The Perfect Stranger'
« Reply #729 on: June 28, 2017, 01:18:46 PM »
You're actually right. I've always connected both (but mainly Xenakis) to chance music. Which in a way is correct, apparently (https://books.google.nl/books?id=Sg1EAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA19&lpg=PA19&dq=xenakis+aleatoric&source=bl&ots=Ak0yz1cfRE&sig=3oL7rVbVGkOn6XAN1xUijWVrzy8&hl=nl&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjbusPrn-HUAhXFh7QKHeJOAXsQ6AEIODAC#v=onepage&q=xenakis%20aleatoric&f=false) Xenakis used mathematic formulas to compose music. Which is pretty much aleatoric, right? I'm kinda out of my depth here.
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Nihil-Morari is generally considered the resident Zappa person.

Offline Pragmaticcircus

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Re: The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #39 - 'The Perfect Stranger'
« Reply #730 on: June 28, 2017, 11:01:06 PM »
You're actually right. I've always connected both (but mainly Xenakis) to chance music. Which in a way is correct, apparently (https://books.google.nl/books?id=Sg1EAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA19&lpg=PA19&dq=xenakis+aleatoric&source=bl&ots=Ak0yz1cfRE&sig=3oL7rVbVGkOn6XAN1xUijWVrzy8&hl=nl&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjbusPrn-HUAhXFh7QKHeJOAXsQ6AEIODAC#v=onepage&q=xenakis%20aleatoric&f=false) Xenakis used mathematic formulas to compose music. Which is pretty much aleatoric, right? I'm kinda out of my depth here.


No, he used mathematical formulas in his early work to essentially "transpose" architectural shapes into music, using massive non-octave scales. There are some instances in some of those early pieces (particularly "Pithoprakta"), where he used brownian motion as the basis of the form (structure) of several sections of that piece to create "clouds" of notes. They are the sections where the string players are tapping their instruments.

Very quickly on (around the late 60s) as his music matured, the direction he moved in musically paralleled Messiaen and Lutoslawski and in turn, borrowed structures from Stravinsky. That period onward, is more or less "traditional" in that modernist respect.

So no, not aleatoric. In the two pieces "Duel" and "Strategy", he made extensive use of ad libitum. Those two pieces play around with a similar thing Stockhausen was doing at the same time, of pitting groups of musicians against each other, with less than certain outcomes; except Xenakis wasn't leaving much actual freedom compared to Stockhausen's half-noted experiments.   :)


So, that's enough rambling from me. I want to get duked by a baby octopus and spewed upon with cream corn  :corn
"The thing that kills me is all these bands that use huge words in their lyrics, 'I'm swimming in a vortex of apathy.' I'm like, 'What?' I don't walk up to a friend and go 'That's a stylin' looking vortex of apathy you've got there pal. I was swimming up a river of deceit myself."
- Devin Townsend
"poop" - Ziltoid
Prog for life, all hail metal, I'm very Avant Garde,  God give me back my razor, and all that shit!

Offline Pragmaticcircus

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Re: The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #39 - 'The Perfect Stranger'
« Reply #731 on: June 28, 2017, 11:05:49 PM »
I'll have to find the quote but Xenakis himself actually criticized Cage and Stockhausen (middle period, before Licht) for giving too much freedom to their performers
"The thing that kills me is all these bands that use huge words in their lyrics, 'I'm swimming in a vortex of apathy.' I'm like, 'What?' I don't walk up to a friend and go 'That's a stylin' looking vortex of apathy you've got there pal. I was swimming up a river of deceit myself."
- Devin Townsend
"poop" - Ziltoid
Prog for life, all hail metal, I'm very Avant Garde,  God give me back my razor, and all that shit!

Offline Nihil-Morari

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Re: The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #39 - 'The Perfect Stranger'
« Reply #732 on: June 29, 2017, 04:17:30 PM »
Very, very interesting. Funny thing is, today I had a long chat with a good friend of mine (a composer, former head of a conservatory) about aleatoric music, Xenakis, Cage, and guys like Stockhausen, Berlioz, Messiaen, Penderecki, Berg, Webern and even Lutoslawski (of whom I've heard little to no music yet), I need to soak this in now, and listen to a lot of music. Good thing is that he is in the process of giving away most of his record collection, so I've got about 100 records of modern classical music to get through. Good times!
The FZ Discography Thread! https://www.dreamtheaterforums.org/boards/index.php?topic=44650.0
Nihil-Morari is generally considered the resident Zappa person.

Offline Pragmaticcircus

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Re: The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #39 - 'The Perfect Stranger'
« Reply #733 on: June 29, 2017, 06:19:53 PM »
Back to Zappa, you may find this very interesting:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwoTPS8gbJM

Before he formed The Mothers, he was already experimenting with orchestras  :metal

The big show-stopping moment of this concert is a largely aleatoric work called "Opus #5). Zappa talks about the process of the piece in the concert (so I'll leave it to him), but it is fascinating to see Zappa experimenting with John Cage's concepts (the piano parts are composed and then arranged by random)

Also, he does some interesting stuff in Food Gathering/Welcome to the US (off Yellow Shark), getting different groups of performers to improvise a "weird" or "Strange" sound he has given to them selectively, at different points coinciding with the narration.
"The thing that kills me is all these bands that use huge words in their lyrics, 'I'm swimming in a vortex of apathy.' I'm like, 'What?' I don't walk up to a friend and go 'That's a stylin' looking vortex of apathy you've got there pal. I was swimming up a river of deceit myself."
- Devin Townsend
"poop" - Ziltoid
Prog for life, all hail metal, I'm very Avant Garde,  God give me back my razor, and all that shit!

Offline Pragmaticcircus

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Re: The Frank Zappa Discography Thread - #39 - 'The Perfect Stranger'
« Reply #734 on: June 29, 2017, 06:24:45 PM »
I need to soak this in now, and listen to a lot of music. Good thing is that he is in the process of giving away most of his record collection, so I've got about 100 records of modern classical music to get through. Good times!

Sounds like you've got a really groovy few weeks ahead of you  :corn

When I get the chance, I'll probably go for a big haul of cds/vinyls myself  :tup
"The thing that kills me is all these bands that use huge words in their lyrics, 'I'm swimming in a vortex of apathy.' I'm like, 'What?' I don't walk up to a friend and go 'That's a stylin' looking vortex of apathy you've got there pal. I was swimming up a river of deceit myself."
- Devin Townsend
"poop" - Ziltoid
Prog for life, all hail metal, I'm very Avant Garde,  God give me back my razor, and all that shit!