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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classical Zappa, 25 Sept. 2006
This review is from: London Symphony Orchestra Vol. I & Ii (Audio CD)
If you like Zappa's 'classical' music this is an indispensible double CD. Originally released on two seperate vinyl albums, this release puts all the music together nicely.The second disc is the most accessible, mainly because all the music has been heard before on the '200 Motels' , 'Ship Arriving....' and ' Orchestral Favorites' albums. The performance of the

orchestra sounds pretty good to me, but apparently Zappa was far from happy with the results . He claimed the LSO liked going to the pub far too much . The first CD is a bit harder going but on repeated listening yields many pleasures. By far the best track (in my opinion) is Mo 'N' Herb's vacation. This track ( 'Mo's Vacation') was played by the '78 touring band but was never given an official release. It really should have seen the light of day, but it was notoriously difficult to play. It comes across as a more complex version of 'The Black Page', but i think it's superb. 'Sad Jane' and 'Bob In Dacron' are rather good too. All in all a fine album (of its type). Heartily recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What would he have accomplished if he had lived?, 19 Sept. 2007
John Ferngrove (Hants UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: London Symphony Orchestra Vol. I & Ii (Audio CD)
I've owned a few Zappa albums for some years and I have often promised myself that one day I would give him the full attention he deserved. Well that process got underway a few weeks back, and I've acquired a handful of Zappa discs, and am now intent on acquiring more, lots more. Being a devotee of contemporary "classical" (ugh, I hate that word) music my selection had to include the London Symphony Orchestra set.

The first disc has really grabbed me. I will give the second more attention soon but it's the first that has really got to me. For me, it is as though in this music Zappa finally puts down the clown mask and shows you the true grandeur and beauty in his heart. As such, it's like nothing else in the Zappa canon (that I have encountered so far) and you can only wonder if, in respect of his orchestral composition, he was only just getting going. One can only wonder what might have been forthcoming if he had only lived to a proper old age. The pieces/movements still have the wacky titles but they are pretty irrelevant as they all flow into each other more or less seamlessly. It took me a few plays to get the initial hang of it. You have to kind of pick up from the very first note and then ride it and it will take you to all sorts of amazing places. The LSO does a fine job, despite Frank's scathing complaints (he was very strict after all) and they amply show that as well as being a highly original composer he was the most extraordinary orchestrator, with his instrument groupings full of strange and surprising combinations. Sad Jane, the middle two tracks is, to my ears, particularly beautiful.

The second disc, with tracks like Bogus Pomp and Strictly Genteel, is a move back towards the more familiar theatrical/satirical side of Frank's musical character, with some quite deliberately cheesy bits thrown in here and there. I'll be giving it further attention in due course.

It's my belief that in 200 years, when music has changed into something unrecognisable to us today, Zappa will be one of the tiny handful of musicians remembered from the era of rock.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Something to move the air molecules around your living room, 29 Jan. 2004
I was pleasantly surprised by this album - Zappa wasn't happy with some of the LSO's playing and makes no secret of it in the liner notes for Vol. 2. I thought this would mean a dreary couple of hours worth of avant-garde music with mistakes and bum notes all over the place. Maybe I know nothing about music, but these performances sound fine to me. FZ had to do a few edits here and there - over 50 on 'Strictly Genteel', taking an 11 minute performance down to 7, and he seems to have done a good job - the music sounds beautiful to these ears.
'Bob in Dacron' is first: a piece in two movements, it depicts the titular character getting dressed and going out to get smashed and go on the pull. The music (and liner notes, to be fair) lets us know Zappa's low opinion of such a character, with churning harmonies and electronic "laughboxes" in the mix.
'Sad Jane' is next: a companion piece to the above, it is more reflective and pastoral - parts of it could be Debussy.
After that we have the 28 minute 'Mo 'n Herb's Vacation' which is a combination of a Clarinet solo for David Ocker and a drum solo for Chad Wackerman. The main theme, of which the piece consists of variations, derives from a line in Zappa's 'Wet T-shirt Nite' from Joe's Garage - you figure out which one; needless to say, it's quite surprising to be reminded of mammalian protruberances in a "classical" album such as this.
The second disc consists of new arrangements of older Zappa tunes, and a lot of fans find this disc easier to digest. 'Envelopes', previously glimpsed on the Ship arriving too late to save a Drowning Witch album, is given a lush, slightly slower treatment than before. 'Pedro's Dowry', from Lather, is extended to include a surprising "disco" section, which features excellent rhythm work from Chad Wackerman - his contributions throughout the album are exemplary, and they help to make the album more accessible for rock fans. The 24 minute 'Bogus Pomp' is next, expanded from its Orchestral Favorites version. The orchestral forces are larger in this version too, giving extra resonance to its fanfares.
The final tune is a version of 'Strictly Genteel' which Zappa was very unhappy with, as noted above. The perfomance was so mutilated by editing necessary to conceal the mistakes of an allegedly drunk brass section that it actually fades out - a very bad sign on a classical recording. I seem to remember the Orchestral Favorites version fades out too, but that one retains more of its climaxes than this one does. A slightly disappointing end to the album, then, but overall it's well worthwhile, for Zappa's radical yet involving compositions, and the playing that these musicians actually managed to get right. Considering their budget, time frame, and the complexity of the compositions (which came as a total surpriseto the orchestra), the players should be applauded for their efforts. For Zappa fans, the presence of Chad Wackerman and Ed Mann is an added bonus.
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