Saturday, February 18, 2012

Frank Zappa • Studio Tan


   After splitting with manager and long-time associate Herb Cohen, Zappa signed a contract with Warner Bros. Soon it became clear that this company also treats Zappa with the superiority of ownership, as yet another star on their already considerable constellation. After Warner Bros pressed for changes in Zoot Allures which was primarily intended as double LP album and then rejected Läther project. In short time list of corporation abusive decisions was long sufficiently to make artist quit. But the company used legal tricks to demand four additional albums. This may be the cause Zappa lost his heart to the greatest projects of mid-seventies. As a result of censorship imposed by the label, full versions of Zappa’s records saw daylight after years, Zappa in New York on double CD in 1991 and Läther on triple CD after artist’s death in September 1996. Zappa delivered recordings demanded by the company. Tapes with recordings did not contain complete information, what made the three albums released by Warner Bros appeared with no cooperation from artist side.
   Three albums Warner Bros decided to release under Discreet label is a series made against artist will, regardless or maybe even malice. First album was Studio Tan, released September 15, 1978. Cover including only information on tittles was decorated with painting by Gary Panter – this cover, just like next two projects for the records Sleep Dirt and Orchestral Favorites was next cause of resentment. And although Zappa didn’t accepted this works, he decided to publish them as covers to CD edition. Zappa was deceived and wounded pride did not allow him to work, even if the price was losing control on some of his best compositions, but that’s another story.

Frank Zappa – Studio Tan (1978)

   The reasonable attitude is to formulate a different question, why the record company did not try to communicate with the artist to achieve adequate quality of his recordings publication. Position of company clerks can be explained only by hostility of decision makers. Greggery Peccary filling Side A of the record has been brutally faded out. Thanks to full version published in 1991 as The Adventures of Greggery Peccary by Barking Pumpkin Records it’s easy to find, fading this work just few bars before the end was completely unjustified. The removal of the final part from this piece ruined its formal stability. But what do you expect from people who have rejected one of the major projects of the seventies progressive rock.
   Material appeared in Studio Tan was intended as a part of Läther album where it has been included 18 years later. This four compositions were recorded in various moments by musicians who worked with Zappa in previous years, but core team was Mothers of Invention lineup featuring Frank Zappa singing and playing with George Duke, Tom Fowler, Chester Thompson and Ruth Underwood. Whole staff had over 30 musicians and some of them played in Zappa’s bands during tours in past years and many were just studio musicians. Absolutely unique artist, first one in the group of four trombonists, Bruce Fowler is known from more lineups and numerous recordings with Frank Zappa (since Over-Nite Sensation in 1973) and Captain Beefheart (since Shiny Beast in 1978) and many others jazz and progressive bands in over forty years of artistic activity. Some artists were famous for different kind of musical activity, like Don Brewer, the drummer of Grand Funk Railroad, who in Let me take you to the beach played bongos and like Emil Richards who was famous from fifties percussionist and member of both lineups of Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra.
   Text of this dramatic work continues satirical style of older compositions. Frank Zappa since his protest songs in the sixties has the clear tendency to comment the political and social realities. This attitude blossomed with both satirical and serious artistic expressions. In sixties and eighties he was more specific in his criticism, while in seventies his works were dominated by surreal sense of humor. This character corresponds with instrumental works from Side B - Revised Music For Guitar & Low Budget Orchestra and REDUNZL – somehow ironically undermining too serious style of progressive music in late seventies. This was also characteristic feature of instrumental tracks provided on the next two albums ending story of Discreet Records.

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