Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Frank Zappa • Orchestral Favorites


   The 1979 with five new albums was record year in Frank Zappa’s discography. Warner Bros. has released two further albums from material provided by Zappa as a consequence of a contract – Sleep Dirt in January and Orchestral Favorites in May. And in March launching new label, Zappa Records opened with Sheik Yerbouti double album and continued in September and November with two albums of Joe’s Garage Act I and double Joe’s Garage Act II & III. This year was also record for the number of three singles – Dancing Fool, Bobby Brown Goes Down and Joe’s Garage. Every 1979 album is different in style which is one of great features of Zappa’s works. Publication of two albums with instrumental music proved to be fortunate event. The 1979 edition was published by Warner Bros under DiscReet label without permission from the author. And even with the tracks which had not been edited, issued hastily and without the participation of artists, the compositions are able to defend itself.
   Material for this album was recorded in Royce Hall, Los Angeles in September 1975 with large group of more than three dozen artists. The core of the orchestra were Terry Bozzio on drums, Dave Parlato on bass, Emil Richards playing percussions and playing guitar and keyboards Frank Zappa who was leader, composer and producer. Many musicians involved in this project were known as members of Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra & Chorus from Lumpy Gravy album. Zappologists separate the existence of this bands as – first Lumpy Gravy 1967 incarnation and second Orchestral Favorites 1975 incarnation. Many musicians were hired just for September 17 and 18, 1975 concerts in Royce Hall.  From 1967’ AEESOC incarnation there were keyboardist Mike Lang, playing french horn David Duke, cellist Jerry Kessler and percussionist Emil Richards. Some musicians came to Zappa’s bands after Lumpy Gravy. From The Grand Wazoo trumpeter Malcolm McNabb, oboist Earle Dumler, flutist, clarinetist and saxophonist Mike Altschul, from latest Mothers lineup Bruce Fawler, Terry Bozzio. New musicians in AEESOC were John Wittenberg, Bobby Dubow (violin) Pamela Goldsmith (viola), Dana Hughes (bass trombone), Ray Reed (flute), David Shostak (flute) and Tommy Morgan (harmonica). The conductors of the orchestra in Royce concerts were Frank Zappa and Michael Zearott.

Frank Zappa – Orchestral Favorites (1979)

   First and last works are instrumental versions of 200 Motels compositions. Opening A-Side Strictly Genteel was published as vocal finale of 1971 soundtrack and later in orchestral form with London Symphony Orchestra and in rock band version from October 31, 1981 concert in Palladium, NYC on You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore vol. 6. Next two compositions were new works and like many other were later reworked and republished – Pedro’s Dowry in January 1983 recorded London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kent Nagano and Naval Aviation in Art in January 1984 recorded Ensemble Intercontemporain conducted by Pierre Boulez.
   Opening B-Side Duke of Prunes later known as The Orchestral Duke of Prunes is instrumental version of 1966 song published on Absolutely Free and Mothermania albums. Zappa called it „surrealistic love song” and this tune was frequently played during Mothers of Invention gigs in sixties. The last piece of this set Bogus Pomp comes from 1968 whet it was played as a prologue to the concert on October 25. The musical material of this composition was base for Sealed Tuna Sandwich suite in 200 Motels soundtrack and then reworked and published as Bogus Pomp on Orchestral Favorites (13:29) and in much wider form on London Symphony Orchestra album (24:31).
Closing series of three Warner Bros’ editions, the Orchestral Favorites album was a kind of conclusion for this exposure. Three records giving balanced picture of Zappa’s creative works with very little rock songs, well developed narrative work and various instrumental compositions pointing directions of future developments. Many evil can be said about the policies of big corporations towards artists. Many talented people never fully developed their talents. Frank Zappa had a sufficiently strong position to fight for freedom of his artistic expression. Reduced to the status of the product, art defended itself once more. This series was like cuckoo egg in the nest of corporative governance, a formation of independent post in the world of supermarkets. It was in fact enough anti-system to provoke a series of furious attacks of the Washington generals' wives so much politically involved in the coming era of Reaganite neo-conservatism.

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