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Frank Zappa - Civilization Phaze III CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.78 | 122 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars There are several Frank Zappas. There's a Zappa who wrote zany rock operas, a Zappa who recorded doo-wop pastiches, a Zappa who played superb jazz-rock, a Zappa who wrote angry protest songs, a Zappa who wrote avant-garde music for orchestras, and several more. Many of Zappa's albums are easy to enjoy the first time you hear them, but CIVILIZATION PHAZE III sounds frightening. I bought it as soon as it came out, and I don't think I've played it five times since then. Nevertheless, it's a kind of masterpiece.

The compositions Zappa wrote and performed on synclavier for this album bear a remarkable resemblance to the work of Olivier Messiaen, one of the greatest 20th century composers. To the average reader they'll sound like random tinkling, but they possess an abstract beauty of their own. The question is how often you'll feel the inclination to listen to them. Messiaen had strong religious beliefs, and his 'tinkling' is meant as a celebration of life − it gets very ecstatic at times. With Zappa, religious belief is missing, and when he constructs a climactic piece ('Beat the Reaper') by combining synclavier with eerie sound effects, the result is deeply pessimistic.

Fortunately, the pessimistic nature of CIVILIZATION PHAZE III is mitigated by Zappa's absurd voice collages, which have a wonderfully comic effect - even though I'm not sure if they were intended that way. Deadpan utterances by Germans ("Telefonkarte. Qualitat und Sicherheit aus einer Hand!"), Italians and even Flemings ("Die spreekt geen normaal taal!") were stapled together, as it were, in a rhapsodic sort of way, but the prize for the craziest contributions goes to Spider Barbour, whose bizarre enunciations had been recorded as long ago as 1967.

Not for the faint-hearted, but essential to all Zappaphiles!

fuxi | 3/5 |


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