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Frank Zappa - Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.52 | 142 ratings

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3 stars Frank Zappa has mentioned before that he does humor in music in order to help get his music heard. Those expecting to find humor here will not find it unless you are looking for humor embedded in the orchestral arrangements of which there are plenty, many of which will fly right over the heads of most listeners. But that's okay, because this album is made up of serious music, contemporary, 20th Century Classical music. Zappa was first and foremost, a composer. People discover this music through his other types of music.

Truth be told, this is rather dense music, hard for a lot of people to listen to because it takes quite a lot of concentration and many a listen to "get it". In this album, you have two types of performances of Zappa's serious compositions: orchestral and electronic. The first track is the title track and also the longest track on the album. It is exactly as the title of the album states, "The Perfect Stranger" as conducted by Pierre Boulez and performed by the InterContemporain Orchestra. There is no hidden meaning here, it is as it states, so don't expect that this is a joke by Zappa, it is exactly as it says. It is a full orchestral work of over 12 minutes and it is contemporary. I have a hard time concentrating on this track because it is very densely embedded in the contemporary style and it doesn't have any apparent returning melody that is easy to find in the many layers of notes that are present. But I keep trying to organize this particular track hoping that somehow the music penetrates my thick skull so I can make sense out of it. I don't blame the composition on this or the orchestra/performance, I blame it solely on myself. Someday, I will get it, the light bulb will come on and I will proclaim the genius of Zappa! As for now, I will continue to work on that!

The 2nd track is also dense and very much like the first, also conducted and performed by the same personnel as the 1st track. This one is also found on the Orchestral Favorites album, but the parts are a little more discernible here. However, I get the same feeling as I do with the 1st track, completely lost in attempting to "get it". But this one is a little easier to digest because it's a short work of a little over 2 minutes and more like a bite sized piece of contemporary art and not an entire entrée like the 1st track.

Track #3 is performed by The Barking Pumpkin Digital Gratification Consort, or in other words, Frank Zappa on the Synclavier. This track is a mishmash of notes which again make my mind go off the train track when trying to get the point. This is probably the hardest track of all to wrap my head around and if it were performed by a group of instruments, be it orchestral or rock and roll style instruments, would probably sound a lot like "The Black Page", which is a composition by Frank Zappa available on a multitude of releases, and given that title because the manuscript is so full of notes that it is almost completely black.

Dupree's Paradise, or track 4, is once again performed by the orchestra and after that clinical exercise on the Synclavier, actually sounds very nice. This, to me, is the easiest song to understand. It has an obvious melody and seems to have the direction that is a lot more obvious to follow. I'm proud to say that I understand this one and quite enjoy it. It is still contemporary and has a lot of dissonance and atonality, but it is easy to follow.

The last three tracks are on the Synclavier again, and I enjoy both of these also. The fifth track is quite short, the sixth track is somewhat playful and the last track is dark and spooky. They go by rather quickly.

I really wish I could break this album down better, and may be able to when I understand it better. In the meantime, you have a rather shallow review here of how my head can either wrap itself around the tracks or not. Hopefully that can be of some help to you, but if not, you only wasted, what, like 10 minutes to read this. So, if you like contemporary music, love Zappa and everything he does, or want to try to understand this album, then it is an excellent addition to your collection. If you don't enjoy this, then you would consider it for collectors only. Me, I like to pretend I'm from the first group :P So I will average it out and give it a 3 star rating and tell you that I like the Orchestral Favorites album better.

TCat | 3/5 |


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