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Frank Zappa - Jazz from Hell CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.43 | 254 ratings

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4 stars The Synclavier: often seen as a completely mechanic, cold computer-like device that is infamous in circles surrounding Zappa's albums that featured it. It certainly is unique, and Zappa liked it for the fact that he didn't have to work with other people in his composing at the very least and also for its range of sounds and capabilities. This album actually won a Grammy back in the day for instrumental performance. Looks like they actually got something right for once.

1. Night School- Absolute brilliance. Wonderful Zappa composition with all of his usual quirks and amazing skills, except all on the Synclavier. It gives the piece an incredibly unique sound and I love it to death. I could listen to this one over and over, but maybe that's just me. 10/10

2. The Beltway Bandits- If you thought the last composition was strange, just wait until you hear this one. With even more extremely odd sounds and dissonance, Zappa certainly elucidates that this music is indeed from hell. This has a very insane/asylum feel to it, but as Zappa often manages to do, I think it works very well. The genius of his composing never ceases to amaze me, even on albums like this which are often way too overlooked. 9/10

3. While You Were Art II- Almost as long as the previous two songs combined, this is more of the Synclavier. If you thought it would go away, remember that this is Zappa and think again. This piece is not near as chaotic with constant notes as the previous two songs. Combine that with its length and the aspect of being ALL Synclavier, it is undeniably a well-composed piece. It can drag, however, especially if you're not in the mood for it. 7/10

4. Jazz from Hell- Somewhat similar in mood to the previous song, my feelings about the title track are not unlike it. It is a greatly composed piece, as usual, but it seems that Zappa's Synclavier compositions work much more efficiently when the songs are filled more to the brim with quirkiness rather than taking a step back from an onslaught of notes. Still good, but can drag, and the previous song was a BIT better for my taste. 6/10

5. G-Spot Tornado- Here we go! Things pick up right away again and this one certainly is one of the stranger songs on this album (which says ALOT). This one combines the extreme avant-garde sounds of Beltway Bandits with an even more intense atmosphere. This song is also responsible for the fact that this album is the ONLY instrumental album ever to get a parental advisory rating. Classic. 9/10

6. Damp Ankles- Back to a slower track here It is relatively short, but still almost a minute longer than the title track. You may have to be insane to like this track, much like the rest of the album, but I think it's more effective in its building minimalism than the title track was. Very dark yet still oddly humorous feel to this one. Good, but I think I would get very tired of this song if it lasted any longer. 7/10

7. St. Etienne- Ah, the only Synclavier-less track on the album! I'm sure this one is a breath of fresh air for those who are getting tired of the barrage of mechanical compositions. The placement of this track is welcomed, even for me, and I quite like the Synclavier. Listen to Zappa's guitar work on this one! Stunning and so expressive. 9/10

8. Massaggio Galore- Shortest track yet definitely not the least odd. If you don't question Zappa's insane creative madman tag by now, which you should, then you most likely will with this one. It's a good closer, but not perfect. Well-composed as always. 7/10


Get this album if: 1. You like the tag avant-garde 2. You are curious to see what a Synclaiver sounds like 3. You are insane 4. You are already well-introduced to Zappa's other more acclaimed works and are willing to take a risk on something that is still creative, typical Zappa, yet entirely new

Don't get this album if: 1. You are closed-minded 2. You cannot stand dissonance 3. You cannot stand 80s production or the sound of a Synclavier

However, if you're willing to take a plunge, this reviewer says go for it. This is definitely an excellent addition to a progger's collection. Just be prepared for wackiness!

MovingPictures07 | 4/5 |


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