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Frank Zappa - Studio Tan CD (album) cover

STUDIO TAN

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.72 | 190 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
3 stars NOTE: These are thoughts I originally jotted down about this album before I heard them in proper context, in the full Läther album. My opinion is quite improved after hearing Läther itself.

I know this is going to offend some hardcore Zappaphiles, but unless there's some major interaction/diversification effect that I'm missing from hearing all these tracks in "fallout" albums (the releases containing the Läther material were put together without any input from Frank himself), I can't possibly see how Läther could be anything but a maddeningly mediocre album. All four tracks on here come from those sessions, and the three on side two have simply failed to grab me in listening to this album. "Revised Music for Guitar and Low-Budget Orchestra," as cleverly titled as it may be, bores the living crap out of me; it has a couple mildly pretty moments, but it mostly meanders in the kind of jazzy classical(ish) manner that I've already gotten sick of from Frank. "RDNZL" is a good deal more interesting, if only for some nice guitar work and some sparkling upbeat piano in the last couple of minutes, but it's still kinda dull and rambling to me overall. And the weirdly out-of-place "pop" number, "Lemme Take You to the Beach," goofy as it may be, just doesn't have a good enough melody to make me like it as a "stand-alone" song, and the fact that it's apparently supposed to be a parody of a genre that, to my knowledge, doesn't actually exist outside this song, makes it seem like a bit of a waste to me. Maybe I'm just a real hardass, but except for maybe eventually giving future listens to "RDNZL" in the future, I don't forsee giving the second half of this album a spin ever again.

The first half, though, is a delightful bit of, um, entertainment, and one that has seriously grown upon me with each successive listen. "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary" is the sequel (not literally, but certainly in spirit) to "Billy the Mountain" (who makes a significant cameo appearance in this story), and it's just as much of a hoot as its predecessor. It has almost no crudeness, as well as none of the time-and-place namechecking that helped make "Billy" so endearing, but it manages to work thanks to a surprisingly engaging (though completely senseless and meaningless) story and a fantastic set of goofy processed vocals (mostly spoken, but with a whee bit of singing) from George Duke. Frank's narration is hilarious as well; at first I thought that Frank's delivery oozed a little too much smug satisfaction in delivering what essentially feels like one giant in-joke, but you know what, it's an awesome in-joke, so I don't mind it anymore. I'm not going to type out the plot summary (just find the lyrics somewhere), but I'll just say that more stories should involve little pigs inventing the calendar (resulting from an effort to find a new great trend for the world to follow), being pursued by creatures that angrily don't want to know how old they are (maybe there is some social critique in here after all ...) and randomly resulting in lectures by world famous philostophers.

Still, as fun as the first half may be, I can't get over how dull I find the second half. "Greggery Peccary" should be hunted down in whatever form you can get it, and if that means this album, so be it, but please get this used.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |

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