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Naked City - Naked City CD (album) cover

NAKED CITY

Naked City

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.14 | 87 ratings

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Joren
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Although officially released in 1990 as a John Zorn solo album, "Naked City" was in fact the debut of a whole new band of the same name. Although it turned out to be a short-lived formation (it lasted only a couple of years), it existed long enough to obtain a legendary status among avant-garde fanatics. With his Naked City project - which also featured Wayne Horvitz, Bill Frisell, Fred Frith, Joey Baron, and occasionally Yamatsuka Eye - John Zorn produced a challenging mix of jazz and hardcore/metal. Zorn had already experimented with this combination on the cover album "Spy Vs. Spy" - on which Ornette Coleman tunes in the melody section were set against hardcore 'grooves' in the rhythm section - but with Naked City he ventured even further into rock territory. Add to this Zorn's love for film and cartoon music, superb musicianship, and a good dose of humour, and you'll get an idea of what "Naked City" sounds like.

The album contains both original compositions and cover songs (seven in total). The latter, however, are arranged in such a way that they fit into the style of the album perfectly and they don't disturb the flow. The most notable covers are "The James Bond Theme" and "Lonely Woman" - a famous film tune and an early free jazz classic (Ornette Coleman). One of the best originals on the album is the unpredictable "You Will Be Shot", but even more unpredictable - and also the most impressive - are the eight tracks that make up the center of the album. These agressive bursts of energy, all of which clock in at less than fourty-four seconds, pretty much summarize the musical language of the band. Moreover, the fragmentary character of these pieces is distinctive for John Zorn's musical vision at the time. (According to the American musicologist Richard Taruskin, Zorn once wrote that "'I've got an incredibly short attention span', and that his music is meant for listeners who, like him, grew up with television." *)

In my opinion, "Naked City" is a postmodern masterpiece and an artistic statement in the line of such landmark works as Ornette Coleman's "The Shape Of Jazz To Come", Frank Zappa's "Freak Out!" and Captain Beefheart's "Trout Mask Replica". Apart from that it could be a nice introduction into Zorn's gigantic discography. People who like wild, experimental music will certainly enjoy it, and especially fans of Mr. Bungle or Fantômas will be delighted.

* Richard Taruskin, The Oxford History Of Western Music, Volume 5: The Late Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 504.

Joren | 5/5 |

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