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Frank Zappa - Studio Tan CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa


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4 stars "..Greggery Peccary" (like "Billy The Mountain" on "Just Another Band..") is an extended "folk tale" set to music, taking up the first half of the album; it is very funny but becomes tiresome after the 18th or 19th listening :-) "RDNZL" and "Revised Music for Guitar and Low-Budget Orchestra" are 2 of Frank's finest compositions, both are classics in my opinion and they appear re-arranged on later albums. The remaining track is a very funny mix of do-wop and the Beach Boys; very strange but really catchy - "Hotcha". Despite a large chunk of the CD being taken up by a silly "folk tale", this is still a great album and is worth buying for anyone interested in Zappa's music.
Report this review (#29977)
Posted Tuesday, April 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars ZAPPA's masterpiece!!!!! A perfect mix of classical, rock and jazz music in the TV cartoon style!! Funny, but extremely complex music!! "Studio Tan" is one of the most complex music of Frank ZAPPA!

The contribution of Eddie Jobson was absolutely necessary to make possible such an album! This guy is extremely talented!! Lemme take you to the beach is the most accessible song, which young kids should like! It's more than ordinary, if you listen carefully. It is a rather funny song, with addictive high frequency voice. The yodeling voice behind is EDDIE JOBSON's!!!!!! ZAPPA's guitar is quite appropriate!

The revised music for low orchestra song cannot be better: lots of latino influences with the trumpet or trombone? and spanish guitar parts, all played with orchestral arrangements: WOW!

"Greggary Peccary" is another chef d'oeuvre: comics music, but how complex and great! Around 20 minutes of dynamic, rythm changing music full of funny moments which only ZAPPA knows how to manage! So many instruments involved, especially percussions!! Again, classical orchestra really takes part in the music, not only as a back ground!

But in my opinion, "REDUNZL" is the main reason to like Studio Tan: because it absolutely and deeply reaches the quintessence! A complex Waltz bit? Maybe, but one thing is sure: it will never be played live as well as in the studio!! There are some names behind this: Eddie Jobson, Ruth underwood and Chester Thompson! Drums, percussions and keyboards at their best! Cannot find better!! One of the best songs ever!!! Really!


Report this review (#29979)
Posted Tuesday, April 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Lather's soap opera about a nocturnal, gregarious wild swine is just half the fun of "Studio Tan". "Greggary Peccary" is one of the few examples where ZAPPA's storytelling overshadows the music, certain to please anyone who still prays at the foot of "Billy the Mountain" (Billy and Ethel even make a brief cameo here). The gist of the story is a marketing executive who invents the calendar (and, thus, time), incurring the wrath of hunchmen (and hunchwomen). I suspect this was intended to be part of Hunchentoot, but that's just a hunch. The remaining songs offer a little something for everyone: the silly send-ups associated with Flo & Eddie ("Let Me Take You To The Beach") and the mutated classical/jazz/rock monsters of his early '70s masterpieces ("Burnt Weeny Sandwich" et al). It's an eclectic venture, which is to be expected when a nine-album opus is peeled off in single albums, but among the Lather litter this is some pig. Given what ZAPPA was releasing at the time, you're less likely to get burned with "Studio Tan" than a "Zoot Allures". It's not essential music, if only because fitting these pieces into the original puzzle calls for some historical revision, and yet it is eminently enjoyable. In fact, pound for pound, "Studio Tan" might be one of Frank's funniest records. And fans of ZAPPA's ambitious classical/jazz rock won't mind hearing "Revised Music For Guitar & Low Budget Orchestra", which I'm assuming is a re-treatment of the original "Music for Electric Violin and Low Budget Orchestra" that appeared on Jean-Luc Ponty's King Kong. Showing such different facets of the same diamond may be initially distracting, but "Studio Tan" remains dazzling for forty minutes.
Report this review (#29980)
Posted Tuesday, May 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 2 of the 4 songs on this album are instrumental, and the rest are easily some of the most bizarre songs conceptually (especially the Adventures of Greggery Peccary). Frank Zappa had a bunch of material to release because his label would not allow him to release his Lather set in the mid-1970's. So what did he do? He put the material on a series of albums. This is the first in that series. Muscially, this album is right on the money with jazzy interludes, frenetic guitar solos, playful percussion, and some twisted vocal performances.

The Adventures of Greggery Peccary is easily one of the strangest 20 minute epics ever composed. Rather than sung, it is unfolded like a story to the listener. With subtle instrumentation and playful interludes, and allusions to past Zappa songs, this is a captivating and awe-inspiring piece of work. This song is a masterpiece, and it really sets the mood for the album. Revised Music for Guitar and Low-Budget... is a jazzy instrumental that has musical nods to the Grand Wazoo/Waka-Jawaka albums in my opinion. It features a superb solo from Zappa and some great drum work from Chester Thompson. Lemme Take You to the Beach is a bizarre song with some very "demanding" vocals and some very 1960's pop lyrics, but it is nonetheless amazing what Zappa does with the music on this track. RNDZL is an instrumental that closes this captivating album, it has some cohesive bass/drum interplay and some great keyboard work form Eddie Jobson and George Duke.

Overall, this album is a creative and conceptual masterpiece. My only complaint is that Revised Music for Guitar and Low-Budget... gets a tad tedious and uninspired in the middle sections, the same with RDNZL. Despite that, I think that a fan of progressive music will find much to love about this album. 4.5/5.

Report this review (#46492)
Posted Monday, September 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Greggery Peccary features influences ranging from Varese (the harshly persussive and syncopated passages where G. looks for a parking place), Bartok (the part where the hunchmen chase G, as in Bartok´s music for strings , percussion and celesta), "post wagnerian chromatism", Jazz. Some passages are spoken but others are in the Sprach- gesang style (as in Shoenberg´s Pierrot Lunaire). However the one that impresses me most is when the hunchmen dance to "a pile of transistor radios each one tuned to a digfferent station". Is that Cage, Ives or what?
Report this review (#60773)
Posted Monday, December 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Perhaps his most weird album after his experimental phase with the Mothers of Invention in the late 60's. I'll give Zappa extra credit here for this wonderfully weird but constructed album, though it barely got released, Im glad it did cause this one is one of his very best albums. As with most of his releases, this is at top both musically and technically, though many Zappa fans probably will not enjoy this release concidering the blistering inacessibility on the domenating album opener, "Greggary Peccary", a 20-minute fusion of comic-book stylish avant-garde, not unlike "Billy The Mountain" from the "Just Another Band from LA" live album.

Very humoristic and avant-gardistic with a good dose of Jazz-Fusion too (tracks 2,4). I think this one is his best late 70's studio release, with Joe's Garage being the only one to probably top it. It's not perfect though, "Lemme Take You to The Beach" is generally weaker than the rest of the album, but still a funny surf-pop parody. This is a must for fans of Zappa's more odd stuff, especially "Uncle Meat", "Burnt Weeny Sandwich" and "Weasels Ripped My Flesh". Great underrated stuff. 4.5/5

Report this review (#67362)
Posted Sunday, January 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is by far, Frank Zappa's best and funniest album. "The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary" takes up the entire first side, and there are three versions going around, the original LP version, which has a fade-out, the CD version, which is a stereo remix and comes to an end, but is missing some 10 seconds throughout the song. The last version was released on Lather, and is the LP version without the fade-out. It's instrumental sections are great, and would be hilarious even without the lyrics, but the lyrics support the song even more.

'Unrevised Music For Guitar + Low Budget Orchestra" is a great jazz song, along with "RDNZL". Both of them are instrumentals, and are bright and cheery, but actually change! If Zappa had worked harder on 'Hot Rats', it would've sounded like this. The remaining song "Lemme Take You To The Beach", is absolutely hilarious, and the instruments are bright and cheery.

5 stars. D.

Report this review (#88492)
Posted Wednesday, August 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Adventures of Greggery Peccary is nice musical story with some bombastc moments and some humour, but the whole song can be considered as a bad joke. The reasons to give five stars for the album are 'RDNZL' and 'Revised Music for Guitar and Low-Budget Orchestra', both being very compact yet progressive. Classical and jazz music experiments, very melodic and rhythmic. RDNZL is more crazy but they both are also chill-out music, very harmonic, though still experimental and contrastic. Reminds me of Henry Cow in its more reasonable form. Though, every instrument, for example the piano and xylophone are very distinct (not irritatingly.. it just makes it sound even electronic), the overall is very full, though minimalistic and not noise. They have many jazz formats, but not the usual jazz rock or jazz. No use saying more because you have to hear them.
Report this review (#117629)
Posted Sunday, April 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars What makes "Studio Tan" better than "Lather"? Precisely jack. It is necessary for completists, but those of us who aren't Earth-shatteringly Zappaphilic would prefer this to "Lather"'s behomoth size because it's cheaper, and a quicker fix.

"Greggary Peccary" is funny as hell and, while a little long for some, is thouroughly enjoyable if you have the patience. If you're any kind of a Zappa fan, though, you do. It's not as musical as later tracks, but it's enough to keep you busy. It's sort of like a more badass Lumpy Gravy with some real comedy. Experimentalism with voice stuff and weird sounds abounds. Again, you need patience for this. The best opening track on any album (Second goes to Close to the Edge, and third to When the Generals Talk (?!) - or, if this is just about prog, substitute Shine On... I-V.) ever.

"Lemme Take You to the Beach" is a little pop ditty that... well, it's a parody of that hippie crap which, somehow, had survived. I guess Zappa's hard-assed, booze 'n' nookie songs didn't change how music was written, though it opened windows... oh, who cares? It's Zappa, and it's funny, what else do you need?

The other two are instrumentals; "RDNZL" is upbeat, "...Low-Budget Orchestra" is downbeat... but it's orchestral, so that's not typically as uplifting. "RDNZL" is pure madness, and fun madness at that. Wholly satisfying. "...Low-Budget Orchestra" is truly beautiful, a centerpiece of the album. Of course, with Zappa at the helm, full beauty is saboaged enough to garner a few points for just plain ol' Zappaness, just how I like my music. Check it out.

"Studio Tan"'s best attribute over "Lather" is the size and order. Good for non-Zappaphiles, necessary for completists because of the ever-so-slightly re-mixed Greggary Peccary. However, it's not perfect enough to get five stars.

82% -> 4 stars.

Report this review (#119795)
Posted Thursday, April 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars This album was released in 1978 but recorded circa 1974-1976. Even more unusual is the fact that the over 20 minute "The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary" was written in 1972. Actually that might not be so unusual as it seems like Zappa wrote and recorded tons of music during his career.

"The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary" has to be the best title ever ! This is Zappa doing what he does so well, telling a story. My biggest problem with this one is the length of it, I just found myself getting tired of it part way through. The music of course is incredible, but it sort of comes and goes taking a supportive role (so it seems) to the story telling. I just love the way it starts though, with Frank telling us what a Greggery Peccary is, and where it is usually found. Kind of like a National Geographic film. Priceless stuff. Zappa is genius at combining serious complex music with the silliest of stories isn't he ? "Revised Music For Guitar And Low-Budget Orchestra" has the same lineup as the first song. And really the same style of music without the vocals of course.

"Lemme Take You To The Beach" is an uptempo vocal track, with a totally different lineup. Cool to hear Eddie Jobson on keys and also yodeling ? Haha. This is a short but fun song. "RDNZL" is the best song by far. George Duke and Chester Thompson are back from the lineup of the first two songs. Also Ruth Underwood graces us with some percussion and synth work. Duke and Underwood take the lead to open as piano and percussion fill the air. Some scorching guitar from Zappa that just goes on and on for 2 1/2 minutes as Thompson pounds away on the drums. The song picks up the pace 6 minutes in with drums and piano leading the charge.

3.5 stars. If I was more fond of the first track this would be 4 stars for sure. Still a really good album from Zappa, which is of no surprise.

Report this review (#149367)
Posted Wednesday, November 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars For an artist as adept at and as focused on the absolutely strange, Frank Zappa certainly outdoes himself with oddity on Studio Tan.

One of the parts of the long mythological box set Läther, this album features Frank's longest studio track and three other odd bits of psychosis. Musically, his compositions are beginning to lean towards the massive orchestration/television sitcom theme style that will become much more dominant on later releases, like Orchestral Favorites or his mid-80s output. Lyrically, we have a lot of really goofy words tumbling from a highly sarcastic Zappa himself, but not the usual hyper-sexual innuendos (or really, not innuendos at all) that this period of his music tended to obsess with. In truth, the style here is much more similar to The Grand Wazoo or the first side of Apostrophe than to Sheik Yerbouti or Joe's Garage.

The Adventures of Greggery Peccary kicks off (or rather, spends half of) the album. Meandering and marked with a lot of complicated to quirky musical bits, the main focus of this song is the mostly spoken word sections. We have Frank narrating, a sped-up voice playing Greggery (who does most of the tune's singing), and a few other voices here and there. At points the music is terrifyingly huge and orchestral, usually when the spoken parts and the vocals are turned off, but at other times it really seems to go nowhere. There are no solo sections here or anything, which is not what you'd expect from a long Zappa composition, but nevertheless, even though it's kind of weak at a lot of points, it makes a refreshing addition to the man's particularly eclectic and unpredictable catalog. This is not a perfect track, but an interesting one.

The other side beings with Revised Music for Guitar and Low-Budget Orchestra, the name of which completely describes this track from beginning to end. It's a neat track with neat parts, but on the whole, its lack of cohesion and direction make it the least interesting and weakest track on Studio Tan. The next song, the only truly sung track, Let Me Take You to the Beach, is a peppy little adventure in electronic surfer pop on some form of drugs. The vocals are obnoxious but fit quite nicely, providing another goofy lyrical bit that is not as disturbing as Frank tends to get. The instruments are on fire for this song, especially the bass. RDNZL is a highly complicated instrumental that is probably more famous for its live rendition on You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 2. Even still, it really moves here, with flying xylophones and the only real guitar soloing on the whole album. In the end, the last two tracks are the strongest on the album, while the other two are interesting.

Fans of Zappa's big band music, like Hot Rats and The Grand Wazoo, will probably find plenty to love here. It's a fairly flawed album, but with some essential material. Not a great place to start, still.

Report this review (#185891)
Posted Wednesday, October 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars Another one of the Mother's delirium, Studio Tan is part of the four-album Läther extravaganza that Zappa wanted to release, but was countered by his record label, not with solid viability reasons. A rather ugly comics artwork and a good back up section including Chester Thompson, Eddie Jobson, Underwood and George Duke (just to name those) are the main characteristics you should be aware of.

If the Greggery piece takes up the whole first side, it's hardly what I'd call an epic, as it goes back to the first Mothers era, with the dumb humorous storyline that ruins the music (not that great either, btw), and doesn't augur well for the rest of the album. Actually the flipside is rather enjoyable, with some excellent RDNZL and Take You To The Beach, while the instrumental Revised Music For Guitar And Low-Budget is quite interesting. If you own the Läther piece that was released in the mid-90's, you won't need this one. Too bad for the Greggery Peckary piece, but at least one full side of the album is worthy enough.

Report this review (#297806)
Posted Tuesday, September 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#306564)
Posted Monday, October 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars I find the first track on this album to be a real masterpiece of music that I'm not sure if even Zappa himself ever managed to top. It is clearly the most insane Frank Zappa song I have personally heard...and I feel like I've heard a pretty good deal of Frank Zappa. There was a time when I thought "Relayer" was complicated....but after listening to "the adventures of.." it just changed my whole perspective of what complicated actually means. I don't know how the guy wrote it, but he managed, and again it is just insane. '75 was surely a great year, and I believe some of this was taped at UCLA in what must have been a very cutting edge studio. Superb sound quality. The rest of the record is very good's all about the packaging of songs....I believe on the vinyl the next track is "lemme take you to the beach" which is a 3 minute pop how that transfer from song 1 to song 2 works is beyond me but it does, so open your ears for some musically explicit perversions.
Report this review (#364310)
Posted Sunday, December 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This was the first of the three unmarked albums Frank Zappa released from the material originally meant for the "Lather" boxed set. I wasn't until the CDs came out in 1991 that any of the musicians were listed in the credits.

Pieced together or not, this is a fine display of Zappa's eccentricities. The focal point of the album is the twenty minute The Adventures Of Greggary Peccary. This bizarre, and sometimes very funny epic tells a story of a peccary (a type of swine) who invents the calendar, gets chased by people who don't want to know how old they are, and ends up on Billy The Mountain. Confused? It doesn't matter. The entire piece is spoken and sung over music written and played back in the "Grand Wazoo" days (listen to "Joe's Domage" for pieces of this music). The whole thing is quite spectacular.

Side two of the album begins with Revised Music For Guitar and Low Budget orchestra. This piece was originally released on Jean-Luc Ponty's "King Kong" album. While this version is good, and more polished. I like Ponty's rendition better. Let Me Take You To The Beach follows. This song as far as I know was Zappa's only techno-fusion pop song. It almost seems like he was serious about it. The song is driven by some cool Eddie Jobson synths. RDNZL closes the album. This difficult piece is one of my favorites.

The songs might flow better on "Lather", but I still love this album.

Report this review (#443041)
Posted Thursday, May 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars I've never quite managed to get along with the material which made up Zappa's epic Lather album. Taken as a whole set, there's simply too much there for me to digest, and the mix of styles is incredibly jarring. Taken as individual albums they come across a bit better in some cases, but in the case of Studio Tan it doesn't help much.

Studio Tan is dominated by The Adventures of Greggery Peccary, the saga of a porcine advertising executive which represents Zappa's second attempt at an epic narrative song after Billy the Mountain. It doesn't work any better than that song did, the major problem being that the narration is so overwhelming it drowns out the musical backing - and the musical backing, when it can be heard, isn't Zappa's finest. Of the remaining tracks, all three seem rather disposable aside from RDNZL, and the version on You Can't Do That On Stage Any More Vol. 2 sounds better to me (and that particular album is an absolutely essential Zappa live set).

In short, this is one of those Zappa albums I am happy to leave to the fanatics. Two stars.

Report this review (#537439)
Posted Thursday, September 29, 2011 | Review Permalink

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