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Naked City


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Naked City Naked City album cover
4.08 | 131 ratings | 17 reviews | 39% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1990

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Batman (2:04)
2. The Sicilian Clan (Ennio Morricone) (3:33)
3. You Will Be Shot (1:31)
4. Latin Quarter (4:12)
5. A Shot In The Dark (Henry Mancini) (3:13)
6. Reanimator (1:43)
7. Snagglepuss (2:20)
8. I Want To Live (Johnny Mandel) (2:12)
9. Lonely Woman (Ornette Coleman) (2:45)
10. Igneous Ejaculation (0:24)
11. Blood Duster (0:17)
12. Hammerhead (0:11)
13. Demon Sanctuary (0:42)
14. Obeah Man (0:20)
15. Ujaku (0:31)
16. Fuck The Facts (0:14)
17. Speedball (0:44)
18. Chinatown (Jerry Goldsmith) (4:28)
19. Punk China Doll (3:06)
20. N.Y. Flat Top Box (0:46)
21. Saigon Pickup (4:50)
22. The James Bond Theme (John Barry) (3:06)
23. Den Of Sins (1:14)
24. Contempt (Georges Delerue) (2:54)
25. Graveyard Shift (3:32)
26. Inside Straight (4:17)

Total Time: 55:14

Line-up / Musicians

- Bill Frisell / guitar
- Wayne Horvitz / keyboards
- John Zorn / alto sax, arranger & co-producer
- Fred Frith / bass
- Joey Baron / drums

- Yamatsuka Eye / vocals

Releases information

Artwork: Photo "Corpse With Revolver" ca. 1940, by Weegee

LP Nonesuch ‎- 9 79238-1 (1990, US)

CD Elektra ‎- 9 79238-2 (1990, US)
CD Elektra Nonesuch ‎- 7559-79238-2 (1990, Europe)

Thanks to Joren for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy NAKED CITY Naked City Music

NAKED CITY Naked City ratings distribution

(131 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(39%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(37%)
Good, but non-essential (15%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

NAKED CITY Naked City reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by 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.

Review by Certif1ed
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Here is an album crammed with inventive and highly entertaining music with a high degree of spontaneity, yet also a very strong sense of structure, dramatic journey and precision in execution.

The bread and butter of Classic Prog, in other words - and a very difficult combination to achieve.

This is not your father's Prog or even close to Classic Prog - but Progressive it indeed is... after a fashion.

The very opening track, entitled "Batman" strikes you immediately as not being the Batman theme tune at all, rather a cross between Peter Gunn and the bridge section from Saxon's "Princess of the Night" (a riff also used in Metallica's "Seek and Destroy") - or wherever Saxon borrowed it from.

In the first minute, there are subtle interplays and not so subtle interplays between the musicians conjouring up comic-book images. After the first minute, these become more pronounced, and the Peter Gunn theme is all but left behind for 30 seconds as the band go into controlled meltdown.

The final 30 seconds are a recapitulation and codetta of the meltdown madness - and all this in 2 minutes flat (the final 4 seconds are silent run-out).

"The Sicilian Clan" is oddly set up by a Bontempi style organ, with a series of manic modulations that belie the apparently simple Burt Bacharach style of the piece. The improv in this piece is mildly satisfying, but not daring - an oasis of calm after the opening "Batman". The improv becomes far more daring later in the album - you really need to stick with this one.

"You Will Be Shot" twists manically into sudden blurs of sound from an underpinning main riff that stops rather as if it had just noticed something - occasionally dropping into something resembling the "Bontempi" section in the previous track.

But there is cunning in the construction - in a minute and a half, there is the main riff idea, the first "blur" idea - a segment that is essentially repeated, then the "Bontempi" section, followed by a second "blur" idea. This entire structure is essentially repeated, and "main", "blur", "main" used to end the piece.

In other words, a series of very short rapid-fire "hits" merged into a surprisingly traditional and tight structure.

You get the idea. Or rather, an idea.

We can see that a track-by-track would take all day, as there is simply so much packed into each second - blink and you'd miss it. Every detail is clearly intended to be there, which is great news, as that makes this an album to revisit - when you feel up to it.

To qualify the latter, it's the sheer intensity and ferocity of pace at which everything happens that makes listening to "Naked City" a real rush and a drain on one's psychological resources to simply keep up.

Each track explores different areas of "The Naked City", exposing something almost tangible at each step. There are so many points of note that a list would be pointless, but almost every style of music is covered from laid back jazz to tightly controlled noise (plenty of the latter) - and all done cleanly and expertly.

This handily qualifies this album as Prog - but rather a kind of essence of Prog.

It is an album that has plenty to appeal to just about everyone - and plenty to annoy just about everyone too. It's hardly easy-listening, yet there are moments of an almost lounge-jazz flavour that are very accessible indeed, and moments of modern jazz that are quite mind-scrambling - somewhat familiar in places, but that does seem to be the intention, as this album is something akin to a musical tapestry - albeit with touches of Jackson Pollack.

There's something for Prog Metal fans here too - at least those with more "exotic" tastes: If you enjoyed Fantomas "Suspended Animation", then there's much in here that will appeal - the root idea is the same, even if some of the more dominant musical styles are different. The major difference in concept is that this is a regional psychological tour rather than a more personal and time-based one. It should still be listened to in sequence rather than dipping in at random though!

The sequence of 8 sub 1 minute tracks seem to draw much of their inspiration from early Napalm Death (not kidding!), and the cartoon-like qualities will feel familiar.

I find the descent into noise a bit too frequent for my taste, but otherwise, a solid album that I would not consider a masterpiece of Prog Rock, but it's unique, exceptionally well crafted and a highly recommended purchase - but not for the faint of heart!

Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I believe that this is the most famous recording of John Zorn, partly because it uses a very large scale of musical influences bringing something for almost everybody, and similarly demonstrating new musical styles to people, who wouldn't maybe hear them otherwise. But the biggest reason should be the overall quality of the release, which is certainly high. "Naked City" is a quite rough listening experience, and the number of different musical styles paints a picture of a violent and chaotic city. "Batman" works as a dynamic opener, which is followed by the mellow and beautiful "The Sicilian Clan". A short promenade to the next ghetto is "You Will Be Shot", which gives some hints of the forthcoming grind metal attacks. After "Latin Quarter" and the Henry Mancini sounding tune the violence rate grows again. Then time for some Ornette Coleman cover and eight short Napalm Death tunes which durations range from 11 to 42 seconds. I recall that these tracks caused serious interest among the grindheads to who I played this album. Next stops are Chinatown and Thai area, which are followed by a performance of the classic James Bond Theme. Four more tracks hammer this production of Pandora's Box to the listeners head, either as an abomination or as an interesting cultural artifact. I respect this record much, but during my tamed adulthood I find seldom strength to listen this kind of music long. Instead of metal heads this should interest also fans of serious jazz listeners, as John has gathered up quite cool band, having Bill Frisell on guitar and Fred Frith playing the bass. I wouldn't suggest buying this blindly for an expensive price, but anybody interested of chaotic contemporary art music should give this a listen when possible.
Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Absolutely perfect mix of avant-jazz/metal/noise and old film soundracks. Perfect musicians, even short form of miniatures doesn't break common feeling.

26 pieces, each of original idea and own melody, sound. Starting from easy acceptable melodic retro-jazz movie melodies,Zorn bring you step by step for more complex structures and rhythms. Till one moment you will realize, that you are in the room full of avant-jazz scratches and metal noise.

But happily all this process happens without pain, and you just feel, that it's strange music is attractive enough.

I think, it's one of most attractive Zorn album, real gem for avant-jazz oriented music fans. For all others - good start for introduction to John Zorn music.

Please note, some music from "Naked City"album was released at "Tortured Garden" album ( or v.v.).

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I have been a huge fan of Mike Patton ever since I picked up a copy of the Tomahawk debut album back in 2002. After listening through most of Patton's collaborations I stumbled on a wonderful release called Six Litanies For Heliogabalus which consisted of some gorgeous compositions penned and conducted by John Zorn. The album also featured some off the wall drumming work by Joey Baron who, together with Zorn have previously worked in a band called Naked City.

Needless to say I read up on Naked City and after finding out that this project also included the legendary Henry Cow guitarist Fred Frith I stopped everything I was doing at the time and just rushed to the nearest record store! Naturally I'm exaggerating, after all, we all know that an average record store doesn't include the works of John Zorn in their inventory.

This album is roughly split up between two different concepts/themes. The first theme consists of avant-garde covers of work by great composers like Ennio Morricone, Henry Mancini, Jerry Goldsmith and a few others. The second theme entails short compositions that at first felt like improvisational pieces but that was an incorrect assumption on my behalf and after exploring more of John Zorn's music I recognized certain patterns that existed within these tracks.

Since I am a fan of Ennio Morricone's music I was very skeptical of hearing Zorn's take on the theme of The Sicilian Clan but after hearing this track I definitely have to hand it to John Zorn for breathing new air into such a perfect piece of work to begin with. His saxophone solo here is just beyond words and gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it!

This is an essential album for fans of avant-garde music but I have a difficulty of calling it a masterpiece of progressive rock music since this material might be considered too extreme for the average prog listener. Approach with caution, but by all means do approach!

***** star songs: The Sicilian Clan (Ennio Morricone) (3:33) Reanimator (1:43) Demon Sanctuary (0:42) Obeah Man (0:20) Saigon Pickup (4:50)

**** star songs: Batman (2:04) You Will Be Shot (1:31) Latin Quarter (4:12) A Shot In The Dark (Henry Mancini) (3:13) I Want To Live (Johnny Mandel) (2:12) Lonely Woman (Ornette Coleman) (2:45) Igneous Ejaculation (0:24) Blood Duster (0:17) Hammerhead (0:11) Ujaku (0:31) Fuck The Facts (0:14) Speedball (0:44) Chinatown (Jerry Goldsmith) (4:28) Punk China Doll (3:06) N.Y. Flat Top Box (0:46) The James Bond Theme (John Barry) (3:06) Den Of Sins (1:14) Contempt (Georges Delerue) (2:54) Graveyard Shift (3:32) Inside Straight (4:17)

*** star songs: Snagglepuss (2:20)

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars There are so many things I dislike about this album i'm not sure where to start. I know this one is rated highly among Avant-garde fans and i'm a fan of the genre but this is one album I just don't appreciate very much. It all boils down to my specific tastes in music. There's lots to like here as well, I really enjoy the sax especially when he's playing in a dissonant manner or just screaming away.There are parts of many tracks here that are fantastic to say the least. And that's one big issue with me, the way they tape and paste these different sections of a song together so we get lots of patch-work. All these different styles and genres in one 2 minute blast is not what I enjoy, in fact i'm not much into variety period when it comes to one recording. I don't want to hear Country (ever), Jazz, Lounge, Film Music, Noise, and on and on all on one album let along one song (haha). Okay i'm exaggerating but you get the picture. I'm not into "noisy" music either. And the vocals sound like they were sampled from the cartoon character The Tasmanian Devil.They are so lame it's not even humerous.

So this album comes off as one of those novelty albums I normally detest,and yet there is so much here that I enjoy that it make it unfortunate. Another negative is that there's 36 short tracks here. 36 ! Another negative for me is the guitar and bass both of which sound like they came out of some fifties spy movie much of the time. I don't care how good these guys play that sound and style makes me cringe.

I miss Zappa when I hear something like this. Someone who could actually play challenging, funny and adventerous music that i'm proud to share with friends. Still there's more than enough good music here to give it 3 stars and besides I don't want to upset their fans anymore than I already have.

Review by Starhammer
3 stars Systematic chaos...

Although officially considered to be a John Zorn solo album, this 'Naked City' quintet went on to form the group of the same name.

The Good: This release pretty much defines the avant-jazz sub genre, combining numerous styles, random interludes and furious shredding breakdowns. There are some really great tracks to be discovered here, from the insane Snagglepuss, to the calmer, more atmospheric pieces such as the Ennio Morricone cover, The Sicilian Clan. The virtuoso musicianship throughout is undeniable.

The Bad: Call me a philistine, but whilst the the spasmic frenzies are fun at first, the unpleasantly grating saxophone can become a little tiresome after a while.

The Verdict: Definitely worth checking out, if only for the experience.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars When I listen to this album, it brings to my mind the film "Pulp Fiction". There are stretches of extreme coolness in the sound, broken up by passages of vulgar brutality and violence. For the most part, the music works. If you are into this sort of thing.

There is quite a bit of rockabilly, lounge jazz, and other more normal forms of pop music. But even when playing it somewhat straight, John Zorn and his cohorts have a tendency to veer off into experimental and off beat riffs and explorations. And interspersed with these are ventures into blasts of noise and uncontrolled chaos.

The chaos I enjoy, for the most part. I just get put off when vocalist Yamatsuka Eye starts screaming his lungs out.

Otherwise, it's a trip. But a dangerous one.

Review by Warthur
3 stars This is essentially what happens when a jazz band decides to play avant-garde rock and roll, with basically straight- ahead rockabilly numbers made weird with odd little solos and outbursts here and there. The overall sonic effect isn't too dissimilar from the wilder moments of Mr. Bungle - indeed, John Zorn and Trey Spruance would end up working together from time to time in future - though with a slightly more consistent "anchor" in early garage rock.

It's all very impressive, but I'd add a couple of caveats. The first is that if you are interested in this album because of thw participants' jazz work, you should keep in mind that this doesn't sound even slightly like jazz. The second is that I sneakily kind of think the garage rock side of the band is just fine and all that weird soloing just makes the album odd for odd's sake. This is a sentiment which, if course, is entirely antithetical to the experiment here, but I just feel like the experiment just isn't quite my cup of tea.

Latest members reviews

5 stars "Mr. Zorn doesn't bother with transitions. While he and his musicians create every sudden textural shift themselves, without technological assistance, his guides are the splice, the jump cut, the video edit - not to mention the jack-in-the-box and its more sinister relatives in funhouses and h ... (read more)

Report this review (#1082017) | Posted by VOTOMS | Tuesday, November 26, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars You will not find to describe this album. hearing is believing. the music is unpredictable and sometimes scary. John Zorn-led, there is jazz that breaks down into hell detached. so true progressive jazz, then? The album contains the shortest of the history of prog to 11 seconds. Although there i ... (read more)

Report this review (#292369) | Posted by AlexVigne | Wednesday, July 28, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The musicians involved almost make an avant super group creating one of the most interesting and challenging bands you'll hear,combining two of the extreme forms of music - grindcore & jazz. There's various other styles of music in amongst this album but one of the most distinct sounds is John Z ... (read more)

Report this review (#176569) | Posted by mrcozdude | Saturday, July 12, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is really quite an eclectic album. I hear more of the RIO crash and bang sensibilities here than in the other Zorn albums I've heard. In this way, sometimes it reminds of HENRY COW, but I am also at times reminded of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, and/or free form jazz. This album certainly would ... (read more)

Report this review (#171572) | Posted by kabright | Monday, May 19, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Rating: A+ With over one hundred releases to his name and more coming every year, John Zorn is by far one of the most prolific composers of last century. As such, it can be incredibly difficult to figure out where exactly to start with his immense discography. Well, search no more. Nearly ev ... (read more)

Report this review (#161368) | Posted by Pnoom! | Saturday, February 9, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Naked City was released in 1989, by a band of the same name led by John Zorn. Naked City could be considered a supergroup because of the star-power of the not only Zorn as a virtuoso saxaphonist, but with Bill Frisell on guitar,Yamatsuka Eye contributing vocals (who does work with Japanese A ... (read more)

Report this review (#135799) | Posted by cookieacquired | Saturday, September 1, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The forefathers of modern Avant-prog? Though not quite a supergroup, this quintet does carry some big names, mainly the bandleader, avant-garde alto saxophonist/altissimo extraordinaire John Zorn, as well as renowned jazz guitarist Bill Frisell and Henry Cow guitarist/band leader Fred Frith ass ... (read more)

Report this review (#135163) | Posted by heyitsthatguy | Tuesday, August 28, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Describing this album is almost impossible. You really need to hear it to see just how intense and unpredictable the songs on this record are. Guitarist Bill Frisell, keyboardist Wayne Horvitz, bassist Fred Frith, drummer Joey Baron, and guest vocalist Yamatsuka Eye under the leadership of the le ... (read more)

Report this review (#122177) | Posted by blazno | Tuesday, May 15, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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