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Frank Zappa Orchestral Favorites album cover
3.41 | 188 ratings | 8 reviews | 18% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Live, released in 1979

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Strictly Genteel (7:03)
2. Pedro's Dowry (7:41)
3. Naval Aviation In Art? (1:22)
4. Duke of Prunes (4:20)
5. Bogus Pomp (13:28)

Total Time: 33:54

Line-up / Musicians

- Frank Zappa and The Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Orchestra
- Frank Zappa / guitar
- Terry Bozzio / drums
- Dave Parlato / bass
- Mike Lang / keyboards
- Emil Richards / percussion
- Pamela Goldsmith / viola
- John Wittenberg / violin
- Bobby Dubow / violin
- Jerry Kessler / cello
- Bruce Fowler / trombone
- Earle Drumler / oboe
- Mike Altschul / flute, trumpet
- Malcolm McNabb / trumpet
- David Duke / French horn
- Dana Hughes / bass trombone
- Ray Reed / flute
- David Shostak / flute
- Tommy Morgan / harmonica
- Marty Perellis (?)
- Don Van Vliet / dancing

Releases information

Live recordings from Royce Hall, UCLA California
September 18-19, 1975

Rykodisc #RCD 10529

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
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FRANK ZAPPA Orchestral Favorites ratings distribution

(188 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(18%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(32%)
Good, but non-essential (36%)
Collectors/fans only (10%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

FRANK ZAPPA Orchestral Favorites reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Progressive/Classical albums with orchestra have always impressed me! It is the case here: there are numerous musicians involved with tons of different instruments: trombone, trumpet, violin, viola, cello, oboe, flute, TONS of miscellaneous percussions (small bells, cowbells and xylophone among others), French horn, bass trombone, piano and harmonica. There are outstanding horns & strings arrangements, not too broad: it sounds contemporary classical music. Bozzio's drums are really impressive, very scattered. Zappa's guitar is present mainly on the catchy "Duke of prunes"; the bass does not take all the room too. You think it is not enough? You guessed right! I forgot the keyboards, which are excellent too, not too omnipresent in order to let the acoustic instruments give the show. The compositions consist in EXTREMELY changing & elaborated patterns, never the same, very loaded of instruments mentioned above. The album contains very structured, nervous, dissonant and complex music. You have to listen to "Bogus Pomp": one of the best songs from Zappa: it deserves 6 stars! "Bogus Pomp" contains TONS of brief, complex, catchy and addictive airs put together through nicely dissonant textures: the ensemble remains EXTREMELY structured and pleasant to listen: it is so easy and satisfying to entirely listen this track. It is like to listen to a fantastic told story. "Pedro's Dowry" is much more dissonant and colder than the other tracks, despite you can feel all the cohesion and structure involved: however it will be harder for the average listener to get addicted. "Strictly Genteel" sounds like a catchy army anthem (loud horns). It should need more than one listening to fully appreciate the ensemble.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars One of the most fascinating things for me about Frank Zappa is his love of writing contemporary classical pieces (given his own flare, which was influenced greatly by Edgar Varese). This is the first album to really show those sentiments. Along with the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Orchestra and two of his cohorts in Terry Bozzio and Dave Parlato (on drums and bass respectively), Zappa took pieces ranging mostly from the era of 67-72, throwing in two newer pieces for good measure. You might notice as well that some of these songs were originally on the Lather project, albeit in a slightly altered and edited form that makes them different from their counterparts of that misunderstood project.

The album opens with the finale to 200 Motels, the epic Strictly Genteel, which has always been a favorite of mine in Zappa's catalogue and a rarity amongst his other pieces (it rarely got played live, except for the final 1988 tour). The rendition presented here is very faithful to the original version released nearly 8 years prior, yet it has the same magic that the original captured. Pedro's Dowry is probably the weakest piece on the album, but that doesn't by any means mean that it's poor in quality, it fails to captivate me like Strictly Genteel did.

Naval Aviation in Art? is the shortest piece here, and arguably one of the strongest with it's intriguing melody and it's dynamic performances on all fronts. Duke of Prunes is a re-worked piece from the Absolutely Free album. It's short, to the point, and maintains most of what the original piece was looking for on the musical front. The album closes with another 200 Motels theme in Bogus Pomp. While the song would be fleshed out even more when Zappa collaborated with the London Symphony Orchestra, this version is pretty solid with it's even playing from everyone (and the steady rhythm unit of Bozzio and Parlato keeping it all together).

For the most part I can really only recommend it for the fans of FZ's classical excursions and those who like to see all that FZ can do. It's a very good album, but nothing I can really dub essential. Despite that, there are some really good renditions of classic pieces that fans of early incarnations of FZ will probably enjoy immensely. I leave the purchase of this album up to you.

Review by tarkus1980
2 stars NOTE: These are thoughts I originally jotted down about this album before I heard parts of it in proper context, in the full Läther album.

And so the final tally of the Läther era is: one solidly good-but-unspectacular live album, and three mediocre studio albums speckled with occasional moments of brilliance. Yup, trying to make a quadruple album was a great idea there, Frank.

Anyway, like the other elements of Läther, this was released without Frank's approval by his (by now) former distribution company, and contains but five tracks, three of which were intended for Frank's would-be magnum opus. One of the five tracks, "Naval Aviation in Art," is only about a minute-and-a-half long, and reminds me of one of the short 200 Motels blurbs, so it ends up kinda ignored by me. Of the remaining four, I like two: "Duke of Prunes" is a nice treatment of this piece from Absolutely Free, with Frank's guitar taking the place of the vocals of the original in places, and horns taking over at other places, while the other instruments do, well, their orchestral thing. "Strictly Genteel" (which wasn't intended for Läther, oddly enough) is verrrrrrry pretty here (it was one of the few 200 Motels pieces I liked, after all), with the main theme handled well and with somebody playing a gorgeous harmonica solo (if a harmonica solo can be called gorgeous) in the middle. Yup, if there's a reason to buy this album, it's "Strictly Genteel."

The other two tracks sound hideous to me, though. "Pedro's Dowry" is just a bunch of dissonant clatter that goes on for almost eight minutes; enough said. And the closing thirteen- minute "Bogus Pomp" just mirrors its title to me; it sounds like it wants to be bigger and more important than, say, "Strictly Genteel," but it ends up totally full of sound and fury, signifying jack squat. And thus concludes my ignorant foray into analysis of half-assed modern classical.

And that's it! Find some way to get the two great tracks found here, and skip the rest.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Hmmm... the liner notes on the Barking Pumpkin CD version of this album say "Orchestral Favorites was originally released in lp format, May 1974". They also say 'recorded at Royce Hall, Los Angeles, September 1975". Zappa must have been quite the time traveller.

This album, as short as it is, has three songs that would later appear on the London Symphony Orchestra albums, Strictly Genteel, Pedro's Dowry and Strictly Genteel. Despite these versions being shorter, I would recommend these versions over the LSO. Here, the orchestra, containing some Zappa regulars, is more serious about playing Frank's wild compositions, and the performances are much better. Also, the sound, especially on the remixed CD versions, is much more clear.

You must know by now that these songs were originally meant for the "Lather" album, but when Warner Brothers refused to release that three LP set, Zappa chopped it up into a bunch of other LPs, this one containing the orchestral pieces.

This is a good introduction to Zappa's orchestral compositions. So if you don't have "Lather", I'd highly recommend it.

Review by Warthur
2 stars Presenting the results of a 1975 concert in which Frank Zappa once again attempted to coax an orchestra into playing his classically composed pieces, Orchestral Favorites succeeds rather better than the orchestral numbers on 200 Motels. In particular, Zappa's hand-picked orchestra proves to be rather more willing to work in non-traditional instruments to their performance, which spices things up appreciably. However, at the end of the day they still make the compositions sound heavy, leaden and ponderous, when they should be light, energetic and free-flowing. Ultimately, I think of all the attempts to capture Zappa's orchestral works over the years, only The Yellow Shark really succeeded, and Orchestral Favorites does nothing to change my mind on that score.
Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Orchestral Favorites" is a live album release by US artist Frank Zappa. The album was released through DiscReet Records in May 1979. It´s the successor to "Sheik Yerbouti" from March 1979. All material featured on "Orchestral Favorites", was originally meant to be featured on the shelved "Läther" box-set, but ended up being released as one of four individual album releases, instead of the collective work that would have been the "Läther" box-set.

The 5 tracks featured on "Orchestral Favorites" were recorded during three sessons on the 17th-19th of September 1975, at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus with conductor Michael Zearott and the 37-piece Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra. The first two sessions were recorded as concerts with an audience, while the last session was done without an audience. Zappa spliced the best parts from the three sessions together and added an overdub guitar solo on "Duke of Prunes". It´s a combined classical orchestra and rock group performance, so in addition to the classical music instruments like violin, oboe, and clarinet, the music also features regular rock music instrumentation of guitars, bass, keyboards, and drums. The music is fully instrumental.

The melodic, dynamic, and symphonic "Strictly Genteel" opens the album. An early version of this composition with vocals was included on the "200 Motels" (1971) film and soundtrack. Themes from "200 Motels" (1971) are also used on the closing track "Bogus Pomp". "Pedro's Dowry" and "Naval Aviation in Art" are avant garde tinged classical music pieces, showing Zappa´s more experimental side. "Duke of Prunes", which was originally featured on "Absolutely Free" (1967), is featured here in a re-arranged classical orchestra/rock group version. The above mentioned overdubbed guitar solo is pretty intense, featuring an almost constant near feedback noisy approach.

While "Orchestral Favorites" certainly features a couple of intriguing moments, it´s arguably the least interesting release culled from the shelved "Läther" material. According to Zappa he spend around $200,000 on this project, and honestly I can´t say I think those money was well spend. A 3 star (60%) rating isn´t all wrong though as there are enough great elements to warrant that rating.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Review #170 This is an excellent live recording of Frank Zappa's classical compositions; in my reviews about "London Symphony Orchestra" and "Francesco Zappa" I've already expressed my opinions about this kind of Zappa records: even when I do believe they are truly masterpieces, they're not o ... (read more)

Report this review (#2650176) | Posted by Uruk_hai | Tuesday, December 7, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars "Orchestral Favorites" presents Frank Zappa's "classical" experiments at it's apex. The arrangements, orchestrations and performances are tight and played with the humor so closely associated with FZ's "rock bands". Great care was taken in the actual recording and mixing of this music and the li ... (read more)

Report this review (#29907) | Posted by | Saturday, March 5, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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