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Frank Zappa - London Symphony Orchestra Vol. I & II CD (album) cover

LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA VOL. I & II

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.30 | 46 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

Now this is Zappa at its most serious, in fact so serious that we're not sure that it is the right disc in the jewel case, so serious that we're actually a bit worried to Frank's mental health at this point of his life, so serious that this album is a bit boring, unless you happen to be a Stravinsky fan, in which case you're in heaven. Zappa ha always shown his infatuation with XXth Century classical music almost from day one of his recording career (Absolutely Free is the first album featuring some), but in general this was embedded in his doo-wop fascination, his jazz-rock penchants and his obsession of humour (usually tacky or tasteless >> his scatology phase) in music; that last aspect was often ruining (or drowning) the often interesting music in a sea of absurdity and even ridicule for the sane listeners.

I'm rather not used reviewing classical oeuvres, so I won't go deep into the music (rarely do anyway) to describe it. If you're familiar with Stravinsky's oeuvre like the Rites Of Spring or the Firebird Suite (just to mention those), than you won't be phased out with Zappa's composition and arrangements, here. And I mean that this is classical orchestral music in the Stravinsky way, which means that the music often veers slightly dissonant, but not more so than good old Igor did. Fortunately for most of us, Zappa sticks to Stravinsky-type of classical music and doesn't try to add some Edgar Varese, Pierre Boulez or Stockhausen influences in these two albums as he would for Civilization Phase 3 or his Boulez album, so Orchestral Favourites is still fairly accessible for us common mortals. It's relatively pointless to start describing the individual tracks as they are all too Stravinsky-esque to be described as anything but that. Just know that Vol I is in three tracks that are subdivided in two or three sections, while the second isn't: four undivided tracks, including a sidelong Bogus Pomp that earns its name in sorts, especially if you're no Igor fan. Only the closing Strictly Genteel sticks out from the lot (that's both albums), being slightly more accessible and more "grand public" with its atrocious pomp.

This two-disc set is the compilation (re-titled London Symphonic Orchestra under the Zappa name) of the two separate Orchestral Favourites albums recorded a few years apart (83 & 87), but you wouldn't know it from listening to both to compare. Certainly a very ambitious oeuvre, even though that is not what I expect from Frank, because this is absolutely not groundbreaking, since everything was said during almost 100 years ago. Not essential, but definitely good enough if you care for Zappa's classical aptitude, no doubt this will be right up your alley.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |

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