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Frank Zappa - Civilization Phaze III CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.78 | 130 ratings

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5 stars What I seem to find is that most Rock-in-Opposition music is so closely related to 20th Century Classical music. That is what this album is, for want of trying to describe it. This is the last album FZ was working on. In fact, he died before it's completion and release. But this type of music was the music he wanted to produce. He was a genius in the fact that he understood classical music and I think it was a constant frustration to him that so many people did not understand it. He had his contemporaries, his favorite composers if you will, that he followed just like composers of classical music were always "students" of the famous composers of their own times. Just because they learned the style and techniques doesn't mean they copied them. Usually, the best composers added to the styles, stretched them to other limits, and that is how music progresses and changes over time. FZ was only following in the footsteps of hundreds of excellent composers like himself.

So, there is a concept here. If you read the other reviews here or even look it up on Wikipedia, you'll find out that this is the 3rd phase of a concept FZ had. The 1st phase was "We're Only In It For the Money" and the 2nd phase was "Lumpy Gravy" (the re-edited version). The original title of this album was "Lumpy Gravy Phase Three" but was changed to "Civilization Phaze III" which gives some insight as to what this is all about. The concept is the vocal parts are performed by a civilization that lives inside of a piano called "piano people" and their discussions about the menacing outside world. Just to make things even more fun, these people discover pigs and ponies living in the piano with them. This is not a story per se as it is a study on thinking and society, the ideas and thoughts of these "piano people", and their relationship to their music. One of the funniest things on here is the discussion on the track "How the Pig's Music Works" and it's satirical explanation which makes fun of people who think they understand avant-garde music and try to interpret it. The discussion makes no sense but the people sitting around discussing it all act like they understand what it's about, just like the so-called "hipsters" that you still run in to even today.

The strange voices are created by several speakers talking through a piano. The timbre of the voices are created by the vibration of the piano strings inside the piano. The instrumentals on here are mostly created by the synclavier and performed and composed by FZ himself. In his later years, this was FZ's instrument of choice because it was so much easier and faster to perform this way than with an orchestra or band. The additional instruments are performed by the Ensemble Modern.

There are no guitar solos here. There is no chorus, verse, chorus form here. There is no melody here, at least not in the traditional sense. This is modern classical music and this is FZ's way of advancing music to another level. It is not easy to listen to, even knowing everything that I have just explained. But, it is hard not to admit that it is genius, a masterpiece. It takes a long time and a lot of effort to appreciate the music, but like so many other reviewers have said, it's hard to listen to but undeniably genius. Anyway, it is not entry level Frank Zappa by any means unless you are trying to get a classical professor to listen to FZ.

So, hopefully I have helped you make some sense out of this music. With understanding comes appreciation. I don't know if I will ever completely understand this album, so I will always have a hard time completely appreciating it, but I will always continue to try, because I love challenging music. But this is a long album and somewhat difficult to sit through, so it is a tough one for sure. Anyway, if you love FZ and are familiar with his many styles (because this is only 1 style of hundreds of his styles), then this is essential to understanding his discography. 5 stars. Now, if you choose to continue by listening to this, I wish you good luck!

TCat | 5/5 |


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