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Frank Zappa - The Yellow Shark CD (album) cover

THE YELLOW SHARK

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.88 | 123 ratings

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TCat
5 stars This is an important album for many reasons. First, it is concert recordings of FZ's serious (or classical) music and it is the best representation of his orchestral music. It is also the last album FZ would release in his lifetime before he succumbed to cancer. He was in a lot of pain and suffering during the time of these concerts, but was still able to actually appear at only 2 of the concerts in Frankfort. At the first of these concerts, which part of this concert is featured on this album, he was able to conduct 4 of the tracks while the remainder was conducted by Peter Rundel, who was the usual conductor for the Ensemble Modern, the only orchestra that seemed to really understand Frank's classical music. It was their idea to do Frank's music as part of this tour that featured 3 other composers.

Frank apparently got along quite well with the musicians and invited them to Los Angeles to do rehearsals even though he was quite sick. Some of these sessions are released on the album "Everything is Healing Nicely" which is a companion album to "Yellow Shark".

FZ calls this project that is recorded here the most fulfilling project he had ever participated in. It must have been so amazing to him to hear his music taken seriously by this orchestra and to be so appreciated by the audience.

The album is completely classical with little bits of FZ's humor showing through from time to time, especially in the tracks that he conducted. During the performance of "Welcome to the United States" the application form for immigrants coming into the country is read in a rather cheery voice with orchestral sounds going on underneath. It is quite an excellent example of Zappa humor. Other than that, it is orchestral and instrumental all the way through. If you don't like classical music, then you might have a hard time with this one. The music that was chosen for this concert consisted of some of Frank's jazz classics which will be recognizable to Zappa's fans and also some musique concrete pieces; 20th century/Modern Classical pieces. The Modern Classical pieces are exactly that, they are written without a lot of discernible melodies, but more in the style of Stravinsky and Varese which are composers that FZ idolized and loved.

The performances are bright and mostly cheery sounding, even with the extent of the dissonance and untraditional styles. At first, the music might sound a lot like soundtrack style music to the listener that is not accustomed to the Modern Classical or Avant Garde style. It does take some ear training to pull out the melodies and structure of the music as it is with this style of music. Remember, that one of the main reasons that Progressive Rock is not accepted so well is because the general public has not trained themselves to listen to it yet. That is also why this style of classical music is hard for a lot of people to listen to also. Like I always say, with understanding comes appreciation. This music does have to be understood and a lot of time is necessary to really "get it" just like it is for Progressive Rock. That's what makes the music challenging. Anyone can listen to top 40 pop and it doesn't require a large investment to get it....but it does tend to get old and stale really fast which is why you can hear a song on the top 40 radio one day and one month later, it is considered outdated. Timeless music, however, lives on generation after generation.

FZ's serious music is definitely legitimate classical avant garde and respected by the classical world. The music is studied in legitimate music schools right along with other composers of this style. This is the music that FZ wanted to make, the music that he wanted the world to hear. He used rock and humor as a vehicle for making his jazz and classical music more accessible.

The last song that FZ conducted, and the last public performance and appearance was the last track "G-Spot Tornado". Imagine how proud he must have felt through his pain and suffering that his music was finally brought to the masses, that it was being respected and performed masterfully and that his life's work had been accepted as he stood there before the audience after this performance as they gave him a 20-minute standing ovation. No wonder he felt that the event was fulfilling and exhilarating. He had lived the dream and seen the realization of that dream, the one thing that so many composers have wished to see in their lifetimes. Some were not able to see that during their lives. FZ did and was deserving of it.

This is an essential album for avant garde and FZ fans. 5 stars.

TCat | 5/5 |

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