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Frank Zappa - Francesco Zappa CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



2.58 | 134 ratings

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2 stars Before 'Jazz From Hell', there was 'Baroque Music From Hell', a synthesized update by Frank Zappa of several long-lost sonatas by 18th century violoncello composer Francesco Zappa (yes: an actual person, but no relation, despite what Frank may have claimed in his autobiography). In the early 1980s the contemporary Zappa discovered these never- recorded trios gathering dust at the UC Berkeley music library, and promptly adapted them for the 'Barking Pumpkin Digital Gratification Consort', his tongue-in-cheek tag for the newest toy in his basement studio at the time, the Synclavier.

It was strictly a one-man novelty record, and hardly fresh even then. Prog keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman (not often compared to anyone like Frank Zappa) had covered identical ground in the song 'Cans and Brahms', from the 1972 YES album 'Fragile'. And Wendy (then Walter) Carlos had released the seminal 'Switched On Bach' in the dark ages of 1968, accomplishing with a primitive Moog Synthesizer exactly what Zappa would do with his Synclavier two decades later.

The startling coincidence of the twin Zappa names (and the fact that both were musicians: what are the odds?) is the most memorable aspect of the album. Otherwise it's doubtful Frank would have devoted himself to such an indulgent project. The irreverent cover art and notes show he didn't regard it very seriously: this wasn't, for example, the classical music equivalent of his 'Cruising With Ruben & the Jets' doo-wop homage.

But at the same time there's at least a certain integrity to the finished product. It may be nothing more than rinky-dink digital muzak, but the album can at least provide a pleasant background to any task requiring minimal brain work (like reading this review, for instance).

And what looks like another stingy two-star rating was assigned only by default. The album isn't exactly poor, but it isn't very good either: there's a reason Francesco Zappa's name is never mentioned in the same breath as Mozart, or even Antonio Salieri. And it's difficult to imagine diehard fans of Uncle Frank wanting to complete their Zappa collections with an album of music better suited to the toddler play area of the Korova Milk Bar.

Neu!mann | 2/5 |


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