Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Frank Zappa - Strictly Genteel CD (album) cover

STRICTLY GENTEEL

Frank Zappa

RIO/Avant-Prog


From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
5 stars The best place to start for any Classical music fan as it shows the breadth of the man's inventiveness in this genre. This is the Zappa disc which I probably play the most, dispite the "Francesco Zappa" tracks; which give just the right lightness to a heavy section of the compilation. This is a very satisfying disc when you'r in the mood for something a bit more heavyweight.
Report this review (#29974)
Posted Tuesday, April 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
TCat
COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Team
4 stars Frank Zappa's compilation album "Strictly Genteel: A 'Classical' Introduction to Frank Zappa" is the perfect album for those who are interested in some of Zappa's more classically inclined music. It is not a completionists album because all of the tracks on this collection are already available on other albums, but more of one for the general masses interested in getting their feet wet in his vast array of his more classically composed music, and it has quite an excellent bunch of tracks that illustrate his various styles and means of recording his compositions.

Starting out with a track from "Uncle Meat" the album begins with the Main Title Theme from that album. It is short track (1:55) that doesn't quite reach the 2 minute mark, but still gives good proof that Zappa was inspired by Stravinsky and wanted to give exposure to that music by using it in his own. The last 20 seconds of Stravinsky's "Trios Poesies de la Lyrique Japonaise" is the opening melody for the main title theme and also uses a rhythmic variation that also shows up later in another section of that classical composition. The music is produced by various keyboards mostly and tonal percussion. The last 20 or so seconds is a lot of processed sound and noise. "Regyptian Strut" (4:37) comes from the album "Sleep Dirt". This track utilizes George Duke on keyboards, Bruce Fowler playing all of the brass instruments, James Youmans on bass, Ruth Underwood on percussion (xylophone and such), and Chad Wackerman on drums. This one is probably somewhere between true classical and jazz.

"Pedro's Dowry" (7:41) is the version from "Orchestral Favorites" where the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra performs. The composition actually had a sub-title, "Yes, That's Right" but that was seldom used. This composition was the musical score for a ballet that Zappa had written, but because of expenses of hiring a ballet company to perform, Frank usually just read the story when it was performed. The score is quite complex with several different themes and melodies and in the performance of the track, the orchestra not only plays the instruments, but follows stage directions. Several strange and unusual instruments are also used, including party noisemakers at the end. "Outrage at Valdez" (3:09) comes from "The Yellow Shark", this version using the Ensemble Modern. The track was written for a documentary about the Exxon Valdez disaster. Since Frank loved to slip in musical references in almost all of his music, he does so here when he sneaks in a snippet of "What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor?". Again the music is complex.

"Little Umbrellas" (3:03) comes from the album "Hot Rats" and, like the first track, is more of a jazz ensemble piece. This track features Frank playing guitar, octave bass and percussion, Ian Underwood on keys, Lowell George on rhythm guitar, John Guerin on drums and Max Bennett on bass. This version comes from the CD version because of the recorder that comes in after the 2 minute mark. The recorder is not on the vinyl version. "The Run Home Slow Theme" comes from the Lost Episodes collection. It is a short (1:25) track which again uses more of a jazz ensemble, but sounds more like soundtrack music. This track is one of Frank's earlier works for an actual soundtrack. "Dwarf Nebula Processional March & Dwarf Nebula" (2:12) comes from the album "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" and features the rock band line-up which probably consisted of Frank on guitar, Ian Underwood on keys and woodwinds, Bunk Gardner on woodwinds and Art Tripp on drums. This track actually started as a piano exercise which Zappa recorded backwards and then added several different sounds that were put through a noise generator over the top of that. During the March section, the woodwinds do establish a melody, but all of this gets swallowed up by the goofy noises.

"Dupree's Paradise" (7:53) comes from the version on "The Perfect Stranger", and is more of a traditional, 20th century classical piece performed by the Ensemle InterContemporain conducted by Pierre Boulez. The music is inspired by a bar at 6 AM on a Sunday in 1964. It represents the customers of the bar and what they do to separate themselves from the rest of society. The music is complex again and very cinematic with several thematic elements and also features a section led by the piano. "Opus 1, No. 3, 2nd Movement, Presto" (1:48) comes from Zappa's tribute to Francesco Zappa (an actual baroque composer) where he plays the pieces on a synclavier. "Duke of Prunes" (4:19) is another track from "Orchestral Favorites" and features the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra which was recorded here with no overdubs, except for the guitar because Frank couldn't record guitar feedback while recording the orchestra, and he liked the sound of guitar feedback supported by an orchestra. The guitar and orchestra play the main theme together. As the guitar improvisation starts, the orchestra plays supporting backup with flourishes, and it does make for a nice combination.

"Aybe Sea" (2:46) is from "Burnt Weenie Sandwich" and is a short, surprisingly gentle piece featuring FZ on acoustic guitars and Ian Underwood playing harpsichord and the piano solo. "Naval Aviation in Art?" (2:45) is from "The Perfect Stranger" again featuring the Ensemble InterContemporain conducted by Pierre Boulez. The short, orchestral track has a 20th Century, Impressionistic style, tense and dissonant. "G-spot Tornado" was originally written for an ensemble, but is so difficult to play that FZ used the synclavier to get the desired results he wanted for this impossible piece. The version comes from "Jazz From Hell". It is based an a very fast moving melody that goes through variations and includes a synth solo in the middle. One listen and you will understand why it is so complex.

"Bob in Dacron, First Movement" is from the album "London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. II" and it features said orchestra conducted by Kent Nagano and is joined by David Ocker on solo clarinet, Chad Wackerman on drums and Ed Mann on percussion. The entire piece was about an urban scoundrel named BOB in his quest for erotic gratification in a singles bar. This movement represents the clashing colors of the outfit he picks out as he dresses for the night on the town. It utilizes "laugh boxes" which are the imaginary girls that BOB tries to impress. The style is again the impressionistic classical style, which is one that Frank loved to work with because of the freedom it gave him in composition. Another track from "Francesco Zappa" follows with "Opus 1, No. 4, 2nd Movement, Allegro" (3:01) and again features Frank and the synclavier (or what he fondly referred to as The Barking Pumpkin Digital Gratification Consort). Again, the music has that baroque style as the music comes from that period.

The next two tracks come from "The Yellow Shark", both of them are familiar themes that Zappa used from early and throughout his career, usually performed by his band, but this time performed by the Ensemble Modern giving them a new orchestral sound. First we have "Dog Breath Variations" (2:06) followed by "Uncle Meat". Both songs are easily identified as they retain their original melodies and this treatment give these jazz fusion tracks a nice symphonic treatment. The last track is "Strictly Genteel" (6:56) from "London Symphony Orchestra Vol. II" again conducted by Kent Nagano. This piece was originally written as the finale for the "200 Motels" project and the tune was originally sung by The Mothers. The version in this case was recorded quickly with very few re-takes because the recording session was in it's last hour. FZ said that the last brass section features a bunch of drunk, British trumpeters, and try as he might, he couldn't get the final product to his liking. Even though it sounds pretty good, Frank thought the version was far from perfect and was upset that he had to pay a lot of money for a sub-par performance.

This album works as a great sampler for Frank's "classical" style music in that most of the tracks are fairly short, there is a wide variety of styles not just among classical styles, but with the addition of some jazz pieces too, but it shows a wide array of some of Frank's best serious work. It also demonstrates why he is a respected musician, and that he also incorporated humor in his instrumental music. The one main drawback is that it doesn't feature just classical music, but other types of instrumental music, but for the average listener wanting to hear what the classical Frank sounded like, it will give you a great idea with a ton of variety. It is a strong compilation and easily merits 4 stars because even though the music is culled from various albums, it all sounds very cohesive and not chopped up at all. Highly recommended as a sampler for Frank's instrumental and classical styled music.

Report this review (#2240553)
Posted Sunday, July 28, 2019 | Review Permalink

FRANK ZAPPA Strictly Genteel ratings only


chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of FRANK ZAPPA Strictly Genteel


You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.

MEMBERS LOGIN ZONE

As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — jazz music reviews and archives | MetalMusicArchives.com — metal music reviews and archives