What does it sound like?:
Frank Zappa was a serious composer who found working in the rock n’ roll idiom and making complicated popular music with knob jokes enabled him to subsidise his artistic work that had less commercial potential. He once observed that “some artists put their money up their nose, I put my money in my ears”, and the concerts on this set of discs were paid for from the profits made from the single “Don’t eat the yellow snow”: there is something Platonic in that equation. I’ve been listening to the is album for almost 40 years, and in that time it has gone from “What is THAT?” to “Could be a film soundtrack” (admittedly an odd film).
For the uninitiated, this music is tunefully and busily abstract, self-consciously difficult and sometimes effortlessly cheesy (I love the big band “Duke of Prunes”), mostly made with an orchestra but occasional guitar, synthesiser, and bass art comedy music. Does that help? It would have led to energetic frugging at a Bauhaus ball (as in German art movement, not Northampton goths) and would surely appeal to hipsters and avant-rock types if it wasn’t for the terminally unwoke cachet that Frank Zappa now deservedly has, and which endears him to me even more.
Along with a fine titivated recording of of the original album, is a great concert of most of these tracks plus a number of instrumental bits from other recordings (“Rollo”, “Lumpy Gravy”, “Dog Meat”, “Gregory Peccary” and an early outing of a nascent “Black Napkins”, soon to appear on “Zoot Allures”). Fred Zappie is having a good time, and his sardonic asides and intros are cheerful and almost warm. They ran out of tape for the final flashy coda that ends the live “Strictly Genteel”, but this is, in it’s own way, ideal – a big blob of bathos, and deeply Zapparian in itself.
What does it all *mean*?
The Proms have just finished, and we’ve had the guitarist from Radiohead given pride of place. Don’t give up the day job, Johnnie. “Orchestral Favourites” is serious, funny, tuneful, bloody awful, profound, subversive, trivial, and slyly commercial. You can work to it as there are not a lot of words. Nobody could call the music boring, though it may well take some people out of their comfort zone. Oh how I miss Frank Zappa. He could have made the perfect music to match the sounds and personalities of our currently troubled times.
Goes well with…
Modern classical music, film soundtracks of gratuitous pomposity, chin-stroking, indifference to what’s the “in thing”, red wine, strong tea, cold water, and cold black coffee. As the sound of a bass saxophone.
Out now, pop-pickers
Might suit people who like…
Frank Zappa, avant-garde music, modern classical, soundtracks, pushing their comfort zone, something different from the past.