Saturday, August 15, 2009

Orchestral Favorites

Among the broken up parts to “Lather” that were released as individual recordings was “Orchestral Favorites,” a nice addition to anyone’s Zappa collection, although not necessarily essential. Zappa had several orchestral releases, all of which are good. But if you’re looking for an essential orchestral recording, go for “The Yellow Shark.”

All but the first and second tracks on this release appear on “Lather.” Both “Strictly Genteel” and “Bogus Pomp” are compositions carried from “200 Motels,” with the latter being an instrumental interpretation of the themes from “This Town Is A Sealed Tuna Sandwich.” These tunes, omitted from “Lather,” again form the musical bread for this particular recording, a technique that Zappa had used in the past, most pointedly with “Burnt Weeny Sandwich.”

If there is a flaw with “Strictly Genteel,” it is in the fact that it was originally composed as a lyrical piece. It was the closing composition to the movie “200 Motels,” when the entire cast gathers on the set with the orchestra; indeed, it is a very genteel salutation to the audience, just before Howard Kaylan rips into his guttural finale. As an instrumental piece, it doesn’t quite work; its structure reveals the fact that something is missing – the vocals.

The fourth track, however, does work as an instrumental. “The Duke of Orchestral Prunes” is a good interpretation, sans lyrics, of the song “The Duke of Prunes,” which first appeared on “Absolutely Free.” Zappa’s guitar solo on this piece also adds a nice touch.

“Pedro’s Dowry” is a really interesting composition. It’s atonal and complex rhythmic structure draws you in and demands your attention. It has a soundtrack quality to it, in that it is easy to envision the music accompanying a series of movie scenes. But it doesn’t require a visual element; the music tells its own story, allowing the listener to create his or her own visual representations of what is heard.

And with “Naval Aviation in Art?” we have a very brief, but intense interlude, a sort of abbreviated tone poem. It could easily be mistaken for an extension of “Pedro’s Dowry,” it is that similar.

As a package, the compositions within “Orchestral Favorites” work out alright. But spread out as they are, mixed in with other songs of different genres and structure, on “Lather,” they work much better. Still, the fact that not all of these pieces appear on “Lather” is reason enough to have both.

I rate this three of five stars. Add your own rating below.

Released May 4, 1979, DiscReet Records; Recorded at Royce Hall, UCLA, Sept. 19, 1975.

Track listing:

1. Strictly Genteel (7:04)
2. Pedro’s Dowry (7:41)
3. Naval Aviation In Art (1:22)
4. The Duke Of Orchestral Prunes (4:20) (titled “The Duke Of Prunes”)
5. Bogus Pomp (13:28)


Frank Zappa (guitar)
Terry Bozzio (drums)
Dave Parlato (bass)
Mike Lang (keyboards)
Emil Richards (percussion)
Pamela Goldsmith (viola)
John Wittenberg (violin)
Bobby Dubow (violin)
Jerry Kessler (cello)
Bruce Fowler (trombone)
Earle Dumler (oboe)
Mike Altschul (flute, trumpet)
Malcolm McNabb (trumpet)
David Duke (french horn)
Dana Hughes (bass trombone)
Ray Reed (flute)
David Shostak (flute)
Tommy Morgan (harmonica)
Marty Perellis (?)
Captain Beefheart (dancing)

1 comment:

Adrian said...

Two inconsequential musings: (1) I've always thought "The Duke Of Orchestral Prunes" should have been on 'Zoot Allures' just to bolster its somewhat underweight almostness and to be a second pea in the "Filthy Habits" pod. Was it recorded in time? and (2) I wonder why FZ didn't make any of his touring line-ups learn Bogus Pomp - I'd love to have got to hear 1982 or 1988 band versions.