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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 1:45 pm 
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What was the high point of his career, all things considered. Lets hear some opinions. Im thinking about it.


Last edited by Rahdley on Sat Dec 15, 2012 2:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 1:52 pm 
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All things considered? What can be considered the most? Critical acclaim? Chart success of the records? His best band? In terms of rock music, it's a bit subjective, but I'd say he was at his best as the rock innovator doring the sixties, as the progressive rock band leader at roughly 1972-75 and as the pop satirist during the late 1970s-early 80s, with popular albums like Sheik Yerbouti, Joe's Garage, You Are What You Is.

Subsequent rock years represent Zappa in decline to my mind, with the 1984 band being arguably one of his worst bands ever. However, after that Zappa was asserting himself more strongly as the art music (aka orchestral/classical/serious music) composer. In terms of that he was arguably peaking towards the end of his life, as FZ was the most pleased with the Ensemble Modern's rendition of Zappa's art music works as heard on "The Yellow Shark".

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 1:59 pm 
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I think the decline in his ROCK stuff started with Man From Utopia. His classical stuff was still getting better when he died. It's also surprising to me that he didn't write any new instrumental stuff for the 88 band. I've always wondered about that.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 3:46 pm 
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It still strange that we often try to define FZ's musical periods by albums. It's clear now that he releases what he could, he didn't what he couldt, but the things released is really not the ONLY thing that shows his musical value (see: the Wazoo recordings were almost unknown, the Sinister Footwear I-II-III are still unreleased, etc. To me the biggest goal of ZFT would be to present each tour the best they can be presented - not only with "Gee, look what we've found here in the vault!".

But back to the topic: to me the most exciting band was the 73-74 lineup, and the 82 band. The best solos were played in '80-88. The best symphonic work (to me) is the London Symphony Recording. The best synclavier stuff is on Jazz from Hell and Civilization... One of my favorite albums is Hot Rats.

On the albums... FZ made really strange selections: the Drowning Witch and the Utopia albums did not represent (to me) the '81 band at all - the unreleased Chalk Pie would have been much much better. And so on. One may find different "parts" of his carrier, but these part cannot be tied with album releases.

At least the way I see it.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 3:50 pm 
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I'm going out on a limb and say "The Yellow Shark" period.
From HIS perspective anyway,,,,
See I don't thnk he'd give a rat's ass about what you and I thought his "peak" was.

With the Ensemble Modern he finally got to hear his much cherished orchestral works done correctly.
I think he must have been "choked up" and so happy inside.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 4:36 pm 
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1979

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 5:34 pm 
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I have the correct answer for you!!!!
(The previous answer was half right)


1966-1979



Specifically, Carolina's Hardcore Ecstasy

You're welcome.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 6:51 pm 
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Yellow Shark

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 6:52 pm 
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The second half of his life.

Ages 26-death. 1966-1993.

Shudder to think of what if FZ's life ended in his 20s instead of 52yrs. Imagine all that lost music.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 8:10 pm 
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His peak will be in 6 days :mrgreen:

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Last edited by ZutboF on Thu Dec 20, 2012 10:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 8:59 pm 
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The question is too subjective. Personally, I love every era, apart from part of the early Mothers, Flo & Eddie & synclavier eras...

However, FZ's commercial peak as an album seller was in 1979 and as a concert draw in 1980...

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 9:23 pm 
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1967-1974

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 9:50 pm 
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On the albums I like personally.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 10:47 pm 
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For me, it's the 60's Mothers albums all the way.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 11:18 pm 
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peaked during 66-76

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 1:07 am 
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Some people mention here Yellow Shark as a peak - I'd be curious about it in detail, because I simply do not like that album that much. Compared to the LSO sessions (together with the Berkeley performance in 1984), it's just so much weaker:

- Shorter programme
- few - really few - new pieces (6, 7?...). On the LSO sessions there are almost exlusively new pieces (and there were the un-released great Sinister Footwear with all 3 movements).
- Orchestration by Ali Askin - not by FZ, and it's sometimes not the best. The boring monotony of the drums in G Spot Tornado, the powerless-ness of bebop Tango, the unsucsessful performance of Amnerica (finally was not included on the album) shows me the unsure attitude of the whole thing...
- Not homogenous performance: while Outrage at Valdez, Whitey, Exercise 4 are excellent, the performance of Ruth is Sleeping, Magnesium Dress, Bebop Tango etc, are simply no good enough, and there are simpy "good, but not too much"-like pieces, too.

I'm curious about your point - the way I see it: when I listen to the 2 hours of the LSO album, think of the 2,5 hour ballett-performance that went along with it, the amazing and new music presented there... it's just amazing. Yellow Shark is nice with it's live-sound, but musically, performance-wise would never be among my "peak-albums". It's a final re-working of some old pieces (most of them were better in their earlier form), and some new (the spoken word pieces are not strong enough, too: the musicians chosen are not as good "actors" as most of FZ's earlier musicians) - it's a farewell gesture to me, only.

Sorry, I don't wnt to be offensive - just curious about your opinions. Maybe with those I can get a bit closer.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 2:57 am 
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The 60's mothers stuff had some special moments for me, WOIIFTM being amongst what I consider Frank's finest.
But in terms of peaking I think the 70's era, especially from Roxy. His 70's output contains arguably the bulk of classic Zappa in terms of composition and performance. There's just too many great moments and if all Zappa had done in his career was the 70's stuff he would still be regarded as highly as he is.

While the 80's has some good stuff too I find it less appealing than the 70's. Frank's work in his finally years is more serious. I think dog breath on Yellow Shark is the finest orchestral recording of a Zappa composition. Most of his classical stuff I find hard work. I think many of his best compositions (instrumental) we're written in the 70's and good orchestral versions of these compositions have still to be achieved. I certainly think he found a happy channel in the Enable Modern though I'm not keen on the really off the wall stuff.

CPIII does deserve a mention. Its such a serious work in terms of FZ the composer. Amnerika is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard and the way the melody crosses the instruments is so clever. Put A Motor In Yourself is another great composition but much of CPIII is hard work, the intervals and non melodic melodies ask a lot of even the most avid listener. The 70's compositions like The Black Page are much more accessible for me personally though I accept Zappa's ear was much more advanced. I feel the hard-to-listen-to compositions are something I might 'Get' and enjoy when I'm older.
CPIII also has a feeling of sadness around it and that's to be expected. It feels like the work of a man desperate to get a little of something out before its too late.
Considering his prolific output from 66-93 the mind boggles at what he would have done had he lived another 20 years or so. Zappa's work is so unique, humanity has a lot to be thankful for but also much to be sad about - he died far too young.


Last edited by Ringo on Sun Dec 16, 2012 6:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 3:44 am 
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balint wrote:
Some people mention here Yellow Shark as a peak - I'd be curious about it in detail, because I simply do not like that album that much. Compared to the LSO sessions (together with the Berkeley performance in 1984), it's just so much weaker:

- Shorter programme
- few - really few - new pieces (6, 7?...). On the LSO sessions there are almost exlusively new pieces (and there were the un-released great Sinister Footwear with all 3 movements).
- Orchestration by Ali Askin - not by FZ, and it's sometimes not the best. The boring monotony of the drums in G Spot Tornado, the powerless-ness of bebop Tango, the unsucsessful performance of Amnerica (finally was not included on the album) shows me the unsure attitude of the whole thing...
- Not homogenous performance: while Outrage at Valdez, Whitey, Exercise 4 are excellent, the performance of Ruth is Sleeping, Magnesium Dress, Bebop Tango etc, are simply no good enough, and there are simpy "good, but not too much"-like pieces, too.

I'm curious about your point - the way I see it: when I listen to the 2 hours of the LSO album, think of the 2,5 hour ballett-performance that went along with it, the amazing and new music presented there... it's just amazing. Yellow Shark is nice with it's live-sound, but musically, performance-wise would never be among my "peak-albums". It's a final re-working of some old pieces (most of them were better in their earlier form), and some new (the spoken word pieces are not strong enough, too: the musicians chosen are not as good "actors" as most of FZ's earlier musicians) - it's a farewell gesture to me, only.

Sorry, I don't wnt to be offensive - just curious about your opinions. Maybe with those I can get a bit closer.


Well, Frank did not have a happy experience with LSO and he did have to edit the LSO recordings a lot to hide many out-of-tune notes. Many musicians were more interested in having their drinks at the pub during the intermission than really giving their all best. By contrast, Ensemble Modern was very willing to work hard on Frank's pieces and even go one further, as they requested to play some Synclavier pieces that Frank considered unplayable by live musicians. Everything Is Healing Nicely also demonstrates how FZ really enjoyed working with the EM. Plus, I do find it remarkable that EM chose to play FZ' pieces, as it must've been the indicator that at last, FZ was being taken seriously as the art music composer. The Yellow Shark concerts were certainly rather prestigious. It was like eight or nine consecutive concerts in September 1992! And I also found out that the EM had already been playing Zappa's music since 1987, they performed the long pieces from the Boulez album back then.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 4:22 am 
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Ed Organus Maximus wrote:
Well, Frank did not have a happy experience with LSO
- but I definitely did.. :-) I simply LOVE Sad Jane!

But seriously: I know all the stories behind it (some musicians, including David Ocker remember differently), but my main quiestion is NOT "what did FZ think...", but "what do YOU think?..."
(the direction "FZ liked this or that better" will lead nowhere here (I think), and things could be interpreted differetly, too: as I said he did NOT release Amnerika because it wasn't a good performance, it wasn't his idea to release EIHN (not my favorite, too: to me just a "rest of" selection, a kind of a documentary only with not-always-well-played versions), he did write only very few new pieces to this occassion (LSO and Zappa Affair was FULL of new pieces, very long concert, double CD).

But again: instead of anecdotes I'm curious about YOUR experience with the music! :-) Which is the favorite, which one is the best moment, what is wrong with this and that, why do you like this or that... :-)


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 7:14 am 
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balint wrote:
… But again: instead of anecdotes I'm curious about YOUR experience with the music! :-) Which is the favorite, which one is the best moment, what is wrong with this and that, why do you like this or that... :-)

Well, I don't have anything to loose here anymore: I think when it comes to orchestral music, he artistically succeeded with what he did for Lumpy Gravy, 200 Motels and Orchestral Favourites. It was HIS style and much more radical in combination with the other elements. Which is very much to MY liking.

With later efforts like LSO, Perfect Stranger and Yellow Shark he somehow was trying to adapt to the established serious music scene and the music got very polished and lost its edges. There were to many compromises.

When I hear something by, let's say, Elliot Carter, I think: Frank's similar stuff like on LSO sounds somehow like a high class amateur version in comparison. Everytime when things are getting more puristic with Frank (orchestral music, electronic music), it is becoming difficult to rate his later efforts as high as earlier works.

Below the line my opinion is: what he did from around 1980 on may be more refined in a technical sense, and maybe he got more control, but I would rate the 60s and 70s much higher in retrospective.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 10:01 am 
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Thinman wrote:
I think when it comes to orchestral music, he artistically succeeded with what he did for Lumpy Gravy, 200 Motels and Orchestral Favourites. It was HIS style and much more radical in combination with the other elements. Which is very much to MY liking.

Thinman

I'm really curious about your opinion about the comparison between LSO and, say, 200 Motels. Nowadays I was buried into the LSO album, and found that it's really close (to me) to the orchestral parts of 200 Motels (try Lucy's Seduction... or Redneck Eats after LSO), and the interesting thing to me that the LSO (disc one) might be the connection point of 200 Motels, Jazz from Hell and (!) the Guitar albums, but I could mention here the band's tour-monsters, too: RDNZL, Sinister Footwear, Alien Orifice...

In all of these recordings we have non-repeating melodies running after each other, its oftentimes doubled or strenghtened with an unisono instrument or rhythm, and you get to enjoy it more and more after each listenning. The only difference to me is the orchestration: here he has a small electric band, there a huge symponic orchestra, over there a rhythm duo behind his solo...

Try it once, as a playlist:
- Redneck Eats (the piano part)
- Sad Jane Mvmt II.
- Piano-Drum duet
- RDNZL
- N-Lite
- Manx Needs Woman
- Excerpt from Revised music
- Mo'n Herb's Vacation Mvmt 1.
- (etc.. - could be continued)

(Note, that Zappa used the "written-down and re-orchestrated improvisation" method more than one might think: all 3 mvmt of Sinister Footwear could have been born this way, parts of the Little House..., sections of the Hot Rats album, very much of Revised Music - the list would be really long.)

After (the Ryko-collection) "Strictly Genteel", another "classical" selection would be nice, and with a selection like this interesting inner links could appear, interesting associations might happen. To me it worked really fine - and what I got from it is enjoying the music even more than I did before.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 10:48 am 
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IMHO: Waka Jawaka/Grand Wazoo period, followed by 1976 nor far away. This only my taste, :smoke: , you may disagree.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 11:27 am 
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 12:05 pm 
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He peaked with FreakOut! and maintained the momentum, with a slight lapse in the 80's, thru theYellowShark.
I would liked to have heard what would have come after the YellowShark and I hope to hear Rage&Fury before I die.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 12:09 pm 
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Disco Boy wrote:
FZ's commercial peak as an album seller was in 1979 and as a concert draw in 1980...

This is probably correct, and in that case the only statement in this discussion that is essentially TRUE.

To continue and contribute to the subjectivity of the topic, I would say that Zappa peaked many times during his career, much like the VU meter during a Velvet Underground concert.

Here are some peaks for me, from different aspects of his work:

- Absolutely Free!

- Uncle Meat

- Burnt Weenie Sandwich

- The Grand Wazoo

- Apostrophe (')

- One Size Fits All

- Läther

- Shut Up N Play Yer Guitar

- Sinister Footwear

- Times Beach II

- The Girl In The Magnesium Dress

- N-Lite

I would say FZ peaked as a relevant cultural figure representing an alternative to conventionality in the mid Seventies (1975), and as a political figure in the mid Eighties (1985-86) with the PMRC hearings.

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