UG’s Semi-Orchestral Low Budget Memorial Barbecue

This month I have put together a special mixtape for Zappa/Mothers Die-Hards with many of my favorite instrumental, semi-orchestral, and orchestral Zappa works – many of which I’m mixing here for the first time – from some of the best of Zappa‘s individual bands to the Petit Wazoo Band to his Grand Wazoo Orchestra to The Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Orchestra to the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra to the Ensemble Modern to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to The Orchestra of Our Time to Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest & Cappella Amsterdam – punctuated with interviews by and about Zappa from Kent Nagano and David Ocker and Studs Terkel.

Of this mixtape’s 200 plus tracks, the first 30 or so have lyrics, and of those the selection is primarily from the final concert in the “Zappa’s Universe” series from the New York Ritz Theatre on November 10th, 1991 [a far, far superior collection, in my opinion, than that dinky 1993 PolyGram release recorded on the 7th and the 8th].

This mixtape is entitled, “Urbangraffito’s Semi-Orchestral Low Budget Memorial Barbecue”. To listen to mixtape click here.

A wonderful segue, I think, into next month’s mix…which I’ve been saving for a very long time –  Zappa and Halloween in New York…

Warning: this mix is very contagious. It should only be heard by Zappa/Mother Die-Hards, or in their company, as it can lead to the contraction of a certain audio virus, known to those of us infected, as FZ+ (which leads to compulsive FZ listening and a behavior known as FZ completism). Be Warned.

20 Responses to “UG’s Semi-Orchestral Low Budget Memorial Barbecue”

  1. Dark Clothes says:

    I think you mixed up the titles for Rat Tomago and The Sheik Yerbouti tango from Deutschlandhalle 1978 – The so-called SYT is really Rat Tomago, isnt it? And on the evidence on the first few bars, the ensuing track sounds like something out of City of Tiny Lites, not Rat Omelette. Other than that, this looks like a great mix, again. I’ve just enjoyed Persona Non Grata, the greatest Zappa song that still hasn’t seen an official release, and am looking so forward to hearing the orchestral Sinister Footwear! I would have downloaded it from Beat the Boots on Amazon, but in my country that’s not possible, due to some inexplicable geographical restrictions. Thanks, Urban Graffitto!

  2. Dark Clothes says:

    This is an exceptional mix, which should attract a large global audience! In an ideal world, it would…

    The Petit Wazoo Duke of Prunes and the MoI chamber music tracks are definitely worth hearing, but for me the pieces from Berkeley 1984 are the most essential.

    I understand why Zappa didn’t want to release the Berkeley performance of Sinister Footwear, though. It is far from perfect. Perhaps some day an orchestra will be able to pull off this incredibly demanding piece. It’s certainly worth the try.

    The commentators from the Berkeley broadcast are suave and on to Zappa’s music. A fine example of public American intelligence. The interviews with Zappa and David Ocker are all the more illuminating, because you sense a common understanding between the participants in the discussion.

    Mo n’ Herbs Vacation and Zappa’s enthusiastic introduction to Sinister Footwear are further highlights from Berkeley.

    It’s also interesting to hear Beat the Reaper and Waffenspiele from the Yellow Shark concerts, although more from a historical point of view than a musical one, because those stage versions are really a matter of running the CPIII tapes for the audience, with some added live music.

    Finally I have to mention the performance of Black Napkins from 1976, with incredible solos by Bianca, Eddie and Frank. This is undoubtedly the best version I’ve heard of this song with the Bianca band. Beautiful!

  3. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Dark Clothes:

    I think you mixed up the titles for Rat Tomago and The Sheik Yerbouti tango from Deutschlandhalle 1978 – The so-called SYT is really Rat Tomago, isnt it? And on the evidence on the first few bars, the ensuing track sounds like something out of City of Tiny Lites, not Rat Omelette. Other than that, this looks like a great mix, again. I’ve just enjoyed Persona Non Grata, the greatest Zappa song that still hasn’t seen an official release, and am looking so forward to hearing the orchestral Sinister Footwear! I would have downloaded it from Beat the Boots on Amazon, but in my country that’s not possible, due to some inexplicable geographical restrictions. Thanks, Urban Graffitto!

    Thanks for catching the error in my track editing, Dark Clothes. Actually, “The Sheik Yerbouti Tango” had been wrongly uploaded in the first place with a guitar solo from “City of Tiny Lights” (excellent ears!). Can’t slip anything past a Zappa/Mothers freak, I tell you! These folks listen to every note! As you no doubt have already noticed, “The Sheik Yerbouti Tango” appears twice in this mix – once within “Little House I Used To Live In” from Deutschlandhalle, Berlin, Germany, 15 Feb 1978, and a second time in an edited form as “The Sheik Yerbouti Tango (original unedited version)”. I thought it would make an interesting comparison with the version that eventually appeared on Sheik Yerbouti.

    Indeed, in an ideal world Frank Zappa’s music would see wide release, warts and all. Even an orchestra’s attempts at performing Zappa’s complex scores are well worth listening to, and well worth paying for, too.

    Putting this mix together, I especially enjoyed listening to the Petit Wazoo and Grand Wazoo Orchestra in depth again, listening to the scores which would eventually become those polished versions we all know and love so well. And many of those early jams and medleys which would eventually be released as “Handsome Cabin Boy”, “Wedding Dress” “KC Blues”, “Been To Kansas In A Minor”, “Rollo”, “Imaginary Diseases”, “Blues For A Minute”, and “Regyptian Strut”.

    As a life long fan of Zappa and the Mothers, I know it’s pretty unrealistic to expect any kind of release that would be up to FZ’s standards. After his huge catalogue of official releases, what is realistic, though, are releases which analyze the maestro’s development over a lifetime of making music. For the most part, the ZFT have, and are accomplishing this. My only wish would be that they would do much, much more of it than they do. There really is a lot about this amazing musician, bandleader, and composer to celebrate.

  4. Jake St. Vitus says:

    Right now “UG” stands for “Unbelievably Grateful”…in the sense that I am UG that you made this mix available. Thanks!

  5. Thinman says:

    Good to hear something from the 200 Motels performances in Holland again. I was there and think this was one of the best performances of his orchestral works ever.

    Th.

  6. matt says:

    An amazing collection!

    Do you have any more info on the Tommy Mars piano track – it’s stunning. Was this an FZ recorded demo or something Tommy did himself? Those tunes work really well together.

    Matt.

  7. Dark Clothes says:

    The tracks from Royce Hall 1975 show show again what an event that was. It’s refreshing to hear The Duke of Orchestral Prunes without the guitar overdubs, and the Royce Hall Black Napkins is also totally accomplished.

    That Abnuceeals Emuukha Electric Orchestra is a serious contender with the Ensemble Modern as the most succesful interpreter of Zappa’s music for small symphomonic orchestras, I think.

    I remember giving the Yellow Shark CD to an older friend when it came out. He was a musician and a seasoned Zappa freak, who had even met Frank privately after a concert in Oslo in the Seventies. Well, he did like the Yellow Shark, but said that it lacked something, spontaneity, feeling or whatever. As much as I love the Ensemble Modern, I can understand what he was thinking about when I hear these tracks from Royce Hall.

    Perhaps the musicians’ experience from sessions with all sorts of pop, rock and jazz artists gave them a better understanding of some of Zappa’s musical background. That is definitely the case with the musicians on Lumpy Gravy and probably here also. I don’t want to take anything away from the Ensemble Modern, but there’s a certain falvour in these recordings that is unique to the Abnuceeals Emuukha Electric Orchestra.

  8. jonnybutter says:

    A quote from jonnybutter:

    Right now “UG” stands for “Unbelievably Grateful”…in the sense that I am UG that you made this mix available. Thanks!

    I second that. What a great mixtape. Thank you X 3, UG!

    I also love to hear the Royce Hall recordings, and I agree with the above that they have a special flavor as compared to the – let´s face it – more polished EM stuff.

  9. Harry Barris says:

    Excellent compilation as always, UrbanG.!
    Though unlike Zappa and yourself, i prefer “straight” chronological mixes for charting musical development & the ease-of-location.

    (What’s the story on the short early synclavier track “That Evil Prince”. Beautiful little piece before the early fade-out. Was that really intended for Thing-Fish?)

  10. jonnybutter says:

    A quote from jonnybutter:

    i prefer “straight” chronological mixes

    But…everything his happening at the same time.

  11. jonnybutter says:

    “is” happenoing

  12. urbangraffito says:

    I think what struck me most while compiling this particular mix was easily FZ’s notion of conceptual continuity applied to his instrumental and orchestral and semi-orchestral works. As FZ said in “Interview with FZ”, “Truth is the truth no matter what kind of clothes it’s wearing” when comparing his writing and creation of classical music and rock music. As a fan and a listener, I don’t approach either of Zappa’s creations any differently, either. The very elements I find appealing in FZ’s rock music are just as apparent in his classical scores (complex timings, rhythms, dissonance, sardonic humor, etc.). Indeed, this is no more evident than when comparing the styles of individual orchestras approach to Zappa’s scores – be they the Ensemble Modern, the Petit or Grand Wazoo Orchestra, the Abnuceeals Emuukha Electric Orchestra, or the Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest & Cappella Amsterdam.

    Indeed, perhaps we are most familiar with the polished performances of the Abnuceeals Emuukha Electric Orchestra from their Royce Hall concerts than, say, the Ensemble Modern, so I think they have had the luxury of time to become our orchestral favourite (sorry for the pun!). As a fan, I hold both orchestras up as excellent examples of performers of Zappa’s classical work. Truth being truth, as Zappa has said, also allows for beautiful interpretations like Tommy Mars’ rehearsal of “Envelopes/Little House I Used To Live In/Black Page” for solo piano (October 1978), too (which I downloaded from Zappateers some years ago – it’s origin, though, beyond that of a rehearsal tape, is still somewhat of a mystery).

    If, indeed, the vault did exist, which I really have begun to seriously doubt (though deep in my completist heart I hold onto a single thread of hope that it might be true), my first archival release from said vault would be the complete Royce Hall concert run by Frank Zappa and the Abnuceeals Emuukha Electric Orchestra. To me, and to many other Zappa fans, those concerts on September 17, 18 and 19, 1975 at Royce Hall, UCLA are seminal to the Zappa experience.

  13. Dark Clothes says:

    A quote from Harry Barris:

    What’s the story on the short early synclavier track “That Evil Prince”. Beautiful little piece before the early fade-out. Was that really intended for Thing-Fish?

    If you listen closely, that tune is all over Thing-Fish, but always in the background. I don’t know what Zappa intended when he wrote the melody, but eventually it became Amnerika.

  14. Harry Barris says:

    Thank You for the information, Dark Clothes! (I’m in black myself today.)

    I don’t remember that theme from Thing-Fish–must have been buried beneath all the puerile tangential narrative. I’ll have to find Amnerika!

  15. Dark Clothes says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncbJT7i5rGo

  16. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Harry Barris:

    Thank You for the information, Dark Clothes! (I’m in black myself today.)

    I don’t remember that theme from Thing-Fish–must have been buried beneath all the puerile tangential narrative. I’ll have to find Amnerika!

    Indeed, Dark Clothes. The theme is a lot more evident in the Thing-Fish Real Tapes and Thing-Fish Outtakes than is heard on the Thing-Fish album proper:

    Amnerika (1) (synclavier works)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MI_DXnNAehg&feature=related

    Amnerika (with vocals) (synclavier works)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BcrBKv0ZOE&feature=related

    Synclavier Interlude – Amnerika (synclavier works)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fV5vRIgWE3I&feature=related

  17. Tim Tam says:

    Fantastic mix tape thank you! Zappateers FZ shows has Berlin on 7th not 15th September 1978 .And lists an audience recording as being available but yours is definitely soundboard A+++. Your comments please?

  18. Tim Tam says:

    OOOOPS! Please ignore my last post and apologies got my dates mixed up, Thanks again for the MixTape UG!

  19. dfan says:

    Listening now to the Zappa’s Universe tracks. One thing that was interesting to me is that “Jazz Discharge Party Hats”, which on The Man From Utopia just comes across as a stunt, here is genuinely impressively virtuosic, in that the “singing” and guitar playing are being doing simultaneously. From poking around it looks like it was Keneally doing both at once, which is even more impressive.

  20. Jimbob says:

    You can watch MK doing it here….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96hWALDRHiw

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