London Symphony Orchestra Vol. I, II

Released: Vol. I June 1983 – Vol. II September 1987

Tracklist
DISC ONE

  1. Bob In Dacron: First Movement
  2. Bob In Dacron: Second Movement
  3. Sad Jane: Third Movement
  4. Mo ‘N Herb’s Vacation: First Movement
  5. Mo ‘N Herb’s Vacation: Second Movement
  6. Mo ‘N Herb’s Vacation: Third Movement

DISC TWO

  1. Envelopes
  2. Pedro’s Dowry
  3. Bogus Pomp
  4. Strictly Genteel

Line-Up
The London Symphony Orchestra (conductor: Kent Nagano), David Ocker (solo clarinet), Chad Wackerman (drums), Ed Mann (featured percussionist)

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7 Responses to “London Symphony Orchestra Vol. I, II”

  1. jim says:

    I am not supposed 2 like this; the composer himself was deeply unhappy w/ both the too-brief rehearsals AND de rubbah-chiquen factor 2 which he refers in the liner notes … having the entire string section piss off 2 a Pub only 2 return 15 minutes late on the LAST NIGHT of this thing must’ve been a real pip 4 him 2, ah, “fine British craftsmanship” … guess I’ve been funnelling my neocortex thru de MacroNotationalContinuum long enough that I actually DO hear a bit of that 2 which FZ alluded so bitterly, since 200 MOTELS’s version of “Bogus Pomp” has indeed a superior degree of pomposity. Weirdly, the version of “Envelopes” becomes so drastically mutated from its bellowing electro-overkill on SATLTSADW that it trumps it – tho’ I lurveth that other one muchly – since it gives Zappa’s compositional chops more sonic discretion in which 2 belch forth in all their idiosyncratic splendour.

    “Bob In Dacron” is just freakin’ awesome – a chillingly pungent reminder of what de late 20th-centurion had 2 offah, rendered w/ varying degrees o’ sincerity &/or comprehension by the boyz-n-gurlz of the LSO. In Canuck hockey vernaculah, He Left It All On The Ice.

    Probably having a conductor like Kent Nagano ( a tad oddball in his own right, if memory serves ) was what kept this challenging menu from being cooked up by all those nice LSO folks in the form o’ acoustic Confinement Lowf – mayhap FZ’s prior execution of large projects w/ insane schedules did him yeoman’s service here?

    “Sad Jane” is not so mystical 4 me – mebbe ’cause it’s a sequel ( 2 “Bob” ), mebbe ’cause I’m just an Ignint Redneck Sunnuvabitsch whut’s ballet-o-phobic or mebbe ’cause my CD won’t lemme WATCH this odd epic unfolding before my thunderstruck orbz. But it’s worth noting that these’re BIG pieces of steaming output, the least o’ which can heartily endure MUCH listening – also that there were times when FZ was not averse 2 being brutally abstruse. He simply got a RUSH from being able 2 see how far he could go “Out There” just 2 make it hellishly hard 2 FOLLOW him. Stuff like JAZZ FROM HELL or UNCLE MEAT isn’t so much calculated 2 offend @ calculated 2 Stretch!

    “Pedro’s Dowry” is a neat contrast 2 de olden version on L’A’THER, but don’t ask me 2 choose one, that’d be like “which of your kittens do you want me 2 drown?” I hope 2 see an entire KABOODLE o’ his oddities done – good & proper – by the likes of the LSO one day ( sigh ):

    *Punky’s Whips
    *The Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution
    *Apostrophe
    *Eat That Question
    *Re-Gyptian Strut
    *Pygmy Twylyte
    *Planet Of The Baritone Women

    …hey, I can still daydream …

  2. jim says:

    “That’d be the TRUMPET section he lost 2 de evil foamy barley-juice, ye fookin’ Git!”

    ( swearing, grinding teeth )

  3. Paul Sempschi says:

    Jim, please stop using Thing-Fish speak, it’s annoying when Gail does it and you’re no acception. God fordbidding that that’s how you really speak…
    As far as LSO goes, I actually enjoyed it, despite Zappa’s criticisms. Bad playing= personality I guess. This definitely could and should be disputed but I enjoy the personality of this recording, especially Bob, Jane and Mo/Herb on disc one. It had this eerie abstraction. If the sound could be a color, it would be grey. Like the strange artsy fartsy 80’s deco of that period. It actually goes quite well with “Jazz from Hell” on a ‘sophisticated’ night with some wine, a clean room in a designer’s anal retentive deco version of 80’s aficianado.
    I know I’m not doing this review justice but it is a work that grows on you. And like I said, there’s ‘personality’ in these recordings. Which, considering how difficult they were, who could blame them from slipping up here and there (besides Strictly Genteel).
    Speaking of which, it is only up to conjecture whether or not the trumpeters were really *glowing* or even buzzed for that matter. I’ve read reports otherwise. Same as reports of the orchestra giving Zappa a standing ovation (in the Miles bio) which would show you that they werent unsympathetic to Frank and his music.
    I’d like to hear the sessions, warts and all but that’ll not happen, considering the composer’s disapproval with the preceedings.

  4. Marco J says:

    I confess that I have mixed feelings to this day about the “LSO” releases. I don’t dislike the performances as much as Frank did, my primary criticism lies with the recording techniques. As history is (sometimes painfully) bearing out, Frank Zappa’s obsessionist perfectionism could, at times lead to conflicting and muddled technical results (i.e. the “re-recording” of “Money” and “Ruben”, the weird/bad digital reverb/over-compressed remixes of the classic albums in the 1980’s and 1990’s, etc…..), and in the case of the “LSO” recordings, it was Frank’s insistence to try to record an entire symphony orchestra on SEPARATE TRACKS, like a studio-constructed piece of music would be. The final mixed result definitely sounds much to “un-sectiony”, and has a “too-cold’ and sterile sound that somehow doesn’t sound “unified”: the end result clearly sounds way too needled with technically.

    There were, however, two strong positives to this approach: 1) Frank did have some latitude when he went back later to fix up the mistakes and bum-notes that the LSO played throughout the sessions, and 2) For the first time, the really tough, almost unplayable “bitchy” symphonic writing of Frank Zappa finally received a dignified commercial release and this gave Frank some long-overdue acclaim as the true symphonic composer that he always was (just listen to “200 Motels”: the symphonic writing is amazing for a guy writing in between rock tours and in hotel rooms…).

    I would be very neglectful if I didn’t stop at this point and strongly re-direct all Frank listeners to the original “Orchestral Favorites” release, which really has all the warmth and feel that seems to be lacking in this sterile package, as well as the “Yellow Shark” release, which is arguably the finest example of Frank’s orchestral work that has ever been captured on tape. Both of those two are better than this release.

    The other vitally important element painfully missing from the LSO orchestral recordings is HUMOR, which was definitely infused into the “Orchestral Favorites” and “Yellow Shark” sessions. Frank disdainfully recalled in his book and in later interviews just how stodgy the orchestral world is in terms of thinking “outside the box” of the classics, or in terms of putting the “eyebrows” on his music. The bottom line is: of all his recorded orchestral endeavors, the LSO just had NO SENSE OF HUMOR, was unwilling to open their small minds to the bigger picture of music interpretation, performance and production that Frank always professed, and poor Frank had to settle with a whole recording that only intimated at a rough outline of what her originally wrote and intended upon performance. I am only so happy that the Ensemble Modern was able to show Frank what COULD be done with his work before he died. Frank wisely always felt that the average (and even the above-average) symphony orchestra and society generally represented the most ANTI-musical kind of museum “embalming” that one could imagine: a very close-minded view of certain “classics” (Mozart/Brahms/Beethoven) that rich people funded to support their lifestyle as the “chablis and brie” crowd. As I write these words, Frank’s own words from 1967 are still ringing in my ears, even about symphony orchestras today:

    “ALL PREMONITIONS CONTINUING TO COME TRUE”….

    As for the music, of course Frank’s writing is unique, outstanding, heavily influenced by 20th century composers, particularly Edgard Varese (rhythmically and percussively) and Igor Stravinsky (orchestration voicing and woodwind favoritism), not to mention others (Charles Ives’ style of piling everything on top of everything else). Make no mistake: Frank Zappa may just about be the last important 20th century composer in a long line of masters in the sense that Frank actually championed the pioneering musical advancements of his predecessors, and truly TRIED to take it all further, and this is just an assessment of his musical writing accomplishments, the political/satire/guitar/recording technology fields all recevied equal attention in his lifetime.

    SO–YES “LSO” is important, but NO, unfortunately it was marred by lack-luster playing and antiseptic recording and production approaches, but YES, you should listen to it carefully and over and over again, because NO ONE ELSE that I know of on this planet accomplished the musical work that Frank did in his lifetime, and no other musician I know of produced such consistent work that is also so historically and musically relevant and exploratory.

  5. Marco J says:

    OH YEAH- A POST-SCRIPT:

    I (like reviewer Paul Sempschi above) am getting so disappointed and sick of the amount of reviewers on this site who waste time trying to describe how “warped”, “freakish” and “mind-melted” they were/are by “Crazy” Uncle Frank’s “madman” maverick music style, even resorting to constantly referencing “Thing-Fish” speak, and always throwing in all kinds of Conceptual Continuity motifs just to show how hip they are to Frank (like Monty Python fanatics always quoting “Holy Grail” lines and shit like that). May I remind everyone: Frank’s “Absolutely Free” creedo is the most important: find your own niche, and work your ass off on it. OF COURSE, enjoy Zappa, share the love and indoctrinate others, but don’t become an embalmbed fanatical sycophant yourself—these are the mindless fans that YOU KNOW Frank would have lectured to and held in contempt. I beseech everyone: review and connect with the MUSIC, don’t blabber on about how you can feel the weasels ripping your flesh……..’nuf said.

  6. punknaynowned says:

    It’s good he got this much down when he could.
    Bogus Pomp is necessary dammit!
    The orchestra Strictly Genteel is pretty great you gotta admit

  7. Mark G says:

    But I like talking like Thing-Fish, and I like this recording too despite the aforementioned faults. Mo n’ Herb on Vacation is where it is at and Pedro’s Dowry is a favourite. EM though I probably listen to more.


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