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Zappa: The Yellow Shark
Frank Zappa
Zappa: The Yellow Shark
Genres: Alternative Rock, World Music, Jazz, Special Interest, Pop, Rock, Soundtracks, Classical
  •  Track Listings (19) - Disc #1

The 26-member Ensemble Modern performs FZ's 'most-humanly-impossible-to-play' compositions. Piano duets, string quintets & small ballets. Simply exquisite, with a 60-page booklet to explain it all. Originally released ...  more »


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The 26-member Ensemble Modern performs FZ's 'most-humanly-impossible-to-play' compositions. Piano duets, string quintets & small ballets. Simply exquisite, with a 60-page booklet to explain it all. Originally released in 1993, it stayed on the classical chart for most of `94. Includes the tracks 'Outrage At Valdez,' 'None Of The Above,' & 'Welcome To The United States', plus arrangements of some of the most fiendishly difficult pieces from FZ's back catalogue & even a 'greatest hit' or two (some would pick this as the definitive version of 'Dog Breath Variations'). Sadly, this was the last album released by FZ during his lifetime. The didipak and the booklet are housed in a slipcase. Rykodisc.

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CD Reviews

Now, let's get serious, folks....
Jeff Hodges | Denton, TX United States | 10/18/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Frank Zappa was not known for his serious nature. He was very good at pointing out the silliness and stupidity of just about anything that could be conceived. If there was one thing (besides family) that he took seriously, it was music, and he really did not take most of that too seriously, either. His rock compositions were big jokes as far as he was concerned. The only reason that it was as complex and involved as it was came from nothing less than the force of his genius. At the beginning of Yellow Shark, he off-handedly asks to audience to "get serious" (before asking them to put panties on one side of the stage), and one gets the impression that he is at least a little serious. Lord knows, if Frank is serious about it, maybe we should be, too.Academia, if it as smart as it purports to be, will hopefully also take Zappa's chamber work seriously. Let's take a look at some of the major trends in the chamber / art music of the twentieth century and see why.From 1900 to WWI, tonal harmony got deconstructed and eventually destroyed by Schoernberg and his students, Webern and Berg. Stravinsky and Bartok used this freedom to create new tonalities, like octotonicism and symmetrical harmony. Between the World Wars, many composers, like Copland and Villa-Lobos, turned towards the traditional music of their homeland for inspiration. After WWII, Cage and Brown worked under a philosophy that came to be called indeterminacy, in which the very idea of what music was came to be questioned. In the late 20th century, the climate of "classical" chamber music was a rediscovery of tonality and a turn towards minimalism. Composers like Glass and Reich took cues from meditative music from different cultures to create complex textures that were composed of very simple parts.Then Zappa comes along. He asks the musicians to interpret notation like an indeterminist (Food Gathering in Post-Industial America), but uses melody and harmony in a way that recalls Stravinsky (Dog Breath Variations). He paints a picture of the landscape of his surroundings like a mid-20th century composer, but the picture he paints is one of excess, stupidity, and ignorance (Welcome to the United States). He creates textures like a minimalist (Pound for a Brown), but uses them as a tool to lull the listener into a musical trap that explodes in his/her face. He calls Varese a major influence, and has a similar percussive approach, but moves away from electronic music and into the wind ensemble (G-Spot Tornado). In short, people will most likely be studying his work well into the 21st century.In this regard Yellow Shark is and will be a historically significant recording. Frank's hand is all over this album. One gets the sensation that it was organized and executed in a way that he approved of, and getting Franks approval on anything was no easy task. The recording is clear and pristine and the performances are passionate and flawless. G-Spot Tornado as realized by Rundell and the Ensemble Modern here is the most electrifying chamber performance I own on CD. The audience sits in an audibly stunned silence for several long seconds before literally erupting into applause. Ah, to have been there.Be warned, if you are a FZ fan, you may or may not "get" this. If you liked the LSO recording, Yellow Shark stomps it. If Freak Out is your favorite and you were the guy on Baby Snakes hollering for Dinah-Moe Humm, you get no guarantees from me. This is dense and heady, but it is probably the definitive recording of Zappa's chamber work. At the very least, it's the swan song of the last great composer of the 20th century and is worth owning for that reason if no other."
A snob's perspective:
Music Person | Montreal, Canada | 08/28/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"There was an interview I was reading by chance--perhaps on an airplane--where Zappa was discussing the state of modern orchestral music. I knew very little about him and was not at all familiar with his music. However, I found his views most interesting and was inspired to buy his "Yellow Shark".I discovered very quickly--he's not a pop musician trying to do somthing Classical-sounding. This is an album composed of serious works.Stylistically, it is quite original but also follows logically within the chronology of development of 20th century music; it is definitely NOT an "off the wall", novelty sort of album. Any enthusiast of 20th century music of the likes of Berg, Stravinsky or Varese, for instance, will appreciate these works of Zappa's.I in fact wouldn't be surprised if one day this "Yellow Shark" is seen as one of the highlights of classical music in the 1900s.5-stars.JB"
Ensemble Modern - a performance group for our time, FZ | Hampshire, IL - where Jesus left his sandles | 04/16/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"A composer/performer/musician/satirist for all time.First the Ensemble Modern attacks the compositions with the right amount of enthusiasm, admiration, and fear so that all the tracks sparkle . . . very rare! Their rendition of G-Spot Tornado is live perfection. Hearing the Seattle Symphony attempt to play it with no enthusiasm, little admiration, and extreme fear shows how well balanced and mature Ensemble Modern is.Zappa will be remembered by some as a serious musician who wrote funny songs. By a few generations as someone who satirized anyone who thought too much of themselves. By many as a crass, crude, leftist pig who explored the darkside of our society. By musicians as someone who could perform the stylings and calestetics of all the great rock guitarists, but who could play a single note better than any musician in any medium.However, Zappa will be remembered for all time as someone who composed for all media, in all song stylings, and who took music to beyond the next level. Nobody was more prolific, insiteful, innovative, influential, and even sucessful in spite of society and himself.Yellow Shark is an album for all time."