Archive for the ‘The Perfect Stranger’ Tag

Frank Zappa – The Perfect Stranger   Leave a comment

1984 was a year where it could be said that we lived in interesting times. Reagan was in power, and his dementia had not yet taken a firm hold (sure, he was sending US military units to Central America on 87-day rotations, so he could get around the War Powers Act of 1973. it’s all relative.). The War On The Not Rich had not ramped up completely.

And Art was being made. Mr. Frank had been a busy, busy muso. The Perfect Stranger, a half orchestral, half electronic record, showed up in August; Them Or Us, a 2-record set of the rock-ish persuasion was released in October; The 3-record beast we know as Thing Fish (one of the most fiendishly brilliant records in his catalog), and Francesco Zappa (no relation), a whole record of 18th Century chamber pieces played on Synclavier, showed up in November.

Fittingly, in December, one of the best movie adaptations of a book (Nineteen Eighty-Four), went into release in the US. By Christmas, I was ready for a nap.

As a genre, I think Frank’s “Serious Music” is the weakest. Typically, the pieces suffer from not having a movie to go along with them. Lacking a better phrase, you can really hear the holes in the composition.

One exception is The Perfect Stranger release. The three “serious” pieces (The title track, Naval Aviation In Art?, and Dupree’s Paradise), all sound fully formed.

Being an Electronic Music listener, I’ve never had much of a problem with Frank’s Synclavier work. The four tracks that make up the rest of The Perfect Stranger are all very strong, with Jonestown being (still) one of the most haunting pieces of music I have ever heard.

I like this record so much, I went against my (till now) rule of picking up re-issues using analog masters only (The Perfect Stranger is using a 1630 digital master from 1993).

The downside on this record has always been sonically: The noticeably muffled / a little soft quality to the orchestral pieces. Happy that this re-issue sounded a bit better than the previous two CD releases, my happy moved on to ecstatic when I ripped the CD to Hard Drive for playback: big improvements in the subtleties (air, decay, and still more soundstage).

And there’s the cover art: Donald Roller Wilson’s excellent painting on the front, with a picture of Pierre Boulez and his amazing comb-over for the B-side.

If you want to hear what Frank’s non-rock band stuff is about, The Perfect Stranger makes for great, one-stop shopping.

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Posted 2012/10/18 by MG Nagy in Uncategorized

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