Frank Zappa - Orchestral Favorites (1979)

Strictly Genteel   7:03
Pedro's Dowry   7:41
Naval Aviation in Art?   1:22
Duke of Prunes   4:20
Bogus Pomp 13:28
Total Time: 33 min, 54 sec

The fourth and last of the Lšther albums (see the explanation at the beginning of the In New York review). Actually bits of a couple more albums went into Lšther, but the bulk of it came from the four albums already listed.

The title of Orchestral Favorites implies that it's either a "best of" compilation of Zappa's orchestral works (which is what I assumed for a long time), or an album of an orchestra playing Frank's most popular rock songs. Neither is true - the title is kind of a joke. This is a mix of both old and new music, played mostly by an orchestra with a little help from rock instruments (mostly drums). The music was recorded in concert at Royce Hall, Los Angeles in 1975. I'm not sure why it took Zappa four years to release it, unless it needed to be polished in a studio, or maybe some rights issues had to be worked out.

It's good to have an instrumental version of Strictly Genteel, and this version is nice, although not as fantastic as the one that would be released on the London Symphony Orchestra album. But there really are no bad versions of this song - it's one of Zappa's most beautiful pieces. Odd that it opens this album, because most (if not all) of its other appearances have been as an album or show closer.

Pedro's Dowry is a track that, for some unknown reason, I've never been able to get all that excited about. It's OK, but not one of my favorites. Naval Aviation in Art? is a good, moody piece but very short. It works well as a segue track on Lšther. Duke of Prunes sounds surprisingly good when performed by an orchestra - as mentioned in my Absolutely Free review, the instrumental version brings out the melodies in what originally seemed like just a vehicle for some love-song parody lyrics.

The final track, Bogus Pomp would be greatly expanded for the LSO album. To be honest, I think this song is way over my head (as Pedro's Dowry may be), so I should avoid commenting on it, other than just mentioning that it contains some of the music from 200 Motels (like the Tuna Sandwich songs). I always thought the part that corresponds to the line "the cost of the tickets back to L.A..." sounds like it was lifted from the theme song to some cheesy TV show.

All in all, this album (along with The Perfect Stranger) seem almost like a "forgotten" Zappa work. Discussion of Frank's orchestral music usually centers on the LSO and Yellow Shark albums. But if you're looking for a fairly accessible entry point to Zappa's "serious" music, Orchestral Favorites might be a good place to start.

Album Cover

Image of the Orchestral Favorites album cover