Welcome to the first of many posts where I attempt to rank the albums recorded by Frank Zappa, featuring the Mothers of Invention albums and his solo work. A daunting task to rank over 100+ albums to say the least, but I do have a few guidelines: only albums released whilst Frank was alive will be on this list, so that makes it a more manageable 50+! No compilations will be featured nor the Beat The Boots releases. The three albums released as Shut Up And Play Your Guitar, …Some More and Return Of… will be classed as a single entry as will Joe’s Garage Acts I, II & III. So, let’s start off this journey with this 1984 release…..
Francesco Zappa is a 1984 album by Frank Zappa and it features chamber music by the Italian composer Francesco Zappa, who composed between 1763 and 1788. David Ocker played a piece of Francesco Zappa’s music for Frank Zappa because it was popular with some college music students and because Francesco Zappa’s music was not published and could only be found in the Mormon library, Frank decided to publish it. He then decided to program some of these pieces into his new Synclavier synthesizer. Frank found an entry for Francesco Zappa in the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and then researched his sheet music in the library at UC Berkeley. Francesco Zappa was the first full album on which Frank used the synclavier, but synclavier pieces appear on The Perfect Stranger and on Thing Fish as well. According to The Real Frank Zappa Book, the two musicians are not related.
I’m not a massive fan of Frank’s synclavier work; a few songs here and there are fine but a whole album’s worth is a little draining for me. There are some nice little moments on here, and it has grown on me a bit since I first bought it but it’s not one I would be eager to return to or even think of when wanting some Zappa. The story behind why Frank did this is kinda cool and the album sleeve by Donald Roller Wilson is damn fine as well but overall, it’s not really a Zappa album (weeeelllll…. it is, but you know what I mean!). Arf! 1/5
PERSONNEL: Performed by The Barking Pumpkin Digital Gratification Consort (Frank Zappa, conductor)
Produced and orchestrated by Frank Zappa
Synclavier document encryption: David Ocker
Engineered by Bob Stone & Mark Pinske
Cover painting by Donald Roller Wilson