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Ranking The Frank Zappa Albums #38 Orchestral Favorites

Cover artwork by Gary Panter

Orchestral Favorites is an album by Frank Zappa first released in May 1979 on his own DiscReet Records label. The album is entirely instrumental and features music performed by the 37-piece Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra and were sourced from performances recorded September 17-19, 1975 at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus with conductor Michael Zearott. There were 2 nights of live concert performances and an additional day of recording sessions without the audience.

Although it’s a short album (6 tracks, slightly over 33 minutes of music) it does have a long story of litigation, counter-litigation and legal wrangling.

Zappa’s relationship with manager and business partner Herb Cohen ended in 1976 and in litigation. Zappa and Cohen’s company DiscReet Records was distributed by Warner Brothers and at this point Zappa was still contracted to deliver 4 more albums to WB for release on Discreet. In March 1977 Zappa delivered master tapes for all 4 albums to WB to fulfill this contract; Zappa did not receive payment from Warner upon delivery of the tapes, which was a contract violation. In a 1978 radio interview Zappa listed the four albums delivered to WB and called this album by the title Zappa Orchestral Favorites. After a long legal battle between Warners and Zappa (Zappa had complied the material from the 4 albums into a box set called Läther and negotiated a distribution deal with Phonogram Inc. to release Läther as the first release on the Zappa Records label. The album was scheduled for a Halloween October 31, 1977 release date but Warner claimed ownership of the material and threatened legal action, forcing Zappa to shelve the project. I told you this tale had a lot if legal to-ing and fro-ing!), the Discreet label eventually released 4 Zappa albums during 1978 and 1979: Zappa In New York, Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt and Orchestral Favorites. As Zappa had delivered only the tapes to Warner, Orchestral Favorites was released in May 1979 with no musician credits, also Warner also commissioned sleeve art by cartoonist Gary Panter, which was not approved by Zappa but in later CD releases, Panter’s artwork was still used.

Despite its relative short length it’s my favourite orchestral Zappa album, just slightly ahead of The Yellow Shark and even though I prefer to hear these tracks on the Läther CD that was released after Frank’s death, this album is very enjoyable to listen to and the arrangement of Duke of Prunes (from the Absolutely Free album) especially when the guitar solo comes in, is for me the highlight of the album. 3/5

Frank Zappa – guitar, vocals
Ian Underwood, Mike Lang & Ralph Grierson – keyboards
Bill Mays – Clavinet
Dave Parlato – bass
Terry Bozzio – drums
Emil Richards, Alan Estes, John Bergamo & Tom Raney – percussion
Mike Altschul – flute and clarinet
Malcolm McNab, Gene Goe & Ray Poper – trumpet
Bruce Fowler, Jock Ellis & Kenny Shroyer – trombone
Dana Hughes – bass trombone
Don Waldrop – tuba & contrabass trombone
Dave Shostac – flute, tenor sax
Gary Foster – 2nd flute (and doubles)
Ray Reed – flute, alto sax
Vic Morosco – clarinet, alto sax
Jay Migliori – clarinet, tenor sax
Mike Altschul – bass clarinet, baritone sax
Earle Dumler – oboe, English horn, bass oboe
John Winter – oboe, English horn
David Scherr – 2nd oboe, tenor sax
Joann Caldwell – bassoon
Bobby Tricarico – bassoon, contrabassoon
David Duke, Arthur Briegleb, Todd Miller & Bob Henderson – French horn
Tommy Morgan – harmonica (on “Duke Of Prunes”)
John Wittenberg & Bobby Dubow – violin
Pamela Goldsmith – viola
Jerry Kessler – cello
Lou Anne Neill – harp
Michael Zearott – conductor

Published by Lusco Fusco

I'm just a creature from the heap so excuse my savage ignorance.

One thought on “Ranking The Frank Zappa Albums #38 Orchestral Favorites

  1. I had no idea how much legal headaches Zappa endured. And Dweezil has followed in his footsteps not only in musical talent 😔 That being said your art is gorgeous 😍🙌💕

    Liked by 1 person

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