14 December 2012
Frank Zappa - Civilization Phaze III
To say this has been a challenging album to review is an understatement. It has quite possibly been one of the reasons why I don't really listen to this album a great deal. Released in 1994 after his death, it was original released on mail order with no promotion what so ever. Naturally the Zappa fans loved it. As the title suggests this album is the third part of an ongoing story which started with We're Only In It For The Money and the second being a reworked edition of Lumpy Gray. Various artists contributed to this, and if wikipedia is to be believed this included Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Tim Buckley and members of Zappa's family.Musically, it is out there. Now when I say out there I do mean it is the little point which has gone over the horizon, across the fields of the Shire, jumped over the hanging gardens of babylon, ducked under some tables at the restuarant at the end of th universe and is still going forward with it's own motion. A mixture of dialogue from the piano people combined with jazz fusion keyboard heavy pieces which can range from about a minute - such as "Navanax" to the two central point of the album (for me at least) which are both over 15 minutes "Beat The Reaper" and "N-Lite". I was walking down a frosty icy road in the back of nowhere whilst listening to "N-Lite" on the way home after work. Once home, I could only speak in grunt and mamamamamamanuudiofjso - it is a new language I had to create as my head was in little boxes marked help.This is not an album for a comfortable listen, it is not an album to start a journey. This is an album that confronts you, challenges you, makes you question what is real, if your in the piano or if your one of the pigs or ponies. It is also a long album, two discs clocking in at around as near as makes no difference two hours. The only way to describe how I felt when it was over is relief. Relief that I had made it to the otherside, relief that the piano people where safely back in their world and I could try to make it in this one with the knowledge that out there was this dark corner of the musical spectrum which would call like a stranger in the night after my brain.
So would I recommend it to you? Well, I would advise for it not to be your first Zappa album unless you had a passion for Jazz and spoken word dialogue of a bizarre nature. I would advise to treat a little carefully before attempting it and would also say give yourself a few hours afterwards to enjoy it and relax. It is quite possibly one of the most amazing pieces of work that Sir Zappa ever made, it is certainly the most challenging. When I originally listened to it a few years ago and I did my own end of year chart (coming this weekend folks), it did not rate too well, near the bottom actually as it is such a hard album to actually like, but that is why I like it, because of the challenge, because of the aggressive stance that it has. To mark this album is not possible, hence why I have had to come up with a new score just to show how out there it is. For some it would be a 0 - This is proof there is no God. For others it would be a 10 - This is proof there is a God. For me, it is proof that Zappa might have just wanted to take his audience to somewhere else.....again, and it is a journey I will take again another day. Just not for a while. ;-)
Batman symbol - When in doubt, always choose Batman......
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