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*** FRANK ZAPPA: "STRICTLY GENTEEL" (Rykodisc).

June 08, 1997|Josef Woodard.

Frank Zappa was an abnormally gifted bad boy who molded musical rules to his own liking, never more than in classical music. In this overview, his classical impulses emerge as intriguing but limited. A seat-of-the-pants modernist, he ventured bravely into quasi-serial writing ("Bob in Dacron, First Movement," recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra) and vibrant, street-corner Stravinsky ("Dupree's Paradise," conducted by Pierre Boulez).

Zappa's electronic annals include throwaway, mock-Mozartean etudes from his "Francesco Zappa" project and the hyperspace groove number "G-Spot Tornado." On the plus side, there are the charms of "Dog Breath Variations," with its strange heroic motives, feisty unison, harrumphing brass and stylistic nods to his hero Edgar Varese. Warts and all, this is proof of Zappa as anything but genteel.

*

Recordings are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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