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Grand Guignol


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Audio CD, January 20, 1998
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (January 20, 1998)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Avant Records
  • ASIN: B0000058V5
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #172,582 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Grand Guignol
2. La Cathedrale Engloutie
3. Three Preludes op.74: Douloureus, Dechirant
4. Three Preludes op.74: Tres Lent, Contemplatif
5. Three Preludes op.74: Allegro Drammatico
6. Prophetiae Sybillarum
7. The Cage
8. Louange A L'eternite De Jesus
9. Blood Is Thin
10. Thrash Jazz Assassin
11. Dead Spot
12. Bonehead
13. Piledriver
14. Shangkuan Ling-Feng
15. Numbskull
16. Perfume Of A Critic's Burning Flesh
17. Jazz Snob: Eat Shit
18. The Prestidigitator
19. No Reason To Believe
20. Hellraiser
See all 41 tracks on this disc

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Naked City, John Zorn - Japan import

Amazon.com

This is John Zorn's tribute to Grand Guignol, a theater and a theatrical form that thrived in Paris in the early decades of the 20th century. It created a style that depended on realistic makeup and grotesque violence to depict murder, rape, mutilation, and torture, to the delighted horror of its audience. A decidedly low form of public entertainment, it enjoyed its greatest popularity at the same time that France was home to the creation of modernist culture and the subtle beauties of French impressionism in music. That's a cultural contradiction--or perhaps an entranceway--that Zorn walks right into and explores on this CD with Naked City, a band that includes guitarist Bill Frisell, drummer Joey Baron, bassist Fred Frith, and keyboardist Wayne Horvitz--veterans of numerous projects in common--and the vocals of Yamatsuka Eye (of the acclaimed Boredoms).

Grand Guignol parallels the influence of cartoon composer Tex Avery on Zorn, whose penchant for oversized, exaggerated, even campy gestures is here given greater focus and intensity by Yamatsuka's curdling screams. Zorn joins this with his arrangements of a series of high modernist works by Debussy, Scriabin, Ives, and Messiaen, using an instrumentation of electric keyboards and guitars that lends them, among many other things, a low-budget, soundtrack quality. In a world where musicians often strive to be different in the same way, Zorn is a genuine original. The CD also includes 33 of the 42 tracks of Torture Garden--micropieces that fuse a host of genres from free jazz to ancient dance music by sheer violence. --Stuart Broomer

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Allan MacInnis on October 21, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Amazon seem not to be showing the art for this CD. Wonder if that has anything to do with the severed head that graces the cover - apparently an archival photo from god-knows-where. No doubt Zorn collects this sorta stuff. Other cover art on the insert include lots of severed limbs and an image of doctors dissecting a corpse. The music is suitably dark and sick. The Grand Guignol, if you don't know -- don't worry, I didn't either, til recently -- was a notorious theatre in France where you could see these really bloody, gory, sensationalistic plays that featured stuff like autopsies on stage, brutal murders, etc. -- sort of a real-life version of the Theatre of Vampires in Rice's (or Jordan's, if you prefer) INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. Audience members often fainted, vomited, or fled performances there. The name of the theatre has come to refer to a certain brand of over-the-top, garish shlock. Using this as the conceptual starting point, Naked City fashion a dark, brooding, disturbing CD that references contemporary classical music more than a lot of their output, including really nice takes on compositions by Messiaen and Debussy, and the lengthy title cut, composed by the band -- a fifteen minute or so chamber of musical horrors, with the feel of a Satanic circus. Then, though this isn't really noted anywhere, once the dark, brooding stuff is over, you're treated to the WHOLE OF the TORTURE GARDEN CD, which had been pulled from distribution 'cos of the grotesque Japanese cover art (Asian man peeling off the face of a young girl to lick her exposed eyeball). TORTURE GARDEN, of course, is more of that hysterical speedmetal thrash that Zorn loves so much (and that can be kinda taxing to listen to).Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John G Wagner on January 24, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Message to John Zorn/Naked City fans: this is the import CD to waste your money on-- a dark mysterious nugget, an almost alien experience. As an added bonus, the third part of the CD is almost the complete Torture Garden sessions.
File under Music for Performing Vivisection.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 1, 1998
Format: Audio CD
Grand Guignol is a wonderful album. It contains three very different sides to Naked City. First there is the long title track which features a lot of sustained guitar and percussive madness. Next, Zorn arranges classical pieces by Debussy, Scriabin, Messaien, Di Lassus and Ives, all doing the originals justice, especially Debussy's "La Cathedrale Engloutie" and Scriabin's Preludes Opus 74. The third and final section is 34 pieces of Zorn's famous "thrash jazz" - kind of a thrash metal/jazz hybrid with absolutely everything else in between. The best thing about Naked City is the fantastic musicians - Zorn's singing/squealing sax, Bill Frisell's ever-so-versatile guitar playing, the funky Wayne Horvitz on keyboards, the amazingly talented Fred Frith on bass and godlike drummer Joey Baron. Who could ask for more? Well, there's also guest vocalists Yamatsuka Eye and Bob Dorough. An absolute highlight is "Speedfreaks", which attempts to merge over 20 different musical styles in about 45 seconds! Check this album out if you want something new and exciting.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By stu on June 5, 2004
Format: Audio CD
"Grand Guignol" is John Zorn's tribute to the infamous Parisian Museum of the macabre and to the darker side of us all. It begins with renditions of selected (roundabouts) 20th Century classical pieces, including Debussy's impressionst, "The Sunken Cathedral." I love Zorn's interpretations of these pieces, especially the Debussy. I have heard criticism of Zorn's interpretive abilities before, regarding this record as well as "Spy Vs. Spy," "The Big Gundown," and others. Well, I see it differently. Even on the rare occasion that he makes a choice that I don't agree with, I still appreciate where he is coming from. He is very specific in his intent as an interpreter and he does not, as detractors have stated, simply eliminate or replace the original emotion of the piece, but rather, magnifies certain aspects, modifies others; he uses his imagination and filters the music through his own very strong personality and paradigm. In short, he does what an interpreter/arranger should do. It is what any composer does when he assumes this role. I digress.
Suddenly, Grand Guignol changes directions severely and assaults the listener with the most cynical, brutal music imaginable. The cacaphony is interspersed with snippets of cliched, calculted insincerity. This music is heartless, but it is this heartlessness that gives it its heart. It is that strange post-modern phenomenon when irony turns back in on itself and becomes sincerity. In a chaotic world that is only becoming more and more so, truly nihilistic art can strike a sentimental chord.
You cannot escape the grotesque, detatched, ugliness of this record. If you let it, it will take you places. Great performances from the whole band.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By galo_2012@hotmail.com on July 7, 1999
Format: Audio CD
Dark. Sensual. Violent. Labyrinthian. Schizophrenic. Provocative. Unpredictable. Innovative. And not the least bit humorous. The first time I heard the work of this artist, I knew immediately that this was groundbreaking musical work. So many ideas and contradictory emotions surged into my nervous system when listening to this music that I couldn't help but laugh in TOTAL ASTONISHMENT of what I was hearing. The work of John Zorn is High Art. If you want to listen to something different...I mean REALLY DIFFERENT, listen to Grand Guignol. Otherwise...there's always the list of Top 40 mainstream glossy musical products to choose from. Not for the faint at heart.....unless you like fainting!
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