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The Great Un-American Songbook, Volumes I & II [2 x CDs]
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Born three decades ago, this 18-piece big band made a particular name for themselves with their reverently irreverent arrangements of Frank Zappa compositions. Here, though, they offer something tasty for jazz heads and rock lovers alike: inspired big-band arrangements of "Eleanor Rigby," "21st Century Schizoid Man," "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys," the Crazy World of Arthur Brown's "Fire," the Beatles' "Don't Bother Me," Radiohead's "The Tourist," Miles Davis's "Nardis" and more, from Jethro Tull to Green Day! Cuneiform.
- Language: : English
- Product Dimensions : 5.6 x 5.01 x 0.38 inches; 3.68 Ounces
- Manufacturer : CUNEIFORM RECORDS
- Original Release Date : 2017
- Date First Available : January 5, 2017
- Label : CUNEIFORM RECORDS
- ASIN : B01NBJJWTN
- Number of discs : 2
- Best Sellers Rank: #109,425 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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On a few of the first tracks I thought they dragged just a bit, but then about half way through "As You Said" (by Cream) they broke into the melody from FZ's "The Theme from Burnt Weenie Sandwich" and I was delighted to find Ed just couldn't hold FZ back! The segue that follows into King Crimson's "Lark's Tongues in Aspic Part Two/21st Century Schizoid Man" (again including a tongue in cheek riff from Zappa's "Oh No") is perfect, and after that the Zappa references continue being sprinkled so that everything starts sounding like it could be something from Hot Rats (especially on the excellent "Low Spark of High Heel Boys") - Lol!
And so it goes for a full two discs of mixed and mashed rock, roll, pop and prog all done with Ed's consummate jazzy big band arrangements - with lots of great soling especially the violin solos by Katie Jacoby (as well as a reprise of his regular hidden track with suitably pomp treatment).
Now I'm looking forward to more of this stuff - hopefully Volumes 3 and 4 are in the works... and hopefully Ed dives deeper into the British prog rock standards (Soft Machine, Gong, Caravan, Robert Wyatt, 801, Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant, Pink Floyd, Mahavishnu Orchestra etc. etc...).
I'd give it 4.5 stars if I could but Amazon won't let me. The docked half point is for the silly dialogue (pathetic attempt at humor I suppose) that gets extremely irritating after the first listen.
I said “mostly” above because there is a a cover of Miles Davis’ “Nardis” (in a mashup with The Beatles’ “Don’t Bother Me” and Green Day’s “American Idiot” is combined with The Nice’s version of the Leonard Bernstein/ Stephen Sondheim song “America” from “West Side Story”.
But the rest is great fun. It’s been a while since I last heard Arthur Brown’s (as in “The Crazy World of Arthur Brown”) hit “fire” and there are 1960s classics from Jethro Tull, ELP, Cream and The Move as well as a more recent hit by Radiohead. And, yes, The Beatles are well represented here to with five songs among the 21 tracks
These are not just instrumental track. There are vocals on about half of them.
The two discs come packed with a colorful eight panel insert that devotes almost four of them to photos of the 16 talented members of the band (all attired in “Sgt. Pepper” garb). One panel provides all the composer credits, while another gives the soloists names for each track. And the track list on the back of the jewel box lists the names of the original artists who recorded these songs.
I’ve been playing this album a lot and really enjoying it. I wonder if – before he goes back to more Zappa-related music, if Palermo will do an “American” album with Big band arrangements of The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, and even more.
This is the kind of “quirky” album that comes from the eclectic, and independent, Cuniform label. Nd may be one of their more “accessible” albums musically for those not into free-form jazz.
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.
Top reviews from other countries
Ed's big band is an assembly of like minded nutters who revel in big band jazz applied to modern songs - especially the Frank Zappa back catalogue. Ed has been releasing FZ's music over several albums - but this new double features mostly English pop & rock composers; mixed with mad commentary and general mayhem over a series of brilliantly adapted big band arrangements.
Its a total hoot and very accessible.
A fairly new departure for Ed it features plenty of vocal performances and particular focus on Katie Jacoby's violin & viola.
The compendium of material includes songs by the Beatles, Jeff Beck, Traffic, the Move and others - but I want to bring your attention to two King Crimson pieces - Larks Tongues part 2 and 21st Century Schizoid Man.
As a Crimson superfan I was delighted that Ed's band tried these songs. Although one or two others have tried to adapt Crim's music to jazz - these are the best interpretations I have heard. They focus on melody and new arrangements. Schizoid is particularly satisfying as Ed has reversed the song with the main theme only appearing towards the end of the arrangement - very clever and very exciting.
And there is great humour throughout - these guys really don't take themselves that seriously - FZ would have loved this.
A great find for fans of FZ, King Crimson, Traffic and anyone with a liking for the jazzier side of rock music.
The very best album I have heard in a very long time. Its a shame that some of the more discerning music critics (say Will Hodgkinson of the Times) can't provide some support for Ed Palermo - I fear this great record just won't be heard by enough proper music lovers.