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Jazz From Hell Original recording remastered

4.1 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, May 2, 1995
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Jazz From Hell by Frank Zappa

From the Label

Perhaps the first INSTRUMENTAL album to be removed from Wal-Mart's shelves for unacceptable lyric content, this was also 1987's Grammy winner for Best Rock Instrumental Album.

Having gotten his hands on a Synclavier for the first time, FZ was finally able to compose any damn thing he pleased without having to worry about whether human players would be able to handle it. Along with fiendishly complicated pieces like "While You Were Art II" and the title track, the result was also some fun-and-frantic moments like "Night School" and "G-Spot Tornado." For anti-electronic purists there's also "St. Etienne," a majestic guitar piece recorded live in 1984.

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Digital Booklet: Jazz From Hell
Digital Booklet: Jazz From Hell
Album Only

Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 2, 1995)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Original recording remastered
  • Label: Zappa Records
  • ASIN: B0000009TG
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #234,853 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Frank for years tried to get his compositions played by either a rock band, or played by orchestras. Sometimes the rock bands came through for him (see 'Drowning Witch', or any of the 'You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore' live collections) and sometimes they didn't. Up to the point of this release (86) FZ had nothing but tribulations with orchestras, and from what I understand, they were expensive tribulations.

Hence the synclavier. A machine that sorta works on the same premise as one of those old fashioned piano's that had a wheel in the middle of it, and it played by itself... you just wound it up... Anyway, FZ took to being able to write any time signature into this computer machine, not only did it play it, but it would print the music as well. FZ, as I understand it, was in heaven. And why woudn't he be?

Yes, this music on JFH misses the 'human element', and it sometimes dwells into time signatures so unfamiliar (even to Frank Aappa fans) that it causes ones head to spin. I remember when I first bought it, I had no idea what the heck was going on. I did know that I liked it.

Steve Vai, former alumnis, says that this FZ recording is his total favorite, and 'he never travels anywhere without it.'

I totally agree. This is a fantastic piece of construction much in the same way Ensemble Modern was later on with 'YELLOW SHARK'.

You won't be disapointed, but you might be suprized.
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Format: Audio CD
A masterpiece from Zappa, his use of the synclavier music computer is brilliant, one of the most interesting electronic music of the century. The album is full of interesting harmonies and sophisticated melodies and Zappas sense of polyrhythms is pure genius.
There is also one guitar solo on the c.d. i'm a big fan of electric guitar solos and in my opinion this is the best guitar solo by anyone, anywhere. The guitar solo is just packed full of one beautifull melodic line after another, the jazz may be from hell but this guitar solo is obviously made in heaven.
If you only like the comedy/rock side of Zappa this album may not be your cup of tea but for anyone interested in higly unusual, original musical brilliance they should check this one out.
Other albums by Zappa with synclavier music are "the mothers of prevention" and "civilisation phase III", both exellent. And you might want to check out another genious with a music machine, one who influenced Zappa, Conlon Nancarrows player piano studies,really interesting music, highly recomended. MUSIC IS THE BEST.
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Format: Audio CD
In contrast with nearly all of his Sixties & Seventies musical contemporaries, Frank Zappa's music was increasingly adventurous and provocative during the antiseptic Eighties. I must admit that I find his earlier work to be more interesting, but Jazz From Hell is a masterpiece by any standard.
"La Machine," as Zappa called it, sounds pretty dated, but such is the quality of these compositions, that it really doesn't matter. While You Were Art, Jazz From Hell, & The Beltway Bandits all sound brilliantly twisted. Just imagine The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue performed by Devo and you'll get a sense of what these pieces sound like.
St. Etienne is the token organic piece, and very well-played it is too. Massaggio Galore is the obligatory "dirty" track, but it seems to be the most dated of all. G-Spot Tornado is a frantic whirlwind of a masterpiece. You should check out the Yellow Shark version: yes, this music can actually be played by human beings!
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Format: Audio CD
I bought "Jazz From Hell" around the mid-80's when it first came out and it was extraordinarily hard to find *any* Zappa albums, much less his albums which one might specifically prefer, and I was not favorably impressed. In fact, I think I put the tape in a drawer and didn't listen to it again for quite some time. When I did pick it back up again (maybe because I was sick of everything else I had at the time), I wasn't encumbered with my prior and extremely biased expectations of what a Zappa album should sound like, and I loved it. That was an important lesson about being a Zappa afficianado: expectations will only lead to disappointment with Zappa, so empty your mind before you listen to any Zappa for the first time.

That said, the *specific* Zappa albums one likes says a lot about what kind of music consumer someone is. Most people like the Blues-based naughty troubadour Zappa of.... well... "Strictly Commercial", "Apostrophe", "Joe's Garage" and so forth. When they get an earful of "Jazz From Hell" or "Civilization Phaze III", you can hear their auditory canals gagging. So being a Jazz From Hell fan puts you in a sub-cult of a sub-cult and even further at odds with mainstream culture. For the most part, the "true" Zappa fans are not JFH fans.

Nevertheless, I think Jazz From Hell is not only highly enjoyable to listen to, but a piece of music culture equivalent to (but far less appreciated than) Andy Warhol: it captures something about early digital music in the late 70's / early 80's that is just spectacular and inimitable. Jazz From Hell isn't just a good listen, it's a piece of cultural history claimed by one of those vanguards who earned their way into the books by forceing themselves ahead of the curve.
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