FRANK ZAPPA — The Yellow Shark

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FRANK ZAPPA - The Yellow Shark cover
3.62 | 16 ratings | 3 reviews
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Live album · 1993

Filed under Third Stream


1. Intro (1:43)
2. Dog Breath Variations (2:06)
3. Uncle Meat (3:24)
4. Outrage at Valdez (3:27)
5. Times Beach II (7:30)
6. III Revised (1:44)
7. The Girl in the Magnesium Dress (4:33)
8. Be-Bop Tango (3:43)
9. Ruth Is Sleeping (6:06)
10. None of the Above (2:06)
11. Pentagon Afternoon (2:27)
12. Questi Cazzi di Piccione (3:02)
13. Times Beach III (4:25)
14. Food Gathering in Post-Industrial America, 1992 (2:48)
15. Welcome to the United States (6:41)
16. Pound for a Brown (2:12)
17. Exercise #4 (1:37)
18. Get Whitey (7:00)
19. G-Spot Tornado (5:17)

Total Time: 72:00


Bass Clarinet, Clarinet [Contrabass], Tenor Saxophone – Wolfgang Stryi
Bassoon, Contrabassoon – Veit Scholz
Cello – Friedemann Dähn
Clarinet – Roland Diry
Conductor – Frank Zappa (tracks: 14, 15, 19), Peter Rundel (tracks: 2 to 11, 13, 16 to 18)
Contrabass, Contrabass [Electrocontrabass] – Thomas Fichter
Flute – Dietmar Wiesner
Guitar, Banjo – Jürgen Ruck
Harp – Ellen Wegner
Horn – Franck Ollu, Stefan Dohr
Mandolin – Detlef Tewes
Oboe, English Horn, Didgeridoo – Catherine Milliken
Orchestra – Ensemble Modern
Percussion – Andreas Böttger, Rainer Römer
Percussion, Cimbalom – Rumi Ogawa-Helferich
Piano, Harpsichord, Celesta, Harp – Ueli Wiget
Piano, Harpsichord, Celesta, Read By [Dramatic Reading] – Hermann Kretzschmar
Trombone, Euphonium, Didgeridoo, Alphorn – Michael Svoboda
Trombone, Trombone [Soprano] – Uwe Dierksen
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Trumpet [Piccolo], Cornet – Michael Gross , William Formann
Tuba – Daryl Smith
Viola, Read By [Dramatic Reading] – Hilary Sturt
Violin – Claudia Sack, Mathias Tacke, Peter Rundel

About this release

Barking Pumpkin R2 71600

Thanks to snobb for the updates


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Members reviews

This review is based on the 2012 reissue.

The Yellow Shark is such a great album. It's breathtaking at times, and doesn't get all tense, scary, and nervous like the London Symphony Orchestra album does (which is a totally different beast of an album anyway). Frank comes out and tells the audience to "get serious, folks", even though he says to throw any panties off to the side of the stage.

The Zappa classics that get a makeover here are outstanding, and rival their earlier versions. I'm especially keen on the Dog Breath Variations and the Uncle Meat theme, because they translate so well to an orchestra. The sound is also outstanding, not only one of the best sounding Frank Zappa albums, but also one of the best sounding albums from anyone that I've ever heard.

Most of the tunes get a HUGE applause from the crowd, especially the final G-Spot Tornado, which itself is a remarkable rendition of a tune Zappa originally wrote for the Synclavier machine on Jazz From Hell, never meant to be played by actual musicians, but the crowd roars with cheers and applause, and apparently went on for over 20 minutes, and the fade out with the crowd still going crazy is a testament to that. I don't know if I've ever heard a live recording from any band or artist where the applause lasted so long that they eventually had to fade it out, as we do get to hear a good chunk of it. Another synclavier song that made it here is The Girl In The Magnesium Dress, which sounds cool because I think Frank wrote it with just his hands going up and down the keys of the synclavier keyboard, yet it got transcribed and played by this wonderful orchestra.

As for the new songs, they are also excellent. Some of them are minimalistic, as that seems to be the direction Zappa was going, but I believe the direction he took in the early 90s was, in part, due to his diagnosis of having cancer. Still, songs like Food Gathering in Post-Industrial America, 1992 and Welcome To The United States are some of the coolest pieces of music Frank wrote. The former brings some humor which was missing from a few tracks prior. The latter is cool because a form given to people entering the U.S. is recited over the music, which itself is very dramatic, and in classic Zappa form, reacts to what is being said by the performer. It reminds me of something Captain Beefheart would do, like on The Grand Wazoo from The Lost Episodes (not to be confused with The Grand Wazoo from the album of the same name; The Lost Episodes one is a completely different song).

The case it comes in is beautiful, and the pictures in the giant booklet are great; some are funny, some are just plain cool, but there's one that makes me sad, it's the last one, with some of the guys Frank worked with around that time, like producers and mixers, and they're sitting around him and everyone is smiling, but Frank clearly hadn't shaved for months, meaning the pic was taken not too long before he passed. He knew his time was coming.

I always put The Yellow Shark off because I wasn't ready for it and other orchestral albums because I just wanted the rock and fusion stuff back when I first got into his music. And then when the reissues started coming out and I started collecting them, I still held off on getting The Yellow Shark (and Civilization Phaze III still), but now I realize that was a major error on my part, and I've been keeping myself from listening to one of Zappa's last great works, and it really is one of the best projects he ever put together. If only he had even a few more months to cherish it. He always said he made music for himself, and if others liked it, cool. But us fans have had more time to digest those last couple of releases than he ever did, even though he wrote the music. Point is, The Yellow Shark is magnificent, and I only wish I got it sooner, but now I can listen to it whenever I want.

Don't hold off on getting this album if you are a Zappa fan already, this is an essential piece of music. I wouldn't recommend this to a Zappa newbie, but maybe after you've got 10 or so albums, maybe this would be a good intro to his orchestral work, though I'd argue that any of them are good to start with. This one, however, does have the best sound, with the best intentions from the performers. Masterpiece of prog, classical, third stream, of music.
This is one of the first Zappa CDs I was able to acquire and was a real disappointment as it did not feature any of his complexity or humour, at least not in the vein of his reputable catalogue during the "You Can't do that on Stage" oeuvre of work. In any case there is still the Zappa classic material here such as Uncle Meat, The Girl in the Magnesium Dress, Ruth Is Sleeping, Dog Breath Variations and Pound for a Brown.

The music is rather subdued and laid back in many portions and Zappa works best when he spirals wildly out of control and veers into zany territory. The orchestral approach is really designed for die hard Zappaholics. It is too classical for its own good and really tedious in places. There are a few good tracks and the wind section is beautiful, but I rarely return to this album, he is capable of so much more. This is really a collectors album.
An excellent little oasis in the desert of Zappa's post-One Size Fits All career, The Yellow Shark sees Zappa at long, long last finding an ensemble willing and able to play his orchestral pieces in the spirit they were intended. Miles away from the timid and lifeless performances recorded on the likes of 200 Motels or London Symphony Orchestra, here we are treated to an ensemble used to difficult and avant-garde work tackling some of Zappa's most challenging pieces. The inclusion of some spoken-word strangeness - which the performers deliver with gusto - proves that the Ensemble Modern share enough of Zappa's sense of humour to pull off his musical gags with gusto.

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