Civilization Phaze III review by Frank Zappa

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  • Released: Nov 30, 1994
  • Sound: 10
  • Lyrics: 4
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 8 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.7 (11 votes)
Frank Zappa: Civilization Phaze III
1

Sound — 10
My first impression when listening to Civilization was the stragness of it. I had never heard anything like it before. While some might find the sound of the Synclavier devoid of humanity, I could hardly tell that people weren't playing at first. The sound samples are surprisingly good considering when Civilization was made. The music tends to be very avant-garde and complex. Melodies are played by multiple instruments and the number of instruments being played at a time are astounding. The sound quality isn't quite as good as the Ensemble Modern performances, but it is the next best thing.

Lyrics — 4
The music is all instrumental, and the only lyrics are in the spoken word tracks. The spoken word tracks can get annoying. I usually skip over them so I don't have to hear them. This is the album's only downfall. I don't really understand the point of the spoken word parts other than to be strange.

Overall Impression — 10
Strange, bizzare, adventerous these words describe that music that is contained in these two CDs. Everytime I listen to it I notice something different about the songs. Civilization can't be compared to other albums because nothing out there is like Civilization. If it were stolen I would hunt down the person that stole it and take it back.

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    deterramone
    I don't really understand the point of the spoken word parts other than to be strange.
    Those are clips from Lumpy Gravy (I think). It's supposed to be some people stuck in a piano, which is pretty much the story line of the album, plus a bunch of weird symbolism I'm not even going to try to understand.
    Waffenspiel
    Those are clips from Lumpy Gravy (I think). It's supposed to be some people stuck in a piano
    That's partially correct: some spoken clips come from the Lumpy Gravy sessions (1967), others are brand new (1991, also Moon and Dweezil "talking", among others). BTW, the front cover presents a city on a mountain top that actually is a grand piano. There's a space battle going on and the piano is on fire. FZ thought Lumpy Gravy was one of his best albums, and thanks to the possibilities offered by digital technology, he could merge the old LG tapes and new takes maintaining the same "ambience" as if those people would actually inhabit the same piano and talk to each other. CPIII combines synclavier music, music performed by Ensemble Modern, and also some samples of Mongolian throat singers, recorded during their visit to FZ's house in '93 together with The Chieftains. CPIII is not an "easy" album, but I think it's one of the most intense, radical and 'poetical' releases of all FZ's career.