This is an unusual disc from Norwegian label, Lawo Classics: Perfect Strangers. Coupling the works of Heiner Goebbels and Frank Zappa, and performed by The Norwegian Radio Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Søndergård, it is recorded onto SACD in surround sound. Frank Zappa’s music crosses all boundaries, with fans in all musical camps. The recordings of his own band are legendary, but with the release of The Yellow Shark featuring Ensemble Modern, Zappa’s music became standard repertoire for symphony orchestras — or at least those that dare to accept the challenge! This is intense and demanding music, but who is better equipped for the task than the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, celebrated for the diversity of its repertoire and collaborations?
Simon Rattle has recorded a lot of 19th century music and most of the results have been dismal. There is little to recommend by Rattle in pre-20th century repertoire. A few Haydn symphonies, some pretty good Brahms, bits of Mahler, Ein Heldenleben by Strauss which is just at the cusp of the 20th century. Alright, so Rattle is not the conductor to go to for the great classics. However, when he records modern music, he seems fully in tune with it's sound and style, plus he has less competition on the market to boot.
A 14-song, 63-minute collection (originally a double LP) comprising many of the highlights (but no "Light Flight") of the original group's history from 1968 through 1972. The notes are minimal, and there are no original release dates or any identification of the albums (The Pentangle, Sweet Child, Basket of Light, Cruel Sister, etc.) whence this material originated. The latter are the only flaws in what is otherwise a fine if not completely comprehensive cross-section of the group's work, showcasing their many and varied sides – Bert Jansch's, Danny Thompson's, and Terry Cox's jazz leanings in "Train Song," John Renbourn's more traditional approach in "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme," their forays into medieval music ("Lyke-Wake Dirge") and progressive folk ("House Carpenter," "Bruton Town"), etc., much of it projected by Jacqui McShee's clear, soaring vocals. The CD also highlights their early records' effective use of stereo as a format for their contrasting technique, especially among the guitars and the rhythm section.