The London Symphony Orchestra

The 1995 CD has a completely new mix (where previously inaudible parts can be heard for the first time), and contains both Volume 1 and Volume 2. The old mix of Volume 1 has been available on CD; the old mix of Volume 2 has been available on vinyl only.

ESSENTIAL VERSIONS FOR COMPLETISTS: 1995 LSO I & II CD, 1986 LSO CD and LSO II vinyl (two different mixes, one of which is spread out over two releases). [completist's guide]


This is a jungular case, and I'm not at all sure about how this was issued before 1995. If you are, please step forward. I have gleaned the below from sources in contradiction.

The London Symphony Orchestra Volume I

The original vinyl release of Volume I had the following tracks:

1. Sad Jane (09:55)
2. Pedro's Dowry (large orchestra version) (10:26)
3. Envelopes (04:11)

4.  Mo & Herb's Vacation: First Movement (04:50)
5.  Mo & Herb's Vacation: Second Movement (10:05)
6.  Mo & Herb's Vacation: Third Movement (12:56)

Digitally Remastered Version

From Román García Albertos

My vinyl has a sticker on the cover which says "DIGITALLY REMASTERED". I don't know what this means. I bought the album sealed at low price in 1993, so I don't know if this is the original version or a remasterd one from ... when? The only date I find in the cover or in the label says (P) (C) 1983.

The London Symphony Orchestra

Before Volume II was ever issued on vinyl, there appeared a CD called The London Symphony Orchestra, which had some of the Volume I tracks plus "Bogus Pomp", which would later appear on the Volume II vinyl.

1. Sad Jane (09:55)
2.  Mo & Herb's Vacation: First Movement (04:50)
3.  Mo & Herb's Vacation: Second Movement (10:05)
4.  Mo & Herb's Vacation: Third Movement (12:56)
5. Bogus Pomp (24:32)

The London Symphony Orchestra Volume II

Volume II was released, on vinyl only, as late as in 1987. Not until then had Zappa managed to hide all the out-of-tune and wrong notes in the (somewhat odd) mix. It contained these tracks:

1. Bogus Pomp (24:32)

2. Bob in Dacron (12:12)
3. Strictly Genteel (06:53)

From Gilbert Hétu: 

The "inner groove" of my orignal US copy of FZ's LSO Vol. II (bought new but only in 1991) sho' contains a lot of hand-engraved squiggles and scratched-out gibberish, incl. mysterious, "cabalistic" looking triangles. The most intriguing of that for me is a hand written "FZ Hotline 818-Pumpkin" that looks to me like Zappa's own hand writing, from what I have seen of it. Is that at all possible, since I read somewhere on your pages that FZ used to overlook some of the cutting process himself?

(My own LP has: 1-1, [triangle]15016, [upside-down raindrop] B-26097-Z1, BPR-LSO2-A Z1 (where everything before Z1 has been stricken out), SJ-7420Z and FZ Hotline 818-PUMPKIN on side A, and 1-1, [triangle]15016-X, [upside-down raindrop] B-26098-Z1, SJ-2-7420Z, BPR-LSO2-B Z1 (everything before Z1 stricken out), and FZ HOTLINE 818-PUMPKIN on side B. It's all done by at least two different hands - Ed.)

1995 Double CD

The 1995 CD is radically different from the previous LSO releases. First of all, it's a double CD with ALL the LSO recordings, unlike the weird 1986 CD which had only some, but it's also a whole new mix. Zappa had originally mixed the music, especially on Volume II (which wasn't ready for release until 1987) so as to hide the many wrong and out-of-tune notes. Someone commented that in the new mix, you can hear them all, but it's worth it.

Official Ryko statement:

Completely remixed and remastered. The complete LSO sessions, including all pieces found on the original vinyl master, with four never before available on CD. Restored artwork, all original liner notes. [full statement]

From John Henley, Austin, Texas:

It's no exaggeration at all to say the new London Symphony Orchestra discs have been "completely remixed and remastered." The LSO sessions were done when digital was still pretty new. Frank took full advantage of what digital "tweaking" was available at the time, to completely reshape the basic sound. A digital "atmosphere", or "sheen", was applied to the tapes, and also a pretty heavy reverb. The results were twofold: the orchestra was given an incredibly lush, "romantic" sound, giving FZ's compositions a professional polish they'd never had before; and, all the mistakes were covered up in the general mix. LSO Volume  II had the more mistake-riddled takes on it, and they tended to be just a tad more ragged-sounding than Volume I  - but still pretty slick.

For the re-mix, the digital sheen has been eliminated, and the reverb cut way back. Again, the results are two-fold: now, the raggedness of the LSO's performance can be heard in all its glory. Mistakes in "Sad Jane" that just weren't audible before are right out front, now. This is very likely the sloppiest performance ever issued under the name of the London Symphony Orchestra. And oddly, this phenomenon doesn't hurt the music - it helps. Melodies which were very hard to pick out of the digital sheen can now be plainly heard. Some instruments that were buried in the mix now take their rightful place in the ensemble. Percussion instruments are sharp and crisp. "Sad Jane" is now emotionally affecting, rather than just "pretty". As I listened to this thing last night, and adjusted to the new sound, I got more and more fascinated - and I've heard these records dozens of times. Lumpy Gravy and 200 Motels were pretty sloppily pulled off, too, and Orchestral Favorites alternated between sharp and sloppy. Now LSO fits right in with that group. We listeners to Zappa's serious music are quite used to raggedy ensembles. LSO's not as well-played as The Perfect Stranger or The Yellow Shark, but the music is just magnificent. I am delighted that the entire sessions have been issued. "Pedro's Dowry" is one of my very favorite Zappa pieces and in my opinion is the best performance on LSO, and I hated not having it on CD before now. (It's even better on Orchestral Favorites, where the smaller ensemble fits the music better.)

I think this reissue is completely successful. Gratuitous commentary: I understand that the original LSO CD now becomes the "LSO Sampler". To call the new one "LSO Volumess I & II" is correct insofar as all cuts are now present, but it's misleading in that the order of tunes is completely changed. Disc one does not correspond to Volume I. It would be more appropriate to call it just LSO, but I guess you can't have two records with the same title.

From Lewis Saul:

There is an amazing amount of this music that is heard for the first time when the massive washed on reverb is removed on the 1995 CD. However, there are other sections of certain compositions where the "reverb wash" works to the score's advantage. I think Frank just got a little carried away with the effect initially, trying (so heartbreakingly unsuccessfully) to remove the many mistakes ...

The Webmaster Has a Misprint!

an illustration of the misprintYes, the webmaster has a misprint of the '95 CD - the yellow colour component is missing from the raster on the bottom part of disc 1, which tints Zappa's skin very pink. Semi-interestingly, the misprint area is slanted a couple of degrees, sloping to the right of the disc, unlike in the simplified illustration. (Of course, there is also text on the disc and a hole in the middle; these things have been left out of the illustration to make the misprint effect marginally less invisible.) If in doubt, look at the bottom of the picture. (Thanks to Chris Maxfield for supplying the original scan.)

Japanese Paper-Sleeve Version (2001-2002)

Starting in 2001, Video Arts Music released a limited-edition series (2000 copies each) of Zappa CDs in paper sleeves - miniature LP sleeves. There was nothing special about this series other than the covers, which were very well done - inserts and "bonuses" were reproduced, the albums that originally had gatefold covers got little miniature gatefolds, and cover track lists were exactly as on the corresponding LPs, even in cases where the CD has bonus tracks or a different track order. Included in this series were some entries that never had "proper" LP issues, i.e. Läther. Additionally, some rarities--like the "green/gold" cover of Chunga's Revenge--were reproduced as special items in this run.

We need to stress that the sound quality of these discs matches the US Ryko issues, which they are clearly derived from. These are collectors items, not new remastered editions.

Late-2012-update: It appears as if the Japanese may be warming up the mini-LP ovens for a new batch based on the 2012 UMe remasters. We'll let you know if this happens.


  • How about the "digitally remastered" version of Volume I?
  • Any details on cassette versions?
  • The original Japanese CD was of the London Symphony Orchestra variety, wasn't it, like Ryko RCD10022?

home - vinyl vs CDs - weirdo discography - bootlegs - misc - hot lynx - e-mail us at zappa dot patio at gmail dot com 2006-04-22 20:02

Search WWW Search all of

DISCLAIMER: people quoted may not share webmaster's opinions (on James Brown); information culled from many sources with no guarantees; site may look bad in other than latest Internet Explorer for Windows (I wish I were skilled enough to change this last one).