Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger

An old EMI CD is just like the vinyl; all other CDs are different - they all have a remix that Zappa made in 1992, as well as one re-recorded piece.

What We Need: Are the BP/Zappa Records CDs and the 1995 CD identical?

ESSENTIAL VERSIONS FOR COMPLETISTS: Post-1992 CD (remix) plus either vinyl or EMI CD.  [completist's guide]


  • Original vinyl (Angel (!) D5 or DS 3810 in the US, August 1984; His Master's Voice HMV CEC 747 1252 and/or EMI DS38170 and/or EL 27 0153 1 in the UK, January 1985)
  • Boulez dirige Zappa (French vinyl, EMI 270153 1 PM263, EMI Digital - La Voix de Son Maitre-Pathé Marconi, 1984; French liner notes)
  • German (?) vinyl (EMI 066 [and/or] 27 0153 1)
  • Argentine vinyl (EMI/Angel 7069, black & white back cover)
  • Boulez Dirige Zappa: El Desconocido Perfecto (unknown spanish-language vinyl with the entire front cover in Spanish (and full colour))
  • US Cassette (EMI Angel Digital 4DS-38170)
  • EMI CD (CDC 7 47125 2, UK only, 1985)
  • 1992 CD (Barking Pumpkin D2-74242 in the US, Zappa Records CDZAP 49 in the UK, April 1992)
  • Japanese CDs (VACK 5091 and Music Scene Inc. MSI-0049)
  • Zappa Records cassette (TZAPPA49)
  • 1995 CD (Ryko RCD 10542, May 16 1995; VACK 5091 in Japan, renumbered 5226 in 1998)
  • Japanese paper-sleeve CD (Ryko/VACK 1253, October 23 2002)
  • 2012 UMe CD (Zappa Records ZR3869)


From Bjørn M Bruun:

I have the UK vinyl, I think it is the original from 84. It was in fact manufactured in Germany for the UK, and it has the catalogue number EL 27 0153 1. The EL is for UK only. I think the German issue have the same catalogue number, only without the EL. It has a yellow EMI label, and is a DMM pressing (direct metal mastering). Sounds fantastic!


The original EMI CD is just like the vinyl. From Record Collector magazine #171, November 1993 (quoted by Mikael Agardsson):

This CD was originally issued only in Europe as a limited edition of 5000 copies (complete with French and English sleeve notes) and quickly disappeared from the racks.

The track order at the time:

1. The Perfect Stranger
2. Naval Aviation in Art?
3. The Girl in the Magnesium Dress
4. Outside Now Again
5. Love Story
6. Dupree's Paradise
7. Jonestown

From Biffy the Elephant Shrew:

Yes, the EMI CD matches the vinyl in both mix and track sequence, which is only natural, as it was released just a few months after the LP. I believe there were two press runs - I seem to recall two different colored back covers - so that 5,000 figure may be only the first pressing.

From David G:

The 5000-copies figure is just for the first pressing, right? I've seen quite a few of these puppies about.

1992 Remix

Frank Zappa's 1992 remix has been issued on the following CDs:

  • 1992 US CD (Barking Pumpkin D2-74242)
  • 1992 UK CD (Zappa Records CDZAP 49)
  • 1995 CD (Ryko RCD 10542, May 16 1995)

The track order is nowadays:

1. The Perfect Stranger
2. Naval Aviation in Art?
3. The Girl in the Magnesium Dress
4. Dupree's Paradise
5. Love Story
6. Outside Now Again
7. Jonestown

From "The Mother of All Interviews", in Guitar Player Magazine:

DON MENN: I love The Perfect Stranger.

ZAPPA: Well, then you're going to love the new release of it, because it's coming out on CD. When it was originally released, Angel pressed 5,000 copies. Digital recording was in its infancy at that time, and I've always been less than enthusiastic about the sound of that first CD. I though that it didn't come anywhere near what the musicians really sounded like in the room. Last July or so, we got a new Neve console in the studio, which is far cleaner and much better sounding than the Harrison that we had for the last 10 or 12 years. So I mixed it. And those new mixes are on the CD re-release.

From Jeff Rocca:

I have both an EMI CD and a Barking Pumpkin CD of The Perfect Stranger. The music content is identical on the CDs, but the sound quality of the Barking Pumpkin CD is far superior.

From John Henley, Austin, Texas:

The remix is in some ways better, especially in terms of the title track where the instruments stand out from one another a little better; and as regards "Jonestown" which has a more recognizable pulse. However, I think the new mix of "Dupree's Paradise" is a bit too hot, and at times veers into distortion.

From Juha Sarkkinen:

The track list is re-sequenced on the 1992 & 1995 CDs, the 1984 version lists a wrong length for "Jonestown" (07:07).

Mike Espinoza reveals that one track isn't just remixed--it's re-recorded!

The whole album was remixed to better effect for CD, but the original "Girl In The Magnesium Dress" consists entirely of computer generated music. For the CD version, Frank included sampled marimba in place of some of the synth percussion. The result is much richer. Also, if you do a comparison between the two tracks, there are some notes that are played on one version that aren't played on the other. Quite simply, Frank re-recorded the whole piece.

1995 CD

Official Ryko statement: "New master. New timing sheet. This is the 1992 remix." [full statement]

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.

2012 UMe CD

Reputed to be the same as the standard Barking Pumpkin remix, although at least one listener has heard a difference. From Fredrik Runnström:

I compared my two editions of The Perfect Stranger, and there’s a difference in sound on The Girl In The Magnesium Dress. CDZAP 49 is quite a bit brighter than the new Universal release. I haven’t noticed any other differences and it applies to this track only.


  • Perhaps still some confusion over Euro LPs.
  • It seems there had been two CDs in Japan prior to 1995 - VACK and MSI. How come?

Additional Informants

  • Kristian Kier
  • Marcelo Gasió
  • Mikael Nyström
  • Rodolphe Catrais
  • Charles Ulrich

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

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