This was recorded on a European tour just before Zappa's death and relased just after. The picture on the cover looks like it was taken at Zappa's deathbed.
This CD was very popular on "classical-crossover" radio stations. It reached number 2 on the classic music charts. This CD received the only Grammy award Zappa ever won for music. Civilization Phaze III go the Grammy for packaging.
This is another of Zappa's orchestral albums, where we plays his most complicated compositions with a small orchestra. I have to admit that I don't always get it. He doesn't just play his rock tunes with an orchestra. He greatly rearranges them so that they are more discordant. Alot of it sounds like woodwind and horn players going off and doing there own thing.
This is one of the better Zappa Orchestra albums. There are some great piano duets. Most of the tracks near the end of the CD really rock (in an orchestral sort of way). But many of the earlier tunes are rather sad and boring, to match the CD cover.
There is also a 15 minute performace art interlude, where there is talk of a future society where everything is broken and a section where a German reads a US immigration form. None of this is something would want to hear more than once. And it breaks up the musical flow of the album.
Zappa is still one of the most important artists in rock history, and I did enjoy some of his earlier orchestral forays, with Lumpy Gravy and Uncle Meat.