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Frank Zappa - Freak Out! CD (album) cover

FREAK OUT!

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.89 | 435 ratings

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Equality 7-2521
3 stars I unfortunately went into this album expecting some great Avant prog which really turned it off to me for awhile. I expected to be listening to the album formulating all the great bands this music influenced; instead I came out of it trying to sort through all of the albums own influences. This is not to say that this album wasn't highly influential or revolutionary; rather it just didn't have the avant edge I was looking for. Freak Out! is heavily influenced by and consisting of Psych Pop. Most of the songs on the album are essentially Psych Pop numbers with added instrumental embellishments, like an orchestra or vibraphone, and some lavish vocal harmonies.

I'm sure the prevalent use of Psych Pop melodies was meant to satirize the rampant commercial nature of the music, much like The Residents did with The Third Reich 'N Roll. However, there's a distinct difference. The Residents completely deconstructed popular bubble gum pop tunes to the point that they were barely recognizable and a totally different style of music. Instead Zappa simply takes a psych pop melody and experiments with it. While much more substantial and interesting, the final product remains essentially unchanged.

The vocal harmonies on Freak Out! are hit and miss. All of the singing on the album is done in a ostentatiously weird manner. Sometimes it connects and really adds to the song, and other times you wonder why Zappa couldn't have chosen a more typical vocal style that may have been able to express some sort of emotion. I'm an aficionado of atypical vocalist so you can be assured that I say this not out of a stigma against the style, but as genuinely feeling it does not work.

With everything negative out of the way there's plenty to enjoy on this album. When everything fits together, Zappa delivers and hits strong. Everyone is familiar enough with Zappa and The Mother's technical prowess so I won't waste time talking about it here. It may be their debut but they certainly have little need to develop in that department (though they would).

The albums closing track, "The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet" best showcases the band's Avant leanings and is the only song on the album that has the potential to fulfill that Avant hunger that caused me to by this album. However, the song is very poor and meanders off in all directions without any focus. I rarely every find myself with the will power to listen to it in its entirety.

To recap: For those looking for a start into Frank Zappa, Freak Out! could be a promising place to start. The whole affair is certainly accessible and even relatively commercial. The album has plenty of great melodies and exceptional playing despite the occasional miss with a song, vocals, or childish lyrics. For those looking some really Avant Garde stuff I would stay away.

Equality 7-2521 | 3/5 |

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