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Frank Zappa - The Mothers Of Invention: Uncle Meat CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



4.07 | 478 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars The first time I heard this CD, it shocked me. This was not the heavy rocking (or even jazz-rocking) Zappa I knew from 1970s albums like APOSTROPHE or GRAND WAZOO. Not a trace of George Duke, Terry Bozzio, Napoleon 'Murphy' Brock or even Zappa's characteristic electric guitar! UNCLE MEAT sounded like a typical 1960s "underground" album.

Now that I've lived with UNCLE MEAT for a few decades, it has started sounding more and more modern. One of the reasons is that I've spent a little time listening to Stravinsky, Messiaen and Toru Takemitsu. It's easy to hear their influence (or the influence of musical styles similar to theirs) all through Zappa's album. On the other hand, once you're familiar with Canterbury bands like Gong and Hatfield and the North, you will see that they must have listened a lot to UNCLE MEAT as well.

The interesting thing about UNCLE MEAT is that it includes several totally different types of music. Zappa makes no attempt to fuse them. He puts them on his album in no particular order and forces the listener to get on with them. I must admit some of those pieces are no great favourites of mine. The blaring free jazz of "Prelude to King Kong", "Ian Underwood whips it out" and "King Kong pt. 6" usually get the skip-button treatment. To my relief, such pieces are definitely in the minority, though.

Far more interesting are Zappa's attempts at, whatchamacallit, "neo-classical chamber music". Most of this is written for a combination of harpsichord, organ, vibes, clarinet, bass, drums, semi-acoustic guitar and (occasionally) silly voices. Some of the pieces may sound weird at first, but believe me: they grow on you. And the good news is that all of them are remarkably melodious! After a few spins, you'll find yourself happily whistling along.

Another category of music included is "subversive pop songs with surreal lyrics". There are about seven of those, and they're tremendous fun. This time you won't be whistling; you and your whole family will fill the house with delirious singing! By the way, it seems undeniable that Yes lifted one of their "Heart of the Sunrise" riffs straight from Zappa's "Cruising for Burgers", which even happens to be about getting "lost in the city".

The above-mentioned categories alone warrant UNCLE MEAT a place in any decent record collection. If nothing else, they prove that Zappa was one of the 20th century's most multi-talented composers. Throughout the album, his music is interspersed with whacky dialogues, spoken by the Mothers of Invention and various hangers-on. In addition, the 1987 Rykodisc reissue includes thirty minutes of rather confusing film dialogue. (UNCLE MEAT was originally meant to be a movie soundtrack.) In my opinion, this extra half hour can safely be ignored. With or without it, UNCLE MEAT is undoubtedly a PROGRESSIVE CLASSIC.

fuxi | 4/5 |


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