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Frank Zappa - The Mothers Of Invention: Freak Out! CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.92 | 672 ratings

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4 stars Help! I'm a rock! Help! I'm a rock!

I'm so tired of reading things like this album "must have been a blast when it came out" so, as one who was actually around at the time Freak Out! was released, I'll give you my thoughts as well as the thoughts of others at that time. Freak Out! is without a doubt a product of it's time but I'm afraid that Frank's love/hate relationship with fifties Doo Wop music would make little sense to anyone born after this album was released. While the Zappa/MOI's Doo Wop meets Cheech and Chong outings seem strangely familiar to modern audiences, it's real impact was geared at the fifties 'baby boomers' who were desperately trying to disengage themselves not only from the plastic mores of the nineteen fifties, but also any pop culture references of those plastic times. And Frank was trying not to let these free spirited hippies run too far from where they came from.

The fact that Zappa saw the burgeoning American counter culture as a substitute for the plastic culture that they were fleeing from is the starting point of Zappa's social commentaries for the nineteen sixties. The MOI use a scattergun approach to verbal humor on Freak Out! that works well one second and falls flat the next. But it was innovative at the time and the absence of profanity in the lyrics would strike most latter FZ album listeners as quite strange and censored. But the individual is what Frank preached and it come out well in songs like Hungry Freaks and Who Are The Brain Police?

Doo Wop pastiches such as How Could I be Such A Fool and Wowie Zowie are trite and add up to little than album filler as there's not much musically exciting going on until we get to the end of this double album. Trouble Everyday is a timeless social reflection of race relations in the US that is still, unsurprisingly, relevant in the 21st century while Help, I'm a Rock is a wonderful slice of absurdum mixed with avant gard vocalizations that's still a blast to listen to this day.

The twelve minute album closer The Return of The Son Of Monster Magnet is pure sixties studio manipulated psychedelia that's every bit the equal of any Beatles studio concoction found on the Revolver album from the same year. It's 'Magnet' that shows off Zappa's early mastering of studio trickery that includes numerous overdubs, speeded up tapes and his penchant for mastering the meter and tempos of vocals the same way a musician would when playing an instrument. It's hard to believe that people tripped to this recording while Zappa was denouncing drug use, but so it was.

Freak Out! is the prototype for many Zappa/MOI albums to come and would ultimately improve on. But as a double album debut release that was single handedly composed and produced by the great auteur in the draconian recording era of 1966, it remains a true American classic. Just like it's highly regarded creator. 4 stars.

SteveG | 4/5 |


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