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Frank Zappa - Uncle Meat CD (album) cover

UNCLE MEAT

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.15 | 361 ratings

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UMUR
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Uncle Meat was the last studio album released while The Mothers of Invention were still together as a band, well at least it was recorded while they were a band. Zappa would release Weasel Ripped My Flesh and Burnt Weeny Sandwich after the band was disbanded. In true Zappa style the songs donīt neccessarely come from the same session but he always makes them fit into the concept of the album anyway. Uncle Meat is one of the most unique Zappa albums and itīs also a very unique album in the history of rock music. blending his rīnīb/ doo woop influences with baroque and modern avant garde classical music is a bit of a job. Then add some blues rock, some great guitar solos and a song like King King that still stands as one of the finest moments from The Mothers of Invention. This is if you shouldnīt have guessed it already a classic album.

The album starts with the main title theme from Uncle Meat. Itīs such a great song and almost sounds like rock chamber music. The extensive use of hapsichord throughout the album has a chamber music like effect. The Voice of Cheese then appears and weīre drawn into the groupie status of The Mothers of Invention, with Susie talking about herself as a groupie. Zappa always carried around his tape recorder and there are a couple of examples here on Uncle Meat which are great fun. Nine Types of Industrial Pollution has an insistent groove with lots of avant garde percussion noises in the background. This serves as a vehicle to a great Frank Zappa guitar solo. Itīs a very long solo but itīs worth your time. Zolar Czakl is a short instrumental song. Strange and avant garde like.

Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague is one of my favorites here, itīs got a lot of intriguing atmospheres. The Legend of the Golden Arches is a very slow song with a dissonant clarinet theme. Suddenly weīre witness to The Mothers of Invention live at the Royal Albert hall. Don Preston plays Louie Louie on the big Pipe organ. Not the most pretty thing you could ever wish to hear, but itīs great fun. The Dog Breath Variations are as the title indicates variations over the theme from Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague. This is typical Zappa to distort and change his own themes and make something different out of them.

Sleeping in a Jar is a pretty strange little vocal driven song, itīs a great kind of psychadelic song with the strangest lyrics. Our Bizarre Relationship is Susie Creamcheese talking once again about her groupie career and about Zappaīs groupie status. It cranks me up every time. Hilarious I tell you! Just Hilarious. The Uncle Meat Variations is one of the highlights here for me. This version includes the Uncle Meat theme played in a different version and mouse like singing and there are even some soprano female singing. This is a great progressive song. Electric Aunt Jemima is a great rīnīb/ doo woop song sung with mouse like voices. Itīs really enjoyable. Prelude to King Kong is a variation over the King Kong theme and a solo.

God Bless America serves as an introduction to A Pound for a Brown on the Bus which is basically The Legend of the Golden Arches played in double tempo and with different instrumentation. Ian Underwood Whips It Out has Ian Underwood telling us how he got the job with The Mothers of Invention and then he plays a great sax solo. Mr. Green Genes is a pretty slow and heavy song. Not heavy in the sense that it is heavy metal though. The vocals from Ray Collins is a real treat but also the part where Ruth Komanofff ( later Underwood) plays the xylophone is really powerful. There arre some excellent dark wind playing here too.

We Can Shoot You is another avant garde song which is very entertaining if you give it a try. If We'd All Been Living in California...is probably the most funny thing on Uncle Meat, this one is hilariously funny. Jimmy Carl Black talks to Zappa about why The Mothers of Invention donīt make money than they do, and when he gets to the part where he says: Weīre starving man, This [%*!#]ing band is starving, you can really hear the desperation in his voice. This is a good example of how many rock musicians live. On the brink of economic collapse. Jimmy Carl Black had a couple of kids back in California and The Mothers of Invention lived in New York at the time Uncle Meat were recorded and really when youīre away from your family for a long time like Jimmy Carl Black was you would expect to be able to send back a lot of money, but The Mothers of Invention never made lots of money, only enough to survive. There were lots of frustration among the members of the band over this issue and it was one of the reasons Zappa disbanded The Mothers of Invention in 1969. If We'd All Been Living in California...serves as a comment to that situation and if you think about it, Zappaīs not being very nice and especially not when If We'd All Been Living in California...seques into The Air which is a sarcastic doo woop song. Well thatīs how I chose to see it, but itīs great to be a witness to the argument. The album continues with Project X which is an avant garde piece. I must admit to being a bit turned of by this song in the beginning, but Iīve come to love it. Cruisin' for Burgers ends the original LPs side 3. Itīs actually a pretty special song. Ray Collins sings some great vocal lines in doo woop style, but there are also a bluesy rock part where Zappa sings. In addition to those styles there are some symphonic keyboards in the song. Does it sound confusing ? It sound great I promise you.

The whole of side 4 on the original LP whas made up of King Kong, but on the CD version CD 2 starts with Uncle Meat Film Excerpt, Pt. 1 which is some useless dialog from the movie score and whatīs worse is that it lasts for 37:34 minutes. Uncle Meat was meant to be a movie but it wasnīt released at the time. Tengo Na Minchia Tanta is also a very useless song. Itīs has a humour factor though, but really it isnīt worth your time. Itīs notable that Chad Wackermann plays the drums on this track. Iīm not sure about this but the drums sound like they are recorded in the eighties and itīs definitely Chad Wackermannīs style. Itīs really strange that Zappa chose to put a song like this on the CD version of Uncle Meat. Uncle Meat Film Excerpt, Pt. 2 is another dialog excerpt from the movie and equally as useless as the first one but thankfully it only last for 3:50 minutes.

Well the useless CD extras aside lets go on to side 4 of the original LP and the great song King Kong. King Kong is divided into smaller chapters but really is one long song. Itīs taken me almost 15 years to enjoy this song and really understand it, but boy itīs been worth the wait and the continued listening over the years. Itīs one of the best Mothers of Invention songs IMO. The King Kong theme is of course the dominant part of the song and through the song it is twisted in all directions. The most innovative thing is the distorted clarinet ( I think itīs a clarinet, but Iīm not sure to be honest) solo which is doubled itīs so crazy and dissonant and it is especially this part I had a hard time coping with. King Kong ends with The Mothers of Invention playing the song live at Miami Pop Festival which is typical Zappa to mix studio and live recordings.

The musicianship is astonishing to say the least. There where not many bands in the sixties who could do what The Mothers of Invention did on Uncle Meat. About 10 different Mothers contributed in one way or another to Uncle Meat and they all did the job of their lives.

The production is very unique both in Zappaīs discography and in rock history, nothing has sounded like this before and nothing has sounded like this since.

There was a special charm to The Mothers of Invention that is very much present here on Uncle Meat. Even though they often worked like horses under Zappaīs strict command and really didnīt get much to show for their efforts they still seemed like they loved the music and had fun. That kind of commitment shows in the music, and if you want to use a cliché you could say that the music has soul. Itīs one of my all time favorite albums and I donīt think you should underestimate the incredible importance Uncle Meat had on a progressive genre like Zeuhl. This is my personal opinion of course, but listen to the brilliant album yourself and then judge. 5 big stars is well deserved for this outstanding album.

UMUR | 5/5 |

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