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Frank Zappa - The Mothers Of Invention: Absolutely Free CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



4.07 | 489 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Early Zappa Success Foreshadows Better Things to Come

I got ABSOLUTELY FREE as my second Zappa album as it's the second highest rated on this site. I must say I was pretty disappointed at first. Compared to his later, mid-70's output, this album simply pales. The prog quotient is relatively low by current standards. It seems more like a avant experimentation, typical Zappa, but nothing all that impressive. Every thing I like about Frank is done so much better on other albums. So I went and looked at some other reviews and realized why it is rated so high. It was released in 1967. To be sure, this album is much more impressive given how early it was made. Still, given the huge discography available, this is an album to put lower on the list as you get in to Zappa.

There are numerous "proggy" things going on in this music. Most obvious is that on the original vinyl, each side was a mini-suite, with the first side especially running continuously from song to song with recurring melodic and lyrical themes throughout. In addition, the melodies used by Zappa include numerous references to other music, including Stravinsky, "Louie, Louie," and other of Zappa's own works. At the same time, the music is firmly rooted in 60's psychedelic rock of the time, though it certainly pushes the genre. In addition, the satire, lyrics, and flippant singing dominate the music completely. The subtle bits are much more buried here, where several years later, the elements balance much more effectively.

There are little tastes of Zappa's best talents. Intertwining, off-time, composed lines are found throughout the album. There is only one guitar jam on the album, the very nice "Invocation and Ritual Dance." The craziness is as wild as anywhere in the Zappa catalog. The humor is sharp, the cabaret / show-tune feel everywhere, and the changes are fast-paced and energetic. After repeated listens, my appreciation has grown somewhat. It actually takes some digging to get past the superficial slapstick to really find how much work went into making this record.

The weakest songs on the album, "Big Leg Emma" and "Why Dontcha Do Me Right," were singles made during the same time period as the album. According to Zappa, they were attempts to make "dumb music for dumb teenagers Well they sound like it. While they're still satire on music and attitudes of the time, they are each one-trick ponies that are old before you've finished the first listen. Unfortunately, when the album was remade and the songs added on, they were placed between the two minisuites. This breaks continuity, adds little other than time to the album, and was part of what put me off the album to begin with. Since the second suite has a logical ending, who ever added the tracks at least had the sense to not tack anything on the end and ruin that.

As is common, my ideas about an album have changed while listening to ABSOLUTELY FREE continuously while preparing this review. Initially, I intended to give a 2 star rating and that has improved to a 3. This is a good album, still, and maybe in it's time it was something more. But some albums hold up after decades but this one is certainly a creature of its era. Ardent Zappa fans are still going to enjoy it plenty, but there are quite a few better places to start.

Negoba | 3/5 |


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