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Frank Zappa - Absolutely Free CD (album) cover

ABSOLUTELY FREE

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.12 | 339 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

J-Man
Prog Reviewer
5 stars A Prune Isn't Really A Vegetable... CABBAGE Is A Vegetable!

Call me primitive and immature, but some of the simple, yet hilarious lyrics throughout this album crack me up every time. I had to quote this lyric from Call Any Vegetable and use it as the title for my review. This line is executed at exactly the perfect time, and it makes me laugh every time.

The second album from Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, called Absolutely Free is one of my favorite albums in Frank Zappa's massive discography. This is a large improvement over the rather underdeveloped, though promising debut album Freak Out!. This is the perfect blend of Frank Zappa's avant-garde experimentations with rock music, his later jazz-rock outputs, and of course Zappa's trademark humor. This is one of Frank Zappa's most innovative albums, especially considering that this was released in 1967. A year where progressive rock didn't yet exist, most rock albums were linear, and experimentations outside of the typical verse-chorus-verse song structures were rare.

That was changed with Absolutely Free. This was recorded in November of 1966, and it is one of the best (if not THE best) album from this era. Freak Out! was just as innovative as this album, but it didn't achieve the perfection of Absolutely Free. On the original vinyl this album was divided into two side-long suites, both of which are very impressive. If you buy the CD version, there are 2 bonus tracks placed in between the original suites, and they are admittedly the weakest parts of this album.

Big Leg Emma is catchy, but it's lacking in interesting songwriting. Why Dont'cha Do Me Right? has a good riff, but it still lacks the genius on the original tracks. It's much better than the other bonus track, though. I really like how the two bonus tracks are placed in between the two suites. If they would have been at the end of the album, it would have brought the album to a rather inconclusive ending. Their placement doesn't interrupt the flow of the album, and I think it works well. However, the real genius of this album is contained around the bonus tracks. Both of the side-long suites are superb, and I can't decide which one I prefer.

The first suite is the most comedy-oriented of the two, and this contains some of the best lyrics in Zappa's repertoire. The lyrics are mostly satirical, but the analogies used are just hilarious and genius. The music is excellent, and never shirks in quality. This suite has some musical reprises, creating a very conceptual piece of music. Soft-Sell Conclusion brings the suite to a conclusive end, reprising some of the ideas introduced in Call Any Vegetable and The Duke of Prunes. Invocation and Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin is a great instrumental, and it's one of the highlights of the first side for me. I would rate this suite with a 10/10 easily.

The second side is slightly less intriguing than the first, but it contains some equally genius moments. This side is also conceptual, mostly due to the reprise of America Drinks in the closing track, America Drinks & Goes Home. The highlight of this side is undoubtedly Brown Shoes Don't Make It. I would say that this is one of Zappa's finest moments. This is a really epic track with multiple sections spanning various genres of music, but it is concisely tied into one 7 minute track. This has avant sections, some jazz, experimental rock, and even theatrical influences, incorporated into some genius lyrics. Status Back Baby, Uncle Bernie's Farm, and Son of Suzy Creamcheese are memorable rock songs, with all of Zappa's odd little twists. All in all, this is a really excellent suite. I would rate this side with a 9/10, since it is slightly less genius than the first side. It's still fantastic, though.

One of the things that makes Absolutely Free so great is the superb production. It's amazing to me that an album could sound so good when it was recorded in 1966. This album is way ahead of its time, and this just proves Zappa's genius when it comes to production.

Conclusion:

Absolutely Free is one of Frank Zappa's masterpieces in my opinion, and it definitely deserves 5 stars. This took some time to fully appreciate, but it's really worth it. This is one of the best albums from the 1960's, and it is a masterpiece of progressive rock. If you're interested in hearing Frank Zappa, this is essential material. I recommend that any newcomer to Zappa starts their journey with this album- you won't regret it.

5 stars.

J-Man | 5/5 |

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