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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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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
4 stars As the cover of the album tells the listener, Uncle Meat was "most of the music from the Mother's movie of the same name which we haven't got enough money to finish yet." Now, some bands, when they do a soundtrack, tend to homogenize their sound for that soundtrack, making the songs kinda tie together with some unifying 'theme.' It's ironic, then, that not only is this the first M.O.I. album to not have an underlying theme, but it's also the most hilariously all-over-the-place album they'd ever do. This is the Mothers' "whatchagot stew" album (if you've never read any Patrick McManus, allow me to explain; two hikers are hungry and decide they should stop and eat. One says to the other, "Whatcha wanna eat?" The other responds with, "Whatcha got?" The two of them then proceed to dump the entire contents of their backpacks into a boiling pot of water, making sure to not actually look and see what's going in there - this should only be made and eaten in darkness, you see - and eat the resulting concoction, known as "whatchagot stew."), and for a band as ludicrous as the Mothers, this means some interesting results. Brief bits of Suzy Creamcheeze dialogue are interspersed with great acoustic guitar-driven instrumentals with weird doo-wop with saxophone-driven Spanishy pop with whatever, with jazzy bits dumped over everything.

Want to know some of what I consider highlights? Well, there's the opening 'title track,' which says a whole lot in two minutes by smooshing together classical and jazz and neat vibe sounds and military rhythms (the later "Uncle Meat Variations" is also neat, especially when it gets into the goofy area with the high, high-pitched voices singing something about fuzzy dice). There's "Nine Types of Industrial Pollution," a six-minute demonstration of Frank's talents at making electric guitar sound like acoustic (or is it acoustic? I can't tell), that never once bores me. There's "Dog Breath, In The Year of the Plague" (and the later "Dog Breath Variations"), one of the finest catchy-pop/jazz fusions I could ever imagine (and actually, now that I'm reminded while listening, this is where the fuzzy dice bit first pops up). There's a hilarious live excerpt of Frank playing the chords to "Louie, Louie" on the giant pipe organ at The Royal Albert Hall (the very thought of this makes me bust out in laughter if I'm not careful), and another of the band doing "God Bless America" in such a twisted and sloppy and blatantly ironic way that I love it. There's ... well, there's some more stuff I like (even the bits of Creamcheeze banter, and the part where Jimmy Carl Black is complaining about the band never getting gigs, and the part where Ian Underwood explains how he came into the band, which is followed by him wanking on his sax for a good while).

Essentially, I like almost everything on the first disc. There are a few tracks I could easily lop off ("The Legend of the Golden Arches" and "A Pound for a Brown on the Bus" come to mind, as they're largely the same track, and I'm not as fond of "Cruising for Burgers" or "Project X" as I suspect I should be) without missing them, but overall, the first disc is pretty much great. So what about the most infamous piece on here, the 18-minute instrumental "King Kong?" Well, I still don't adore it entirely; as much as my taste for jazz has gone up over time, there's still just a little too much rambling noodling for my tastes in the second half (except for a stretch for a couple of minutes in part six where it becomes so frenzied that I'm pulled back in). What can I say, I like jazzy elements in some of the music I listen to, but unless it's really top-notch, I have a tendency to get bored soon. That said, I've come to adore about the first eight minutes or so of it. The main theme is fantastic, and the instrumental interplay is really energetic and rousing and fascinating, with a lot more focus than I once gave it credit for. I don't know if this deserves credit as the first jazz fusion piece (it predates In a Silent Way, after all, but there might be something that came before), but wherever it fits in the grand scheme of things, it's still a nice piece.

So, in all, the album gets docked a bit because I don't like all of the noodling on here, and I think a good portion of the "normal" material could get cut without much damage to the final product. That said, I still find it extremely enjoyable overall, and it's a must for any decent rock collection.

PS: the rating above is for the original edition of this album, the one that (unlike the current CD version) doesn't contain 40 minutes of horrible movie dialogue and a completely out-of- place early 80's recording of somebody talking about their penis in Italian.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |

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