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Frank Zappa - Uncle Meat CD (album) cover

UNCLE MEAT

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.16 | 355 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars Sixth album, Uncle Meat is an impressive double-disc affair that returns to Zappa's better early works in the AF and FO tradition, but holds also the same flaws as those, including loads of 50's/doo-wop and dumb sketches (like the return of Suzy Creamcheese and the Wowie Zowie term) and monologues, which if funny at first listen, they quickly lose their novelty and wear out their welcome well before the music has unravelled all its mysteries. Like the excellent six-minutes Industrial Pollution or the more experimental (and dissonantly burlesque) Zolar Czalk or Prelude To King Kong, the Frank-ly whacky Dog Breath (ants reprise), etc... There are some killer moments as well, mostly the instrumental passages (generally the jazz rock and the Varese-Cage influenced tracks), where the Inventive Mothers show the width of their talent and brilliance at their respective instruments.

The second disc is filled by the title track film extract and the legendary King Kong suite. The former is not exactly a riveting-in-your-seat piece, it is some of the boring-est junk (sorry Francesco, it must be said) ever committed on vinyl, and in the CD version, it lasts some whopping 37 minutes, even if depicts some strange RnR stars' deviances (namely drummer Ainsley Dunbar, credited on guitar on this album), and is definitely not worth the effort of staying awake through it. It is quite a relief (if you've pushed the skip button and wasted 37 minutes of your life) to reach the Tengo Na track, which is a brilliant rock track, where guitars and drums are feasting, but unfortunately we return for another three minutes of Uncle Meat's soundtrack. The latter piece is the brilliant king Kong piece, a sort of proggy jazz-rock suite avant-la-lettre, made from six movements for a total 18 minutes (excluding the intro on the other disc), where Gardner and Underwood are having a great time on reeds. What this superb suite is announcing is the great Jaka/Wazoo experiments that finishes in an organized dissonant chaos.

Certainly one of Zappa's more impressive and progressive works in his early career, Uncle Meat, despite its positive critical aura, is anything but an easy listen, but if you're into Zappa already, this shouldn't be a problem. It is however a bit of shame that such an outstanding and avant-garde work should be marred by the usual goofiness that pervades throughout The Mother's oeuvre, especially in this one with the title track. I'm sure that a careful condensing of this double disc album into a single one would've made an extraordinary chef d'oeuvre, but unfortunately, in its actual form, it'll never be anything than just another Zappa album.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |

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