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Frank Zappa - Freak Out! CD (album) cover

FREAK OUT!

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.89 | 431 ratings

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Man With Hat
3 stars The beginning of one of the best musical journeys in the history of sound.

Unfortunately, this isn't the best start. Which is completely understandable, although slightly perplexing as aspects of this disc show the great potential Frank had even at this age. This album is fairly far removed from prog and even rock, focusing more on the sounds of R&B, doo-wop, pop, and 50s rock. However, just saying that is doing this album a disservice. This is still a Frank Zappa/Mothers Of Invention album. There are plenty of "unique" touches throughout, mostly in the realm of percussion (vibes and tympani being the most obvious) and orchestral flourishes, but at the end of the day, this is fairly tame musically for 70-80% of the album. Perhaps the best thing about this album is the lyrics. Biting, satirical, thoroughly and completely Zappa. (Indeed, perhaps that is the best thing about this early Mothers Of Invention, the lyrical content was solid and spot on consistently.)

The album begins quite well, with a strong trio of songs (Hungry Freaks, Daddy, I Ain't Got No Heart, and Who Are The Brain Police?) which break away from the more traditional sound of the time and introduce more avant or orchestral sections, even when firmly rooted in a rock/R&B/etc sound. Unfortunately, after these three songs the middle bits of the album take a turn for the worse. The uniqueness is subdued. Songs like Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder and How Could I Be Such A Fool are essentially straight ahead doo-wop/R&B songs, even eschewing rock altogether. Similarly songs like Motherly Love, Any Way The Wind Blows, I'm Not Satisfied are, at their core early 60s rock/pop songs. While not necessarily bad, this is not where the Mothers shine. There are peaks (Motherly Love, You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here) but also plenty of valleys that drag the disc down and making this a fairly inconsistent album.

Luckily, at least for this reviewer, the last three (or four) songs right the ship straight away, getting rid of most of the pop/R&B influences and focusing on that true Zappa vibe. Trouble Every Day is a heavy rocker with some of Frank's best lyrics in his entire discography (which are, admittedly sadly, still relevant today). Help I'm A Rock(/It Can't Happen Here) starts the avant madness that will be explored all through Zappa's career and really heaps on the humor. Finally, comes the behemoth of The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet. Avant-garde, dense, sprawling, off- putting, this song is quite the radical one, mostly considering what else was on rock/pop albums of the time. Not a song for everyone, for sure, but for those who can appreciate out music surely a treasure.

All in all, this is an inconsistent album. There are some really good tracks, some Zappa classics even, but there are too many that just fall flat, even though I do enjoy the somewhat heavy use of the vibraphone. Also, lyrically, well this album is strong there are many songs dealing with love, women, etc, which for one gives a very similar feel throughout the middle of the album, as well as decreases the uniqueness of the Mothers (even if/when the lyrics are satirical [obviously or not]). Certainly, not a great place to start in the Zappa universe, but for fans of the early Mothers Of Invention or children of this era (who can admittedly probably appreciate the 50s/60s/rock/pop influences more than me) would probably find more to enjoy here. Something Zappa fans should own, but for the casual listener not so much. A solid 3 stars.

Man With Hat | 3/5 |

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