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

THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION: ABSOLUTELY FREE

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.07 | 474 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars Zappa's live debut with the Mothers of Invention "Absolutely Free" was an extravaganza to be heralded by many over the years. The live Zappa was always a different beast than the studio version. It begins with the announcement, "'Ladies and gentleman, the president of the United States". Then it goes chaotic with Plastic People, as weird as it gets lyrically and featuring some excellent guitar licks and a fractured time sig. Zappa states we are "a product of plasticity, blah blah blah blah, cabbage is a vegetable, you dream about your feet, you are pebbles, purple prancing". It is very strange as usual and is focused on Nazis.

The Duke of Prunes continues the madcap humour, with Zappa rhyming 'prune' with anything else he can think of such as 'June'. I see your lovely beans, I bite your neck, the love I have for you my dear is very new, chunka chunka chunka." It is difficult to describe but imagine the music spinning wildly out of the box and you may be close. Later we get into a song about vegetables "they keep you regular". The free form jazz is great and Zappa keeps interjecting with weird anecdotes that are part of the concert experience. He even yodels, and says "a prune is not really a vegetable, a cabbage is a vegetable".

The saxophone sounds of Underwood are always a treat, as well as the crazy guitar breaks and they shine on the lengthy Invocation and Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin. The instrumental section is a definitive psychedelic freak out with Zappa and the Mothers in all their glory in full flight. This is where Zappa has cemented his indelible reputation as a guitar giant. Underwood is a force to be reckoned with blazing brilliantly on sax. This is one of the all time great instrumental improvisations.

Soft Cell Conclusion breaks this up admirably with more bizarreness about "green things in general". Big Leg Emma is a 50s throwback and they seem to be on all Zappa albums and I am no fan but this is what makes Zappa so brilliantly infuriating.

Why Dontcha Do Me Right? Has a driving rhythm and some zany vocals, the deep raspy type that Zappa loves to lock into. The riff is bluesy and grinds along on a straight time sig, but the lead guitar break is a highlight.

"One two buckle my shoe" begins America Drinks and the drunken candour of the band is rather humorous. The music sounds as drunken as Zappa stopping and starting without remaining on a time sig figure. The saxophone breaks out suddenly and laughs along to the pounding bassline.

Status Back Baby has an annoying melody driven 50s throwback rhythm but it is quite funny as a part of nonsense sounding like Syd Barrett on acid. The sax solo ranges from beautiful melancholy to angry emotions, perhaps like the high school student's emotional rollercoaster.

Uncle Bernie's Farm is really quirky, a cool bassline and jangly guitar groove out the highly strange time sig. The lyrics are nonsense and quite funny, even Zappa laughs at the silliness; "There's a man who runs the country and they are all made out of plastic". He seems to be making up the words as he goes and the musicians seem to be improvising.

Son of Suzy Creamcheese "oh mama, what's got into you?" is a Zappa favourite and has appeared on other live albums. The song has an infectious melody and works well on the live stage.

Brown Shoes Don't Make It is another of the lengthy tracks with some incredibly cynical vocals; "be a jerk go to work, do your job and do it right, do you love it do you hate it." The high vocalisations remind me of Magma and this one features some weird effects and fractured time sigs. It is perhaps a more inventive approach similar to "Freak Out!" The violins are creepy along with Zappa's off kilter vocals. Underwood plays a low sax tone and there are violin embellishments. The lyrics get cruder and even sillier as it progresses; "he's rocking and rolling and acting obscene, baby baby baby, and he loves, loves it and he curls up his toes, she bites his fat neck and it lights up his nose, she's nasty she's nasty she does it in bed." The style changes to a weird 40s style and then moves into several other time sigs and styles like songs within songs. It is quite a rodeo and along the way we hear spacey effects, children's voices "what would you do daddy?" to which he answers "smother my daughter in chocolate syrup, and boogie till the cows come home." This song could be enough to turn the average music listener off Zappa for life but this is what he is all about. Does humour belong in music? Zappa seems to think so.

America Drinks and Goes Home moves from ear to ear, left and right, which is maddening but it ends the album well. The orgiastic screaming and caterwauling at the end sounds like a party I was never invited to. For 1967 this album is a bold move and there was nothing like it at the time so Zappa shoved it up the musical authorities and had fun doing it. There's no harm in that though this is a very difficult album to get into initially, unless you are a Zappaholic.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 3/5 |

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