Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Frank Zappa - The Mothers Of Invention: Uncle Meat CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa


From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
5 stars Seminal stuff from the early MOI. The original release on vinyl doesn't have the tedious Film Excerpts and it is that which I rate 5 stars; the CD version is spoiled by their inclusion, but you can skip over them and enjoy the rest. The film excerpts should have been put onto "The Lost Episodes" or "Playground Psychotics" albums for those of us who need to hear every little nuance of Zappa's Project/Object, and not ruin what was a perfect album. The "King Kong" medley is superb and the original "Dog Breath", "Uncle Meat" and "Mr. Green Genes" are also faultless. This album brings out the best of the MOI and the amount of re-arranged versions that Zappa released of a lot of this material shows the quality of the compositions on this album.
Report this review (#29540)
Posted Tuesday, April 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars it's a dificult album to listen to...well you could say that about every zappa's album, I know, but when you have a 30 minits conversationwell... the first cd is very good. it haves all the frank's elements, jokes betwen grate songs and instrumental parts. the insrumental parts are superb, grate stuff. the songs are very goog too and the "jokes" are funny...everything in a goog proportion. musicly the album has a lot of complexity and beauty. the secon cd have a 30 minits song...well is not a song, its only people talking. at first it can be very funny, but its not something you would listen twise, you laugh ones but hardly twise...then it comes an instrumental part that is very good. every time a change to cd 2 I skip the first part and go strate to the instrumental part, that is a guitar and keyboard solo... is very good. you won't waste your money
Report this review (#29545)
Posted Wednesday, October 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Uncle Meat should be reviewed as less of an album and more of as a soundtrack. This is a compilation of the compositions Frank wrote around this time for the movie Uncle Meat, and some compositions he wrote otherwise.

Frank started to impress me incredibly with Uncle Meat because Frank's compositional acrobatics have just started to bloom. The Mothers' had their work cut out for them jamming out Pound For A Brown in high-speed 7/8 and playing other compositions with amazing dexterity like the Uncle Meat Main Theme. Both of these and every single one of the other compositions are amazing technically and brilliantly written for the ears, none of them too crazy to enjoy, all fantastic melody.

There are dialogue pieces, songs, and instrumental pieces. Mostly there are instrumental pieces. The songs feature the singers with seemingly helium injected throats and effected-up instruments, same with the instrumental pieces, which give Uncle Meat quite a signature sound from the rest of Frank's catalogue. A lot of the dialogue parts are either "Conceptual Continuity" or movie segments in which you'd have to see the (awesome) film to understand, but then again I won't discredit this, as Uncle Meat is put together for such an occasion.

Throughout all of this, all of the compositions even The Air and Project X prove to be an entirely interesting listen throughout, and a pioneering jazz-rock record. The second disc is amazing because all of the variations and solos on King Kong are distinct and incredibly played.

Many compositions like Green Genes and Cruisin' For Burgers made their debut here, and some of them the best versions undoubtedly, so as a great listen, and also a Frank history piece, Uncle Meat proves to be a step up melodically and instrumentally for Frank, and I really think no one was on the Mothers' level around this time.

Report this review (#35686)
Posted Wednesday, June 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This IS an absolute masterpiece. "Freak Out" might be the one that was there before anything else, as regards psychedelic/prog-beat ("rock" in those days was not something music was or wasn't, but did or didn't). This is all about putting any-and-every-thing into the "beat" - and putting the "beat" into any-and-everything. On Uncle Meat all the directions and stylings from the earlier albums come together - like a one-hour Brown Shoes Dont Make It (the extended style-collage of Absolutely Free). OK, the symphony Orchestra of Lumpy Gravy is missing, but then they play the Royal Albert Hall church- organ instead. After the main theme you are immediately treated to one of the most stunning guitarsolos of those days of the "guitar-gods". Nine Types of Industrial Pollution is just way beyond Jimi Hendrix in subtlety and vision. I guess it Franks first extended solo at all. It is the main feature of side one (of the 2LP). Side 2 also has a lengthy solo too - from new member Ian Underwood whipping it out on sax, but before that you have, among other things, been treated to maybe the best realized doo-wop-number from the Mothers, Electric Aunt Jemima. This gem is fading a bit too soon it seems, but so much stuff should be crammed unto this disc that it is excuseable. Side 3 has an even higher quota of doo-wops, notably Cruising For Burgers, but also a very fine percussive composition called Project X. And side 4 is the totally immortal introduction of the very style "jazz-rock" called King Kong in its full "original" glory, heralding things to come not only on his own Burnt Weeny Sandwich, but on loads of seventies fusion-albums from just about anyone. Add to this a foldout cover so intriguingly eksotic and strange, that it defied description. It was a most important album, and more instantly amusing and, I suppose, accessible to most people than its dark cousin, Beefhearts "Trout Mask Replica". I can understand that Zappa is very hard to get to grips with for the uninitiated. And you might easily get a wrong picture of what he is about, if you start with Bobby Brown, - or Yellow Shark for that matter. Therefore I think that a newcomer to Zappa should skip all precautions and go for something like this, to avoid believing that FZ is about something else than he truly is. This set (minus the soundtrack-tracks of the CD-version, forget them) prepares you for any other style in his diverse world. This is what Zappa is about !

Report this review (#37969)
Posted Wednesday, June 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Uncle Meat is the soundtrack to an unreleased (at the time) film by Frank Zappa. You can tell this is a soundtrack with the conceptual dialogue. However, Zappa's amazing production techniques in the vein of We're Only in it for the Money are present, but this time you get the amazing compositional and jazz-rock complexity jams in the vein of Absolutely Free. You get a ton of material with this album, it's surprisingly fluid in it's seemingly thrown together nature. I'd have to say that nearly all the stylings of the early Mothers' are thrown together here. Amazingly memorable moments and compositions are all throughout this album, and incredibly fre pieces like King Kong. Some surprisingly beautiful acoustic passages are scattered throughout the album, but msot importantly is the studio-tweaked extremely dexterous compositions by the Mothers. An extremely solid album, Uncle Meat encompasses what the early Mothers were, and why they were so legendary. 9.6
Report this review (#38705)
Posted Wednesday, July 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I bought this double CD as a youngster, guided by the weird covers and promising song titles. I hit to the bull's eye, but it took me some time to realize that. I like both ZAPPA's early chaotic humor stuff and jazz music, and this album has both of these elements. There's also some humor doo-wop songs in vein of RUBEN & THE JETS here, and they were mostly quite funny. It's hard to name the favorite tracks, but some hilarious highlights for me were "Dog Breath...", "Louie Louie", "Sleeping In A Jar" (short!), "Cruisin' For Burgers" and of course "King Kong". As an anecdote, Finnish TASAVALLAN PRESIDENTTI used to play this on their gigs! There's also long audio excerpts from the "movie" which they were doing back then. I remember I used to laugh at all of those weird noises and explanations in it, but after I got the movie, those excerpts lost quite much their meaning. There's also lots of unnecessary but fun material in the CD booklets, and there's a wonderful audio missile triggered in the "Tengo Na Minchia Tanta" song. "I'm using the chicken to measure it!"
Report this review (#38926)
Posted Saturday, July 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars As a Zappa fan, I often think about my favourite Zappa Album. I have come to the conclusion that there is no best-album. Nearly every Zappa album has at least one fantastic number, most have a lot of good tracks and some contain superb music. Uncle Meat contains my all time favourites Uncle Meat, Dog Breath, the variations on these two numbers and cruisin for burgers. I also like all the versions of these songs I have heard over the years, for example the rock-type Uncle Meat on You can't do that on stage anymore Vol. 2, and the 'classical' uncle meat on Yellow Shars. Just based on these tracks alone, I could rate this album with 5 stars. But to be honest, I particularly do not like the second disc with spoken word, and the King Kong tracks are also not amongst my favourites. So it can not be more than 4 stars for Zappa here.
Report this review (#52935)
Posted Sunday, October 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4.0/5.0 What a great album! Zappa finally avoids some of his nonsense satire/ parody or meaningless blah-blah and he delivers what I want him to deliver: music! And what a show it is! Ok, to be honest there is still some blah-blah, but it is more discrete and it is more part of an overall MUSIC album and not the center of it. I particularly like "The Dog" and songs like this and the "King Kong" suite is absolutely awesome, particularly King Kong IV. I just can't get enough of this distorted keyboard.

Listening to this album, it seems Zappa finally was able to express his jazz feelings and as weird as this album is (but still less than the previous ones) it is coherent and enjoyable from a prog point of view!

With less blah-blah, I would have given a higher rating. But still, an excellent addition to your prog collection!4.0/5.0

Report this review (#77434)
Posted Sunday, May 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Though I sat down first with Hot Rats as part of my own Zappa trilogy, Uncle Meat should have been the starter in my Zappa three course musical meal. And anyway, it is the beginning point of this trilogy in a chronological manner. Uncle Meat, Hot Rats and Burnt Weeny Sandwich are the trio that started and ended my Zappa collection, at least for the moment, but to be honest, I don't envision myself exploring further. Those three albums were fulfilling in themselves. Uncle Meat, a feast of two records, is a right mixed bag of all sorts. Interestingly enough, it was originally to coincide with a film based on the Mothers Of Invention as they moved along the road. This information helps somewhat. Much of the first record is as haphazard as it can be, Zappa and his crew switch styles on a whim, gracelessly with grace. There are some candid recorded moments here, and an interesting insight to the financial plight of a certain Mother, as he gets heated about "Getting Head" as he "Can't Get Ahead". And the album is all the better for these snippets. Zappa would soon part company with the original band and head out as just plain old Frank Zappa for the next album, the highly acclaimed Hot Rats, and the success of that album must have frustrated the old band no end. But anyway, there are still enough musical strengths for this one to be just as popular as Hot Rats, and it is certainly more engrossing than Burnt Weeny Sandwich, but being a double album it was always going to have that advantage, and it is easy to put up with what many may term the "crazy [&*!#]" because it really is a fantastic album, infused with, not only that trademark wit, but some fantastic music, obviously enough. "Mr. Green Genes" is a genre away from its urgent son on Hot Rats, while "Cruising For Burgers" is so singable it's superbly infectious, while side four of the album contains the beast that is "King Kong" in all its parts. "King Kong", parts 1 to six I do believe, is a piece of fused rock and jazz that takes the album off on another plain and becomes a musical window to where Frank would be headed to with his next album. I haven't seen the film of this, but if anyone has a copy then drop me a line.
Report this review (#81559)
Posted Tuesday, June 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars To me, this brilliant double set represents the finest work of the Mothers of Invention along with the wonderfully satirical 'We're Only In It For the Money' and the bizarre compilation 'Weasels Ripped My Flesh'. Originally composed as a soundtrack to the Zappa produced movie of the same name, but the project was not completed until 1987, the music here is very experimental and mainly chamber rock oriented with some incredible bizarre snippets of offbeat intern humor and tape effects inbetween. The whole thing is brilliantly put together, cleverly edited and features some of Zappa's most unique compositions in this field. Surely a massive influence on the forthcoming RIO-movement in the late 70's, but this should also be viewed as a milestone within experimental rock. While FZ did even better albums than this one later on none of them has the charm that this one have and I recommend it strongly, especially for those who have a knack for woodwinds and vibes (and yes, this is Ruth Underwood's first album collaborating with FZ).
Report this review (#81807)
Posted Friday, June 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars For me, 1969 is not only the year of Woodstock and Apollo 11. 1969 is the year of Frank Zappa. It's the year he released two outstanding masterpieces: Hot Rats and Uncle Meat (with the Mothers). These are the two albums that I consider to be the best from Zappa. Hot Rats being more accessible will certainly sound more enjoyable at first but nobody should underestimate Uncle Meat. It's the achievement of all the work he did with the Mothers and the gracious help of Suzy Creamcheese. By listening to the wicked themes, songs and variations travelling from psychedelic, jazz and blues to doo-wop on Uncle Meat you'll really learn what is "Rock-In-Opposition". Yes, it's awesome musically but it's also a very funny album, more than what you should expect from Zappa. It's mandatory to buy this if you have to chance to. The 2 discs edition with extracts from the unfinished Uncle Meat movie should be the version to look out to.
Report this review (#83564)
Posted Wednesday, July 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars This was to be the sound track for a movie that Zappa was making called Uncle Meat, but the movie was left unfinished due to lack of funds.This 2 album work consists of about 45 minutes of mostly talking on the opening three tracks of disc two. It's like listening in on to what is happening on the set. Very boring but at least it's easy to skip. I should mention these three tracks aren't part of the original double album and so won't be incIuded in my rating.

"Uncle Meat : Main Title Theme" is a short instrumental opener with lots of vibes and other intricate sounds. "The Voice Of Cheese" is a very short funny spoken word piece. Haha it's funny. "Nine Types Of Industrial Pollution" features lots of guitar and percussion. "Zolar Czakl" is less than a minute of classical-like sounds. Funny ending though. "Dog Breath, In The Year Of The Plague" has vocal melodies,horns and more and is quite upbeat. Vocals after a minute as it gets humerous. Horns lead late. "The Legend Of Golden Arches" is classical sounding like Chamber music really. I like it. A change before 2 minutes then it's classical sounding again. Spoken words end it. "Louie Louie" is a live tune. "The Dog Breath Variations" is a beauty. "Sleeping In A Jar" is a funny song with the focus on the vocals. "Our Bizarre Relationship" is spoken words. "The Uncle Meat Variations" is a very intricate instrumental. Some helium affected vocals before 3 minutes. Guitar to the fore around 4 minutes. "Electric Aunt Jemima" is like fifties doo wop.

"Prelude To King Kong" is mostly a horn and drum piece. "God Bless America" is a live track with the song being led by a kazoo as vocals come in. "A Pound For A Brown On The Bus" is another classical sounding tune. "Ian Underwood Whips It Out (live on stage in Copenhagen)" opens with spoken words before the sax and drums kick in and lead. "Mr.Green Genes" is also good and the father (I guess you could say) of "Son Of Mr.Green Genes" from "Hot Rats" that would come out after this record. "We Can Shoot You" has lots of intricate sounds to it. "If We'd All Been Living In California" is spoken words. "The Air" is a funny fifties sounding tune. "Project X" is another instrumental highlight from the first disc. "Cruising For Burgers" ends disc one. Disc two features the "King Kong" suite made up of six songs and is a side long suite. This is a free Jazz monster ! Each part blending into the other, with the last part being a live song. Love that last song ! The highlight of the whole recording for me.

4 stars for Uncle Meat.

Report this review (#122455)
Posted Wednesday, May 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first time I heard this CD, it shocked me. This was not the heavy rocking (or even jazz-rocking) Zappa I knew from 1970s albums like APOSTROPHE or GRAND WAZOO. Not a trace of George Duke, Terry Bozzio, Napoleon 'Murphy' Brock or even Zappa's characteristic electric guitar! UNCLE MEAT sounded like a typical 1960s "underground" album.

Now that I've lived with UNCLE MEAT for a few decades, it has started sounding more and more modern. One of the reasons is that I've spent a little time listening to Stravinsky, Messiaen and Toru Takemitsu. It's easy to hear their influence (or the influence of musical styles similar to theirs) all through Zappa's album. On the other hand, once you're familiar with Canterbury bands like Gong and Hatfield and the North, you will see that they must have listened a lot to UNCLE MEAT as well.

The interesting thing about UNCLE MEAT is that it includes several totally different types of music. Zappa makes no attempt to fuse them. He puts them on his album in no particular order and forces the listener to get on with them. I must admit some of those pieces are no great favourites of mine. The blaring free jazz of "Prelude to King Kong", "Ian Underwood whips it out" and "King Kong pt. 6" usually get the skip-button treatment. To my relief, such pieces are definitely in the minority, though.

Far more interesting are Zappa's attempts at, whatchamacallit, "neo-classical chamber music". Most of this is written for a combination of harpsichord, organ, vibes, clarinet, bass, drums, semi-acoustic guitar and (occasionally) silly voices. Some of the pieces may sound weird at first, but believe me: they grow on you. And the good news is that all of them are remarkably melodious! After a few spins, you'll find yourself happily whistling along.

Another category of music included is "subversive pop songs with surreal lyrics". There are about seven of those, and they're tremendous fun. This time you won't be whistling; you and your whole family will fill the house with delirious singing! By the way, it seems undeniable that Yes lifted one of their "Heart of the Sunrise" riffs straight from Zappa's "Cruising for Burgers", which even happens to be about getting "lost in the city".

The above-mentioned categories alone warrant UNCLE MEAT a place in any decent record collection. If nothing else, they prove that Zappa was one of the 20th century's most multi-talented composers. Throughout the album, his music is interspersed with whacky dialogues, spoken by the Mothers of Invention and various hangers-on. In addition, the 1987 Rykodisc reissue includes thirty minutes of rather confusing film dialogue. (UNCLE MEAT was originally meant to be a movie soundtrack.) In my opinion, this extra half hour can safely be ignored. With or without it, UNCLE MEAT is undoubtedly a PROGRESSIVE CLASSIC.

Report this review (#130571)
Posted Saturday, July 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is just one of those albums. You know? "Those". Describing this would be futile, at least trying to describe the sounds and music with words. I won't even bother. No wait... I will bother, but I have to par it down a little. Simplify all the words, or not the words, but the meaning of the words.

"Uncle Meat" is surely the most "Trippy" Zappa/Mothers album. It draws influences from all kinds of styles. Chamber music, Classical, Jazz (Fusion), Musique concrčte (Meaning Concretic Music, a style that uses samples of "non-musical" elements, like natural sounds and speech, this style was used by Zappa earlier in his career to create a whole album, Called "Lumpy Gravy", his first solo album) and mockingly using some basic rock 'n' roll, Blues and Doo-Wop elements. Sides I-III consist mainly of the varying styles and the music flows from one song to another along with dreamy melodies and spoken words of Suzy Creamcheese (A Character who is familiar to those who have listened to "Freak Out! before) and the band members, who discuss the conditions in which they have to live and tour. It's too hard to give a single stand-out track, not really single potential on any of the songs, with a possible exception of Dog Breath Variations (In The Year of the Plague), you can listen to it here on PA on the Zappa samples. Side IV is purely Jazz Fusion. (Okay not purely since it has a slight Avant-Garde touch). The Whole side consists of one long piece, called "King Kong". (Even though it's divided in to several sections). And Yes, King Kong might be the best known piece from Uncle Meat but I wouldn't bash the the sides I, II and III just because side IV could be better. Notice the word "Could", beacause this is a "whole", one large piece of art, and the other sides are just as good as Side IV, only in a different way.

Overall this is a magnificent album, a journey to somewhere, propably inside the head of Frank Zappa, I don't know. I sure can say that this is underrated. it's along the best works of Frank Zappa/Mothers of Invention along with Freak Out!, Absolutely Free, We're Only In It For The Money, Hot Rats and Weasels Ripped My Flesh. A Definitive Five-stars album.

Oh, By the way, I advice you to get this in LP format. Why? Well Because: The CD version comes in those annoying "Large CD Cases", you know those that you could fit four Dics into? And not only that, but the only reason it is in that kind of format is because they had to sacrelige this near perfect record with a stupid bonus track called "Tengo Na Minchia Tanta" (Meaning "I've got a big cock" in Sicilian) and with about 40 minutes of sound bites from the movie of the same name. (Yes There is a Uncle Meat movie, but it was released about 20 years after the album because of financial difficulties). So without those this could be fitted on to a single disc. And LPs are far better than CDs anyway. You can't lose them as easily and the sound is a lot better since it comes of analogically. And the album covers allways look cooler when they are bigger. What? You don't have a record player that plays LPs? Well go buy one!

Report this review (#132830)
Posted Sunday, August 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Perhaps the greatest Zappa/Mothers album ever. With tracks like Cruisin' For Burgers, Dog Breath, In The Year Of The Plague, Mr Green Genes or the King Kong suite, this double album (still on CD) is a masterpiece. Just one bad thing : the bonus tracks are in fact 40 minutes of dialogue from the movie of the same name (unreleased in 1969), and these 40 minutes are useless and boring. If you put off these bonus tracks, the entirety of the original album can easily fit in one single CD...
Report this review (#163369)
Posted Friday, March 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Uncle Meat was the last studio album released while The Mothers of Invention were still together as a band, well at least it was recorded while they were a band. Zappa would release Weasel Ripped My Flesh and Burnt Weeny Sandwich after the band was disbanded. In true Zappa style the songs donīt neccessarely come from the same session but he always makes them fit into the concept of the album anyway. Uncle Meat is one of the most unique Zappa albums and itīs also a very unique album in the history of rock music. blending his rīnīb/ doo woop influences with baroque and modern avant garde classical music is a bit of a job. Then add some blues rock, some great guitar solos and a song like King King that still stands as one of the finest moments from The Mothers of Invention. This is if you shouldnīt have guessed it already a classic album.

The album starts with the main title theme from Uncle Meat. Itīs such a great song and almost sounds like rock chamber music. The extensive use of hapsichord throughout the album has a chamber music like effect. The Voice of Cheese then appears and weīre drawn into the groupie status of The Mothers of Invention, with Susie talking about herself as a groupie. Zappa always carried around his tape recorder and there are a couple of examples here on Uncle Meat which are great fun. Nine Types of Industrial Pollution has an insistent groove with lots of avant garde percussion noises in the background. This serves as a vehicle to a great Frank Zappa guitar solo. Itīs a very long solo but itīs worth your time. Zolar Czakl is a short instrumental song. Strange and avant garde like.

Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague is one of my favorites here, itīs got a lot of intriguing atmospheres. The Legend of the Golden Arches is a very slow song with a dissonant clarinet theme. Suddenly weīre witness to The Mothers of Invention live at the Royal Albert hall. Don Preston plays Louie Louie on the big Pipe organ. Not the most pretty thing you could ever wish to hear, but itīs great fun. The Dog Breath Variations are as the title indicates variations over the theme from Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague. This is typical Zappa to distort and change his own themes and make something different out of them.

Sleeping in a Jar is a pretty strange little vocal driven song, itīs a great kind of psychadelic song with the strangest lyrics. Our Bizarre Relationship is Susie Creamcheese talking once again about her groupie career and about Zappaīs groupie status. It cranks me up every time. Hilarious I tell you! Just Hilarious. The Uncle Meat Variations is one of the highlights here for me. This version includes the Uncle Meat theme played in a different version and mouse like singing and there are even some soprano female singing. This is a great progressive song. Electric Aunt Jemima is a great rīnīb/ doo woop song sung with mouse like voices. Itīs really enjoyable. Prelude to King Kong is a variation over the King Kong theme and a solo.

God Bless America serves as an introduction to A Pound for a Brown on the Bus which is basically The Legend of the Golden Arches played in double tempo and with different instrumentation. Ian Underwood Whips It Out has Ian Underwood telling us how he got the job with The Mothers of Invention and then he plays a great sax solo. Mr. Green Genes is a pretty slow and heavy song. Not heavy in the sense that it is heavy metal though. The vocals from Ray Collins is a real treat but also the part where Ruth Komanofff ( later Underwood) plays the xylophone is really powerful. There arre some excellent dark wind playing here too.

We Can Shoot You is another avant garde song which is very entertaining if you give it a try. If We'd All Been Living in probably the most funny thing on Uncle Meat, this one is hilariously funny. Jimmy Carl Black talks to Zappa about why The Mothers of Invention donīt make money than they do, and when he gets to the part where he says: Weīre starving man, This [%*!#]ing band is starving, you can really hear the desperation in his voice. This is a good example of how many rock musicians live. On the brink of economic collapse. Jimmy Carl Black had a couple of kids back in California and The Mothers of Invention lived in New York at the time Uncle Meat were recorded and really when youīre away from your family for a long time like Jimmy Carl Black was you would expect to be able to send back a lot of money, but The Mothers of Invention never made lots of money, only enough to survive. There were lots of frustration among the members of the band over this issue and it was one of the reasons Zappa disbanded The Mothers of Invention in 1969. If We'd All Been Living in California...serves as a comment to that situation and if you think about it, Zappaīs not being very nice and especially not when If We'd All Been Living in California...seques into The Air which is a sarcastic doo woop song. Well thatīs how I chose to see it, but itīs great to be a witness to the argument. The album continues with Project X which is an avant garde piece. I must admit to being a bit turned of by this song in the beginning, but Iīve come to love it. Cruisin' for Burgers ends the original LPs side 3. Itīs actually a pretty special song. Ray Collins sings some great vocal lines in doo woop style, but there are also a bluesy rock part where Zappa sings. In addition to those styles there are some symphonic keyboards in the song. Does it sound confusing ? It sound great I promise you.

The whole of side 4 on the original LP whas made up of King Kong, but on the CD version CD 2 starts with Uncle Meat Film Excerpt, Pt. 1 which is some useless dialog from the movie score and whatīs worse is that it lasts for 37:34 minutes. Uncle Meat was meant to be a movie but it wasnīt released at the time. Tengo Na Minchia Tanta is also a very useless song. Itīs has a humour factor though, but really it isnīt worth your time. Itīs notable that Chad Wackermann plays the drums on this track. Iīm not sure about this but the drums sound like they are recorded in the eighties and itīs definitely Chad Wackermannīs style. Itīs really strange that Zappa chose to put a song like this on the CD version of Uncle Meat. Uncle Meat Film Excerpt, Pt. 2 is another dialog excerpt from the movie and equally as useless as the first one but thankfully it only last for 3:50 minutes.

Well the useless CD extras aside lets go on to side 4 of the original LP and the great song King Kong. King Kong is divided into smaller chapters but really is one long song. Itīs taken me almost 15 years to enjoy this song and really understand it, but boy itīs been worth the wait and the continued listening over the years. Itīs one of the best Mothers of Invention songs IMO. The King Kong theme is of course the dominant part of the song and through the song it is twisted in all directions. The most innovative thing is the distorted clarinet ( I think itīs a clarinet, but Iīm not sure to be honest) solo which is doubled itīs so crazy and dissonant and it is especially this part I had a hard time coping with. King Kong ends with The Mothers of Invention playing the song live at Miami Pop Festival which is typical Zappa to mix studio and live recordings.

The musicianship is astonishing to say the least. There where not many bands in the sixties who could do what The Mothers of Invention did on Uncle Meat. About 10 different Mothers contributed in one way or another to Uncle Meat and they all did the job of their lives.

The production is very unique both in Zappaīs discography and in rock history, nothing has sounded like this before and nothing has sounded like this since.

There was a special charm to The Mothers of Invention that is very much present here on Uncle Meat. Even though they often worked like horses under Zappaīs strict command and really didnīt get much to show for their efforts they still seemed like they loved the music and had fun. That kind of commitment shows in the music, and if you want to use a cliché you could say that the music has soul. Itīs one of my all time favorite albums and I donīt think you should underestimate the incredible importance Uncle Meat had on a progressive genre like Zeuhl. This is my personal opinion of course, but listen to the brilliant album yourself and then judge. 5 big stars is well deserved for this outstanding album.

Report this review (#168284)
Posted Monday, April 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I can't even think about giving this album anything less than five stars. This album truly desrves it. My rating goes for album's original content, which is masterfull. The bonus material (Three first tunes on second disc) really doesn't add anything to this classic album. I think this is along with Captain Beefheart's Trout mask replica the most unique album ever released. This album sounds better when listened in its entirety. It isn't a concept album in a traditional sense but it has some sort of strange dream like atmosphere. It doesn't make any sense but the same time it is compositionally totally coherent. Melodies are very innovative and the band is as tight as ever. The album flows nicely from instrumentals to vocal songs to dialogue snippets. I think if Uncle meat had a concept, it could be a Salvador Dali painting expressed with sounds. Some live cuts and some sections on King Kong are little too long, but there really isn't any throw away material. Especially when listened straight through even musical joke kind of sections add something to overall feeling of the album.

I think this really is one of the best albums ever. It is definately in my top 15 albums ever released. It has more colours than just about any other album. There are some funniest vocals ever, sound effects out of this world and the most adventorous jazz rock magnum opus ever King Kong. I should add that the album cover is in my opinion the best one ever, easily better than the cover on Beatles' Seargant Pepper's album. Listening this album is like an audio adventure. A very beautifull, challenging and breath taking trip into the mind of my second favourite (Alice Cooper is my favourite artist) composer of all time.

Report this review (#172467)
Posted Thursday, May 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#283268)
Posted Monday, May 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 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.

Report this review (#291368)
Posted Thursday, July 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Uncle Meat marks an amazing shift in Zappa's career. After albums filled with pop-parody-clichés and lyrical banter, Zappa delivered a challenging work of art full of influences from modern classical (Stravisnky), free-jazz and avant-rock.

At 120 minutes it's a lot to swallow, but it can roughly be divided in three large chunks: 45 minutes of babbling and film dialogue that you should preferably skip, next a couple of short pop songs with either silly Zappa vocals or operatic female contributions (which I tend to skip as well), and finally a good hour of astonishing instrumental music that reaches miles beyond anything else that was happening in rock in those years. But not only their innovative quality is noteworthy; all pieces are short, snappy and very inspired.

The quality of the recordings varies a bit depending on the sources, some of the pieces are recorded live and sound a bit thin, such as the jazzy Ian Underwood whips it out. Other tracks such as Mr Green Genes reveal the high studio recording standards that Zappa set for himself, and Tengo 'na Michia Tanta with its fat drums can't possibly be from 69.

While not everything is to my liking, Uncle Meat offers an excellent introduction into Zappa's 60ties albums, featuring not only the silly pop pastiches of those years but also some great jazz-rock and lost of modernist avant-rock. With the remote control close at hand, this sure is an excellent listen.

Report this review (#297615)
Posted Monday, September 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "What can you do that's fantastic? Alright, whip it out."

I won't pretend to have any idea what "Uncle Meat" is really about, or that I enjoy the album as much as the (by this point) quaint "Freak Out." If you thought things couldn't get any weirder than "WOiiftM," you'd be wrong. "Uncle Meat" is a transitional work, a soundtrack, and initially one of the most unapproachable albums you'll ever hear (though that will change later as you become accustomed to it.)

The album documents the shifting of the early Mothers humor-wop style into the coming jazzier Zappa, and the two are thrown off balance more by the avant soundtrack craziness present. It's all jumbled together with the usual little clips of Suzie Creamcheese and assorted Mother-centric commentary. The strange cough sound immediately following Suzie's introduction of herself is the funniest sound I've ever heard-if I could sample that and use it as my ringtone or doorbell, I would. Thankfully I'm not that tech savvy. Some of the best bits include one of the Mothers complaining to Frank about the lack of money he's making, Suzie's assessment of her groupie prowess, and Ian Underwood's dry explanation of how he foisted himself into the band. The humor-wop stuff is not as fresh as the early albums but the soundtrack material and the jazz-fusion (King Kong suite in particular) are fascinating and pretty amazing for the late 67-early 68 recording period. "Nine Types of Industrial Pollution" is a nice slice of lead guitar work. "Golden Arches" is a chamber music break from the craziness. "Uncle Meat Variations" is another highlight with maniacal munchkin-like voices and superb jamming-love the lead guitar toward the end. Ian Underwood's live sax solo in "Whips it Out" is blistering. "Project X" offers some ambitious and fantastic-sounding instrumental work from all manner of guitars, woodwinds, percussion, and general strangeness.

Some complain about the latter day CD issue which adds a 40 minute chunk of film rehearsal banter/dialogue to the album, but at this point, why complain? It can always be skipped if you're not in the mood. If you are, it's a humorous time capsule to have and seems to be well at home with the spirit of the album. Despite the album having numerous gems and a true underground feel, I don't think it's the masterpiece so many others do. It is a good album and well worthwhile for Zappa fans, as well as another piece of the fascinating Zappa puzzle. 3 ― stars.

Report this review (#297743)
Posted Monday, September 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Mothers of Invention (Frank Zappa) - Uncle Meat (1969)

In the year 1969 there are already so much interesting progressive rock (related) releases. The Mother's we're making a movie and recorded Uncle Meat and released it as a sound- track for the film that would never be finished. Looking at the great anti-commercial cover art insight arises in what this double album might offer.

Uncle Meat is actually a very logical step forward for the band when you hold it next to 'We're only in for the Money', released a year earlier. The band still has making stupid semi- political songs on the agenda and the use of innovative composition (which I would call proto-Canterbury) in instrumental passages. New are the free-jazz solo's/compositions and the modern classical music inspired compositions with their own specific avant-garde sound. No songs/compositions evolve as expected and the listener is guarantied to be surprised at least once a minute. Also still present are the silly stories by strange characters.

With it's two hours of music this is perhaps one of the longest albums ever. It's however worthy to mention that the first 43 minutes of second cd (Uncle Meat film excerpts) weren't present at the vinyl release of 1969. This noteworthy amount of musical material is not being reviewed in this specific review. I simply don't own it.

Getting bored during the other 80 minutes of a little hard, because Zappa and crew keep on firing new ideas on us. Most passages are worthwhile, showing the band with innovative - if not ground-braking - composition and performance. I like the modern classical pieces and I think it's great that the band made very strange avant-garde without letting it get to dark or unpleasant. Most of the avant-garde moments sound happy and have a positive, yet slight psychedelic feel. The song-writing is still strong, but I must admit I think the songs on 'We're only in it for the money' are more original and memorable. On side four we get to listen to some great fusion/avant-garde moments (the King-Kong parts) that finally bring some continuity in the sound of the Mothers. It does make side four the most conventional of the record, but I can't listen to awkwardness whole day.

My only real complaint about Uncle Meat is about the weaker live parts on side one and two, a bit unnecessary mainly because of the bad recording quality.

Conclusion. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite avant-garde releases. I'm amazed at how innovative The Mothers of Invention are and how music critics could cope with it. Somehow all hard-to-get-into music is smashed into pieces, but Zappa got himself a card- blanche in music criticism. I myself can enjoy this music very much, but I'm must admit I think the sound of the album is a bit dated. I've heard many better recordings dating from 1969. I'm pleasantly amazed by how much influence Zappa & the Mothers seem to have had on the Canterbury scene, and I would strongly recommend fans of this genre to listen to this record, along with fans of avant-garde and listeners of the more challenging progressive music. Four stars.

Report this review (#443943)
Posted Saturday, May 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Note: as several other reviewers have chosen to do, I'm reviewing the album as it was originally released - without the 40 minute "penalty tracks" tagged on to the front of disc 2 as excerpts from the never-finished Uncle Meat movie and Tengo Na Minchia Tanta, a daft Zappa composition from the 1980s which has nothing to do with this album.

Uncle Meat represents the start of the final phase of the original Mothers of Invention - as also documented on Burnt Weeny Sandwich and Weasels Ripped My Flesh. Having got their commercial urges out of their system on Cruising With Ruben and the Jets, the group threw themselves into performing Zappa's challenging and increasingly jazz- and classical- influenced works, forming the missing link between the early Mothers albums and Zappa's later solo career. (Indeed, one song on here, Mr Green Genes, would lose its quasi-operatic vocal and get a big shot of fusion before being rolled out on Hot Rats as Son of Mr Green Genes).

That isn't to say the occasional parody of more commercial pop idioms is absent - The Air and Cruising for Burgers are some of the best Mothers songs in that style, as is the first part of Dog Breath In the Year of the Plague before it takes a left turn into driving proto-fusion and jazz-classical third stream experimentation - but the group no longer makes any pretence of hoping to attain commercial appeal - as the occasional spoken word interjection from "Suzy Creamcheese", returning from Freak Out!, attests to. To be fair, they didn't necessarily mean to - whilst not seeing much popular success in the States, they did at least have a loyal following in the UK at the time, as the extracts from a performance at the Royal Albert Hall on Louie Louie attest.

Aside from Zappa, the band member most worthy of note here is Ian Underwood, whose woodwind and sax playing is key to the band's new sound (having been a presence since We're Only In It For the Money), and gets to showcase his playing on Ian Underwood Whips It Out. Also notable is the fact that this is the first Zappa album to feature the marimba and vibes stylings of Ruth Komanoff (who would become Ruth Underwood on marrying Ian the following year), which would be a key part of Zappa's sound for much of the 1970s. The band as a whole shines on the album's closer, the sidelong epic King Kong, which fusion fans in particular should pay particular attention to since in style it seems to be a seminal work of that particular type - the likes of Weather Report and the Mahavishnu Orchestra would only catch up to this sort of pounding, furious, volcanic playing in the 1970s, whereas this was recorded in 1968!

To my mind, there's not a bad track on the album ("penalty tracks" excluded), though admittedly there's a wide range of musical styles on offer and if you don't like them all you might find some parts of the album drag. But if you can stomach avant-classical, jazz, bubblegum doo-wop and proto-fusion all coming together in Zappa's creative blender, you can't go wrong.

Report this review (#450585)
Posted Saturday, May 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars This album marks a maturation of Frank Zappa's musical style. Here he shifts away from the focus on his lyrics, and more toward the music. While "Lumpy Gravy" also focused on the music, it is here that Zappa develops the rhytmic and tonal qualities that will permeate his music for the rest of his career. And the addition of Ruth Komanoff (eventually Underwood), gives him a percussionist able to to keep up with his compositions.

While most of the pieces are short and to the point, they also provide many of the songs that would become favorites of Frank and the band for the next two decades. Dog Breath, , A Pound For A Brown On The Bus and Cruising For Burgers all first appear here. And while King Kong was part of "Lumpy Gravy" a few years earlier, it is here where it was first released in all of it's glory.

The album isn't perfect. There are some pieces that just sound like filler, like playing Louie Louie on the Royal Albert Hall pipe organ, or getting the crowd to sing God Bless America. But that hardly diminishes the album.

4.5 stars, rounded up for the original album.

The CD is extended with over 40 minutes of dialogue from movie that was supposed to be released from the album, but was never completed at the time. This portion is detracts from the album, and is unfortunately inserted before King Kong. It is made up of Zappa feeding the cast words and phrases that they were to integrate into their parts. The only bright spot is Phyllis Altenhaus, who Zappa hired away from Tom Wilson, who adeptly uses Zappas odd phrases, without sounding overwhelmed by him.

One of the phrases that keeps popping up is "Tengo na minchia tanta" (I don't know if Frank provided it, or it just occured), but Zappa much later (in the 80's, it sounds like) took the phrase, and recorded a song around it, with vocals by Italian journalist Massimo Bassoli. This song, while it goes with the dialogue, is out of place on this album.

Only 4 stars for the CD. But I'll use the LP rating here.

Report this review (#455043)
Posted Tuesday, May 31, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Oh, 1969 was such a good jear for the RIO/ avant-garde movement: the Trout Mask Replica of Captain Beefheart and Uncle Meat of The Mothers of Invention. Both double-records may not miss in an avant-garde colletion! While the name of Rock in Opposition sets entry by Henry Cow, Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart surely fits into this genre by creating music going right in the oppisite direction of popular music. And the Mothers of Invention seem to have really enjoyed to make music as bizarre as possible and to joke with popular music. A trend wich was only followed by Supersister as far as I know.

In Uncle Meat the Mothers hired an avant-garde saxophonist which enhances the avant-garde experience in comparison with earlier records. I was a bit in trouble with the crazy voices when I started listening to this record, but I could overcome this problem because of many brilliant instrumental parts. It's quite incredible to see how many musical themes and rhythm changes the Mothers put forth in such a short time. Sometimes all musicians seem to have their own rhythms and the music still fits: this is quiet amazing! This music did broaden the spectrum of musical possibilies for sure!

Frank Zappa - the brain of the Mothers - succeeds at guitar and songwriting as never before and the product as a hole is really good. And then think the duration of this record is about 80 minutes!

Because this record is quiet accessible for the avant garde/ RIO movement I'll advise every progressive rock addict to try this one out!

For sure five stars!

Report this review (#591127)
Posted Monday, December 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is a rather hard album to review, as any Zappa album is, due to the sheer scope and ambition involved from the MOI itself and the demand it places upon the casual listener or even the music connoisseur. In short, Frank Zappa requires you to be a bit of a fanatic and must be listened to with a 'jump in with both feet' mentality.

"Uncle Meat" marks an important part in Zappa's history as it is the last record to feature the original Mothers in full swing ("Weasels Ripped My Flesh" and "Burnt Weeny Sandwich" were considered posthumous releases, as they were mostly comprised of outtakes, not new material). Also, it is the debut of Ruth Underwood on vibes (then Ruth Komanoff), who later became a featured member of Frank's ensembles into the mid-70's. In addition, it marked the first time that good ole Uncle Frank began breaking heavily into the realms of classical and jazz, while still retaining the heavy rythmn and blues and doo wop styles of the earlier records. Lyrically, this album is dense and full of inside jokes and references, sandwiched in between passages graced with trumpets, clarinets, and saxophones. As Frank himself states in the liner notes on the double LP gatefold, this is primarily an instrumental record and meant to serve as a soundtrack to a movie that The Mothers had not yet acquired the money to finish. Although I've never seen the film, I'm sure it is as just as surreal, dense, and off-kilter as the music heard on the album.

But on to the music. The opener, "Uncle Meat: Main Theme" is a vibe-led instrumental, backed by harpsicord and some snare work from Jimmy Carl Black (yes, the Indian of the Group!!), with some instruments that can't be identified (I'm not kidding ... look it up!), ending with some of Frank's sound effects and leading into a conversation with Susie Creamcheese, who explains her absence from the last two records and adds to FZ's "conceptual continuity", immediately segueing into "9 Types of Industrial Cheese", a rare glimpse into Frank's acoustic guitar stylings. Next, is the quirky "Zolar Czakl", an oddly metered, entirely indescribable piece of music that ends in a brief 45 seconds, before moving onto the screaming sax doo-wop of "Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague", which is genre-defying in it's own way, breaking into some high-pitched vocals, and into some heavy classical in the middle section. As I'm sure you can tell, the music is utterly stunning and completely unlike anything heard before, either by contemporary music or Frank himself.

"The Legend of the Golden Arches" is a Frank Zappa classic, played for years by the man himself in various lineups, even by his Ensemble Modern. The mid section is where the "Meat" is; Ian Underwood's screaming clarinet is out of this world and full of some of the most passionate playing on a Frank Zappa album ever, before breaking into some harpsichord dissonance. The album slows down a bit with "Louie Louie", which provides some laughs as the Mothers distort the classic at The Royal Albert Hall, before moving onto "The Dog Breath Variations", one of Zappa's favorite compositions. Instrumentally speaking, its more of the same, but the music is unbelievable. You must buy this to understand just how unique this is! "Sleeping in a Jar" is The Mothers at their most haunting, with a distant trumpet-sound soloing above - again under 45 seconds.

After some more talking, the music moves onto "The Uncle Meat Variations", with more harpsichord and some munchkin voices. Hilarious and brilliant at the same time, this is my favorite composition of the album, which breaks into a guitar solo near the end and ends in an epic way. Very, very cool. "Electric Aunt Jemima" is more surrealism and high voices, and is a bit of a novelty song, admittedly, but has some trademark Zappa experimentation throughout. I once heard this song at a used vinyl place in Pittsburgh and it made my day. I absolutely love it. After some hilarious banter, "Prelude to King Kong" bursts from your speakers with some fast paced avant jazz from Ian Underwood on sax. After "God Bless America" at its most dissonant (more conceptual continuity), there is some scattered percussion, not unlike Gong's "Percolations" and moving onto "A Pound for a Brown", which is a faster-paced version of "Golden Arches" with some differences in instrumentation.

Ian Underwood, (the Straight Member of the Group) whips out a sax solo next, before the album moves onto the original version of "Mr Green Genes". More surrealism and lyrics relating to food (not unlike "Call Any Vegetable" and "Duke of Prunes") with some really nice vibe work and trumpets, along with some doo-wop vocals. The overall effect is surprisingly calming ... I can't help but smile when listening. The ending is strong and pseudo-epic, but effective. I like it a lot. After some more talking, (including Jimmy Carl Black complaining about not getting paid!), we move onto some straight doo-wop, right out of "Ruben and the Jets", "The Air", is very good doo-wop and very enjoyable. Its no wonder Frank loved this type of music; I can see why when I hear his version of it! "Project X" is some excellent avant garde, before leading into some really chill-inducing music. "Cruisin' For Burgers" is weird, very surreal, and beautiful ... some of my favorite Mothers' music ever. And to think, all of this creativity and not an ounce of drugs involved. Its amazing and ends Side 3 perfectly, before moving onto Side 4... Side 4 is the subject of another Frank Zappa classic, the 18 minute jazz odyssey, "King Kong". In many ways, its as threatening and monstrous as its namesake, with a bombastic head, leading to numerous solos from within the band. Everything is covered here: there's another Underwood solo, a Don Preston electric piano solo, and something that almost sounds like an electric kazoo! The whole thing comes to a thrilling conclusion in a live performance where the band rocks out "on a flat bed diesel in the middle of a race track at a Miami Pop Festival" and comes apart at the end. It doesn't end ... it falls apart, like the great beast himself, shot from the Empire State Building, very much a way to describe the end of the mammoth double set itself.

Overall, "Uncle Meat" is a challenging, eclectic listen, full of lots of twists and turns, that leave an involved listener on the edge of his or her seat, and out of breath at the end. The experience is unique to say the least and unforgettable. Its an experience that I am happy to return to, time and time again, and feel is essential to any Prog lover's collection, and certainly an album that no self-respecting Zappa fan can be without.

Report this review (#603165)
Posted Wednesday, January 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars Uncle Meat was originally supposed to be a soundtrack to a film of the same name. It was started but the funds ran out. On the latest CD release you can hear some (a lot of) dialogue from the film as well as a hard rock song from the early 1980s about penis sung in Sicilian (I guess). The original double-album was way ahead of it's time, being both an influence on later jazz fusion and avant-rock. But it also contained some doo-wop and "Louie, Louie." The thing about Zappa was how he liked to mix the simple with the complex; the melodic with the dissonant; the silly with the serious. On this album he really brings these contradictions together for the first time, with his first few Mothers albums being considered comedy/novelty by some. Speaking of the Mothers we get an expanded version of the original line-up but even these musicians were not up to Zappa's standards; he would have to wait until the mid-1970s before he found musicians capable of performing his crazy musical ideas.

Zappa was mixing jazz and rock since his first album but here he goes even further. Between this album and Hot Rats he was making fusion at the same time as, but independent from Miles Davis. The avant-garde influence is also a lot stronger here than on earlier releases. You can tell a lot of later RIO groups were listening to this album. Some of the music here sounds similar to Lumpy Gravy. Some of it was recorded live (including "Louie, Louie" played on pipe organ at the Royal Albert Hall). There seems to be a little more acoustic guitar here than most Zappa albums. There are spoken word sections from Suzy Creamcheese, new member Ian Underwood (who will marry Ruth Komanoff, who also appears here) and Jimmy Carl Black. Not to mention the oddball sound effects you would expect to find.

The early Mother albums were recorded on 4-track and sound awful compared to the 8- track recording of Uncle Meat. Frank would go one step further with Hot Rats and be one of the first to record with 16 tracks. Both the production and musicianship here is a step above Frank's previous work. Again, it was just a lack of funds and talent that prevented him from realizing his musical vision. Don Preston makes good use of an electronic organ which sometimes sounds like a synthesizer. There is lots of wind instruments on the album and both Ruth and Art Tripp (who will work with Captain Beefheart in the future) introduce the mallet percussion that will become a staple of Zappa's music to come.

The main title is avant-classical with lots of mallet percussion. The last half sounds like the musical parts of Lumpy Gravy along with the avant noises of We're Only In It... "Nine Types Of Industrial Pollution" starts off with some Varese style percussion and bluesy guitar playing which sounds speed altered. The track gets more dense and dissonant as it goes along. "Dog Breath, In The Year Of The Plague" is one of the better vocal songs. Almost doo-wop meets jazz-rock. Nice female opera singer. I like the acoustic guitar playing here. Eventually everything gets sped-up and more avant and dissonant. Ends very orchestral. "The Legend Of The Golden Arches" is like a slower, jazzier version of "A Pound For A Brown On The Bus." Halfway you hear some harpsichord get joined by reeds; very classical sounding. Then Suzy relates a story.

Even though it's short, "Sleeping In A Jar" has one of the best musical themes. "The Uncle Meat Variations" is more avant-classical goodness. Much longer than the main theme. Halfway you hear some chipmunk vocals. Later turns more R&B/Rock'n'roll with a great twangy guitar that turns into blues-rock soloing. Great acoustic guitar at the very end. "Electric Aunt Jemima" is the best of the pure doo-wop songs. Some cool synth-like studio effects here. "Prelude To King Kong" is what the title says: a prelude to the orchestrated jazz-rock of "King Kong" later on the album, except this sounds more improvised. "A Pound For A Brown On The Bus" is a shorter, more classical take on "Legend Of The Golden Arches." Ian Underwood tells an amusing story in "Ian Underwood Whips It Out" and then it goes into a live recording of Ian wailing on a sax with repetative drumming behind him. The rest of the band slowly joins in.

"Mr. Green Genes" is a standout track and the father of the song on Hot Rats. Love the lyrics and how they follow the melody. Ends very symphonic. "We Can Shoot You" is more Varese inspired avant-classical with studio altering. Wind section talks for a bit then goes into some proto-chamber prog. "Project X" starts off with a melody on acoustic guitar which sounds almost exactly like a hit song from the late 1990s. I first heard Uncle Meat at a time when that hit song was all over radio/tv. When I first heard "Project X" I was stunned. (The song I'm taking about is called "Kiss Me" by Sixpence None The Richer). What an odd coincidence for two songs recorded 30 years apart. Before long some wind instruments, mallet percussion and drums come in and make everything dissonant, with the acoustic guitar melody still playing. Music stops and then wind instruments and electronic organ play in a dissonant way. More of a sense of rhythm and melody as the piece progresses.

"Crusin' For Burgers" is one of the best songs. I like how the song keeps changing, similar to some '70s Zappa. Seems longer than just 2 minutes. The beast that is "King Kong" is divided into 6 parts, all being one piece except part six which is mostly a live recording. The whole thing is ahead of it's time, sounding both like future Zappa and future fusion. Great soloing from the wind instruments. Good melodies. You don't hear much of Frank himself though. The keyboards are great. Part 5 is studio altered avant-garderie. Part 6 is mostly live, the last minute or so is more studio altered weirdness. Uncle Meat is both one of the first progressive rock albums and one of the most important. There was nothing else like it out at the time but the next few years would see an explosion of experimetal rock music. I can't really call this a 'masterpiece' of prog but it's importance cannot be denied. My final verdict is 4.5 rounded down to 4 stars.

Report this review (#749784)
Posted Sunday, May 6, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars I had been struggling with Frank Zappa's large body of work despite the Mothers era being very appealing to me. I had yet to find that Zappa album that just gave that musical euphoria like no other album. In comes UNCLE MEAT, and after track two, I ended up flushing my expectations down the drain.

Let's give UNCLE MEAT credit where credit is due, and those are the pieces where Frank decided there would be something resembling music. Most of it is in the jazz-rock realm that Zappa was mining around this time (think HOT RATS), and the big unearthing is the mammoth ''King Kong'' jam that concludes the album. It's very jam-based like ''Gumbo Variations'' and ''The Grand Wazoo'', but more stable than either of those tracks which makes the pieces (the innovative sounds over the top are really the sprinkles). Two other big jazz tracks are the two that are more in the free-er direction in ''Nine Types of Industrial Pollution'' and ''Ian Underwood Whips it Out''.

There are much more bite-sized nuggets of fun. Some stem from remnants of early Mothers work like ''Sleeping in a Jar'', ''Electric Aunt Jemima'' and ''The Air''. Others make more music progress like the ''Uncle Meat Theme'', ''Legend of the Golden Arches'', ''Dog Breath'' and any reprises/variations.

Here comes the big gag reflex; those little dialogue/humour tracks. Why are these necessary? The only good I find in them is wearing that skip button on my CD player's remote control. I've found no musical or humour value in any of them; it's like putting five versions of ''Are You Hung Up?'' at random throughout the album. That alone drive me bonkers, but swift kick is the UNCLE MEAT movie in there, and I've lost patience. I know it's a bonus track and many reviewers discount it, but in short, nobody wants to LISTEN to a movie, they want to watch one. Even though the film never came into fruition, why forty minutes of?THIS?

These irritants are quite severe. Even then, UNCLE MEAT is a jumble of what Frank Zappa had been and where he might go. While there are great tracks, it feels more like a compilation of new songs than a bold new Zappa album.

Report this review (#760126)
Posted Tuesday, May 29, 2012 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
3 stars Part Zappa-style orchestration, part Zappa-style improvisation, and part Zappa-style documentary, Uncle Meat is an odd combination of pleasures that entertains but seldom impresses. In a way, it's a reflective work by Zappa and the Mothers' musical career up to that point; here the noodling outnumbers the music, which when present is great, but you'll have to do a ton of bushwhacking through comedic or psychedelic or meditative scat to get there.

Uncle Meat opens with a bouncy and jaunty instrumental composition, indicative of Zappa's ambition as composer. It's a highlight, as is the extended and personality filled jamming of "Nine Types of Industrial Pollution," where Zappa's acoustic guitar just doesn't quit. "Dog Breath" is bottom heavy and playful, while "Golden Arches" is another showcase of precision and complex arrangement. Beyond that the tunes are fun but nothing outstanding. Scattered throughout are 10 - 15 minutes of recorded dialogue, on stage antics, and general Zappa weirdness. It's usually interesting but doesn't encourage the same kind of replay-ability that you'll get in other releases.

Bottom line, for me Uncle Meat is a lot of fun, but not an essential Zappa album. Start with something more musical, but definitely find your way here if you enjoy the Mothers' sound.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 3 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

Report this review (#1571130)
Posted Friday, May 27, 2016 | Review Permalink

FRANK ZAPPA The Mothers Of Invention: Uncle Meat ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of FRANK ZAPPA The Mothers Of Invention: Uncle Meat

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives