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Frank Zappa The Mothers Of Invention: Absolutely Free album cover
4.02 | 623 ratings | 50 reviews | 33% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1967

Songs / Tracks Listing

- Absolutely Free (19:34) :
1. Plastic People (3:40)
2. The Duke Of Prunes (2:12)
3. Amnesia Vivace (1:01)
4. The Duke Regains His Chops (1:45)
5. Call Any Vegetable (2:19)
6. Invocation & Ritual Dance Of The Young Pumpkin (6:57)
7. Soft-Sell Conclusion & Ending Of Side #1 (1:40)
- The M.O.I. American Pageant (18:35) :
8. America Drinks (1:52)
9. Status Back Baby (2:52)
10. Uncle Bernie's Farm (2:09)
11. Son Of Suzy Creamcheese (1:33)
12. Brown Shoes Don't Make It (7:26)
13. America Drinks & Goes Home (2:43)

Total time 38:09

Bonus tracks on CD editions:
8. Big Leg Emma (2:32)
9. Why Don'tcha Do Me Right? (2:37)

Line-up / Musicians

- Frank Zappa / guitar, vocals, conductor, arranger & co-producer
- Ray Collins / vocals, tambourine
- Roy Estrada / bass, vocals
- Don Preston / keyboards
- Jim Fielder / guitar, piano
- Bunk Gardner / saxophone
- Jim Black / drums, vocals
- Bill Mundi / drums, percussion

- Suzy Creamcheese (Lisa Cohen) / vocals (14)
- John Balkin / bass (6,10)
- Jim Getzoff / violin (14)
- Marshall Sosson / violin (14)
- Alvin Dinkin / viola (14)
- Armand Kaproff / cello (14)
- Don Ellis / trumpet (14)
- John Rotella / contrabass clarinet (14)
- Herb Cohen / cash register machine sounds (15)
- Terry Gilliam, girlfriend and others / voices (15)

Releases information

Artwork: Alice Ochs with FZ

LP Verve Records ‎- V6-5013 (1967, US) Stereo version
LP Verve Records ‎- V-5013 (1967, US) Mono version

CD Rykodisc ‎- RCD 10093 (1988, US) Remastered (?) with 2 bonus tracks
CD Rykodisc ‎- RCD 10502 (1995, Europe) Remastered (?) with 2 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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FRANK ZAPPA The Mothers Of Invention: Absolutely Free ratings distribution

(623 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(33%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(37%)
Good, but non-essential (23%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

FRANK ZAPPA The Mothers Of Invention: Absolutely Free reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by belz
3 stars 2.8/5.0 A great improvement over "Freak Out!". Exit the dubious concept, and welcome good improvisation and interesting musical experimentation! Still, most of the album is barely prog, but some songs are really good (Invocation and Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin is one of my favorite). Other non-prog songs like "Plastic people" are great too, even if I don't particularly appreciate all the lyrics. From a musical point of view, this is as crazy as it gets, but luckily we get a slight overview of the great prog music that is to come. 2.8/5.0
Review by Chris H
5 stars What a shift we have here. "Absolutely Free" is the perfect bridge-album between the semi-safe sounding songs of "Freak Out!" and the completely intense freak-show cabaret of "We're Only In It For The Money". Although the last 3 tracks on "Freak Out!" were far from safe sounding, "Absolutely Free" completely steamrolls these tracks. The album is an intense concept, which is driven by Frank's cynical lyrics that are mostly aimed to criticize the government and politics of the time. This albums a complete blender of genres, including some rhythm and blues and teenage pop spoofs all culminating into the mock cabaret lounge finale. The album is divided into two parts, with tracks 1-7 being the "Absolutely Free" section (A side on vinyl) and tracks 10-15 being the "The Mothers Of Invention American Pageant", B side on vinyl. On the CD re- master, the gaps is filled with the single "Big Leg Emma" and its B side, "Why Don'tcha Do Me Right?".

The "Absolutely Free" part is one of the most musically challenging pieces Frank has ever written, and it still stands the test of time today as the most eclectic piece on the market. "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" is a brilliantly disturbed track that is considered by many to be his first magnum opus of sorts. The two back-to-back suites are things of absolute beauty. "The Duke Of Prunes/Amnesia Vivace/The Duke Regains His Chops" is a comical, under 5 minute long suite which is a near-classical piece about, you guessed it, The Duke of Prunes. The next three songs form the un-officially titled "Vegetable Suite", with this suite being comprised of "Call Any Vegetable/Invocation & Ritual Dance Of The Young Pumpkin/Soft-Cell Conclusion". "Call Any Vegetable" is the very first song that the Mothers really use their fusion style on, and "Invocation & Ritual Dance Of The Young Pumpkin" is the first instrumental track where they finally find their rhythm and start to groove and jam in harmony, with their full repertoire working simultaneously. The first track on this part is really the only track that isn't part of a suite. "Plastic People" is an excellent track nonetheless, although it is dated because of its lyrics that talk about 'American womanhood', and that is no longer an issue today.

"The Mothers of Invention American Pageant" is not quite as good as "Absolutely Free", but it still has its strong points. "America Drinks" starts this side of the album and it is a really shoddy spoof of an American cabaret lounge that is really a complete lack of substance, although I do enjoy the drumming by Jimmy Carl Black. "Uncle Bernie's Farm" is the second song, and it is a very refreshing, short song that has no apparent subject but still sounds fresh every time you listen. "Son Of Suzy Creamcheese" is another very short song, and as you may have guessed it is the same character that appeared in "The Return Of The Sun Of Monster Magnet" on "Freak Out!", although this song also lacks a little bit of substance. The next song is not only the stand out track of this side, it also the best on the album itself. "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" is a brilliantly disturbed track that is considered by many to be Frank's first magnum opus of sorts. "America Drinks & Goes Home" is the closer of the album, and it is really just the same song as "America Drinks", except this is a little better because it features some funny spoken word by Frank.

So if you really think about it, the first 3 Mothers albums could, in theory, be combined to form an amazing masterpiece of music. "Absolutely Free" has the most important role of the 3, as it is the bridge between the safe and easy majority of "Freak Out!" and the freaky and intensely acidic "We're Only In It For The Money", and this album really does its job. It brings you into it slowly, introducing the true fusion of the band on "The Vegetable Suite" and then going all out on "Brown Shoes Don't Make It". The only down points of the album are the two "America Drinks" songs, which really lack any sort of substance but are still quite comedic, and the "Big Leg Emma" single in the CD re-master.

Overall, I would give the first part more than 5 stars, and I would give the second part 4 stars, meaning that this whole album together is an intense, true masterpiece of rock n' roll combined with jam band fusion. Highly recommended to any Zappa fan!

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars I do prefer "Freak Out" over this album, although there are some really funny songs on this one. Man Frank sure started his career off with two amazing albums though.

"Plastic People" is a rant against fake people with a "Louie, Louie" melody in the intro. "The Duke Of Prunes" will put a smile on your face with lines like "A love that is strong, a prune that is true".The prune theme continues on songs like "The Duke Regains His Chops" and "Call Any Vegetable". "Amnesia Vivace" is totally different with dissonant sounds. "Invocation And Ritual Dance Of The Young Pumpkin" is an uptempo, catchy instrumental. The guitar to open is good as well as the horns.This is my favourite song off of this album. The vegetable theme continues on "Soft-Sell Conclusion". "Big Leg Emma" was not on the original recording. Zappa does his Elvis impersonation towards the end of this one. "Why Don'tcha Do Me Right" is the other song that was not on the original recording. Some good guitar on this one. The last half of the record is not as worthy as the first half in my opinion. Of note "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" is like a mock opera, and I find this one a little creepy (haha). "America Drinks And Goes Home" is Zappa doing his lounge lizard impersonation with a lot of activity in the background. Sounds like he is playing in a bar.

Overall a great release and man it's hard to believe it was 1967.

Review by 1800iareyay
3 stars Abolutely Free is a definite step forward from The Mothers' debut Freak Out! Zappa's lyrics are sounding more and more witty and intelligent, and the band plays with a lot more prowess this time around. The album is split into two sections, "Absolutely Free" and "The Mothers of Invention American Pageant."

Part one opens with the excellent Plastic People, which lambastes aspects of American life from the President to women. It is one of the best tunes written with the Mothers. Then, they give us two suites in a row: The Duke of Prunes suite and the Vegetable suite. Both are great fun and flaunt that wacky sense of humor that defined early Zappa records (later records were more biting in their wit). The bonus tracks Big Leg Emma and Why Don't Cha Do Me Right are classic Zappa with his irreverent sexual humor on full display.

The M.O.I. Pageant side isn't nearly as good as the first. The exception is the glorious Brown Shoes Don't Make It, which is the best song Zappa ever wrote with the Mothers without question. It's good great lyrics and some of Frank's most avant garde composition. Stunning. The rest of the songs are decent, but they lack any of the lyrical fun of Zappa, though the retain much of the instrumental giddiness.

All in all, Absolutely Free is a fun album, but the second side really brings down the album as a whole. AF is a must own for Zappa fans, but like Freak Out!, it has yet to show the Mothers' true potential. That would come with their next release...

Grade: C+

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The second album from Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention was Absolutely Free. This is an even greater album than their debut Freak Out ! Which I think is an excellent album. Absolutely Free could be called a concept album even though more concepts blend together.

Plastic People starts the album of, but is in fact more in the same concept as the songs on side 2 of the LP version. This is political and social satire and it´s so well written both in the lyric department and in the music department. The rest of side 1 of the LP version is the Duke of Prunes concept. All the songs seque into each other and the lyrics are strangely enough about Prunes and Cabbage and our general relationship with vegetables ? It´s so hilarious and a great contrast to the political and social satire presented on the other songs on the album.

On the Rykodisc CD version that I have there are two extra tracks just after the Duke of Prunes story and I can´t believe these songs were ommited from the original LP as Both Big Leg Emma and especially Why Don´tcha do Me Right? are great songs that I wouldn´t be without. They are pretty basic rythm´n´blues songs with teenage lyrics but as always Zappa pulls it off in grand fashion.

Side 2 has some really great songs that ranges from the political Uncle Bernie´s Farm and Brown Shoes Don´t Make It to the more social satirical songs Status Back Baby and Son of Suzy Creamchease ( basically Teenage problems). The most exciting song here must be Brown Shoes Don´t Make it which is a great satire over american political and social life. Brown Shoes Don´t Make it has many sections of music and musical styles incorporated as it was typical for the Mothers of Invention.

This is one of my favorite Zappa albums from the Mothers of Invention days and a one of a kind album for sure. This is a masterpiece of progressive music. Put it into any genre you like, this is just great music. 5 stars is a matter of course with this album.

Review by crimson87
5 stars The world's first progressive rock album.

I know titles as that one are rather polemic since ITOTCK is known as being the pioneer within progressive rock. But this album... this album is really miles ahead of it's time if you consider most of it's material was recorded in 1966 , a time where with the exeption of Bob Dylan no one put such in your face lyrics on vinyl. And the musical content is as Progresive as it gets combining elements of avant garde composers and jazz.

The record opens is divided in two suites , both of them criticice several aspects of the American Society.This fact makes this album timeless and with an average knowledge of English almost anyone around the world can identify with the subjects this record deals with. This is a major difference with the higlly revered We are only in it for the money which is harder for a guy like me who was born 20 years before the summer of love and very far away from California.

The CD version of this record features 2 numbers that Zappa thought as potential hit singles , Big Leg Emma and Why dontcha do my right. Both are average songs placed between the two suites and I don't count them as part of Absolutely Free. That being said , this record will move you from head to toes if you are willing for something unique and challenging. In my opinion the centerpieces of the record are the Duke of Prunes section and one of the first masterpieces by Zappa the haunting , Brown Shoes don't make it. Both tunes take the exprimentation the second side of Freak out had to a new level but as the compositions are tighter the record is much more enjoyable , also there is place for a long jam in the track Invocation and ritual dance of the young pumpkin , in which you can see all the talent those Mothers had. In addition to that , Brown shoes don't make it may be one of the first rock operas ( I hate that concept) this 7 minute track holds more progressive content that most of the bands on the site! And in 1967 , that's insane! The best Mothers of Invention album and one of FZ's highest achievements. Five stars without any doubt.

Review by horsewithteeth11
4 stars Man, talk about a vast improvement from the debut!

While Zappa's debut album sounded somewhat choppy and unrefined, his second one sounds much more cohesive and mature. As others have said, this is a concept album of sorts. However, the lyrical themes from the previous album are still here. Zappa continues to lampoon politics and pop culture of the 60s. But the music has a much more pleasing quality to my ears. Some of the jams on here get really intense and exciting, but without a loss of control or wandering off aimlessly. Invocation & Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin is especially really interesting. I love the way the sax dances among all the other instruments. And some of the weird vocal effects and lines really make me chuckle when I hear them. Absolutely Free is very much in the same vein of its predecessor, in that it's full of excellent 50s/60s pop and R&B, but it also serves as a bridge to some of Zappa's psychedelic experimentation he would move on later in the 60s, especially with the superb We're Only in It for the Money.

I'm really torn with this album, because I could justify giving it 3, 4, or even 5 stars. I'm not sure if this is prog or not, but it's excellent music regardless and a step up from Zappa's debut. Absolutely Free really deserves a 4 star rating from me. Even though this is a really good album, the best is yet to come.

Review by Neu!mann
4 stars The second studio album (and arguably first of many masterpieces) from Uncle Frank and the Mothers plays like an anarchic mock opera or freak show vaudeville routine: imagine the Marx Brothers adapting their trademark zany shtick for a rock 'n' roll audience in the psychedelic 1960s.

It's juvenile stuff, and deliberately so. But mainstream rock music was never more juvenile than when the album was first released, on the cusp of the Summer of Love. Zappa was at least learning to flex his iconoclastic muscles at the time, mixing the low comedy with some acutely observed social criticism aimed squarely at an American society he regarded as plastic and brain-dead (thus his fixation with vegetables in the opening song cycle here).

And, despite all the private jokes and frequently sophomoric wit, the music was remarkably sophisticated for 1967. It rarely sits still for more than a few bars at any given time, jumping from one nutty pastiche to another, lampooning amateur stage musicals, cocktail lounge crooners, and the already atrophied conventions of rock music itself.

Maybe the weirdest aspect of such a willfully weird album is how little it's aged after more than forty years. No one will fail to recognize it as a product of its era, but even then the album existed somewhere outside the narrow aesthetics of late '60s popular music. Discovering it for the first time (as I did, shamefully) four decades later can still be a thrill, as well as a giggle.

A personal postscript, and a belated epiphany:

I always believed the merry Krautrock pranksters of FAUST had played in a cultural vacuum, insulated from any Anglo-American musical influences. Now, after my late exposure to the early music of Frank Zappa, I have to reluctantly admit that one of my favorite bands was just a group of Zappa wannabes: Das Mütter von Erfindung, so to speak. Either that, or else Frank was a closet Krautrocker, long before the term was ever coined.

Compare, from this album, the toe-tapping 'Invocation and Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin' to the very similar Faust groove of 'I've Got My Car and My TV'. Or the early Mothers single 'Big Leg Emma' (included here as a bonus track) to its Krautrock equivalent, 'The Sad Skinhead' (from 1973's 'Faust IV').

Clearly Frank and Faust were kindred musical nonconformists. But Zappa's pioneering example predates the Germans by a good half decade.

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars First I want to apologize, this review will be shorter, than I intended few minutes ago. I know that I should write in something else than this magical form here on PA, but I couldn't help myself. I wrote few hundreds of words and all is gone now. I'll try to remember what I wrote, but it won't be as good as it was, just shadow of the past. And I know that I'll never be able to write it as good as it was before, I can't do such a thing, I've tried it a lot of times in past.

So Take 2: In general, I've tried to justify my 5 stars rating. I've pointed out certain parts of album, how it greatly continues work from first release. And crazy story little bit revolving around prunes (also my own story connected to prunes). In fact, most of review was embrace of humor and weirdness (more weird than first one by my opinion). I also added my little story about how I was influenced and controlled by prunes. And last thing was struggle about if to give 4, or 5. Finally, I gave

5(-). In fact I gave five minus, but can't do it again. This is almost masterpiece to some extent it indeed is, but sounds more consistent than first one, which is more perfect for me. Oh, prunes are controlling me again, so I had to give back five minus rating. Closing line would be probably: "why is the vegetable something to hiiiiide", graduating (dramatically) and "pumpkin is breathing hard" + crazy sounding (when connected with previous song) Big Leg Emma. Weird, crazy, creative and after all, different, doesn't mean unmelodic, so this is very melodic album.

Review by Negoba
3 stars Early Zappa Success Foreshadows Better Things to Come

I got ABSOLUTELY FREE as my second Zappa album as it's the second highest rated on this site. I must say I was pretty disappointed at first. Compared to his later, mid-70's output, this album simply pales. The prog quotient is relatively low by current standards. It seems more like a avant experimentation, typical Zappa, but nothing all that impressive. Every thing I like about Frank is done so much better on other albums. So I went and looked at some other reviews and realized why it is rated so high. It was released in 1967. To be sure, this album is much more impressive given how early it was made. Still, given the huge discography available, this is an album to put lower on the list as you get in to Zappa.

There are numerous "proggy" things going on in this music. Most obvious is that on the original vinyl, each side was a mini-suite, with the first side especially running continuously from song to song with recurring melodic and lyrical themes throughout. In addition, the melodies used by Zappa include numerous references to other music, including Stravinsky, "Louie, Louie," and other of Zappa's own works. At the same time, the music is firmly rooted in 60's psychedelic rock of the time, though it certainly pushes the genre. In addition, the satire, lyrics, and flippant singing dominate the music completely. The subtle bits are much more buried here, where several years later, the elements balance much more effectively.

There are little tastes of Zappa's best talents. Intertwining, off-time, composed lines are found throughout the album. There is only one guitar jam on the album, the very nice "Invocation and Ritual Dance." The craziness is as wild as anywhere in the Zappa catalog. The humor is sharp, the cabaret / show-tune feel everywhere, and the changes are fast-paced and energetic. After repeated listens, my appreciation has grown somewhat. It actually takes some digging to get past the superficial slapstick to really find how much work went into making this record.

The weakest songs on the album, "Big Leg Emma" and "Why Dontcha Do Me Right," were singles made during the same time period as the album. According to Zappa, they were attempts to make "dumb music for dumb teenagers Well they sound like it. While they're still satire on music and attitudes of the time, they are each one-trick ponies that are old before you've finished the first listen. Unfortunately, when the album was remade and the songs added on, they were placed between the two minisuites. This breaks continuity, adds little other than time to the album, and was part of what put me off the album to begin with. Since the second suite has a logical ending, who ever added the tracks at least had the sense to not tack anything on the end and ruin that.

As is common, my ideas about an album have changed while listening to ABSOLUTELY FREE continuously while preparing this review. Initially, I intended to give a 2 star rating and that has improved to a 3. This is a good album, still, and maybe in it's time it was something more. But some albums hold up after decades but this one is certainly a creature of its era. Ardent Zappa fans are still going to enjoy it plenty, but there are quite a few better places to start.

Review by J-Man
5 stars A Prune Isn't Really A Vegetable... CABBAGE Is A Vegetable!

Call me primitive and immature, but some of the simple, yet hilarious lyrics throughout this album crack me up every time. I had to quote this lyric from Call Any Vegetable and use it as the title for my review. This line is executed at exactly the perfect time, and it makes me laugh every time.

The second album from Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, called Absolutely Free is one of my favorite albums in Frank Zappa's massive discography. This is a large improvement over the rather underdeveloped, though promising debut album Freak Out!. This is the perfect blend of Frank Zappa's avant-garde experimentations with rock music, his later jazz-rock outputs, and of course Zappa's trademark humor. This is one of Frank Zappa's most innovative albums, especially considering that this was released in 1967. A year where progressive rock didn't yet exist, most rock albums were linear, and experimentations outside of the typical verse-chorus-verse song structures were rare.

That was changed with Absolutely Free. This was recorded in November of 1966, and it is one of the best (if not THE best) album from this era. Freak Out! was just as innovative as this album, but it didn't achieve the perfection of Absolutely Free. On the original vinyl this album was divided into two side-long suites, both of which are very impressive. If you buy the CD version, there are 2 bonus tracks placed in between the original suites, and they are admittedly the weakest parts of this album.

Big Leg Emma is catchy, but it's lacking in interesting songwriting. Why Dont'cha Do Me Right? has a good riff, but it still lacks the genius on the original tracks. It's much better than the other bonus track, though. I really like how the two bonus tracks are placed in between the two suites. If they would have been at the end of the album, it would have brought the album to a rather inconclusive ending. Their placement doesn't interrupt the flow of the album, and I think it works well. However, the real genius of this album is contained around the bonus tracks. Both of the side-long suites are superb, and I can't decide which one I prefer.

The first suite is the most comedy-oriented of the two, and this contains some of the best lyrics in Zappa's repertoire. The lyrics are mostly satirical, but the analogies used are just hilarious and genius. The music is excellent, and never shirks in quality. This suite has some musical reprises, creating a very conceptual piece of music. Soft-Sell Conclusion brings the suite to a conclusive end, reprising some of the ideas introduced in Call Any Vegetable and The Duke of Prunes. Invocation and Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin is a great instrumental, and it's one of the highlights of the first side for me. I would rate this suite with a 10/10 easily.

The second side is slightly less intriguing than the first, but it contains some equally genius moments. This side is also conceptual, mostly due to the reprise of America Drinks in the closing track, America Drinks & Goes Home. The highlight of this side is undoubtedly Brown Shoes Don't Make It. I would say that this is one of Zappa's finest moments. This is a really epic track with multiple sections spanning various genres of music, but it is concisely tied into one 7 minute track. This has avant sections, some jazz, experimental rock, and even theatrical influences, incorporated into some genius lyrics. Status Back Baby, Uncle Bernie's Farm, and Son of Suzy Creamcheese are memorable rock songs, with all of Zappa's odd little twists. All in all, this is a really excellent suite. I would rate this side with a 9/10, since it is slightly less genius than the first side. It's still fantastic, though.

One of the things that makes Absolutely Free so great is the superb production. It's amazing to me that an album could sound so good when it was recorded in 1966. This album is way ahead of its time, and this just proves Zappa's genius when it comes to production.


Absolutely Free is one of Frank Zappa's masterpieces in my opinion, and it definitely deserves 5 stars. This took some time to fully appreciate, but it's really worth it. This is one of the best albums from the 1960's, and it is a masterpiece of progressive rock. If you're interested in hearing Frank Zappa, this is essential material. I recommend that any newcomer to Zappa starts their journey with this album- you won't regret it.

5 stars.

Review by tarkus1980
4 stars I'm not sure I've ever come across somebody who rated this one the same as Freak Out!; reactions (in my observation) to the album seem to be either that it's a huge improvement over the debut, stepping up Zappa's snide attacks on society and his avant- garde insanity to a higher level, or a comedown (of varying degrees, depending on whom you ask) that shows Zappa getting so focused on the message that he lets the music suffer a bit. I essentially fall into the second category, even if I still find this album a blast and an entertaining listen.

The album is divided into two "underground oratorios:" one, called "Absolutely Free," which mostly consists of Zappa singing about the life and culture of vegetables (though preceded by "Plastic People," which goes more with the second suite), and one called "The M.O.I. American Pageant," about the life and culture of the average yokel American. The general implication, of course, is that the average American is just like a vegetable, which naturally can be taken as some sort of biting general social critique. This concept of a vegetable/American parallel is a good idea, but the problem I have with it is that (in my observation at least; maybe I'm missing a whole bunch of subtext in it) Frank doesn't really bother to expound in detail on this idea. In my mind, a conversation on this topic between myself and Zappa on this album would go roughly like this:

Me: "So what exactly is the point of the vegetable suite?"

FZ: "Well, it's obvious that I'm saying that the average American isn't that much different from a vegetable."

Me: "Hmm, that's interesting. I think I have a vague notion of the kinds of direct comparisons that could be made as examples of your claim, but it would be nice if I could have a clearer idea of what you mean by that. Can you go into further detail about this comparison?"

FZ: "Uh ..... Chunga, Chunga, Chunga, Chunga!!"

The thing is, on Freak Out!, there was a kind of "thematic crescendo," which not only gave a neat tension as Frank went on and on before reaching the punchline, but also gave a chance to clearly (if indirectly) delineate what it was he was trying to say. Here, though, by throwing the vegetable suite at us without much of a warning/introduction, it's tougher to make sense of it, and given that the "message" of the album is so obviously a central focus point in trying to to enjoy it, this kinda hurts things overall.

Not that I don't basically enjoy the suite, of course. The "Duke of Prunes" suite is a goofy, yet lovely, pseudo-romantic melody crossed with weird, jazzy guitar rock and with a strange dissonant modern-classical/jazz/random-chatter/whatever break in the middle ("Amnesia Vivace"), and the "Call Any Vegetable" suite goes from a jazzy yell-fest into a lengthy instrumental break ("Invocation & Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin"), before "resolving" (I guess) itself in "Soft-Cell Conclusion." "Invocation & Ritual Dance etc" might not seem extremely whacked today, but I have to suspect that crossing jazzy saxophone and guitar soloing with 60's go-go rhythms wasn't commonplace back in '67, and this innovation and sense of novelty adds to the enjoyment I already feel towards the piece. So yeah, the suite is basically ok; I wouldn't mind hearing it one more time, I mean.

The second suite is more interesting to my ears, probably because I can understand direct rips against average Americans better than doing so using prune metaphors. The album opener (which, again, I consider a part of the second suite, if only as a prelude), "Plastic People," has one of the greatest introductions to any album ever, and proceeds to alternate a great verse "melody" with a bunch of chatter to terrific effect. "America Drinks" is a nice lounge-jazzy piece (with stupid vocal asides like "Wanna buy some pencils?") whose opening "Dah doo doo doo doo doo doo doo Dah doo ..." is done in the best "deeeuhrr, I'm an average American idiot" voice I could imagine (it's also reprised at album's end, as "America Drinks and Goes Home"). "Status Back, Baby" is a jazzy doo-wop piece about a high school socialite who had once been popular but now finds his fifteen minutes of social fame slipping away, and who implicitly (I think, at least this is what I'm reading into it) realizes that he's now worthless because he's losing his popularity. Now this I can understand and enjoy; I like seeing popular people become losers like me.

"Uncle Bernie's Farm," then, is just hilarious, as it goes from an awkwardly anthemic (for the better) lampoon of whatever into an UNBELIEVABLY hilarious middle-8 ("We gotta send Sanny Claus back to de Rescue Mission! ...") that's delivered in a way that will send you rolling on the floor if you listen carefully enough. "Son of Suzy Creamcheese" is a short interlude loosely based on the "Louis Louis" riff (a theme that Frank would reprise several times in his career, and was already used in "Plastic People" to even better effect) that could have been a large hit in the hands of somebody else, but here it acts merely as an entertaining prelude to the main showcase of the album.

"Brown Shoes Don't Make It" sums up so much about Zappa and his world view that listening to it could easily serve as a 7:30 primer on Zappa. It throws jazz-rock and music hall and bluesy call-and-response and old cabaret music and whatever into a single pot, with all sorts of weird vocal effects and sounds and Zappa explicitly saying that the average American male wants to have sex with his daughter when the wife isn't around (!!!). Naturally, when he does the last of these, he does it in the goofiest novelty-tune manner imaginable, at least in the way he sings, "Smother my daughter in chocolate syrup ..." Excessively gross? Oh yeah. But it's brilliant, horrifying as it is.

Overall, then, I find this album much more confusing than its predecessor, which hurts it, but it's an intriguing kind of confusing, which helps offset much of the "damage" from that. Plus, the two bonus tracks that are plopped in between the two oratorios (bonus tracks in the middle, oy), are lots of fun; "Big Leg Emma" is (I guess) a music-hall/blues cross with more deliberately "dumb" vocals, and "Why Don'tcha Do Me Right" is growling nonsensical blues-rock that has one of the best grumbling bass tones that I can imagine existing in the 60's. So overall a **** seems reasonable to me; if you like it a lot more, though, I can understand that, as, as mentioned before, I vaguely suspect there's a bunch of subtext within that I'm missing that would make me enjoy this even more than I do.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars The early Zappa albums need a certain state of mind, the kind of mind that already starts laughing right from the "Hello Amaricas" introduction of Plastic People. Yes, the satiric element is an aspect that can not be ignored if you want to judge this album correctly. Unfortunately that very thing happens to be my main struggle, I don't care for lyrics at all, and also on this words-pregnant album, they pass me by entirely.

The music has taken a real leap forward since Freak Out though, but there's just too little of it. Gone are most of the pop pastiche and psychedelic elements. Instead the avant-garde takes over and we get a type of music that sometimes comes close to Captain Beefheart's early albums, with seemingly chaotic rhythms, snappy disjointed guitar riffs and an eclectic mix of rough blues, jazz, musical, classical, R&B and psychedelic influences.

When the music takes over as on Invocation / Ritual Dance the band really show their potential and dive into a ground-breaking jam that must have been a real mind-expanding experience in 1967. Best of all, it still sounds fresh and involved a good 40 years later. Unfortunately those moments are far and few between, and the predominant vocals and the continuous genre pastiche gets really irritating if you just try to appreciate this for the music.

An album for the real Zappa fans, especially if you don't care being hammered down with vocals and goofy humour. Just judging from the music I can't rate this higher then 2.5 stars. Promising but no match for what was to come.

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Smother that girl in chocolate syrup"

Quite a step down from the debut masterpiece, but still good.

In the summer of 1966, Uncle Frank had released the iconic debut known as "Freak Out!" which showed that America had some heavy musical hitters of their own competing with the Brits. He had also settled into Laurel Canyon near LA where he would live the rest of his life save for a short time in New York. Still in 1966 he assembled the material that would become "Absolutely Free" and recorded it in just four days in November 1966. There had been some line-up changes, with Billy Mundi, Don Preston, Jim Felder, Jim Sherwood, and Bunk Gardner joining the fold. Mother Elliot Ingber was fired from the band for smoking too much weed, something Frank would not tolerate. Ray Collins remembered one night Elliot was so baked he was trying to tune his guitar while his amp wasn't turned on. Frank noticed, looked at Elliot, looked at the amp, then gave Collins a look which made clear Elliot's days of Motherhood were done.

The album was not released until summer 1967. The Mothers had moved to NY for gigs, Gail was pregnant with Moon, and the band were preparing for a European tour. Frank hastily married Gail just prior to Moon's birth to appease their Catholic parents, not something he was thrilled about. In late 1966 he told an interviewer that if he ever married again "I'd prefer a sterile deaf mute who likes to wash dishes. There are so many American women who fit that description philosophically I might as well own one." Calling his wedding with Gail "cheezy" and still sleeping around on the side, he took off for London just prior to Moon's birth when he could easily have juggled things to be there. Always the romantic. Anyway, it was against this crazy backdrop that Zappa and the Mothers were ready to give London a taste of absolute freedom.

The album is similar to Freak Out on the surface but after comparing them for some time I find this one less consistent, less sharp verbally, and just not as much fun as the debut classic. The style of music has shifted primarily from the Doo-Wop 50s/60s rock to a more noodly jazz style. This might appeal to some proggers as it is technically more adventurous and jammy, but I prefer the very easy-to-love rock of the debut because it contrasts so amusingly with the caustic messages. There are still some roots rock, blues, and showtune style stuff here but the music struggles more to connect. The second issue is that the monologue has dropped a notch or two. The debut's stories and rants are absolutely razor sharp, hilarious, relevant diatribes that never let up. This time around the whole vegetable shtick is still amusing, but less so, and it gets a little long in places. Written so close to the first one, my theory is that the best ideas from the prior period went on the debut while the leftovers and the quickies went on Free. That said, tracks like "Call Any Vegetable" and "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" are Zappa classics. It's hard to believe he was able to get the latter track past the censors as it had to be pretty saucy for 1967.

All in all, the first three Mothers albums form a great trilogy of work. They sound like musical siblings, but with each having a slightly different dominant music style and a different focus to the humor. I would loosely summarize Freak Out as "why society sucks" to Doo-Wop rock; Absolutely Free as "don't be a brain dead plastic person" to zestier jamming with some jazzy overtones; We're Only In It For The Money as "don't be a vacant hippie stoner" to mocking psych-insanity. For my money the debut is the best, the 2nd is the least great, and the 3rd is hilarious but not as memorable as the first. If you're wondering where to start with the Mothers, my recommendation is at the beginning (rated that one 5 stars), which I think is the way to approach every classic artist. Enjoy hearing the progressions (or not) as they move on through the years.

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars Second album from Zappa's Inventive Mothers and well in line with the Freak Out debut album, but also hinting at the coming Lumpy Gravy. The Mothers are now in a typical (if not classic) line-up, although one of the Gardner isn't there. The black & white artwork shows a menacing Zappa towering over the rest of his Mothers, but this album is a real collective of musicians, even if Zappa's guitar is the unsung hero. Again Zappa uses his slapstick Cheech & Chong-like humour and raises the famous question: "does humour belong in music?" and still mixes every stylev of music he laid his ears on.

Opening on the classic Plastic People, sung in a typical silly Francesco manner over an impressive jazz-rock. Ensues a bunch of usual Zappa-esque tracks, often dominated by the over-the-top (and sometimes grotesque) vocals, where they develop a rather unhealthy fixation on vegetables, including pumpkins and a yodelling rutabaga and call after the now- familiar Suzy Creamcheese on the flipside. Most of the music is brilliant jazz-rock, but it rather buried behind the intrusive and obstructive vocals, except in rare instrumental passages, like in the excellent Ritual Pumpkin Dance, which is the first (of two) long track of the album.

The flipside starts on the bluesy Big Leg Emma, followed by the Beefheart-ian Do Me Right and again the usual flood of weird tracks, this time topped by the very strange Brown Shoes, where dissonance is making a disturbing (for the album flow) appearance in the longest track of the album.

Definitely a step up from Freak Out, and while the Zappa-ian absurdities are still around, they don't hinder too much the album's continuity as they had on their debut. If Creamcheese and Brown Shoes had not been so weird, this album would stand in my faves of Zappa's early discography.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars In 1967, two months befor the Beatles released "Sgt. Pepper", Frank Zappa released his first album of absolute brilliance. Full of complex time signatures, classical references, and scathing political and social commentary, Zappa showed that he was truly ahead of his time. Who, at that time, was playing anything like this music?

Zappa's lyrics alternate between weird and incisive. His targets on this album are commerciality, alcoholism, middle-class angst, and vegetables. His band and the recording studio of the time are his only limitations. While this group, still mostly the same band as "Freak Out", is competent, Frank's music pushes them to their limit. They perform all of the twists and turns he gives them, but at times you can hear the band on the edge of losing their grip. And wouldn't it be great to hear this album sound like it was recorded on newer equipment?

Still, works like Call Any Vegetable, America Drinks (I can just picture Frank conducting the band in that very odd timing), and Brown Shoes Don't Make It put Zappa at a completely different level than any other musician of that era.

Review by Sinusoid
4 stars It's real and very new!

Being a self-professed fan of the Mothers' debut album meant I had to investigate more albums from that period of Zappa's career. ABSOLUTELY FREE is the second album from the Mothers, and here we see the band get comfortable in their own style. One pervasive problem from FREAK OUT! was that it used too much of the popular music scene styles as templates for the humourous banter. Despite a few ''borrowings'' (the opening number is clearly ''Louie, Louie'' purposely played atrociously), the Mothers get their own music style together whilst keeping the humour that made the debut a joy.

The 60's pop-rock scene still has a strong stench in the music, but it's so warped to the point of not being very generic. Things get pretty dicey with the faux-operatic ''Duke of Prunes'' and the oddball ''Call Any Vegetable'' as both sound insanely messy (the rough keyboard(?) sounds bring a harder edge to the music), yet pulled together by some mysterious cohesion that I can't explain. It must be the purpose of Zappa's music at that time; write great music, then play it chaotically and sing the words out of tune while for reasons unknown, the beauty of the piece is kept. The shorter tunes on the second side follow this trend although not exclusively. For example, ''Status Back Baby'' revisits the doo- wop influenced songs on the debut, but Zappa and co. (particularly Ian Underwood) still wreck the song (in a beautiful way) in the middle.

The actual album flows very nicely. In fact, each side on the original album represented a ''pageant'' performed by the Mothers in one continuous motion. There are only two disruptions of order; the first is on the CD remaster thanks to the debut leftovers ''Big Leg Emma'' (boring) and ''Why Don'tcha Do Me Right?'' (amusing). The other is the long thing in ''Brown Shoes Don't Make It'', a mini-operetta that goes through a multitude of styles but never really making any point other than cramming a bunch of stuff in the span of 7.5 minutes. ''Brown Shoes'' is the only time I ask myself, ''Why?''

The other seven-minute epic makes up for the brown shoes (must've been smothered in that chocolate syrup). ''Invocation and Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin'' is the best track off AF; it gives us an interesting precursor to Zappa's minglings with fusion (HOT RATS and the like) complete with the unearthly interplay of guitar and reeds. The pace of the jam makes this so enjoyable, easily one of the late Jimmy Carl Black's greatest recorded performances.

ABSOLUTELY FREE is an excellent follow-up to the monster of FREAK OUT!, taking everything that make the debut wonderful, having the band find their unique sound and push the instrumental dabblings farther beyond imagination at the time. One of the finer and funnier works of Frank Zappa that is suitable for any progressive music collection.

Review by Warthur
5 stars Consisting of two side-long suites (with contemporary single Big Leg Emma/Why Don'cha Do Me Right? acting as a sort of interlude on most CD versions), Absolutely Free takes the two halves of Freak Out! - skewed pop/rock numbers and avant-garde experimental tracks - and mashes them together until the two ingredients are inextricably bound. Take the first suite, Absolutely Free, which after it sputters into life with the still angry, still politicised Plastic People takes the listener on a journey through a world of vegetable-themed romance which slips Stravinsky lines and free jazz noodlings in as it ricochets from frenetic experimental chaos to Supremes-inspired Wall of Sound pop heaven.

The second suite, the MOI American Pageant, follows up the epic Brown Shoes Don't Make It - arguably one of the first rock operas, along with the Who's A Quick One (While He's Away) - with America Drinks and Goes Home, whose "last orders at the bar" feel would be mimic by the Rolling Stones in the closing track of Between the Buttons.

The sheer, crazed energy evidenced on the album is incredible; it's been a favourite of mine for years and years, and I still haven't unpacked all its secrets, and yet at the same time I also think it's one of the most accessible albums of Zappa's early career - don't get me wrong, it's not simplistic like Freak Out! or Cruising With Ruben and the Jets, but it is less daunting than the likes of, say, Lumpy Gravy or Weasels Ripped My Flesh. New listeners to Zappa could do worse than starting with this one, or the equally classic We're Only In It For The Money - you've got all Zappa's perchant for bizarre experimentation in a nice, digestible package. Eat your vegetables, they're good for you.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by darkshade
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The first album with Frank's face dominating the cover art. You know it's a good Zappa album when his face is staring right at you on the cover.

This second album by Frank Zappa and The Mothers is a big step up from the debut. Compositionally, the music is more complex, but also, the humor works for most of the album, as opposed to Freak Out! where I didn't find most of the songs funny, though they were trying to be. That Zappa cynicism is in full force, and no matter how crazy the music gets, you can't help but chuckle at certain times. "Call Any Vegetable" is one of the funniest Zappa songs ever, and the music is very eclectic as well.

This album is also the first time we see Frank stretch out on some of the music, as can be heard on "Invocation & Ritual Dance Of The Young Pumpkin", one of the earliest examples of jazz-rock/fusion. The music is just rockin'.

Most of the music on the rest of the album, however, is a mix of 60s rock and psychedelia, with some more melodic and dramatic pieces like "Duke of Prunes", a Zappa classic. But of course, it's a 60s Mothers album, so expect some wild and zany parts, as well as some experimentation and dissonance pieces. Zappa's classical influence is still somewhat missing here, as before with FO!, but shows up right after this album.

Lots of conceptual continuity going on here, like male and female orgasm noises to reflect an incident Frank had in the mid-60s when recording girls making such noises; more references to Suzy Creamcheese, vegetables, Big Leg Emma before it originally appeared on Lather and Zappa in New York version, and more. What's scary is that the topics Frank talks about on this album are still as relevant in America in the 2010s as they were in the mid-late-60s. "The President is sick", "Plastic People", America's drinking problem", "Wanna buy some pencils?", etc...

Always ahead of his time, the format for this album consists of two suites book-ending the album, with two individual songs in between providing some relief from the suites. All this in 1967, years before Pink Floyd, King Crimson, and other prog rock giants were doing anything like that (or even existed as bands yet). Be aware that the original vinyl did not include those 2 songs.

This is one of those albums you just listen to in it's entirety, as the sum is greater than its parts. All the songs in each suite flow into each other. Make sure you to get the 2012 reissue, as the sound problems such as added reverb from older CD versions have been removed, and the mix reverts to the original analog version. Essential Zappa album.

Review by stefro
5 stars Considered by many as a superior follow-up to The Mothers debut album 'Freak Out!' and arguably the strongest of the group's opening triumvirate of studio albums, 'Absolutely Free' pretty much picks up where it's predecessor left off, the surreal stream-of-conciousness lyrics, acid jazz hues, psychedelic flourishes and absurdist humour all present. This time, however, the scattergun approach of 'Freak Out!' has been replaced with stronger, seemingly more focused songwriting, both from the lyrical and musical ends, with 'Absolutely Free' serving up a strong set list peppered with a handful of absolute Zappa classics in the shape of the gloriously bizarre 'Choose Any Vegetable' and the wonderful seven-minute psych pastiche 'Brown Shoes Don't Make It'. Anarchic is probably the best word, then, to sum up 'Absolute Free', though one other word does come to mind: Brilliant. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2013
Review by ProgShine
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I've been going through many 1967 albums as a research to an article I'm doing for my website. And it's very nice to see some of the bands development.

Frank Zappa, back on this Absolutely Free (1967) was still with The Mothers Of Ivention, his band. Nobody need to say, really, that Frank Zappa was a visionary, a sound revolutionary. Back in his first album Freak Out! (1966) we knew it already!

But with this album Zappa was, like the name suggests, free. Free from what, you might ask, well, free from everything. He could actually do whatever he felt like, and he did!

Of course the political statement that Zappa always had was there, the album is indeed a display of political and social satire with a complex (to that time) music.

Absolutely Free (1967) focus on mini suites, each side of the original LP is one mini suite indeed. And, again, Zappa's classical side was there, in his first moments with citations from Igor Stravinsky all around.

Not my favorite side of Zappa (he has so many), I prefer his 70's homour period (Just Another Band From L.A., Over-Nite Sensation and Apostrophe), but this one can't let you down really!

3.5 stars.

Review by siLLy puPPy
5 stars ABSOLUTELY FREE is absolutely just that. Freer than any bird that a certain American Southern rock band would later sing about or even come close to sounding like. I have to always go back and look at the year on the CD when I listen to this. Really? 1967? Uh, wait a minute wasn't that the year of the Summer Of Love and all the other psychedelic and hippie love gracing the musical world? Well, yeah but obviously nobody told Mr. Zappa and the Mothers. They had their own jaded agenda and much more grounded in reality it was. While many were dropping out, Mr Zappa and the Mothers were dropping biting critiques taking pokes at politics and society in general. To this day this remains some of the most intelligently designed musical expressions ever laid down on tape.

After a great start with their debut this is the album where all those wonderful and crazy ideas really came to roost. You know the kind. The kind music that forces you to recalibrate your musical attitude to get it and either fall in love with it like I did or reject it in total dismay because it's just too scary! Mommy help me! Whether you hate it or love it, it forces you to react and you either dive in for repeated listens or you run away in total shock and horror accusing them of blasphemy and being possessed by demons who are out to destroy the status quo. This was not my first Zappa album but it has become one of my top 50! It helps that they dropped the overabundance of doowop and dared to fly their freak flags ever higher. I am inclined to think that the Mothers Of Invention were one of the most significant bands to catalyze what we now call progressive music. Nothing was even close to this style of madness back in 1967 and precious few acts have achieved it since.

This album which has been described as a condensed 2-hour musical was one of the first overtly complex albums that excelled at political and social satire. On this album Bunk Gardner was added on saxophone which created an even richer sound and consists of 2 side long suites that take music in directions never thought possible. Although this is unlike anything else one can still hear the Stravinsky and Varese influences if you're familiar with their music and of course the Mothers were pioneering the unthinkable act of creating jazz-fusion.

This must have been a total slap in the face to any listener when this came out. Between the over-the-top criticism and intelligently delivered lyrics mixed with a musical collage of ideas that rotate like a sampling guide it just plain boggles the mind! This is one of the best albums Mr Zappa and the Mothers ever came up with. It is brilliant from the very first track "Plastic People" to the closing "America Drinks And Goes Home." Although bonus tracks are extremely hit and miss on Zappa albums, the two tracks "Big Leg Emma" and "Why Don't You Do Me Right" fit in perfectly on my Rykodisc version of this musical masterpiece.

Review by Dobermensch
2 stars An infantile album that sounds as though it's been recorded by a bunch of drunk American 15 year olds in their dads garage.

I've actually got a lot of time for Zappa. He was a very good and articulate speaker and seemed like a nice guy at heart.

This recording really irritates me though. The most ridiculous double entendres run rampant throughout this daft album that means and says nothing whatsoever which is incredible considering how vocal heavy it is. To my ears it sounds really straight down the line with very little creativity. I'm sure back in '68 things were viewed very differently - but today this just sounds hopelessly dated and outmoded.

I wish he'd stop rolling those 'Rrrr' letters and singing about goddamn vegetables. I've got better things to do with my life than to listen to this. Even the wonderfully titled 'Invocation & Ritual Dance Of The Young Pumpkin' fails to impress with a highly disagreeable jam that can be found on a multitude of recordings from this era.

'Big Leg Emma' is the kind of track Beefheart could have made a proper stab at rather than this half hearted limp effort. I don't know what it is with me and Zappa - something just doesn't click. I guess I just dislike that American late 60's sound full stop. The Doo-wop singing simply bursts my head and the less said about the horns the better. This just sounds alien to me.

And I have to say I get very uneasy listening to 'Brown Shoes Don't Make It' - in particular that part with the young girl. - 'If she were my daughter I'd...' 'What would you do daddy?'

Not good.

Give me Wild Man Fischer any day.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Absolutely Free is the 2nd official Frank Zappa and the Mothers album after their debut "Freak Out!" This one pretty much takes off where the previous album left off. "Freak Out" was a double disc and started out quite structured, leaning heavily on doo wop and R&B structures of the time and Frank loved these kinds of songs. However, they are a little wacked out compared to the standard fare that was out there because FZ put his own stamp on them. The 2nd disc however, was more experimental featuring improv and collage style music with even more wackiness. "Absolutely Free" continues with more the weird and wacky, but this time, FZ adds many snippets of classical music in among the songs. The music has many surprises in it, especially to the listener who is really paying attention, and this is the main reason this album demands to be listened to more than once. The problem here however, is with the line up that FZ had with the Mothers, who appreciated the humor and the satire, but didn't really appreciate the culture that Frank was adding to the mix.

Absolutely Free originally was divided up into 2 "parts" (or in Frank's vision; "underground oratorios") The first side of the record (tracks 1 - 7)was called Absolutely Free. The 2nd side was called "The M.O.I. American Pageant". The overall feel of the album is Frank's use of the Oratorio style from many Opera works, which he composes into the music very successfully. When this album was issued on CD, 2 tracks were inserted between these 2 parts. These tracks consisted of the 2 songs from the single that was released about the same time, but was not part of this album; "Big Leg Emma" and "Why Don'cha Do Me Right?". The feeling of both of these added tracks does not fit in with the other tracks since they do not follow the oratorio style. Instead, they are more of a blues-rock sound, but they are still a welcome addition anyway.

The first Oratorio mixes political, musical and just plain outrageous vegetable satirical themes. Franks compositional skills start to really make themselves apparent here as he mixes up doo wop, classical and rock music. However, the weakness of most of the performers in the performance of such a mash up also shows through. They got the comedy part down great though. "Plastic People" acts as a Intro of what's to come up and features a motif similar to the rock classic "Louie Louie". The next 3 tracks are linked together with a theme and variation style of composition with the middle track being mostly a short instrumental break and a return to theme on the last part. This is the Duke of Prunes theme. The next 3 tracks also follow this same pattern but with a different theme; the Vegetable theme. This time, the middle section is a long 7 minute jazz instrumental with guitar and woodwinds featured at the front of the mix. The last section closes both the theme and the 1st oratorio.

On the CD version, we are now treated to 2 tracks that were not on the original release. As stated before, these 2 songs were released together as a single around the same time period. They seem to be mixed a lot better than the rest of the album and are more typical blues-rock songs with FZ vocals sung in lower registers, but still with different timbres. Pleasant enough and they are a welcome change to the oratorio style of the rest of the album.

The second Oratorio again mixes political satire with musical surprises, but no prunes or vegetables are involved this time. The main subject here is the importance of status in American society and how silly it all is when you consider it. Each section of this Oratorio stands pretty much on it's own and each represents different areas of life where status affects people in mostly negative ways. The entire oratorio is bookended by status of bar bands and represent a typical night in a bar or lounge. There is a lot of background voices signifying a busy bunch of patrons drinking. "Status Back Baby" is probably the most straight forward doo-wop song in the original line up of the album, and it hilariously deals with status at the typical high school of the 60s and 70s. "Uncle Bernie's Farm" deals with the latest fads and toys and you really notice the improv that goes on in Frank's music when Ray says something that cracks Frank up in the middle of the song. More status satire continues with "Son of Suzy Creamcheese" where Frank shifts time signatures faster than a speeding eggplant (oops where did that vegetable reference come from) in a very short song. "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" is a political story sung in drama form and is the longest track on this side, in fact it is the only long track on this side, at over 7 minutes. It is a story of status clash between Lyndon Johnson who was president at the time, and a young teen girl, and, if you know Frank's sense of humor, you know what that story will consist of. Nowadays, because of a certain orange president, this behavior seems to be more acceptable, especially among the religious zealots, so it loses it's humor and impact. This track features the best performances of the Mothers on this album. The last track closes out the oratorio and the album and features some vocalizations from Terry Gilliam (Monty Python and etc.) and his girlfriend.

That's it in a nutshell. This album is more interesting as a historical and musical item then it is as an album that you would want to listen to over and over again. I find it somewhat annoying because I don't like the line up of the Mothers so much especially because they were not as advanced musically as Frank was. However, it does pull off the satire quite well. Trouble is, Frank wanted to also get listeners interested in serious music, not just from past composers, but also his own. That is where this albums fails. There are just too many people that only listen for the humor but don't want to take the time to really listen to everything going on here. Don't worry though, because Frank will do better as time goes on with the serious part. Historically, this is an important progressive album, but there are so many more albums in Zappa's repertoire that are better than this, especially when he gets better musicians to back him up. I have to give this one 3 stars, but it was a good attempt and gives a good idea of what was to come later.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars On May 26, 1967, Verve Records releases Frank Zappa's THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION Absolutely Free. Much like their Freak Out! debut from the year before, Absolutely Free is a display of complex music fully supporting Frank's political and social satire.

- Absolutely Free (19:34) a seven-part ode to prunes:

1. "Plastic People" (3:40) a great start that let's you know straight off what the band's intentions are: Humorous satire! (8.75/10)

2. "The Duke Of Prunes" (2:12) so this is where The Soft Machine extracted the "Moon in June" phrase! And mock- opera/show tune fare. Todd Rundgren got the idea for his tongue-in-cheek operatic vocals on his early albums and "Freak Parade." An excellent song. (5/5)

3. "Amnesia Vivace" (1:01) quite possibly where Todd Rundgren got the idea for his tongue-in-cheek operatic vocals on his early albums and "Freak Parade." (4.5/5)

4. "The Duke Regains His Chops" (1:45) I love the pseudo-Broadway finish. (4.375/5)

5. "Call Any Vegetable" (2:19) some great performances despite the heavy satire. (4.375/5)

6. "Invocation & Ritual Dance Of The Young Pumpkin" (6:57) a mostly instrumental slash of Dick Dale/Surfer music and Roger McGuinn's famous 12-string guitar slash-fest in The Byrds' "Eight Miles High." The tight rhythm section keeps it together as guitarists Frank Zappa and Jim Felder and soprano saxophonist Bunk Gardner slash away on their respective instruments (Gardner's a tongue-in-cheek parody of John Coltrane??). Don Preston's keys are somewhere down in the mix--probably hidden beneath Ray Collins' tambourine. Nice jam. (13/15)

7. "Soft-Sell Conclusion & Ending Of Side #1 (1:40) the multi-style conclusion to the Vegetable Medley. (4.3333/5)

- The M.O.I. American Pageant (18:35) more parodies on American social and political events and themes:

8. "America Drinks" (1:52) (4.25/5)

9. "Status Back Baby" (2:52) impressive guitar solo in the second minute--and a great finish--to an otherwise quoditian song. (8.66667/10)

10. "Uncle Bernie's Farm" (2:09) funny vocal and lyric with masterfully-performed music to match. Great choral "bar room" vocals. (4.5/5)

11. "Son Of Suzy Creamcheese" (1:33) the encore return of Suzy Creamcheeze! Great construct--demanding very tight performances from all--now usurping the "Louie, Louie" melody. (4.5/5)

12. "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" (7:26) more theatric cabaret for satiric social commentary. A veritable multi-part suite in and of itself. So many themes, so many motifs, so many quips. (13.25/15)

13. "America Drinks & Goes Home" (2:43) Frank's satirical "tribute" on the intoxicating and intoxicated world of the lounge scene. Amazing. Not the most progressive musically but an excellent indictment of a world that deserves the same criticism to this day. (9.25/10)

Total time 38:09

Though progressive rock music in general does not conform to the trail of socio-political satire as blazed by Frank's Mothers, the complex theatric entanglement of multiple themes within the framework of single songs and suites will become quite de rigueur.

B+/4.5 stars; an excellent album in the same satirical vein as Freak Out!--fodder for the formation and development of early progressive rock. Not sure I'm ready to welcome this album as something deserving of a true "progressive rock" label, but be assured: the seeds have been sown.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Review #137 (Considering this an album by THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION and not a FRANK ZAPPA album) Unlike "Freak out!", "Absolutely free" shows a more homogeneous style, much more oriented to a Proto- Avant-Prog kind of music. FRANK ZAPPA's discography (obviously including THE MOTHERS OF INVENTI ... (read more)

Report this review (#2633716) | Posted by Uruk_hai | Saturday, November 13, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The First Brilliant Zappa/Mothers Social Critique. Zappa recorded this while in New York, and that city's influence is felt here. He delves into social commentary, and is more direct and sincere on this album (and 'We're Only In it'...) than on any of his 70s albums (until 'You Are What You Is', ... (read more)

Report this review (#1695657) | Posted by Walkscore | Tuesday, February 21, 2017 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I am ready to continue my examination of Frank Zappa's work beacuse I won't believe he is overrated. He seems to have inspired so many musicians that he must have something important to show me too. He was born 1940 and on this, his second record "Absolutely Free" from 1967 was he 27 years old. ... (read more)

Report this review (#1278584) | Posted by DrömmarenAdrian | Wednesday, September 17, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars God knows why i waited so long with buying this baby, but on the same time beter now then never and this album have been makeing this summer a great one. Sure Were only in it for the money is probably still my favorite Mothers album but this one comes damn close to the top of the Zappa mountain, ... (read more)

Report this review (#178057) | Posted by Zargus | Thursday, July 24, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The second Frank Zappa/ Mothers Of Invention album came just one year after the Freak Out! debut, but it is very different and surprising. Absolutely Free shows Frank Zappa as a composer first. Amazing arrangements, very ahead for their time. 1967 was the start of the Psychedelic scene, but Zapp ... (read more)

Report this review (#170512) | Posted by Civa | Saturday, May 10, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This second Zappa/Mothers Of Invention album is not as good as Freak Out ! or the others. There are too much weak songs here, some fillers, but some good moments too : Brown Shoes Don't Make It, Plastic People, Call Any Vegetable, Invocation And Ritual Dance Of The Young Pumpkin. Two bonus tra ... (read more)

Report this review (#163468) | Posted by Zardoz | Saturday, March 8, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A great follow-up to the legendary Freak Out. The first part of the album starts with the satirical (typical trademark of Zappa I think) Plastic People, after that it's all about fruit and vegetables, The Duke of Prunes starts slow and slightly weird, but slowely through the next songs the band ... (read more)

Report this review (#163322) | Posted by tuxon | Thursday, March 6, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Firstly a word of wisdom to buyers. The mono vinyl is far more common than the stereo, saying that you should get the mono and the stereo if you can possible afford them but don't allow yourself to be ripped off, the mono is common. Now why should you own this record in all of its forms ? Becaus ... (read more)

Report this review (#160492) | Posted by burgersoft777 | Friday, February 1, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Absolutely Free was Zappa and the Mother's sophmore album and does seem to fall prey to the sophmore slump. A good litmus test for whether you'll enjoy Absolutely Free is to go back and listen to the last few songs off of Freak Out!. If those were too weird for you, then run away, right now, a ... (read more)

Report this review (#159443) | Posted by cookieacquired | Monday, January 21, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This album goes where freak out! couldn't go. From the start 'Ladies and gentleman, the president of the United States' we know that something really funny and ironic is about to happen. And it does. Not only ironic but also deadly serious. It starts off with Plastic People, one of my favourite ... (read more)

Report this review (#158485) | Posted by Megaphone of Destiny | Sunday, January 13, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This by far one of the funniest albums in my collection. Frank Zappa is the word in entertainment. Great lyrics, great vocals, great music. This album is really one of jazz-rock's finest moments. Zappa spends the first half of the album telling the story of the Duke of Prunes, and how people ... (read more)

Report this review (#158299) | Posted by fighting sleep | Thursday, January 10, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Frank Zappa is one of my favorite musicians when it comes to compilations and abstractness. His anti-hippie, anti-society driven music isn't always that upfront (but it, just as often, is upfront) and i'm not sure i agree with everything he has ever stood for (being a big fan of the hippie-gene ... (read more)

Report this review (#142808) | Posted by therevelator | Monday, October 8, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Absolutely free, absolutely mad, absolutely funny, absolutely a genius. This is the best early Zappa work, with strange sounds, mad lyrics and excellent music. I think this is the first, real Zappian album, really different from "Freak Out!", that I don't find a masterpiece, even if it has a gre ... (read more)

Report this review (#138812) | Posted by paloz | Monday, September 17, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The second record by Zappa Plastic people Interesting melody motifs, rhytm changes and a strong avantgarde feel. Early Zappa at his best. 5 stars The duke of prunes An evocative melody paired with mocking vocals of possibly the best known Frank at that time, Mr. Sinatra. Some fine basspla ... (read more)

Report this review (#133062) | Posted by Peto | Tuesday, August 14, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Truly an outstanding album. I find this second Mothers album to be sadly underrated. It is clearly better than the praised follow-up album "We're Only In It For The Money", which is of course excellent too, but not as good as this. The main reason this album is the least speaken of the first thr ... (read more)

Report this review (#132841) | Posted by Wutu Banale | Sunday, August 12, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The second Mothers album shows how Zappa progressed from the relative "easy listening" (please, consider this as an irony) of "Freak Out" to the more complex and subtle music of "Absolutely Free". Here the music is very rich and the lyrics are more developed, and The Mothers show more instrume ... (read more)

Report this review (#96309) | Posted by M. B. Zapelini | Tuesday, October 31, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Absolutely Free has a very nice feel for Zappa album and is a great follow-up album for Freak Out!. The album starts of with Plastic People which is little catchy song. Then comes The Duke of Prunes segment which flows very smoothly and flawlessly. Very jazzy feel as well as some great gui ... (read more)

Report this review (#78662) | Posted by | Thursday, May 18, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars It's hard to over state the crucial importance of this LP in the development of "progressive rock." It's one of the very first LP's where the songs flow together in a coherent "album" structure, in fact it does so much more effectively than "Sgt. Pepper". And musically, I think it's fair to ... (read more)

Report this review (#50610) | Posted by | Friday, October 7, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Following up something like Freak Out! is hard. However Frank gets proggier with this release. Songs are set up in suites and segments, loose concepts are thrown together, and musicianship is raised up a notch. This one's much more enjoyable for those looking for some groovy and fusiony bits. On ... (read more)

Report this review (#38700) | Posted by | Wednesday, July 6, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Take Freak Out!, scratch the concept idea, add more improvisation, and you have Absolutely Free. Freak Out! was legendary. Absolutely Free wasn't legendary, but then again, probably only because Freak Out! laid down the blueprints first. For those who didn't like Freak Out! should try Abso ... (read more)

Report this review (#35680) | Posted by Retrovertigo | Wednesday, June 8, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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