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Frank Zappa - The Mothers Of Invention: Weasels Ripped My Flesh CD (album) cover

THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION: WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.78 | 419 ratings

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Mr. Soot Gremlin
3 stars Weasels Ripped My Flesh is overall one of Zappa's more experimental albums, and like some of his other albums mixes both live and studio recordings very well. But while it does contain some notable pieces that are more or less straightforward rock songs (the key one being one of Zappa's best and most accessible songs, "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama"), it may not be enjoyable for people who are not too taken to avant-rock or live, experimental instrumentals. It does, however, have many elements that music fans (and especially Zappa fans) can appreciate: complex but interesting pieces, funny dialogue and live performances by some members of the original Mothers. This variety comes from the fact that Weasels Ripped My Flesh is more of a compilation album of the work of the original Mothers groups, who were generally "weirder" musically yet thankfully also had a good sense of humor, and that can be sensed throughout this album.

"Didja Get Any Onya?" is an appropriate opener, because it represents most of the album. It is a live recording of the Mothers "freaking out" musically at the Philadelphia Arena, and lets the listener know that this is far from normal pop. It's a fun listen, but has plenty of white noise-type sounds and chaotically improvised parts that some people may not like too much.

But then comes "Directly From my Heart to You", a cover of a Little Richard song that is not only normal, but superb as well. With the great Don "Sugar Cane" Harris on electric violin and vocals, this slow moving and enchanting cover is wonderfully done and proves that the Mothers didn't just have one setting musically; they could both be experimental and more accessible yet still master each area. Harris' violin parts just "work" for me in this song, and his vocals are alright. He also has time to solo, so this is basically his show.

I cannot go song by song on this review, simply because there are a lot of similar pieces. These would be the live cuts, which mostly feature the avant-garde and experimental stuff that, again, is an acquired taste. Roy Estrada has some time to wail away in "Gas Mask", which may grind severely on your nerves. But keep in mind as well that these were live performances, and listening simply to the audio cannot give the full experience. That is my main point against the album: it can be interesting to listen to if you appreciate what the band is doing, but this can definitely be difficult by not being able to see what is happening.

There are also some more organized instrumentals such as "Toads of the Short Forest" (which actually only lasts for a bit before descending back into live madness), "Dwarf Nebula Processional", and "The Orange County Lumber Truck". For those who enjoy hearing Frank play guitar, "Get a Little" is a short but sweet live solo in which he uses wah-wah to great effect as the band plays a sinister drone behind him. And "Oh No" features original Mother Ray Collins on vocals and is a piece that would be explored later in Zappa's career.

More studio madness is present as well, in pieces like "The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue", where this so-called "rock group" performs a Zappa piece more classical than anything else. They also go into a jazz section. Lots of variety, as stated earlier.

If anything could appeal to a broader audience, it would have to be Zappa's great little rock number, "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama", which is not only catchy but features varied instrumentation and plenty of progressive rock elements. Obviously, it contains some pretty great guitar playing as well.

This compilation album is definitely more focused on the experimental live aspects of the early Mothers, yet also shows what they could do melodically and how well they could handle some of Frank's more complex compositions. Although we can appreciate the super-professional and very precise nature of some of Frank's later bands, I also enjoy these early groups for their more organic sound and perhaps slightly more humorous outlook on music.

Mr. Soot Gremlin | 3/5 |

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