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Frank Zappa - The Mothers Of Invention: Over-Nite Sensation CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



4.02 | 602 ratings

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4 stars Frank Zappa has to be considered the best rock bandleader in history because he never failed to surround himself with the cream of the crop and produce music that was not only complex but also exhilarating at the same time. But the big attraction for me was Frank's overriding satiric wit and his uncanny ability to lampoon his own generation. I remember going to the record store with my buddy Glenn sometime in 1967 where he bought "Freak Out" by the Mothers of Invention and I bought the debut of Buffalo Springfield. I thought Glenn's album was too weird and he thought my album was too tame. Nonetheless, despite my naive reservations I kept Zappa in the corner of my ear, sampling his underground concoctions from time to time. Then, in 1973, Frank and The Mothers suddenly started getting FM airplay with this album. He didn't sell out; it's just that the music on "Over-nite Sensation" was accessible enough for the public at large to digest and that allowed his humorous observations to finally break through.

In order to fully appreciate his genius you have to keep in mind that southern California harbors some of the strangest mindsets in the known world and Zappa was born and fully immersed in that eccentric corner of mankind. (I lived there for almost 3 years in the late 70s and will never forget the crazy but loveable characters I met.) With that in mind it's no wonder that people's preoccupation with sex is a major theme in three of the songs. "Camarillo Brillo" takes on would-be mystics who just want to be seductresses with lyrics like "She said she was a magic mama/and she could throw a mean Tarot." "Dirty Love" assails kinky fantasies that can even involve Poodles, crooning "Give me your dirty love/like a pink donation/to the dragon in your dreams." And there's the ultimate groupie epic "Dinah-Moe Hum" in which she challenges the rock star with the offer that can't be refused. Despite the scandalous subject matter it must be pointed out that not one single curse or filthy word is uttered on this album. Everything is conveyed by innuendo, which is funnier by far, and it certainly frustrated the censors no end.

The ever-popular television medium gets a punch in the gut on "I'm the Slime" where Frank intones devilishly "I may be vile and pernicious/but you can't look away/I make you think I'm delicious/with the stuff that I say." On "Fifty-fifty" he employs some guy named Ricky Lancelotti to make fun of self-important, opinionated rock and roll idols as he rasps "I figure the odds be fifty-fifty/I just might have something to say." (Some things never change.) On "Zomby Woof" our seemingly insatiable need to be frightened by imaginary monsters fuels inspired lines like "I might snatch you up screamin' through the window all nekkid and do it to you up on the roof" because he's "Telling you all the Zomby troof/here I'm is/the Zomby Woof!" And, last but not least, it seemed that the aim of a lot of delusional dead-end-job employees living in the city at that time was to leave the hectic urban life behind and relocate to the rustic countryside and get back to nature. "Montana" still makes me laugh out loud with absurd statements like "Well, I just might grow me some bees" and "By myself I wouldn't have no boss/but I'd be raisin' my lonely dental floss" thereby becoming a "mental toss flycoon." Priceless!

Beneath all this keen satire, though, lies a bedrock of great performances by some of the best musicians of that day. On "Fifty-fifty," for example, George Duke turns in a terrific organ solo and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty shines brightly. Frank, of course, tears it up frequently with his madman guitar leads that defy interpretation or analysis. You can also tell that everybody involved is having a grand old time. So, if you need a break from prog bands who sometimes take themselves and life way too seriously, look no further than Mr. Zappa and his fun-loving yet talented friends who had a ball razzing society's obvious hypocrisies while constructing a classic album.

Chicapah | 4/5 |


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