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


Frank Zappa



3.78 | 513 ratings

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4 stars 'Weasels Ripped My Flesh' is a potpourri of sounds and styles from Frank Zappa and the Mothers, and was the 2nd album from The Mothers released after the band broke up (it is their 7th overall and FZ's 10th overall). The first album released after The Mothers break up was 'Burnt Weiny Sandwich' which consisted of outtakes and other songs that didn't make any album cuts, and was made up of rather structured songs. This one was also made up of outtakes and etc., but this one consists of more free form or improvised tracks, most of which are recorded live. But there are a couple of straightforward tracks too. Because of this, you get quite a sampling of different styles of FZ's music on this album.

FZ said that he wanted to put together a 12 record set of leftover music, but then decided it would cost a quarter of a million dollars, so trashed that idea. He said that 80% of this album is made up of group improvisations where he conducted spontaneous music and that some of those songs that were intended for that huge project. The interesting cover and title of the album was inspired by a magazine cover of 'Man's Life' with the tag line 'Weasels Ripped My Flesh'. FZ saw the magazine and decided it doesn't get any worse than that. The studio didn't want to use the cover illustration which was based on a shaving ad, but released it anyway.

The opening track 'Didja Get Any Onya?' has a reading from Lowell George (who would go on to form 'Little Feat'). This is a person recounting his time as a German boy in Baltimore who's father made poison gas for the government for WWII. The name of the track comes from a Lenny Bruce routine. The track was recorded live at the Philadelphia Arena. The original CD was 3 minutes longer than the LP. The track starts right off with an improvised trumpet and sax with funny vocal sounds. You can hear how tight the band was to the changes that FZ was directing throughout the track. This is what makes it all amazing in the way the band reacts to FZ's direction. Remember, this is all pretty much spontaneous. The Lowell George part comes in quite early and is hard to hear with another band member doing operatic sounds. After some more goofing around, the band breaks into another sax improvisation with a repeating riff in the background. Then it goes into a start/stop style, again as directed by FZ. Since it is improvised, you get a lot of dissonance, but that is what FZ was looking for. It is all based on 20th Century classical styles.

'Directly From My Heart to Yours' is a studio outtake from the 'Hot Rats' session and is a cover of a Little Richard song. It is a straightforward blues/rock track sung by Don Harris who also plays the electric violin in the song. It is a surprising contrast from the previous track, but that is what give the album it's charm. 'Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask' is a sarcastical take on a title from a Debussy composition. Frank based it on a space helmet that he made out of a gas mask and mustard gas container that his father had brought home from work. He opened it with a can opener and rendered it useless, which his father was upset about. But FZ used it as a space helmet. The track is again a group improvisation based on FZ's direction. It has an avant garde feel and also some strange improvised vocals from the band, including laughter and so on. It was recorded live in London and partially in Miami Beach Florida.

'Toads of the Short Forest' was also recorded live in 2 different places, the first half in Glendale, California and the second half in Miami Beach, Florida. It starts out rather straightforward with a nice melody and then suddenly switches to improvisation where nothing is straightforward. In the recording FZ announces all of the different meters the band members are playing in at the same time. Improv continues.

'Get a Little' comes next. This is a short improve featuring FZ's guitar recorded when they were opening for 'Vanilla Fudge'. This was recorded in The Bronx, and apparently the audience wasn't very receptive because FZ said in an interview that a member of the audience said 'You guys stink! Bring on the Fudge!'

Next is another group improvisation called 'The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbeque' recorded in studio. This was titled as homage to Eric Dolphy who was a jazz instrumentalist that died in 1964. The song itself is not anything like Dolphy's music, though it does include a sax improvisation throughout the song, along with improv from the band. FZ admired Dolphy, however and there are credits as to his inspiration on the 'Freak Out!' album. This track changes meter and style several times through it's nearly 7 minute time frame and is very much a free form jazz composition.

'Dwarf Nebula' is based on a piano exercise done by FZ with other instruments added in. This doesn't last long though and soon we get a processed sound collage with FZ using his famous gadget 'The Apostolic Blurch Injector'. After this is a straightforward blues/rock track called 'My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama'. This one is composed, as Frank says, for stupid teenagers and record company executives. This track is used many times in Frank's concerts. Both of the previous tracks were recorded in studio, with the latter one being quite polished, contrasted from the previous track which is improvisation.

'Oh No' is another vocal track which acts as a satirical response to The Beatles 'All You Need is Love'. The track isn't as straightforward as the previous track and has some tricky meters. The vocals follow the instrumentals which is quite difficult. This track was actually written as an instrumental during the 'Freak Out!' sessions and the lyrics were added later. It has an extended instrumental section at the end, and even though is is not your average rock song, it is a more structured track. The melody is one of FZ's more familiar melodies as it is used as a basis for individual improvisational numbers. This track goes directly into 'Orange County Lumber Truck' which is the improvised jazz track featuring FZ's guitar . This is cut short all of a sudden with a laugh, and then the title track, which is the last track. All this is, is the band all playing at the same time any random note they wanted at full volume'.2 minutes of straight noise improvisation, which FZ said sounds like your average vacuum cleaner improvisation.

That's all of the tracks on this conglomeration of an album. Yet, with all of this editing and pasting of songs from unreleased Mothers tracks, it is still surprisingly good. The variety of the album only adds to the enjoyment, because you not only get a good sampling of the different types of Zappa music, but you get a fun album too. It's not one of the 5 star Zappa albums, but it is one I enjoy nonetheless. It is full of progressive styles throughout, there is still plenty of humor and plenty of 'serious' music. Hopefully, some of the short explanations of the tracks will help with the understanding as to why it is so varied in it's style, because usually Frank wouldn't mix styles like this so much on a single album. Anyway, each track has it's own story and not only Zappa-philes should appreciate this one, but also your average art rock listener too.

TCat | 4/5 |


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