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Frank Zappa - The Mothers Of Invention: Freak Out! CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa


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4 stars Incredible to think that this came out in 1966, it blows everything else of that era away, yes even Hendrix. This is not perfect, there are a few of Frank's do-wop songs which bug me a bit, but they are more than compensated by the rest of this amazing debut album. "Who Are The Brain Police?", "Help I'm A Rock" and "The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet" stand up against anything that anybody else has brought out since.
Report this review (#29368)
Posted Tuesday, April 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars I guess Freak Out deserves all the praising for historical reasons only (first double lp, first record by fz, etc.), not that much music wise. Only in embryo have we got a glimpse of what the mothers would be in years to come, in tracks like "hungry frealks daddy", or "who are the brain police", and the final "return of the son of monster magnet". the other tracks are neat and, although shocking at the time, I don't think they may be now. I'm not saying it's not a good album; simply, zappa and the mothers would do way better in the future.
Report this review (#29374)
Posted Wednesday, July 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is the beggining of the freak music style and way of life. Frank said that he always thought that freak out! would be a hit... it is absolutely marvellous, altough almost commercial. Beginnig with hungry freaks daddy that smashes on america's face the ignorant [&*!#] that once was beginning to grow, through to who are the brain police?, another question no one seemed to answer, until, help i'm rock, that transforms into help i'm a cop(!), and monster magnet, the first progsong (?). Of course it has some love songs, that we should hear with a sneer. Zappa rubs love of my life with i ain't got no heart, giving us contraditory sentiments and implying in a very artistic/inteligent way that we should listen and understand the world and/or the art with criticism and personality. Of course Frank would flourish all these songs afterwards, but the recording has a drive that excedes most of the things that other rock artists were doing at that time. Absolutely brilliant!
Report this review (#29377)
Posted Monday, October 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars i guess you could say frank zappa is not for everybody. he is definitely for me. this album may not be the greatest piece of music ever created. but it is good music. and, unlike zappa's peers, he stood for something real, he wasn't a drug-abusing hypocrit, and his music always seems to have a positive feel to it. this album is the beginning of probably the greatest musical genius in rock and probably in all genres of the 20th century. the best way to describe these songs is how zappa himself describes them within the liner notes of the album, the lyrics are very witty and he makes excellent use of a variety of semi-mainstream sounds and concepts and creates his own thing with it. the highlights of the album, to me, are: i ain't got no heart who are the brain police? how could i be such a fool help, i'm a rock

every song on this album is enjoyable, however, not zappa's best.

Report this review (#29378)
Posted Tuesday, November 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Still, one of the most important records in my life. When I first bought this at the age of 15, I expected something different. What I discovered was an amalgamation of music. Now my Zappa collection is in the double digits and soaring. Zappa's use of doo-wop on this album is really enjoyable and the track "The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet" was the very first sound collage, even before THE BEATLES' "Revolution 9." Throughout the album the lyrics and music are used as mock examples of the music scene, including some political commentary. This album doesn't really lack anything for me. It seems entirely cohesive, since, Zappa hadn't yet become a guitar genius. Roy Estrada and Ray Collins also do a wonderful job on the vocals. "Who are the Brain Police?" moves at a narcotic pace and really stands out on this album. For those new to Zappa, look no further, this is the album to get first. Wait, ummm....actually, maybe, Apostrohpe (').

Starting with Zappa... Ok, lookin' for his Mothers period, "Freak Out!." Lookin' pretty much for an instrumental, "Hot Rats." His more popular material, "Apostrophe (')." His dirty humor period, "Joe's Garage: Acts I, II & III." Live album, "Fillmore East, June 1971."

Peace & take care

Report this review (#29381)
Posted Monday, March 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is WAY ahead of its time. Not much credit is given for Zappa starting prog-rock and this album was his launching pad as much as the Beatles. Hungry Freaks, Daddy?, Who Are The Brain Police?, Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder, Wowie Zowie, Trouble Every Day, Help I'm A Rock, The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet are in my opinion the best tracks. The only reason I don't give this five is beacuse the order the songs are put in doesn't seem to be very consistent as much as the Beatles' Revolver is. Although this is more experimental than Revolver it does not showcase as many genres, but Zappa mastered each one on this CD.
Report this review (#29383)
Posted Tuesday, April 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is not a great recording to listen to. However it's probably the most important Rock , Prog, Rap, Punk & a number of other genres all invented at the same time by a Mr Zappa. This album is'nt for pleasure it's more for education. Non-Musically Frank also developed the Prog attitude that he's gonna do what he wants & nuts to the record producers. Prog for a short while acheived this in the 70's but it's gone now.
Report this review (#29386)
Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars In my opinion this is the first album of prog rock and is absolutely genius...though all of the album is not prog it created a large influence on experimental music with classical influences and instruments, especially 20th century classical (Stravinsky, Varese, Webern, etc.)...this is somewhat a culmination of Zappa's early career genius and the many styles he mastered such as garage-rock, doo-wop, mo-town, psychedellic, sound collage, fun rock n' roll, lyrical satire and criticism, etc. Some gems are the in-your-face "Hungry Freaks Daddy", the greasy "Go Cry...", the psychedellic "Who Are The Brain Police?", the mo-townish "How Could I Be...", the fun "Wowie Zowie", and the last cycle of experimental sound collage songs (12, 13, 14). Actually writing the previous was pointless because just about the whole album has all-town I recommend this album for anyone, especially one interested in the many styles of 60's rock and proto-progressive.
Report this review (#35396)
Posted Monday, June 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Enter progressive music. Freak Out! was legendary in a handful of reasons. It was indeed the first record to hint at the full-blown idea of progressive music, and first recorded double LP to name a few. To think the sound collages, satire, and the overall freakiness of this album came before Sgt. Pepper's, and is so so overlooked is sad. Paul McCartney and John Lennon stated this album as revolutionary and attempted to make it themselves with their own Beatly flair.

Now, this album is freaky for sure, but the thing with the Mothers is, they're an exceptionally tight band, and can play their asses off. Frank's knack for great melody is as present as ever on this album, as well as his lyrical genius and some of the first anti-establishment lyrics in the genre (Hungry Freaks Daddy and Trouble Every Day). The first side is mostly dedicated to mocking the messages of contemporary music. Frank says these guys on the radio just don't know what they're talking about, let's make fun of them! The second half of the album is the true innovating chunk of it. Like Who Are The Brain Police? on the first half, the second half bears Return of the Son of Monster Magnet, Help I'm A Rock, You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here, and It Can't Happen Here. Each mentioned, a psychedelic freakout slapped with melody. Another great part about Freak Out! is, it touches a whole lot of music genres, and lets you know what Frank's insight on it was. Frank was a true free-thinker, and he saw through things.

The album consistently mocks the whiny pop singers everyone's digging nowadays, makes fun of Doo Wop, freaks out, uses a kazoo for a bridge, uses nasty distortion and effects towards the end, and contains stronger melody than most albums ever recorded. I would think the reason this album was so overlooked was because the message of the album was nothing anyone had ever experienced and people would pass it off as just ununderstandable or just far too weird to hold up on their turntable, but if you sit down and think for a minute, you'll realize that Frank innovated on orchestral instrumentation in rock, extremely strong melody, very funny humor, and straight-up discipline in the players. Freak Out! was a taste for arguably the greatest art rock musician's work to come, and from prog rock in general. Also, this album has much substance and great songs, so it's not just a passable history item as some people list it as.

Report this review (#35672)
Posted Wednesday, June 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars An overlooked legend, Freak Out! is the first prog rock album to successfully be eclectic, odd, and innovative. Frank Zappa at age 25 writing such independent and eclectic music with a sense of humor are aboout 3 things you'd never see anywhere else during this time. Simply put, you can see these conventional song structures and styles flow through Zappa's brain and come out beautifully odd. Chunks of Doo Wop and R&B are presented as Zappa really sees them. Zappa's knack for orchestral and classical instrumentation combined with the twangy ferocity of R&B guitar is quite amazing. Xylophones and horns blast melodies and countermelodies over mocked Doo Wop and Pop structures. In addition, chord progressions here are very odd, and there are a lot of dissonant and experimental tones to the album, as Zappa is a fan of famed avant-garde composer Edgar Varese. A huge fan of music as visual art, you can literally close your eyes and see these freaks play Zappa's complex, dissonant, and even infectious songs the way Frank sees fit. The discipline of the musicians here is well presented as well, maybe not as much as the next Zappa album, but their eclectic and even signature tones are all displayed here for your listening pleasure. The album holds a loose concept as well, the beginning scatterings of the album are nearly all conventional pieces spiced up with Zappa, humorous and mocking lyrics about love. Other songs are pure instrumentation and studio effect experimentation combined with drudging structure, and even towards the very end of the album, none at all. Speaking of the last half of the album, this is perhaps the most revolutionary piece of music for prog of this time. Dense and textured studio-manipulated freakouts fill this part of the album, edging on free jazz and modern composition, with vocal harmony and big improvisation. Sure to wreck your head with joy, Freak Out! is an absolutely amazing album for it's time, humorous, serious, innovative, influential, and did I mention innovative? Essential, you need to hear where a lot of the music you're probably listening to now dates back to. 9.2/10
Report this review (#38609)
Posted Tuesday, July 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars An original album and a hold-all which prefigures what will be the genius of Zappa in the future years. We like(love), we don't like(love). I, I am relatively indifferent. I'm not enthusiastic over this type of album even if from time to time I manage to draw up the ear when a song hangs on me. It's not a "bad" album, simply, Zappa would do way better in the future. For the nostalgic or fans.
Report this review (#44712)
Posted Monday, August 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Freak Out" was the debut recording for Frank ZAPPA and his "Mothers of Invention" who managed to write and record a brilliant and wickedly charming album. Of course in typical fashion, ZAPPA coveys over 2 albums a satirical and huge audio counter-strike to the flower power sensibilities. The funny thing about this album is that the music fits the 60's themes with lots of quirkly little tunes filled with ZAPPA'esque humour. "Freak Out" was arguably rock music's first true "concept album" mixing ZAPPA's aural zaniness with lots of psychedelic guitars, outspoken political commentary, cultural satire, and avant-garde musical sensibilities. Musically this album is dripping with a wide range of cleverly crafted pop tunes and contains lots of bebob toe tapping music. Clearly one of my favourite psychedelic albums of all time. A pure masterpiece !.
Report this review (#52862)
Posted Saturday, October 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars 1.6/5.0 As some people pointed out, this was the first rock double LP of history, and probably also the first concept album of the genre. That said, this is not a great album from a prog point of view. Well, first of all, this is not prog at all: closer to rock then anything else. But even for rock, this isn't great rock... Second, the recording is good but the quality of the songs is dubious. Well, I guess you have to like it to listen to it; I don't like this stuff, and if it was not for the historical thing I would give less than a star to this album. 1.6/5.0
Report this review (#77160)
Posted Thursday, May 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Everything a ("gurú" )of the experimentation, the sonic vanguard and of acid humor, parodia and the satire, Frank Zappa and his Mothers of Invention presented/displayed this first disc in the heat of efervescencia hippie and psicodélica, a published in their time like Lp double and structured conceptual work in a very distinguible sonorous dualidad. The first disc is made up of songs short, very near the pop one coming from the British Islands, melodic very obtained like "Anyway the wind blows", "Motherly love" (love to the Mothers of Invention, of course), "You didn't try to call me", "Ím not satisfied" (everything a song to the suicide), "How dog I be such to fool" or "Wowie Zowie" (this piece with a keyboard to the one Of the Shannon). Psychedelic shines already in classic subjects as "Who plows the brain police" or "Hungry freaks, daddy" (of stoniana influence). It either does not scorn to pieces doo-wop and jazzísticos effluvia, that would be mark of the house in their eclectic and prolífica artistic trajectory. The second vinyl (much less accessible commercially, something that to Zappa brought to him to the fresh air) present/display ferocious a tríada one of long pieces of social foundation vanguardista and determined diatriba, marked by attractive and a chaotic one to be able sonic which it begins with pride and garajera, with dylanianos echoes, "Trouble every day" and which it is continued by cuts insane and so amazingly audacious as "Help, Ím to rock" (with the participation of Kim Fowley) or "The return of the are of Monster Magnet". Great production of Tom Wilson (collaborating of Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel or Soft Machine) for the phenomenal zappianas compositions, that influenced in Paul McCartney (next to "Pet Sounds") to devise the "Sgt. Peppers ".
Report this review (#77847)
Posted Thursday, May 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is my least favorite early mothers album. I like it, but it's not very cohesive and consistent. The songs I particularly enjoy are Hungry Freaks Daddy, Who Are the Brain Police?, You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here, Help I'm a Rock/It Can't Happen Here, and Return of the Son of Monster Magnet.
Report this review (#85485)
Posted Wednesday, August 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars WARNING! GENIUS AT WORK!! This should be put as a sticker on the cover of "Freak Out". Zappa'a long and illustrious career starts here, and although The Mothers weren't great instrumentists, they fitted Zappa's sound perfectly. This album has everything we all love in Zappa (exceptly his guitar playing, which wasn't proeminently featured here): humorous lyrics, carefully crafted songs, sound collages, funny vocals and, although still primitive, creative arrangements. I recommend this album to everyone interested in how rock became to progress. "Freak Out" is a perfect and cynical encyclopedia of 60s rock musi! Highlights: "Who are the brain police?", the hilarious doo-wop "Go cry on somebody's else shoulder", "Motherly love" (this sounds me as a knife stabbed at the heart of the "summer of love"), "You're probably wondering why I'm here" and the bizarre collage "The return of the son of Monster Magnet" (wow, and there still are people who calls "Revolution #9" a grounbreaking work).
Report this review (#96134)
Posted Sunday, October 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
Chris H
4 stars And the journey has begun!

The very first album released in Frank's almost 30 year career that produced around 30 studio albums and countless live recordings and compilations. Also, this album, NOT the Beatles White Album was the very first double LP released in America. How awesome is that? Okay, now I have an album to review!

This is probably the most accessible in Frank's whole entire catalogue, just because of the fact that most of the songs here are actually "normal", which, as any Zappa fan knows, is very hard to come by. The traditional rhythm and blues/rock n' roll fusion was the popular genre of the time, and Frank flowed with it, giving new life to some classic song ideas. Frank gives you ballads and upbeat songs in the beginning before preparing you for the preview of what was to come in the next twenty years with "The Return of The Son Of Monster Magnet".

The three final songs are really the only things a modern-day Zappa fan will have to connect with, as they are the only things on the album concept related. Everything builds up to the intense climactic finale that is looking ahead to the next album and even further beyond. However, besides that, the whole album is a concept in itself. it is the concept of how Frank and the band can take the popular genres of the time and twist and shape them into works of art that fit his musical genius persona. This is an album that you must own to understand the beginning of the journey, but the experimentation won't start until "Absolutely Free".

Report this review (#96256)
Posted Monday, October 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars An excellent start to an excellent career! This album is entertaining the entire way through. Nothing too "Frank Zappaish" appears on the first half of the album, with the exception that the lyrics are very "Frank Zappaish." He takes normal blues and r&b and play them in a way to make you smile and even laugh the whole way through. The real Frank Zappa begins to show himself from Help I'm A Rock on, making these last songs the best on teh album. Their weird, but they're not at the point of being too weird yet. This is a very good album, and is recommened highly, though it probably wouldn't be the best place to start your Zappa experience if you haven't yet. (For that I'd reccomment Apostrophe or Overnite Sensation.)
Report this review (#98882)
Posted Wednesday, November 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Suzy Creamcheese, honey, what's got into you?"

What an album! The songs are of incredible and quite inedible variety, ranging from ballet (unfinished in two tableaux) to hair gel to barber shop rock to "Motown Waltz" to more trivial stuff, such as "nonsense" and "poop." The quality ranges from "my, my" to "ho-hum" to "Wowie-Zowie!" Some of the album is "okay and safe" (perhaps "even right down your alley"), and some of it is "what freaks sound like when you turn them loose in a recording studio at one o'clock in the morning on $500 worth of rented percussion equipment."

Now, did that make any sense? If you don't own the album, chances are the answer is a resounding, "no!" So let me instead try a rather more reasonable quote from the liner notes (from which the above quotes came), one which will hopefully give you some insight into the album by answer the question, "what is 'freaking out?'"

"On a personal level, Freaking Out is a process whereby an individual casts off outmoded and restricting standards of thinking, dress, and social etiquette in order to express CREATIVELY his relationship to his immediate environment and the social structure as a whole. Less perceptive individuals have referred to us who have chosen this way of thinking and FEELING as 'freaks,' hence the term: FREAKING OUT.

"On a collective level, when any number of 'Freaks' gather and express themselves creatively through music or dance, for example, it is generally referred to as a FREAK OUT. The participants, already emancipated from our national social slavery, dressed in their most inspired apparel, realize as a group whatever potential they possess for free expression."

That quote (capitalization preserved) just about sums up this entire album. It is Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention Freaking Out for sixty minutes, being as uncommercial as they wish and protesting the shackles of the music industry, which as we know, tries to spit out a bunch of clones that will sell millions (in the liner notes, in the relevant quotes section, one of their quotes was "no commercial potential," by a "very important man at Columbia records"). But this album is more, much more, than a simple (albeit amazing) freak out. Frank and the Mothers' Freak Out is a vitriolic satire of all things American, from "our mediocre educational system," designed to spit out conformists (a.k.a. anti-freaks) who can't think for themselves (as the liner notes say, "forget about senior prom and go to the library and educate yourself if you've got any guts") to the general state of Americans (describing as possessing the same level of brain function as a rock in "Help I'm a Rock") to racism and police brutality. The liner notes (and indeed the entire album) are a direct insult to YOU, automatically assuming that you are a typical American rock ("as an American teenager [as an American], this means nothing to you"). The lyrics are brilliant and witty and clearly get across their message, as in the song "Trouble Every Day," which, in describing racism and police brutality (and condemning both), which says, "I'm not black, but there are a whole bunch of times I wish I could say I'm not white."

And yet, despite all the social commentary present on the album, Freak Out isn't some dreary gloomy mess (not that that's necessarily a bad thing). While eye opening, it's incredibly fun to listen to. Zappa has the unique ability to insult you and still get you laughing along with him (and at yourself). His masterful guitar work is clear throughout the album, and Jim Black on drums also gives a stellar performance. Each song is done in a different style, all building up to and finally culminating in The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet, a monster twelve-minute track full of insane drumming, insane-er vocals, and still more. The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet is THE Freak Out Zappa and the Mothers were aiming for, defying the notion they presented in the previous song, It Can't Happen Here, that a Freak Out could not occur where they were. Like with Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica (another pinnacle of avant prog), the tracks only truly work well when listened to together, but my how well they turn out as a cohesive whole. Also like Trout Mask Replica, and indeed like with much of the RIO/avant genre, this isn't an album to listen to, but an album, as the liner notes say, to "HEAR" (capitalization preserved). Before you think that this and Trout Mask Replica are the same, however, keep in mind that most of the songs here are actually quite catchy (if strange and different) and full of melody, while on Trout Mask Replica, it is pretty much the exact opposite (no melody whatsoever and completely indigestible. all in a good way). There are some glaring exceptions to the catchy nature of the album, but even still it's all fairly digestible (other than The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet).

In addition to being fun and brilliant, it was (and still is) incredibly influential. It speaks volumes about this album that even the Beatles regarded it as an incredibly important album (and that it specifically influenced Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, a favor returned by Zappa and Co. on We're Only In It For the Money). I can't remember if it was actually the first double album (I think it was), but it was certainly one of the first. It was also the first concept album (though, despite the band's moniker, not the "mother of all concept albums," an award that goes to Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick). The concept, is of course, about throwing off societal chains and Freaking Out, and about how America is set up to prevent this. The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet is the very first "sound collage." Also, I really have to ask, is Trouble Every Day the first rap song? Finally, Freak Out is one of the defining avant- garde albums, and, last but not least, it is quite possibly (though this is a point of constant debate) the first true progressive rock album released (though obviously not in the traditional symphonic sense of In the Court of the Crimson King).

However you look at, it is impossible not to come to the conclusion that Freak Out is essential (even if it hadn't been influential at all, the music is still amazing), and one of the greatest debuts I know. If you want to know progressive rock, you NEED to know this album. I'd like to join Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention (if you will spare me one final quote from the liner notes) in encouraging you to get this album, join the United Mutations, and FREAK OUT!

Report this review (#115864)
Posted Wednesday, March 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars So this is where it all started for Zappa, and can you believe it's 1966. A double album full of humour and sarcasm about American society.

There is some seriousness here with "Trouble Every Day" a song about segregation in America. Very meaningful lyrics that get right to the heart of the matter. The harmonica is a nice touch on this song. My favourite section of this record is from song 11 "You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here" (very funny) straight through to the end of the record. "Help I'm A Rock" has such a great title and the sound is pretty cool too with the percussion and strange vocals. The title of the album comes from lyrics in the song "It Can't Happen Here" this song is so funny.

"The Return Of The Son of Monster Magnet" is by far the longest song on the record and the most experimental as well. There are songs on this recording that are just ok and a couple I don't like very much ("Who Are the Brain Police ?" and "Motherly Love"), but over all this is more than the sum of it's parts. This was ground breaking music in 1966 and very influential in the music world. The first evidence of Frank's guitar prowess is on the opener "Hungry Freaks, Daddy". "How Could I Be Such A Fool" is a good song with some nice sax. "Wowie Zowie" has some xylophone and is so funny.

This is a must have proggers!

Report this review (#118232)
Posted Thursday, April 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars When I decided I'd start listening to Frank Zappa, I didn't know where to start. So, I went right from the beginning with Freak Out! It was indeed a unique record to hear. A band that didn't necessarily have the commercial potential to drag listeners in like the Beatles or Rolling Stones, but offered something different and 'not normal': one disc of catchy R&B and psychadelic rock tunes, the other an experiment in creating music. In other words, one of the first concept albums in the US, predating Beach Boys Pet Sounds and Beatles Sgt. Pepper albums.


Hungry Freaks, Daddy Who Are The Brain Police? Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder (a nod to 50's doo-wop music) How Could I Be Such A Fool? Wowie Zowie (a childish tune with a very catchy melody) Trouble Every Day (one of the more topical songs based on the Watts Riots)

The rest are equally good, but make take more than one listen. The last track "The Return Of The Monster Magnet" may turn casual listeners off, as it is a more experimental piece (inspired by composer Edgard Varese). In fact, Zappa himself complained that the song is crap because Verve/MGM didn't let him finish it. Same goes for "Help! I'm A Rock" which is just the members screaming the line and drummer Jim Carl Black speaking in tongues and "It Can't Happen Here" which is an out-of-tune acapella.

The album inspired The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper" later on and Zappa returned the favor with "We're Only In It For The Money".

Now where can I find Suzy!

Report this review (#124920)
Posted Wednesday, June 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars My first exposure to ZAPPA.

1966 was an important year for Rock Music. The BEATLES turned heads with Rubber Soul and Revolver, Brian Wilson engineered the Pop Music masterpiece Pet Sounds, , and in an entirely different zip code, the lunatic composer/guitarist known as the honorable Mr. Frank ZAPPA, with his group of freaks, The Mothers of Invention, blessed us with one of the most important albums in the development of Progressive Rock music: Freak Out!

From a superficial standpoint, this package is mainly a mixed bag of Blues, R&B, Rock, Doo-Wop, screaming, swearing, freaking out, production-that-will-either-make-you-do-naughty-things-or-just-make-your-head-go-pop, Suzy Creamch-erm...a variety, I guess. Many of these songs sport that signature, standard "60's sound," but with a twist. You're probably asking (in all capital letters), "WELL, SEAN, WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT THIS ZARPA MAN GUY THING?" Well, children, four things: Production, Musicianship, Lyrical content, and pure Imagination.

I dare anyone to find me a track released prior to 1966 that asks where the "Brain Police" are. I flipping dare you. While you're at it, find me a track with a seven-minute, psychedelic jam-fest that breaks off into a monologue about America being "wonderful" and how it apparently "really makes it." Finally, if you're going through all of that trouble, find me a track that openly mentions (and, in turn, glorifies) the idea of suicide to combat being unsatisfied with life (and a life that doesn't seem to be as bad as the lyrics make it sound). Yeah, uh-huh...nice try.

The musical aesthetics require multiple listens to really digest, for there's really a whole lot more going on here than meets the.ear. ZAPPA had, at his disposal, some of the best musicians around at the time, all being freakish virtuosos of their respective instruments, trained, to perfection, in just about every style that emerged before it. Even more listens will reveal the true complexity of how the songs are structured, some totally deviating from diatonic into atonal la-la land, which is especially evident in "Who Are the Brain Police?," "Help, I'm a Rock!," and "The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet," and arguably in just about every other song on the album. Finally, after even more repeated listens, along with plenty of some Stravinsky (HURR? Look it up.) music, you'll even discover some musical ideas that ZAPPA not-so-subtly borrowed. There's really a ridiculous amount of variety to be found on this album, so if you don't turn a deaf ear to everything but one style of music, you should find something of interest.

All in all, Freak Out! is a very...interesting...and secretly atonal package, revealing more and more of it's secrets after each listen of the silly, Anti-Pop lyrics about breaks-ups, rocks, stupid people, mother-loving, etc. This was one of the early beginnings of Progressive Rock music, be it of the genre or not, and it's only a fraction of the lunacy that Frank ZAPPA proliferated in following albums. I'm refraining from calling it a masterpiece, due to the variety and a number of absurdities that dance around on this one, but regardless, fans of 60's Rock and/or Pop music should give this gem a listen. Anyone who's craving a little insanity of acid-dropping proportions should buy/liberate this ASAP. As for fans of've heard it already, and if not...go die.


Report this review (#125689)
Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars The first of some 57 albums by the creative genius of FZ. A double album filled with 60's psychedelia, this is a unique piece of art. Inventive instrumentation and unique studio effects which FZ would later perfect. A mixture of hippie acid rock, 50's bee-bop love songs and British invasion rock along with late 60's politics including the drug culture. FZ's sense of humor shines with lyrics such as "i don't even care if you brush your teeth" from the oddly titled 'Wowie Zowie' or "will not forestall the rising tide of Hungry Freaks, Daddy!". I enjoy this album very much and every track has something different to offer. The bluesy protest type song 'Trouble Every Day' is my favorite but they're all good.
Report this review (#127474)
Posted Tuesday, July 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars I unfortunately went into this album expecting some great Avant prog which really turned it off to me for awhile. I expected to be listening to the album formulating all the great bands this music influenced; instead I came out of it trying to sort through all of the albums own influences. This is not to say that this album wasn't highly influential or revolutionary; rather it just didn't have the avant edge I was looking for. Freak Out! is heavily influenced by and consisting of Psych Pop. Most of the songs on the album are essentially Psych Pop numbers with added instrumental embellishments, like an orchestra or vibraphone, and some lavish vocal harmonies.

I'm sure the prevalent use of Psych Pop melodies was meant to satirize the rampant commercial nature of the music, much like The Residents did with The Third Reich 'N Roll. However, there's a distinct difference. The Residents completely deconstructed popular bubble gum pop tunes to the point that they were barely recognizable and a totally different style of music. Instead Zappa simply takes a psych pop melody and experiments with it. While much more substantial and interesting, the final product remains essentially unchanged.

The vocal harmonies on Freak Out! are hit and miss. All of the singing on the album is done in a ostentatiously weird manner. Sometimes it connects and really adds to the song, and other times you wonder why Zappa couldn't have chosen a more typical vocal style that may have been able to express some sort of emotion. I'm an aficionado of atypical vocalist so you can be assured that I say this not out of a stigma against the style, but as genuinely feeling it does not work.

With everything negative out of the way there's plenty to enjoy on this album. When everything fits together, Zappa delivers and hits strong. Everyone is familiar enough with Zappa and The Mother's technical prowess so I won't waste time talking about it here. It may be their debut but they certainly have little need to develop in that department (though they would).

The albums closing track, "The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet" best showcases the band's Avant leanings and is the only song on the album that has the potential to fulfill that Avant hunger that caused me to by this album. However, the song is very poor and meanders off in all directions without any focus. I rarely every find myself with the will power to listen to it in its entirety.

To recap: For those looking for a start into Frank Zappa, Freak Out! could be a promising place to start. The whole affair is certainly accessible and even relatively commercial. The album has plenty of great melodies and exceptional playing despite the occasional miss with a song, vocals, or childish lyrics. For those looking some really Avant Garde stuff I would stay away.

Report this review (#130156)
Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's a beautiful album...It's originated from the creative folly of Frank Zappa and the mothers,an album of rhythm' n' blues brought at the provocation of the creativity and this elements give at trail of progressive rock..still before of the 70' years or In the court of Crimson king....but anyhow Frank Zappa isn't a real prog artist...but the yours creativity (basic element of progressive) approched the progressive rock.
Report this review (#131037)
Posted Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars The debut album of Zappa.

Hungr& freaks, daddy? A poppy number with slopy vocals but a fine melody and some nice distorted guitar from Zappa. And of course, the goofiness (on purpose) is already present. 4 stars

I ain´t got no heart The melody is nice, even if too conventional sixties pop. Frank´s vocals are great on this one and the track is very powerful, though. 5 stars

Who are the brain police Starts with a spooky bassline and heavy distorted guitar. The melody itself, however, is horrible on this one. The avantgard weird instrumental passages here and there don´t help the number at all. 0 stars

Go cry on somebody´s elses shoulder. A classical love ballad from the fifties, a lá The Platters. Well, at least a nice mock of it. But Frank´s vocals are marvelous, nevertheless. So is his humour on this one. 1 star

Motherly love A rocker with a great melody and vocals from Frank, as well as tight playing. 5 stars

How could I be such a fool Another "love song". Even though it is a parody, the melody is just great, and the istrumentation is very rich. Also, there is a nice dramatic wibe in the number as well. 5 stars

Wowie Zowie A parody, again obviously. The vocals are sloppy again, but thatś obviously on purpose. Still, there is a lot of charm in this fifties- like soft rocker. 4 stars

You didn´t try to call me Gorgeous melody and a lot of pompousness on this one. Frank uses perfectly the "orchestra" on this one. 5 stars

Anyway the wind blows Another track with a strong pop influence. Perfect melody and a minimalistic guitar solo from Frank. 5 stars

I´m not satisfied The melody is too overproduced for its own good, and there are no real hooks in the mood as well. 2 stars

You´re probably wondering why I´m here Parody again, obviously, but the melody is not that thrilling, and so are the goofy instrumentation. 2 stars

Trouble every day A heavier blues rocker sdounding like the early Pretty Things.with a nice melody and a rawer melody. The guitars are louder, and there is also nice harmonica playing in the background. Frank even plays a great lead, too. 5 stars

Help I´m a rock Weird collages of sounds. Something The Beatles would do two years later on The White album. This one, however, has an atmosphere and a melody (albeit instrumental) over these collages. Still, itś too aimless in the second half and the instrumental passage is not present. 3.5 stars

It can´t happen here Nomelody, no clear purpose, just plain weird: Hm, maybe you could call it avantgarde....But avantgarde has something in it, at least. 0 stars

The return of the son of monster magnet Well, the same here as in the last oen. 0 stars

Overal rating: 3 STARS


Report this review (#133056)
Posted Tuesday, August 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is the beginning of the freak music style and way of life. Frank said that he always thought that Freak out! would be a hit... it is absolutely marvellous, although almost commercial. Beginning with hungry freaks daddy that smashes on america's face the ignorant [&*!#] that once was beginning to grow, through to who are the brain police?, another question no one seemed to answer, until, help i'm rock, that transforms into help i'm a cop(!), and monster magnet, the first progsong (?). Of course it has some love songs, that we should hear with a sneer. Zappa rubs love of my life on i ain't got no heart, giving us contraditory sentiments and implying in a very inteligent way that we should listen and understand the world and art with criticism and personality. Of course Frank would flourish all these songs afterwards, but the recording has a drive that excedes most of the things that other rock artists were doing at that time. Absolutely brilliant!
Report this review (#158484)
Posted Sunday, January 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars There are so many things to say about the debut album from Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention that I will probably forget some ( so please excuse me in advance). I have been a Zappa fan for the last 15 years and collected CD´s and original LP´s ( fans will know that there is a big difference between the CD versions and the original LPs) with anything Zappa related in that time, read biographies and I had the pleasure of attending the Yellow Shark performance in Copenhagen, Denmark with Ensemple Modern. I unfortunately never saw Zappa live as he died shortly after my interest began ( I´ll regret that ´till the day that I die), but I had the pleasure of attending Zappa plays Zappa a couple of years ago with Dwezil Zappa, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Steve Vai, Terro Bozzio and a couple of more of the old Zappa family. Well I guess I just want to emphazise how big a fan I am, so you´ll understand that my reviews of Zappa might be a little coloured.

The debut album by Mothers of Invention is a rather strange collection of songs. Freak Out! consist mainly of fifties rhythm and blues songs with some exceptions. The rhythm and blues songs have pretty funny lyrics. Like a line in the song Wowie Zowie where Zappa sings: I don´t even care if your Dad´s a he. These songs are pretty cheesy in the music department but saved by the funny lyrics. When you know Zappa´s love for fifties rhythm and blues songs you´ll know that he on one hand loved to compose and play these songs but on the other hand despised them for being simple and cheesy. I think his ambivalence shines through.

There are some songs that stand out from the rest for being more thought provoking and maybe of more interrest for the common prog head than the fifties rhythm and blues songs. I´d say Hungry Freaks, Daddy?, Who Are The Brain Police? , Trouble Every Day , Help I'm A Rock and The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet are different from the rest of the songs. Hungry Freaks, Daddy? and Trouble Every Day are still pretty much rhythm and blues songs but the lyrics are very strong and even political. Who Are the Brain Police? is a really strange song. Still rock but very experimental and very prog in my eyes. Help I´m A Rock has a krautrock rythm and is basically very repetitive improvation. In The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet Zappa shows his collage mixing skill for the first time, something he would use extensively in his future production.

This album is from 1966 and I am sure there was nothing like it back then, this is really strange as half of the album is basically rooted in the 1950es and the rest is kind of futuristic. Pretty bizarre and I know that´s the way Zappa liked it. He wanted to make people think when they listened to music and not just consume. Personally I like everything on this album except for Help I´m a Rock and The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet which is not to my liking. I know this is what makes this album prog rock, but I never liked the noisy part of Mothers of Invention, I always preferred the songs with intelligent lyrics, and there are fortunately plenty of them in Zappa´s discography. Some might say there is an overweight of the silly ones, but I think even the silly ones tells us something.

It´s not a complete masterpiece but a sure 4 star album. What a brilliant start to an outstanding musical career.

Report this review (#159109)
Posted Saturday, January 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Frank Zappa's Freak Out was well ahead of it's time, and a good album to boot. Psychedelic Rhythm & Blues, with semi-classical elements, sound effects and a satirical element, which is displayed in of course funny lyrics, but more directly in the way the songs are performed. For me the outstanding element of this album is the creativity in the song writing, constant variation in organic (basic R&B) songs which constantly reminds me of earlier 50's and 60's songs.

As album I rate Freak Out quite high (certainly in historic perspective), but that doesn't mean the individual songs really stand out, it's an enjoyable album to listen, which will not bore for a moment. Highlights for me are Trouble Every Day, Hungry Freaks, Wowie Zowie and Motherly Love.

All in all a great debut album from a musical legend and his band.

Report this review (#163315)
Posted Thursday, March 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Really great, even if maybe too weird for the beginners. The last track, The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet ('hey, Suzy Creamcheese, what got into you ?') is the longest (the entirety of the last side, almost 13 minutes) and strangest. I prefer Help I'm A Rock, Trouble Every Day, How Could I Be Such A Fool ?, Hungry Freaks, Daddy and Motherly Love, to be honest, but in its entirety, this double- album (the second double album in music history after Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde released a few weeks before) is one of Zappa's best. Highly recommended !
Report this review (#163422)
Posted Saturday, March 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Zappa's debut album Freak Out! remains one of the most creative and distinct albums released in the last fifty years. Its blend of rock, blues, avant-garde and even doo-wop make for a pleasently unique listening experience, and like most Zappa releases there is plenty of humor to be found throughout. Zappa proves that he is a true musical genious as well as a superb lyricist.

That being said, the album is far from perfect. The album lacks the musical diversity that his later Mothers albums would have, and it is also quite long. To me the production leaves a lot to be desired, as the recordings sound quite thin and flat. On the other hand, when the band breaks out into its 'freak out' sections of chaos and layers of noise the production seems to fit perfectly.

With these issues aside, Freak Out is a very enjoyable album that hints at the greatness that would follow. I'm torn between giving this album three or four stars, but will give it four if only for its historical significance.

Report this review (#168403)
Posted Tuesday, April 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Freak Out! is the debut of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, and it is one of the most revolutionary albums ever released. It combines doo-wop, R&B, psychedelia, and Beatles pop into one dense whole. I've heard some critics say this is one of Frank's most accessible records, which kind of throws me because when I first bought it (one of the first Zappa albums I owned because of such reviews) I was nearly turned off Frank because it wouldn't click, which is funny cause it's really not a complex album barring the final track. Perhaps the reason it didn't is because someone who listened to it when it first came out because the sounds it draws from would have been filling the airwaves. After all, the sound and lyrics are typically a satire of the popular music of the time, and I only know the big names beyond the one-hit wonders, so perhaps it hasn't aged well. Nevertheless, many listens and examinations later, I've finally put most of the pieces together, but there are still a few that don't quite fit.

Although the trademark Mothers sound is a little hard to get into, the lyrics are terrific from the start. Hungry Freaks, Daddy is sort of a call to arms for the freaks by attacking the conformity of society. Motherly Love is an ode to groupies, and I Ain't Got No Heart is an upfront view on sexual relationships that doesn't bother with all that I Wanna Hold Your Hand nonsense and goes for the gut (or something a little further south...). Who Are the Brain Police?is an interesting little number. According to a snippet I read on Zappa's wiki when I was trying to get this album said that the point of the song is to ask us if we'd stop enjoying music if the packaging suddenly disappeared. It purposefully makes unpleasant sounds to shake you out of an expectation of hooks and melody, blatantly asking us whether we want style or substance (most would say substance, but pop charts would say otherwise).

Any Way the Wind Blows is about Frank's divorce, which perhaps explains his ambivalence towards serious relationships on Motherly Love and I Ain't Got No Heart. Trouble Every Day was written in response to the Watts riots, and it touches upon the media's glamorization of violence years, possibly decades before anyone else talked about it. But really, the biggest and most important number here is the closer The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet. It is the one that points the way to the future sound mashups that the Mothers would use. Whereas the rest of the album is really R&B, pop, and doo-wop as processed through the unique sound of the Mothers, but this is where it all came together into one collage. However, it is incredibly uneven and too dense for its own good, as if it is complex just for the sake of showing people that the Mothers were something different (I'm pretty sure that's exactly why the song is the way it is).

All in all, this is more of a lyrical triumph than a cohesive debut. Frank's guitar skills are on display, but not in the manner that really exposed his potential. He's yet to combine all his diverse musical influences into one sound and make it sound good. However, I forgive it on the grounds that A)it's a debut album and B)it is so vastly different from anything else people had heard at the time.

Grade: B

Report this review (#168447)
Posted Tuesday, April 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
Petrovsk Mizinski
5 stars There are many kinds of musicians/musical artists out there. Some may be here for the purpose of purely entertaining us, but some have a different agenda in mind. Frank Zappa was truly a man who was put on this earth to create something for us, for the world, but obviously not necessarily the masses. For those who cared to listen, we were given something truly innovative and fresh from this man of sheer genius.

This debut album from The Mothers of Invention is not the most complex, and perhaps doesn't always have fantastic material on it, but you would be mad not to be able to see the work put into it and how innovative it was, albeit it sometimes feels like not all the album aged very well. It is a wonderfully amusing album, poking a lot of fun at the popular music at the time, as well as making a lot of fun of stereotypes, but there are some more serious social and political commentary lyrics to be found as well.

Some of the music can be pretty cheesy to be honest, and some of the lyrics as well, but overall the album has so much amusing points in it that really make up for the cheesy moments. Another negative point is some of the vocals don't always seem to work well and the same goes for some vocal melodies too, throughout the album. If I had to pick one track that stands above the rest, it would be the closing track, The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet. It features some insanely cool collage mixing techniques and the vocals/voices throughout are cool as they are enigmatic. The song also features some more ambient elements thrown into the mix. Definitely a truly genius song from Frank and the Mothers. The next best song for me, is Help I'm A Rock, which has a really interesting rhythm to it, and has some really crazy and strange voices/vocals throughout, and despite it being perhaps one of the less accessible songs on here, I find it highly enjoyable and one the songs I listened to most from the album. I also really liked Who Are The Brain Police?, which tends not to stay in the same direction throughout and is very thought provoking too, an excellent and well written song no doubt and one that aged particulary well like the two aforementioned songs. The one other real stand out for me is It Can't Happen Here which is just insanely bizarre.

For all it's flaws, the album and band make up for it with incredible moments of sheer genius throughout. Even though I don't think it was Zappa's or Frank/The Mother's best work,I believe this album is essential listening, for it was so revolutionary, different, crazy at the time and changed the face of progressive music forever.

Report this review (#169898)
Posted Monday, May 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars In my opinion June 27 1966 is the date when prog rock for the first time was revealed to the public. It was the date when Freak Out! was released. While still being influenced by contemporary music Zappa still created some dangerous far out music that would haunt him the rest of his career. Just that fact that his debut was a concept double album tells a lot about the album and the man behind it.

But beside the album being so special it also contains a great number of excellent tunes. From the fuzzy guitar opening of Hungry Freaks, Daddy to the weird 12+ minute closing song The Return of the Son of Monsters Magnet the album is pretty consistent. Some of my favorites are the psychedelic Who are the Brain Police, the doo wop inspired Go Cry on Somebody Else's Shoulder, the quirky I'm Not Satisfied and the lyrically spot-on Trouble Every Day.

So while perhaps not the best prog album ever it was the first and therefore I think it belongs in every prog lovers collection.

Report this review (#169986)
Posted Tuesday, May 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Freak Out! is the debut album of the Mothers Of Invention, released in 1966, Frank Zappa was 26 years old. He was mellow enough to start his magnificent career. If I say this is Prog- rock, I make a big mistake, because this is more, (consider this album is so ahead of its time!) this record is Avant-garde, and it contains: Proto-prog, Beat, Psychedelia, Doo-Wop, Blues and more... One thing I cannot omit is that Freak Out is a very courageous album... If you are asking yourself why, just pick it up and listen to The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet first, then listen to Help I'm A Rock and Trouble Every Day. These three tracks, for different reasons, are very brave. And also the idea of a double album (the first in music history!) it was made with courage... I think that Frank Vincent risked a lot with this album. Fortunately he did it right! Freak Out! is unique, because Zappa never did again the same things.
Report this review (#170261)
Posted Thursday, May 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I heard of this album first in about 1971. I was a little young to hear about it before, but when I heard it, I found the content to be very relevant to the times, and also the musical style was unique. I later figured that this album was the first concept album, not Sgt Peppers, as we were later told. In fact John Lennon cited Zappa as his influence, calling him a f***ing intellectual and a genius. In my opinion, several of the songs on this album are stand alone classics, for example You're probably wondering why I'm here, which as well as being very catchy and listenable, still amuses me profusely with the images that Frank's word-pictures conjour up. Another track which I later realized was not only a cool groove laden with meaningful lyrics, but also a prophecy of later musical forms... The rappy vocals portending a generation who would later watch rats run across the floor, and make up songs about being poor... Not to mention the Help, I'm a rock suite, which cleverly emulated psychedelic-induced auditory hallucinations, as well as echoed the soft porn soundtracks which brought FZ legal trouble in his early recording career. All in all a great debut double concept album, which paved the way for all other subsequent rock music, yet still stayed in it's own genre.
Report this review (#170269)
Posted Thursday, May 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars 2.5 stars really.

RIO is normally not my thing. But, a lot of people were saying that Zappa was really a great example of Jazz Rock fusion, so I thought I would check him out. This particular album is definitely not Jazz Rock fusion! I am not sure what it is.... There are some politically angry songs here and some funny songs. So, it's not a total waste. But, this is not really prog at all in my books. I guess it's weird 60's rock n roll. Definitely not on my A list, but I don't really dislike it so I am wavering between 2 and 3 stars. Will give it the benefit of the doubt, because it must have been a shock to the average rock listener in the 60's so in that way it is progressive.

Report this review (#176011)
Posted Thursday, July 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars My intention is to review every single FZ studio release. It's a hard task but slowly but shortly , listen after listen I think I will fullfill it. To be precise this album is not a good place to start with the huge FZ catalogue since it has lots of songs that don't have anything to do with prog and a couple of interesting numbers at the very end.

When I first heard this record I was really dissapointed with the music since I expected a psychedelic album like Jimmy Hendrix or such , Frank is not the proficient guitarrist we will hear on Hot Rats so don't expect mind blowing solos on this record. This record is also said to be one of the first concept albums , I expected a rock opera like Tommy for instance.However if it is a concept within this record is that lots of this short numbers are a parody of blues and doo wop , some of them featuring very agressive and unusual lyrics for the time it was released like Hungry Freaks Daddy , Who are the Brain Police , More trouble every day and others.

For us proggers , we should put our attention on the last two songs that have a lot of tape effects and unusual instrumentation (for the time) those are Help! I am a Rock and The Return of the son of Monster Magnet. Both of these numbers were divided into different sections and anticipated what the Beatles were going to do two years later with Revolution 9.

Labeled by some music critics as the best album of all time. I wouldn't go that far , this is not even the best Mothers album but , sure this record was miles ahead of anithing released in 1966 ( including Revolver) both lyrically and musically. So for the last two songs , some thought provoking lyrics trough the album and it's historical importance I will award Freak Out with 3.49 stars.

If you liked those weird songs at the end , their next album will blow your mind.

Report this review (#196490)
Posted Tuesday, December 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars That cover and title suggest Frank Zappa's debut album is something extremely psychedelic and experimental. But apart from the last 12 minutes long "masterpiece" and two other tunes this album includes pretty regular pop songs with a bit of original feature. I mean it sounds like parody of pop in fact. Motherly Love is probably my favorite song on Freak Out but to be honest most of them are in the vein of that song. In 1966 Beatles were light years ahead of Zappa and we can't deny the fact. We can't also say music on Freak Out is more complex than Beatles Revolver. And finally you won't tell me the last three pieces on this release are complex just because they are completely beyond any scheme. It's nonsense in fact and the last one called Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet is pure 'cacoffiny'. I won't dare to call it music. Some say 'ahh you prefer commercial sounds that make sense and you don't want to open your mind for something experimental'. NO! I prefer music. Cos even 5 yo kid can attack the drum kit and make lots od noise. It's easy. So I expect MUSIC played by MUSICIANS. This album isn't so bad but it deserves 2.5 stars. Not more.
Report this review (#212960)
Posted Wednesday, April 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars (Insert some line about "the journey/adventure/career" beginning here)

Sure, this album is lacking in comparison to many of the ones that would come after it, but that by no means makes this an awful listen. With one of the first double LPs in the life of rock music, Zappa really lays on the irony and sarcasm. Although buried beneath the humor is some rather serious political commentary about the 60s. This Zappa album was one that was always hard for me to understand. Sure, FO is one of his more accessible releases, but some of the pop aspects drove me away from it, as well as several of his other earlier releases. Although the rhythm and blues layered throughout helped keep my interests enough that the problems I had with some of his early material eventually went away or clicked. I can imagine this being fairly revolutionary for 1966. Actually, half of it sounds like 50s R&B mixed with doo-wop and pop and the other half sounds far ahead of its time. "Help I'm a Rock!" is a really enjoyable track as well as my favorite probably, because even though it's fairly repetitive, it builds well and is a great improvisation.

Despite this being a historic album that began a legendary career, I honestly do not think it's a masterpiece in my eyes. It is however a very cleverly-written album, even if it isn't that complex. Some may not think that the amount of humor in this album is too great however, and I can understand why. This also isn't a Zappa album I pull out regularly, despite it being fairly good material, so because of that I'm only giving it 3 stars. This is still an album to check out if you're interested in early Zappa though.

Report this review (#223989)
Posted Tuesday, June 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars My first introduction to Zappa topic. When I was young and foolish, I though that The Beatles and Elvis Presley have a lot of records. My prog-father proved me wrong, they indeed have a lot of compilations, but only 10-20 original records. He also told me that probably the most prolific (and still good in matter of quality) is Frank Zappa and that good rock store should have a lot of his albums.

So I've finally tried Frank Zappa. And I've taken it from the beginning. Whole hour long ? Good. Short track lenght ? When talking about FZ, it's forgiven, even I don't like it in other music. And when talking about "to like" something, I (by far) don't like anything from Avant prog, except Frank Zappa. His musical compositions are crazy, but it's work of genius! There are normal songs like "Go Cry On Someone's Else Shoulder", but when I imagine his other work, it seems more like parody to me that seriously meant song. So typical love songs is taken to another dimension. And what about "Jefferson Airplane" like "Motherly Love" - even this song has typical Zappa like traits. Frank Zappa (and some concerned mothers) offers here something very unussual - you can enjoy every track. None of them is just filler.

EDIT 10/05/14 - When compared to following album, it sounds somehow naive. It's interesting and exciting album, but songs are less complex (more Rock, or Psychedelic Rock).

Thought it's crazy that such an album can be debut album.

4(-), most of things in this review still works.

Report this review (#229665)
Posted Monday, August 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've tried Zappa's jazz fusion period and his comedic mid-70's period, yet I have not found an album that I can attach myself to. For a long time, I thought that this Mothers of Invention album would do the trick. As of now, this still hasn't filled the ''Zappa-made-a-masterpiece'' void although in my initial impression of FREAK OUT! was just that.

There's an hour's worth of material here; it's a cakewalk to fit all of it on one CD, but in the vinyl days, it needed to be a double (unless you're Todd Rundgren). As a double, each vinyl seems to have been dedicated to one facet of the Mothers sound (I say ''seems to have been'' because I wasn't around when this was released; I don't even think my mom was potty trained at the time). On the first vinyl were the stabs and spoofs of mid-60's pop culture including the music produced at the time. The humour here sounds pretty dated although the occasional random yelling makes me laugh.

The real treat is what appeared on the original second vinyl. It starts with ''Trouble Every Day'', a blues-rock kind of jam over Frank complaining about the TV society at the time. The fun really starts on the ''Help, I'm a Rock!'' thing where the nonsensical ramblings are rather hilarious (because of the randomness) laid over one of the most solid grooves on the album. It's followed by ''It Can't Happen Here'' which is mostly contained by out-of-tune vocal acapella stuff. The last number really takes the avant in another direction; all the epic contains are two different drum beats, screams, yells, ramblings and sped-up voices. Definitely of an acquired taste.

Mostly rewarding for the second half, but some of the humourous stuff like ''Hungry Freaks Daddy'', ''Wowie Zowie'', ''Who Are the Brain Police'' and ''You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here'' are worth a listen for the occasional laugh. Probably my favourite Zappa/Mothers I've heard thus far. Nice if you don't mind humour and random shouting in your music.

Report this review (#260596)
Posted Tuesday, January 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars ''I had my car re-upholstered . . . I got my hair processed . . . I got a nice pompadour job on it . . . I bought a new pair of shoes . . . I got some new khakis and I met you . . . And we went out to get a Coca-Cola . . . ''

I think for a debut, this album is very strong. For a Zappa album, it is nowhere near as good as what he would release later. There are moments of some Jazz here and there, some Doo-wop, but mostly this is just Rock music. Very clever, well-played Rock, but still, just Rock. The Avant-Garde stuff wouldn't really come into play until later, and while the off-the-wall humor is still here, the music quality itself is what really counts, and there are almost as many weaker tracks on here as there are stronger ones. But that's just my way of looking at it.

I think the playing and such is great as usual, but this is much more accessible music by Zappa standards, and honestly, it just doesn't compare to the masterpieces such as Hot Rats and One Size Fits All. But we all have to start somewhere-- even Frank.

The Mothers laid the groundwork with this one, but things would only get better from here, for the most part. I would suggest this as a good entry album for non-Zappa fans, especially if they don't like Prog Rock all that much. Only one song on here is long, and the rest are very easy to digest, even the more wacky ones. Some people say this was the first Double-LP in Rock history, but others say it was Dylan's Blonde On Blonde. Frankly, I don't care. The bottom line is that it is worth owning simply for no other reason than it was Zappa and The Mothers' first release. It's very funny, and has a lot to offer, but it's no masterpiece. the music would continue to advance from this point, but it is still an impressive place to start.

Report this review (#272658)
Posted Thursday, March 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Just as Athena was not born as an infant but instead emerged fully grown and clothed out of the split-open skull of Zeus, Freak Out! presented Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention as a fully matured (ha) entity ready to take on the world of pop music from day one (of course, for the analogy to be complete, Athena would have needed to have immediately taken a giant dump on Zeus' head, but never mind that). From the beginning, Frank rips on society, politics and music culture in a way that seemingly nobody had ever previously conceived, and in the process creates one of the most innovative (in comparison to its time) albums ever made.

What's funny about that innovative property of the album, though, is that it ends up as an innovative album not only despite there being large stretches of the album that aren't innovative in and of themselves, but also arguably because large stretches of the album aren't innovative in and of themselves. You see, as detractors of the album are often only too eager to point out, the majority of the first LP (I guess I should mention that this was a double album, the second one in rock, even though it's only about 60 minutes long) is filled with a mix of "regular" 60's pop-rock and a whole lot of doo-wop. Of course, "regular" isn't exactly the right word to use; there is an unbelievable amount of satire and parody and plain ole vitriol to be found in these tracks, the kind that wasn't common back then. The doo-wop songs have absolutely no optimism in them whatsoever, and that should be obvious (even without giving the tracks a serious listen) just from the titles. What kind of self-respecting doo-wop band would release songs with titles like "I Ain't Got No Heart," "Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder," "How Could I Be Such a Fool" and "You Didn't Try to Call Me?" The 60's pop-rock pastiches that make up much of the rest are just as jabbing; "Motherly Love" is proto-cock-rock at its deliberately dumbest (well, sorta), "Wowie Zowie" is an interesting pop song with hilariously dumb lyrics, and "Any Way the Wind Blows" is a fantastic "typical" 60's pop song that would actually have serious commercial potential in the hands of a different band (who would probably do the vocal arrangement more straight-laced, naturally).

Still, for an album with the title Freak Out!, it might seem only natural to expect something a little more "extreme" than a bunch of slightly tweaked doo-wop and 60's-pop songs, and on a surface level, that seems a reasonable statement. In my view, though, this belief overlooks one of the primary innovations of this album, which is definitely found in these songs as much as anything else; the concept of deliberately messing with the listener. Zappa knows that all those songs aren't the kind of huge stylistic left-turns one would expect after reading the liner notes, and in fact he explicitly clues the audience into this fact by ending this stretch with a song called "You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here." After starting the album with such a deep-hitting counter-culture anthem as "Hungry Freaks, Daddy" (one of the best social protest anthems ever, as far as I'm concerned, even if it's not even the best social protest anthem on the album), and early on assaulting the listener with the hyper-low-pitched grumbling, hilariously lethargic "Who Are the Brain Police" (a song that instrumentally almost sounds as if it were recorded twice as fast and then played back at its current pace, and which has hilariously off-pitched dirgey vocals and which breaks into a really disturbing freak out in the middle), the idea of making nine of the album's first eleven tracks pop and doo-wop, tweaked as they may be, is utterly absurd and incongruous with the supposed album concept, and that's the point. Zappa is playing his audience, batting it around like a cat with a ball of yarn, until he feels the joke has gone on long enough, at which point he immediately switches gears and veers off back to the "main attraction."

The first stop is "Trouble Every Day," a "blues-rocker" that is indeed the best song on the album and an even better social protest anthem than "HF,D." Structurally, it's much more direct than the kinds of things Zappa would do for social protest in the future, but in this case that's really for the best, because it's the lyrics and delivery that matter most here, and the blues-rock background absolutely rips in terms of giving these lyrics the extra power they deserve. Zappa doesn't so much sing as he orates with a couple of pitch changes here and there, declaring at a rapid pace that, in essence, he's disgusted with society and the way people treat each other and how moronically they act. More relevant to the album itself, the implication is also that he's disgusted with the (in many ways) "trite" music culture of the day that stood by and was complicit with all of the other negative forces in society in that they helped lull people into a mindless stupor that would make listeners more willing to sit back and passively accept things (parallels can clearly be seen in the later Third Reich and Roll by The Residents, though in that case the response is just to cleverly mock pop music instead of to attempt to completely redo the music culture). Clearly, Zappa is postulating that if music is going to be able to snap out of this state and act against negative forces, it essentially needs to start over and reform as something as different from present music as possible.

For better or for worse, the solution he proposes makes up the rest of the album (the second LP of the original release). "Help, I'm a Rock" is a rhythmic jam that largely consists of chanting the title repeatedly while all sorts of sounds get built up around it, "It Can't Happen Here" is a bunch of a capella muttering and "singing" of whatever, and "Return of the Son of Monster Magnet" takes the "sound collage" concept to a hilarious level. The funniest part, in my ears, is at the beginning of "Monster Magnet" when Frank addresses his made-up female 'heroine' (well, actually, she's just a recurring character that would later appear on a lot of Zappa albums, but whatever) in the guise of her conscience and asks her, "What's got into you," but that's really just one amusing bit of many. Is the whole thing overlong and ridiculous? Of course. If these tracks were released as a stand-alone album, the truth is I probably wouldn't have the slightest idea what to make of them, and it's entirely possible that I would (to my detriment) just try to completely ignore it. But the thing that matters (to me, anyway) is that this jam/collage is the logical conclusion to the question implicitly postulated in the first part of the album. Frank's solution to the "problem" of pop music is musique concrete, and whether or not that's a "good" answer (I think it's kinda silly, to be honest) seems largely irrelevant to me. The fact that somebody even bothered to ask a question like this, produce an answer, and then release it to the general public is flat- out amazing to me, and that's where I find the greatness of Freak Out!.

In short, Freak Out! strikes me, overall, as one of the smartest albums Frank ever made in his long, long career. Yes, there are plenty of individual moments (heck, there are long stretches) where, taken on their own, it doesn't seem like this should be considered an incredibly great album, but taken as a whole, this album is a shiny jewel. A shiny, sarcastic, orgasm-noise-making jewel.

Report this review (#275699)
Posted Wednesday, March 31, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Hard to imagine how astonishing or out of place this album must have sounded in 1966. With its mixture of styles and psychedelic weirdness Zappa was leagues ahead of the pack, but almost 45 years later it sounds pretty tame and poppy.

Most of the songs stick to the existing pop format of the 50's and early 60's, rhythm and blues, bee bop and pop. None of those charms me at all and I find them quite tedious and uneventful to sit through. Admitted, I never read lyrics so due to that I'm obviously missing half of the deal here. But just listening to the music there's hardly anything that rises above other music of its age. A few exceptions of not are the 12 minute of psychedelic mumbo jumbo and nonsense of The Return of Monster Magnet. But apart from lending its name to one of my favourite 90's bands, it's an uncomfortable listen. Intentionally so of course and it deserves credit for introducing avant-garde elements in pop music.

For some reason I can't really relate to rock music from before the magic year 1967. So I'll grant one star more then what I feel this is album probably deserves, it's an interesting debut for Zappa fans to see where their hero came from, but it sure ain't anything I'm gonna freak out to any day soon.

Report this review (#282067)
Posted Saturday, May 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars 1966's declaration of independence

"I think your life is incomplete"

I have a real thing for debut albums from this period. While many people describe Freak Out, Piper at the Gates, and Velvet Underground in terms of being "promising" and building for better things later, these early works are as exciting as later classics but in their own way. It's hard to imagine what people thought upon hearing something like "Freak Out" in 1966 and I try to put myself in that time frame when listening to early albums. While some continue to insist that Crimson created prog in 1969 it's my opinion that these earlier works are the true conception even if some want to write them off as "just psychedelia" or whatever. Many styles and influences are fused here in a work which screams at the public that it wishes to offend, it wishes to foul the water, to avenge Frank's incarceration, and to wear the badge of "outsider" with pride. But not just a rebel without a clue, Frank had it in for many of those who thought he was one of them, creatively and socially. He demanded authenticity and quality, he lectured his fans to forget about the Prom and go to the library, and he scolded them for their drug use, which didn't exactly endear him to his peers.

It is impossible to avoid discussing the political and social aspects of what the album's lyrics throw in one's face, so skip this paragraph if not interested in my personal opinion. No one's personal comfort zone and no institution's presumed honor would be spared over Frank's career. Years later Zappa would describe himself as "a conservative" (though certainly not in Republican terms, whom he hated, but by his own definition) and later still in one of his last interviews as "unrepentant" in his views. He was a true independent, whose blast against the establishment would not stop with the fashionable railing against government entities or right-wing easy targets, but extend to the counterculture scene and the Lefties whose dough-eyed vision of reality he would skewer on "We're only in it for the Money." Zappa's work would help progress the good things about the counterculture which turned out to be primarily artistic, while wisely remaining suspicious of much of the other nonsense the youth movement touted, some of which was destructive and hollow. In my opinion, Zappa, were he alive today, would rail as much against liberal groupthink and shallow political correctness as he did against right-wing censorship and Reaganism in the 80s or cultural stagnation in the 60s. Frank could really be lassoed by no one: he could be sexist, misanthropic, selfish, and even hypocritical on certain things (his daughter Moon has confirmed he was a less than stellar father even as he lectured other parents on their child-rearing.) He believed in being in control of one's life and practiced DIY musically and otherwise. (The book quoted below is a great source for insight into this complicated fellow and his beliefs.)

"Freak Out!" is an absolutely essential marker in rock history, it is Sha-Na-Na from hell, it is a Cheech and Chong styled Broadway musical with intellectual, razor sharp wit in place of adolescent drug humor. It is a warning shot from a dark stranger who grabbed the mic on talent night and gave the suburban audience some Lenny Bruce level stand-up which sent them home shaking their heads. People who complain about it being "just basic rock and roll" or "too 1950s" completely miss the point. It is about the contrast of the seemingly traditional with pure rebellion, about turning the realities of the moment on their head. Sure the pure musical adventure of later albums would be stimulating in their own way, but taking the seemingly safe and Motherizing it is no less fantastic, and the fact that many of the ditties are pleasing to sing along with can be an asset. The Mothers were perhaps no less than the west coast version of the Velvet Underground, though ironically Zappa and Lou Reed despised each other and openly dissed each other.

Certainly the music may seem rather basic period rock to today's prog fan, but after just a few spins these songs get under your skin as you realize how good they are. Basic blues-rock, DooWop, soulful romantic ballad, creeping psych and avant weirdness make up the template upon which Zappa's monologue is delivered. It works so unbelievably well, sounding completely flowing and cohesive. It entertains with humor even as it disturbs by tearing down the safe and getting weirder as the album staggers towards its end. The sexual innuendo and outright contempt for traditional sensibilities cannot be missed. The final four tracks are amazing, from Dylanesque rapping commentary in "Trouble Every Day" to the mind warping, songs-dissolving "Help, I'm a Rock" and "Monster Magnet." Sandwiched in there is my favorite little Freak Out song "It Can't Happen Here" which warns us stoic Midwesterners that the freaks were coming for us.

"Frank was delighted with the album. He showed up at his family's house...waving a copy of the album, a huge smile on his face. The music startled them, but Frank kept nodding encouragingly and no one expressed any misgivings. The whole family, even Francis, went to see the Mothers play... Freak Out was the first double-rock album, the first rock "concept" album and musically it was about as cutting-edge as a rock album could be without being classified as avant-garde jazz or modern classical. Over the years it has consistently been voted as one of the top 100 greatest albums ever made and even today it has not aged, even if the recording quality now seems a bit raw." --Barry Miles, "Zappa, A Biography"

"Freak Out!" is an authentic slice of history, a masterpiece of the sunrise of progressive music, and an essential title for a well rounded rock collection. Other Mothers albums would get technically better and Frank would expand his horizons greatly after the 1960s, but in my view the original burst of creativity on debuts like this hold charms as magical as later "definitive artist works." I've always felt there is something special about the albums that cooked up something fantastic with the most basic kitchen ingredients of the middle 60s. "Freak Out!" is as gritty and dangerous below the surface as "Exile on Main Street", but Frank delivered it nearly a decade sooner than the Stones.

Report this review (#289278)
Posted Monday, July 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars Out of nowhere, Zappa appeared on the music scene in July 66, a bit like a devil out of its box, but in Frank's case the box is the Los Angeles suburbs, even though his parents were from MY. I am not aware of Frank's previous achievement before starting this group, but the least we can say is that for a first album, his "savoir faire" and general knowledge or music culture are simply astounding for a first oeuvre, let alone the instrumental prowess that are present (even if often well-hidden) on Freak Out. Coming with an inspiring coloured-filtered photo artwork and the counter-culture-related titled, one could expect a psychedelic chef d'oeuvre, if it wasn't for the fact that this is a Zappa album and his legendary defiance of the hippydom and general derision of the music industry in which he participates. Even his group's name is a parody and indicates derision, although the industry forced him to change to the actual Mother Of Invention (I'll let you guess what the original name was). Amazingly enough, the album was released on the Jazz label Verve (but bought over by MGM) and the ex-Columbia Sun Ra producer Tom Wilson was so impressed that he got the label to spend over four times the usual amount on the production of a debut album, which in turn allowed that very album to pay for a 17-man orchestra and become one of the first double rock album ever (maybe Dylan's Blonde was first), but certainly the first double debut album.

Behind the sheer genius of the master of ceremony, his overall oeuvre is marked by a general goofy humoured attitude, a vast but not-always properly-used musical knowledge and a will to propose inventive and original music - at least within the typical Zappa realm and especially in his early oeuvre. Among the wide array of influences you'll find in Zappa's early works are 50 & 60's pop music (doo-wop and surf music amongst other) and all kinds of jazz, from the big band era until the more modern and freer forms, and his most important modern/contemporary classical music influences. Needless to say that such a wide-spectrummed array of influences can only clash at times, but also produce some magic moments. Behind the general awe one has hearing such a quagmire of music, there are some "flaws" (IMHO) that will always set aside Frank from the rest of the progressive rock field, although his influences on many "prog" acts is all too obvious, despite Frank's refusal to belong in a caste or clique. It is this very (too?) wide spectrum of music produced by Frank that will provoke a certain uneasiness from the European public (at least in a first time) and will be regarded as an anarchist and clown (a freak) attacking the more serious counter-culture, more than a genius; this so until Frank's first "solo" (Motherless) album called Hot Rats, a much more focused effort.

Let's get back to Freak Out, where the general Zappa realm is already well-established, filled with parody songs, "dumb" sketches/dialogues (at least not bearing repeated listens), semi-debilistic doo-wop mixed with more serious jazz and classical music (the latter being still rare in this debut), sound collages experiments and normal (everything relative of course) rock music with the psych overtone of the era. The whole thing thrown in a big pot where short songs alternate with rarer longer instrumental tracks, often linked (most of the time abruptly and sometimes downright clumsily >> this IS a first album) and assembled together. The first eleven short (max3:30) tracks are made of the afore-mentioned happy quagmire of parodic music, but the much longer (between 6 & 12 minutes) last three tracks are the ones that most progheads will probably remember best, including Trouble Everyday and the extended Help I'm A Rock (where you can feel Beefheart's influence). The album finishes on the extremely strange Monster Magnet, where the famous Suzy Creamcheese myth is born among the weird electronic noises born from knob twisting and other experimental techniques of the times.It is this album that coined the famous Wowie Zowie term as well.

The album was a slow seller at first but soon developed pockets of cult-status regions throughout North America and Continental Europe. It took a tour of the UK to convince the Brits to search the import version of the album, since it was only released as a single disc there. Definitely not an easy album or first oeuvre, and not exactly recommended as an intro to Francesco's world of music, Freak Out must be heard, even if only because it is Zappa's first oeuvre, just to realize how ahead of the field he already was.

Report this review (#290387)
Posted Thursday, July 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars This debut album by Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention was quite a revolutionary release for its time and can be considered an important cornerstone of Proto-Prog. The music is for most part simplistic, consisting of almost jingle-like short tunes smeared in the San Francisco Sound of the time. But don't be fooled by this sound since this is a lot more than just your average product of its time!

Conceived as a satirical concept album depicting everything that was wrong with the society, Freak Out! was a daring beast of a double album that could only be conceived by a mind of a young genius. The material here takes its inspiration from the rock & roll and doo-wop of the '50s and adds a layer of out-of-this-world experimental layers on all of it which must have been unheard of in popular music of the '60s. I'm not talking about the loose experimentation of Acid and Psychedelic rock but rather a slick and well-coordinated performances that keeps things relatively well-balanced all throughout the first LP.

The second LP features 3 lengthy compositions, starting with Trouble Every Day, that are much less structured and make this album sound disjointed when trying to sit through the complete 60 minutes of this experience of a double album. Still, there's really no denying the excellence of this music which is why anything less than the 4 star rating would be impossible for me to grant this masterful debut. It's unfortunate that Freak Out! was never much of a commercial success, especially in comparison the the hefty production values that it accumulated, but those low sales only show how prejudges people were and still are towards artist image. The Mothers of Invention were far from the sympathic role models like Jim Morrison and his the Doors or Jefferson Airplane and this lack of cool image was enough for most kids to completely dismiss this music. It goes to show that we just never learn from mistakes of the past.

Freak Out! might sound a lot like a product of its time but when put into perspective of a satirical concept album that makes fun of the '50s United States culture it really makes Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention seem ahead of their time. Not only did they successfully make fun of the society around them but they did it in a highly creative experimental rock setting which makes this music an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection!

***** star songs: Hungry Freaks, Daddy? (3:27) Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder (3:31) Motherly Love (2:45) You Didn't Try To Call Me (3:17) Any Way The Wind Blows (2:52)

**** star songs: I Ain't Got No Heart (2:30) Who Are The Brain Police? (3:22) How Could I Be Such A Fool (2:12) Wowie Zowie (2:45) I'm Not Satisfied (2:37) You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here (3:37) Trouble Every Day (6:16) Help I'm A Rock (8:37) The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet (12:17)

Report this review (#295263)
Posted Thursday, August 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
Man With Hat
Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
3 stars The beginning of one of the best musical journeys in the history of sound.

Unfortunately, this isn't the best start. Which is completely understandable, although slightly perplexing as aspects of this disc show the great potential Frank had even at this age. This album is fairly far removed from prog and even rock, focusing more on the sounds of R&B, doo-wop, pop, and 50s rock. However, just saying that is doing this album a disservice. This is still a Frank Zappa/Mothers Of Invention album. There are plenty of "unique" touches throughout, mostly in the realm of percussion (vibes and tympani being the most obvious) and orchestral flourishes, but at the end of the day, this is fairly tame musically for 70-80% of the album. Perhaps the best thing about this album is the lyrics. Biting, satirical, thoroughly and completely Zappa. (Indeed, perhaps that is the best thing about this early Mothers Of Invention, the lyrical content was solid and spot on consistently.)

The album begins quite well, with a strong trio of songs (Hungry Freaks, Daddy, I Ain't Got No Heart, and Who Are The Brain Police?) which break away from the more traditional sound of the time and introduce more avant or orchestral sections, even when firmly rooted in a rock/R&B/etc sound. Unfortunately, after these three songs the middle bits of the album take a turn for the worse. The uniqueness is subdued. Songs like Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder and How Could I Be Such A Fool are essentially straight ahead doo-wop/R&B songs, even eschewing rock altogether. Similarly songs like Motherly Love, Any Way The Wind Blows, I'm Not Satisfied are, at their core early 60s rock/pop songs. While not necessarily bad, this is not where the Mothers shine. There are peaks (Motherly Love, You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here) but also plenty of valleys that drag the disc down and making this a fairly inconsistent album.

Luckily, at least for this reviewer, the last three (or four) songs right the ship straight away, getting rid of most of the pop/R&B influences and focusing on that true Zappa vibe. Trouble Every Day is a heavy rocker with some of Frank's best lyrics in his entire discography (which are, admittedly sadly, still relevant today). Help I'm A Rock(/It Can't Happen Here) starts the avant madness that will be explored all through Zappa's career and really heaps on the humor. Finally, comes the behemoth of The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet. Avant-garde, dense, sprawling, off- putting, this song is quite the radical one, mostly considering what else was on rock/pop albums of the time. Not a song for everyone, for sure, but for those who can appreciate out music surely a treasure.

All in all, this is an inconsistent album. There are some really good tracks, some Zappa classics even, but there are too many that just fall flat, even though I do enjoy the somewhat heavy use of the vibraphone. Also, lyrically, well this album is strong there are many songs dealing with love, women, etc, which for one gives a very similar feel throughout the middle of the album, as well as decreases the uniqueness of the Mothers (even if/when the lyrics are satirical [obviously or not]). Certainly, not a great place to start in the Zappa universe, but for fans of the early Mothers Of Invention or children of this era (who can admittedly probably appreciate the 50s/60s/rock/pop influences more than me) would probably find more to enjoy here. Something Zappa fans should own, but for the casual listener not so much. A solid 3 stars.

Report this review (#298183)
Posted Thursday, September 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars Think about it. This album was recorded in 1965, and released released in 1966. At that time, there was no Pink Floyd, The Beatles were just beginning to experiment with their music, and none of the big names in progressive rock were recording anything progressive.

But here's Frank Zappa, a sarcastic but brilliant guitarist/composer, releasing an album that blew some minds.

The first half of the album consists of the more conventional songs, save for Who Are The Brain Police?. The rest of the songs mostly fit into the idea of mid-sixties pop music: short simple songs about love and easy concepts. Then there's Brain Police, a dark, experimental song delving into paranoid subtexts. Way ahead of it's time.

Then there's the second LP. It begins with Trouble Every Day, one of the most political songs of it's time, depicting the race riots in L.A., and also the way the TV news was exploiting them. Just brilliant.

The album concludes with Help I'm A Rock, and The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet (note to the music press: Frank Zappa is NOT the son of a monster magnet). These are the incredible (for their time) works of weird rhythms and tape concoctions that by far predated the Rock In Opposition movement, but contained much of that movement's ideals.

Simply put, this is an extremely important album, and although by today's standards may not be as amazing, it must be seen from it's own time.

Report this review (#364808)
Posted Sunday, December 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Forget about The Moody Blues and King Crimson. The first prog album to come out was in 1966. Sure it is avant, but so what?

I still have a hard time believing this one came out in 1966. A double album of very weird music for its time at that. I got on the Zappa bandwagon in the late 1970's and it took me a while to give this one a try. You can't blame me. Even at that point in time he already had a huge discography and was busy pumping out more.

Personal favorite track: Trouble Every Day. Though specifically about the Watts riots it has been updated to not be dated when it was later done live. Not an album I would recommend to those who are just starting to get acquainted with Zappa's enormous catalog, but one that is worth getting around to sooner or later.

Rounding up due to its historical significance.

Report this review (#372961)
Posted Tuesday, January 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
3 stars Frank Zappa is one of the artists which I have never exploited very much without a specific reason. Only I have never got into his music but I've listened to some songs occasionally from the radio and I can't say that I don't like him. Years ago I bought Joe's Garage that didn't impress me very much, but now I have decided to start exploring him.

A friend gave me a copy of this debut album (on tape!!) and after some listens I'm now ready for a review. This is a warning for the readers: I'm not expert in Zappa's music so please forgive me in advance.

I suspect that this album have had a big impact when it was released. This kind of eclectism, like the kazoo on "Who Are The Brain Police" in 1966 would have sounded crazy. And it's placed between two songs that are parodies of the mainstream genres of the time like "Go Crying On Somebody Else's Shoulder".

What is impressive is the mix of crazy lyrics (for that time) and unusual sounds like the kazoo inside songs with a pop structure played in a very skillful way by the band.

I think the highlights are near the end of the double album. I like "Trouble Every Day", probably because it 's early psychedelia, the artsy "It Can't Happen Here" which could have inspired an artist like Ron Geesin and contains also a lot of jazz. The closing 12 minutes are pure psychedelia that's one of my favorite genres.

Unfortunately from a pure musical point of view excluding the last three tracks it's not very interesting. It's funny and sarcastic and some things have not changed very much in the last 45 years, but this album has few to say to me. It's good, but if it wasn't for the few later things that I've had the opportunity to listen to, I don't think I would have been conquered by Zappa.

The Mothers of Invention were probably ready to invent, but the patent is not on this album. However it is good enough to make me look for other Zappa things.

Report this review (#437356)
Posted Friday, April 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars What an album! For the first two-and-a-bit sides Freak Out! treats the listener to some of the most diverse, witty, and bitingly cynical rock music of its era, the sort of thing that might result from a psychedelic band made up of escaped mental patients playing to lyrics written by Bob Dylan on a really bad day - check out Trouble Every Day or Hungry Freaks Daddy for some of the angriest and most direct political writing Zappa would ever indulge in - mixed with sonic experiments like the creepy Who Are the Brain Police? and filled in with some warped deconstructed doo-wop ditties like I Ain't Got No Heart or You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here.

And then, after Trouble Every Day, it gets *really* strange. But it would be a mistake to write off Help I'm a Rock or Return of the Son of Monster Magnet as aimless jams; like school buddy Captain Beefheart's own strangest work, those two tracks yield more secrets the more you listen to them. Take all the vocals in the It Can't Happen Here segment; try to listen to the words and it just doesn't make sense, until you realise that the voices aren't meant to be saying anything that makes sense - they're being used as instrumentation, and the piece is actually an orchestral ditty conveyed entirely through the human voice.

At the time it was released, *nobody* had produced anything so simultaneously eccentric and erudite in a rock context. So why isn't it a five-star classic? Well, frankly it's because Zappa hadn't quite taken all the different ingredients of his sound and turned them into gold yet. The really avant-garde stuff - the parts which aren't occasional eccentric diversions in an otherwise conventional (if sarcastically performed) pop number - are all shoved to the back of the album, and the smarmy pop parodies which dominate the double-disc set don't stand up to repeated listens at all well. Had Zappa showed a bit more discernment in editing, trimmed things back to a single disc, and kept only the cream of the pop parodies - or even better, edited them together into some sort of crazed medley, which would have resulted in something a lot like the first side of Absolutely Free - this would be a classic.

As it is, it's got obvious historical importance, but the lax quality control and excess of material (flaws which would regularly crop up in the vast Zappa discography) mean that whilst it's worth a listen for research, for actual enjoyment or a fulfilling musical experience the followup (Absolutely Free) completely leaves Freak Out! in the dust, succeeding at more or less everything Freak Out! attempts to a vastly greater extent and pulling a few unique stunts of its own on the side.

Report this review (#444977)
Posted Monday, May 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars One of the weirdest and delightfully psychedelic experiences put to vinyl. Zappa was out of his tree here and the music is totally off kilter even inaccessible. The mind job on offer is akin to an LSD experience and obviously catered to that hippy crowd. Who are the Brain Police? is quite disturbing with out of tune monotone singing and very ethereal effects. The music is dominated by 60s organ and spacey guitars. The album is oppressive in places and even spouts political messages that only the deranged may understand. Pink Floyd may have heard this and Syd Barrett may indeed have utilised ideas as it is a precursor to the psych space prog that ensued. Zappa and the Mothers were pioneers of zany humour in music and that is part of their repertoire. Perhaps this album should be catalogued under comedy as it is rather amusing. Some songs are full of whooping and hollering and occasionally people are heard jibbering nonsense that not even the deranged may understand. Its a masterpiece of high strangeness and deserves to be heard at least once and then perhaps discarded for the drivel it is. Nevertheless there is nothing like it and we can all be grateful for that!
Report this review (#602085)
Posted Monday, January 2, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Frank Zappa would release better albums, with and without the Mothers of Invention. But let's put the achievement of "Freak Out!" into historical perspective. What was musically hot in 1966? Well, the Mamas and the Papas had two songs in that year's Billboard Top Ten, and The Monkees were there too ("Last Train to Clarkesville"). But the Number One hit of that bygone year was "The Ballad of the Green Berets" by Barry Sadler: solid proof that we desperately needed someone like Frank Zappa at the time.

There are a lot of ways to approach the Mothers' debut album: as affectionate rock 'n' roll parody; biting music biz commentary; cage-rattling social satire; uncomplicated teenybopper pop; even embryonic Krautrock (more about that later). Together they add up to an all-of-the-above, five-star accomplishment, successfully juggling each brightly colored conceptual egg without allowing so much as a hairline crack to show.

Later Zappa efforts might choose a particular weapon for his ongoing fight against the status quo: avant-garde noise; virtuoso Fusion; smutty humor. But the genius of "Freak Out!" was that it managed to overturn the mainstream applecart without bruising any of the fruit. The lovelorn teen romance of "Go Cry on Somebody Else's Shoulder", the giddy bubblegum conventions of "Wowie Zowie", can all be accepted at face value, or parsed for (not so) hidden subversive meanings, with equally gratifying results.

The joke would turn to vitriol in the album's final tracks, beginning with "Trouble Every Day", one of the cornerstone protest songs of the 1960s, and even more relevant in the widening schism of the 21st century. But the weirdness wasn't confined to Side Four of the original LP: note the complete structural breakdown in the middle of "Who Are the Brain Police?", or the cutting-edge lyrics driving the album opener "Hungry Freaks, Daddy".

This may sound chauvinistic (and maybe a little pompous), but "Freak Out!" was a very American record, by a quintessential American artist. But while the album didn't excite anything more than cult interest in the U.S. (attracting likeminded musical misfits like the RESIDENTS), it had an immediate impact overseas, and nowhere more than among the counterculture rebels of late '60s Germany. The hypnotic one-chord mantra of "Help, I'm a Rock" might have been designed as a Krautrock template; the dada collage of "The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet" was prototypical FAUST, a half-decade early; and if you remove the lyrics from "Trouble Every Day" what's left is hardly distinguishable from an early CAN jam.

(...a quick digression: The Mothers' appearance at the Essen Song Day Festival in 1968 was another watershed moment in Krautrock history. And the same event saw the splitting of the AMON DÜÜL commune into two competing bands.)

"You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here", Zappa sang in 1966. In retrospect the reason was obvious: to shake the dust from our cultural complacency and take aim at the failures of LBJ's Great Society, tongue firmly in cheek and finger steady on the trigger.

Report this review (#891053)
Posted Friday, January 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars It all began here for Frank & The Mothers, on a monumentally-weird double-album designed to both lampoon and celebrate - and occasionally eviscerate - the burgeoning 'underground' culture cliques of the 1960's. At the time, there was nothing quite like the surreal mixture of humour and psychedelia offered by 'Freak Out', and the album thankfully set in motion one of the most extraordinary and diverse of rock careers, whilst also encouraging the great wave of late-sixties acid rock. However, despite musically embracing elements of psychedelic rock, jazz and the avant-garde, Zappa favoured his own peculiar form of sonic satire, embracing the absurd above all else and thus remaining eternally unpredictable. His disdain for various components of the music industry - fans, groups, record executives - became the basis for much of his early comedy, and 'Freak Out', an album that hovers almost perfectly between the brilliant and the bizarre, set the trend. Issued in 1966 on the MGM-owned Verve imprint, 'Freak Out' only came about thanks to the hard work and dedication of not just Frank and The Mothers, but also because of the trojan-strength behind-the-scenes hustling of MGM staff producer Tom Wilson. Apart from The Beatles 'Rubber Soul' and the then-rather-insignificant Texan psych-rock of Roky Erickson's 13th Floor Elevators, psychedelia had yet to flower into the significant musical scene of two years later, and the only music suit with any power who believed in the Mothers sound was Wilson. With MGM executives reportedly less-than-impressed by Zappa's demo recordings and the group's bohemian look, and the fact that 'Freak Out!' actually got produced seems quite incredible. Originally, it was seen as a non-starter throughout the L.A. music biz However, despite the hurdles, 'Freak Out!' did get made, and the album launched a truly wonderful career. It may prove to be a slightly divisive album for Zappa fans - many love it; many others don't - yet it arguably merits a place in the lower echelons of the great man's all-time top ten. Highlights, then, are frequent. Opener 'Hungry Freaks, Daddy' features an infectious melody and witty late-night lyrics, initiating proceedings with giddy energy. 'Who Are The Brain Police?' and 'Wowie Zowie' alternate between sinister agit-rock gloom and surreal jitterbug psychedelia, whilst the intoxicating absurdist gusto of 'Help! I'm A Rock' features a strange, sub-mainstream pop slant brushed with glowering vocals and intricate jazz hues. Unlike many subsequent albums, Zappa doesn't dominate, and much must be made of The Mothers, each of whom add their own peculiar shades of madness and musical brilliance to a riotous blend of disparate styles and manic stream-of-conciousness lyricism. In the end, the effect proves almost cinematic, leaving behind a kaleidoscopic swirl of colours and sounds, and making for one of the most extraordinary musical debuts of the modern era. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2013
Report this review (#971690)
Posted Wednesday, June 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars The beginning of a legend. Album #1 of a gazillion more to come. The Mothers Of Invention didn't exactly take the world by storm with this highly cutting edge album from 1966. It barely made a blip in the musical radar and many of those who did pay attention deemed it unworthy of further listening pleasure. Well pooey on them! Little did the world know then that Mr Zappa, leader of this vast ensemble of the musical mad, would go on to shake up the world and inspire the world of music with his highly erratic, eclectic and political biting take on things.

Despite the album title, this is one of the tamest ZAPPA albums with songs that are R&B, doowop and standard bluesy rock all set to avant-garde sound collages. In a way the amalgamation of the decade before with something so revolutionary was his trademark giving accessible music a little kick in the behind. The album isn't totally tame. At the end we get two fully avant-garde tracks with 'It Can't Happen Here' and 'The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet,' a preview of what would further develop.

It's true that this is the first rock concept album as well as rock double album (if you don't count Dylan as rock) and considering The Beatles released REVOLVER the same year as this, it also seems he was a bit ahead of the game. Despite being ignored by the public at large, this became a cult hit. As cutting edge as this album is I would love to give it five stars, but unfortunately many of the tunes are not as interesting as what would begin on the second album, however this is without a doubt a MUST HAVE for any fan of not only ZAPPA, but of rock and prog alike.

Report this review (#1080357)
Posted Friday, November 22, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars With this I will begin to explore the musical world of the American musicians Frank Zappa and his Mothers of Invention. Frank Zappa made a lot of interesting stuff and back in 1966 his band "The Mothers of Invention" made their first record "Freak out!". Fourty-eight years have passed since they recorded this and you understand quite fast how innovative these pioneers were. 1966 was some years before progressive rock was a known phenomenon. Though is this too intelligent and too weird to be a hippie record.

Frank Zappa plays guitar, harmonica, cymbals, tambourine, sings and orchestrates, Plas Johnson plays saxophone, Jimmy Carl Black percussion and drums, Ray Collins plays guitar, harmonica, cymbals, sound effects, tambourine, sings and plays finger cymbals, Gene Estes plays percussion, Roy Estrada plays bass, guitarron and sings, Elliot Ingber plays guitar, Carol Kaye plays bass and Ruth Komanoff and John Rotella plays percussion. Those were the musicians present on the record and probably they were satisfied with what they did.

The Mothers of Invention here plays music of many forms. One big input is a typical rock'n'roll form which is an ingredient here. Many songs are simple rock songs with a rich and stupid clothing. "Hungry Freaks, Daddy" sounds a little like "The Rolling Stones" but they joke a lot too(7/10). "I ain't got no heart" starts in a typical sixties sound, a powerful feeling too (7/10). "Who are the brain Police?" then is a dark and experimental spaced track(6/10) and "Go cry on somebody else's shoulder" is like a fifties pop song, with parodic sound effects(6/10). "Motherly love" is a rough rock song(6/10) and "How could I be such a fool" is a fine little poetic song(7/10). "Wowie Zowie" has a funny touch a funny little text but the song as whole is a little weird(6/10) and You didn't try to call me" has quite beautiful passages and inspirations from different locations(7/10) and "Anyway the wind blows" is catchy and perhaps the finest track on this record, I like it(8/10). "I'm not satisfied" continues quite average(6/10) and "You're probably wondering why I'm here" is a funny song with a glad abnd weird melody that I like(7/10). "Trouble every day" then is a bit boring but tough(5/10) and then come the experimental parts without bit interest for me. "Help, I'm a rock" feels quite improvised(3/10) just as "It can't happen here" with a lot of sound effects which I'm not very interested in(3/10) and the same is easy to hear in the last track "The Return of the son of monster Magnet" which is very experimental and kind of contains too much to be enjoyable. The sounds do not make me feel comfortable at at(2/10).

Over all is the record an interesting statement in a historical time and many songs are enjoyable even if I had heard to pick personal favourites. But it's a good debut album by Frank Zappa where you at least will find parts interesting. Three stars!

Report this review (#1180169)
Posted Wednesday, May 28, 2014 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Team
5 stars Yes it is true that this is the first official Frank Zappa/Mothers of Invention album released. However, FZ was involved in a lot of doo-wop style bands and recorded a few things that involved the presentation of some of his early avant garde classical style music and if you can locate some of those recordings, they are definitely interesting enough if you are a big FZ fan. But, this was the first official major label recording. The Mothers were actually around before this release also, doing r&b covers under the name Soul Giants. When Frank joined the band, he convinced them to do his own original songs and they changed their name to The Mothers.

The band was signed on when Tom Wilson heard the song "Anyway the Wind Blows" which was the first song the band recorded. The record company thought they were signing on a white blues band. When the band next recorded "Who Are the Brain Police?", the execs were a little surprised and worried. They were suddenly getting a mixture of r&b and psychedelia and some really weird music they didn't understand. But Frank pushed on and was actually excited and pleased with what was coming together. Frank's love for doo-wop music and avant garde classical music came together in the songs that were made while the record company scratched their heads and wondered what was going on.

Most of America didn't understand this music at first either. However, in Europe, the album would become a hit and eventually it would become an underground hit in the States when the beatniks thought the album was made to represent an LSD trip of some kind. It was also strange that an album would be released as two discs, even though it had been done by Bob Dylan and a few others, I don't believe it was ever done as a debut album. Somehow, Frank got away with it. In Europe though, it was released as a single disc.

Historically, this is a very important album as far as prog is concerned. It was one of the first concept albums ever made, the concept being Frank's view of pop culture and his satirical take on it. The first disc is mostly made up of short doo-wop inspired songs and 60's inspired psychedelia. There are a few hints of progressive rock, even though it wasn't a genre yet, Frank used his classical training to add an extra dimension to the music. Some of the music is quite straightforward r& b while other songs are completely out in left field.

The 2nd disc includes the longer tracks which were "Trouble Every Day", "Help I'm a Rock (Suite in Three Movements)" and "The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet (Unfinished Ballet in Two Tableaux)". The first of these is a blues influenced rock number with a strong political message at the time, the Mothers own protest song. "Help I'm a Rock" has a great driving rhythm, but quickly becomes an unconventional song as the lyrics are ridiculous and often don't convey any consistent theme. This was all on purpose, making fun of psychedelia and protest music. The music breaks down in the 2nd movement with a bunch of vocal sounds and chaos and is a homage to Edgard Varese who is one of Zappa's favorite musicians, then it suddenly goes to an accapella type craziness for the 3rd movement with some a sudden interruption with a piano interlude that is an avant garde jazz section before returning to more acapella sounds. The last track "...Monster Magnet" is a sound collage made into another avant garde piece that continues on for 12 minutes. At first listen, this all sounds like a chaotic, random composition, but it is actually a brilliant composition that shows it's similarity to other sound collages performed by The Beatles and other psychedelic bands, but this has a structure unlike any of those with a lot more vocal sounds than just random sounds.

This is definitely an essential recording especially when it comes to progressive rock music. It shows the existence of progressive elements were around even before progressive music became an official genre. FZ was one of the innovators and this album is a testament to that. You might think it is a strange recording at first, but as it grows on you and the genius of the album becomes apparent, you will begin to agree. FZ fans must have this and prog fans need to be familiar with it, it's all a part of your history. 5 stars.

Report this review (#1382507)
Posted Saturday, March 14, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars Help! I'm a rock! Help! I'm a rock!

I'm so tired of reading things like this album "must have been a blast when it came out" so, as one who was actually around at the time Freak Out! was released, I'll give you my thoughts as well as the thoughts of others at that time. Freak Out! is without a doubt a product of it's time but I'm afraid that Frank's love/hate relationship with fifties Doo Wop music would make little sense to anyone born after this album was released. While the Zappa/MOI's Doo Wop meets Cheech and Chong outings seem strangely familiar to modern audiences, it's real impact was geared at the fifties 'baby boomers' who were desperately trying to disengage themselves not only from the plastic mores of the nineteen fifties, but also any pop culture references of those plastic times. And Frank was trying not to let these free spirited hippies run too far from where they came from.

The fact that Zappa saw the burgeoning American counter culture as a substitute for the plastic culture that they were fleeing from is the starting point of Zappa's social commentaries for the nineteen sixties. The MOI use a scattergun approach to verbal humor on Freak Out! that works well one second and falls flat the next. But it was innovative at the time and the absence of profanity in the lyrics would strike most latter FZ album listeners as quite strange and censored. But the individual is what Frank preached and it come out well in songs like Hungry Freaks and Who Are The Brain Police?

Doo Wop pastiches such as How Could I be Such A Fool and Wowie Zowie are trite and add up to little than album filler as there's not much musically exciting going on until we get to the end of this double album. Trouble Everyday is a timeless social reflection of race relations in the US that is still, unsurprisingly, relevant in the 21st century while Help, I'm a Rock is a wonderful slice of absurdum mixed with avant gard vocalizations that's still a blast to listen to this day.

The twelve minute album closer The Return of The Son Of Monster Magnet is pure sixties studio manipulated psychedelia that's every bit the equal of any Beatles studio concoction found on the Revolver album from the same year. It's 'Magnet' that shows off Zappa's early mastering of studio trickery that includes numerous overdubs, speeded up tapes and his penchant for mastering the meter and tempos of vocals the same way a musician would when playing an instrument. It's hard to believe that people tripped to this recording while Zappa was denouncing drug use, but so it was.

Freak Out! is the prototype for many Zappa/MOI albums to come and would ultimately improve on. But as a double album debut release that was single handedly composed and produced by the great auteur in the draconian recording era of 1966, it remains a true American classic. Just like it's highly regarded creator. 4 stars.

Report this review (#1452337)
Posted Wednesday, August 12, 2015 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars How people can rate this masterpiece of social satire disguised in the form of tongue-in-cheek song style imitations less than four stars is beyond me! The chameleonic versatility alone is worthy of high marks and recommendations to others. But then throw in the outstanding musicianship, the on-point renderings of a multitude of "pop" styles and the fact that this was a double-length (4-sided) concept album (one of pop/prog's first) qualifies it for superlatives accorded to sheer genius! Plus, it is a highly entertaining, highly enjoyable and consistently surprising collection of high quality music. And Frank's humor has not (yet) slid into the realms of silly, sophomoric potty humor--but his cutting, literate satire is unmistakable. Plus he's got some great, memorable melodies! There's even a 12-minute "epic"! Come on people! This is a masterpiece of music--of what music is capable of doing--with every moment of it intentional and full of intention. We call it progressive because like so many others (yet to come) he was using music to express and explore ideas on a non-pop way for an intellectual anti-establishment audience. (Himself).
Report this review (#1533517)
Posted Saturday, February 27, 2016 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
4 stars A listener's enjoyment of this very first Frank Zappa album may depend largely on their age. If you are a reader born sometime after the year 1980 (like me), you will probably not be impressed. Freak Out! will probably come across as a somewhat bloated, anachronistic curiosity. If you were born at a time when Zappa and the Mothers were actually making music, and especially if you were around in the '60's, you'll probably find Freak Out! a riot of satirical humor and unapologetic finger pointing at the contradictions and hypocrisy of modern culture.

To put this into contemporary perspective, imagine if an incredibly talented group of musicians came together and used the cliches of today's pop-stars (auto-tune, over produced electronic sounds, dance routines, rap-infused vocals) to lambaste the fans of those very same musical cliches. It hasn't happened. It probably won't ever happen; and this is one of the reasons why I think every prog fan - and music fan in general - should give Zappa music a serious try. There's no one out there today like Frank Zappa, and Freak Out! is a great example of his early output.

So what will you hear on this release? Freak Out! is basically a mish-mash of '60's sounds, complete with twanging guitar, do-wop vocals, Beetles-esque rocking, sappy love ballads, psychedelic freak outs, and catchy melodies. You might sometimes be tricked into thinking that these are "normal" songs, but of course they're tongue-in-cheek at their most benign. For the most part the band is playing rhythm-centric music, with melodies carried by the vocalists. Don't expect monster Zappa guitar solos, but you will hear heaps of orchestrated moments as well, as the ranks of the Mothers of Invention add string, brass, woodwind, and percussion elements to many songs. Sometimes this is subtle, but usually it's wonderfully overblown, which adds to the satire of the songs. Half-way through, the freak out session begins. Things get psychedelic and weird, but lose none of their edge or bite.

The overall effect is an hour of sardonic joy. Freak Out! doesn't hit the same heights as some of the Mothers' more polished works, but this release is especially impressive given that it's their very first effort. Now that we're almost post-2016, listen to "Trouble Every Day" and tell me that it doesn't resonate with the times. Highly recommended.

Songwriting: 5 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 4 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 5

Report this review (#1643757)
Posted Thursday, November 17, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars Along with the compilation The Lost Episodes which consists of mostly previously unreleased recordings, Freak Out was my introduction to the world of Frank Zappa (I copied it from CD to a cassette tape and bought The Lost Episodes on CD in 1997 when I was 13 years old).

Since I have a soft spot for the sort of weirdness and bizarre content that you'll get to hear in some parts of both albums, I tend to favour the 1960's Mothers of Invention over Zappa's later work. Well, there is really great stuff on albums like Apostrophe, but the early albums, though musically elaborate, have an anarchistic mood that is somehow missing in his later, more jazzy and more technically perfect productions with cream-of-the-cream musicians. His early creations sound more causal and spontanous to me, almost a bit punky, not to mention that they almost have it all: pop, rock, elaborate compositions with advanced harmonics and elements of both jazz and contemporary classical music, doo wop, avant-garde, musique concrete, weird sonic freak shows and witty satire. And they are funny as hell.

The good thing is, it is not just weird and funny for the sake of cheap laughs. There is a lot of seriousness behind it all: rebelliousness, criticism of society, and especially great compositional craftsmanship. You can be humorous and dead serious at the same time, and Frank Zappa is an obvious example of that.

The tone of Freak Out is set already in the first number, 'Hungry Freaks Daddy'. The verse is based on a groove which perhaps resembles the Rolling Stones' 'Satisfaction' a bit too much, but it is quickly clear that it has much more to offer. Apart from unusual instruments such as marimba and kazoo there's a surprising change of harmonic mode with the title phrase: From a mostly bluesy verse (ambiguity between higher and lower third), the title phrase surprises with the non-functional III-II-V-II progression, and a melody line paralleling the bass note at a fifth. Not exactly a usual pattern for the average pop listener. Similar patterns can be found in songs such as 'Ain't Got No Heart', 'I'm Not Satisfied' and 'You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here' (the latter contains an especially hilarious use of the kazoo).

Above that there is the harsh society criticism in songs like 'Hungry Freaks Daddy': 'Mister America walk on by / the schools that do not teach / Mister Amercia walk on by / the minds that won't be reached'. The tone is equally direct in 'Trouble Every Day' which ' on a musical level ' is more traditionally bluesy. I don't really know why that had to be the lead single from the album. The most radical song is perhaps 'Who Are the Brain Police' with its sinister, unstable harmonic structure and especially the instrumental middle section after the second verse.

At other times the album is using pop banality but deconstructing it. 'Wowie Zowie' could have been a simple love song, but then there are lines such as 'I don't even care if you brush your teeth'. 'Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder' is a break up song to a traditional vamp progression (I-VI-IV-V), but with a grotesque doo-wop choir in the background and a remarkably unsentimental lyric. 'Motherly Love' turns out to be about groupies whereas 'Amyway the Wind Blows' is perhaps the most conventional song on the album. Zappa sarcastically writes in the cover notes: 'If I hadn't got divorced, this trivial piece of nonsense would never have been recorded. It is included in this collection because, in a nutshell, kids, it is... how shall I say it?... it is intellectually and emotionally accessible for you'.

The tracks where Freak Out lives up to its name the most are the last two, 'Help I'm a Rock' (the last part is sometimes listed as a separate track, 'It Can't Happen Here') and 'The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet'. While I really enjoy these tracks for their complete craziness, it is harder to describe them from a musical point of view. In any case, the 'It can't happen here' section is extremely funny ('Whoooo... could imagine... that they would freak out in Minnesota.... Mi-mi-mi-mi-minesota' etc.).

The best part of the album is however the... if I may say so... 'real songs' which make up the first two sides and the beginning of side three. The compositional qualities are astonishing. It is never just weird, there is a lot of beauty in even the most elaborate chords and melody lines, and there is often a pop sensibility to it. Also the production deserves praise. It clearly goes further than most pop/rock had done up to this point with orchestral arrangements and unusual instruments. This high level of professionalism is however counterpointed by the anarchistic and sometimes purposely off-key singing, mostly by lead singer Ray Collins and with Zappa often singing backing vocals (perhaps most striking in the intro of 'Who Are the Brain Police'). But once again the balance between humour and seriousness is a big attraction of the album.

Report this review (#2117474)
Posted Saturday, January 12, 2019 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars The debut album of The Mothers Of Invention was undoubtedly bold and revolutionary, being one of the first double albums in rock, along with applying more experimentation to the pop and blues rock music of the time, while also having moments of going completely off the rails with avant garde sensibilities. The importance of this album is definitely a big part of why it is so highly regarded, both by others and myself, but despite this, there are definitely some flaws within the album.

The album starts off with its first 3 sides containing the various conventions and cliches of music of the time, used in such a way to parody such music, often through the lyrics, sometimes biting satire about American society in songs such as Hungry Freaks Daddy and Trouble Every Day. Other songs contain more comedic lyrics, such as their take of the common trope of love songs in Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder. These consistently great lyrics provide great entertainment and definitely feel more like the focus of the album compared to some musical elements of it, as the majority of the tracks are very short and simple, albeit quite fun and catchy. An exception to the is definitely Who Are The Brain Police?. which feels much darker and more experimental, everything having an echoey quality to it, and the middle freak out being downright sinister. In terms of instrumentation, there's already a clear display of talent from Zappa, especially evident in the solo of Hungry Freaks Daddy, Motherly Love, Anyway The Wind Blows, and others.

Just as the album begins to feel like it should be coming to a close, Help I'm A Rock comes in and provides an incredibly sharp left turn, shifting from the fun of previous songs into pure strangeness. There is an almost complete lack of melody here, replaced with a bizarre bassline, the vocals being unconventional and lyrics nonsensical, truly a highly psychedelic song, and one of my favourites from the album. After this, there are no signs of slowing down at any point, with It Can't Happen Here being a completely acapella track with almost nothing to grab onto, with clashing melodies among the vocal harmonies. I personally find this song to be a fairly weak point on the album, as despite its 4 minute length, it still feels like it goes on far too long. Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet is a better song, utilising the same sort of atonality and avant garde tendencies as previous songs, but maintaining pace and building up effectively, with a wide range of noises provided by many sources, especially guitar and vocals, including regular screaming. Overall, I find this song to close off the album quite well, along with displaying a snippet of what would be to come in later albums.

Despite the importance of this album, I don't quite consider this a 5 star album on account of the simplicity of the first 3 quarters of the album causing it to drag somewhat by the time the more insane stuff comes on, and while these tracks are wonderful, It Can't Happen Here is definitely below the standard of the other tracks here, and Monster Magnet feels a bit too long. A lot of this is remedied by the excellent lyricism and instrumentation throughout, along with the fact that I do believe that this album should undoubtedly be listened to at least once due to its significance. While I wouldn't call this Zappa's best work, it's nonetheless very high quality.

Best songs: Hungry Freaks Daddy, Who Are The Brain Police?, GO Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder, Help I'm A Rock

Weakest songs: It Can't Happen Here

Verdict: A lovely parody of many cliches of the music of the time, complete with fun compositions, excellent lyrics, and a downright weird last set of 3 tracks. The significance of this album is enough for me to recommend that it be given at least one listen, despite the flaws present within.

Report this review (#2186760)
Posted Thursday, April 25, 2019 | Review Permalink

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