George Starostin's Reviews



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<> (14.02.2000)

I see what you're saying about how Frank Zappa was "dated"... how his satirical stabs at the musical trends of the day sort of locked him into the very time periods he was mocking. That's an interesting point, granted. But on a scale of one to five, I still personally think Zappa deserves a ten. Sure, The Beatles and The Stones were (in their own way) musical innovators, but remember that a lot of less innovative bands in the 60's imitated the Beatles and The Stones with great commercial success (not to mention all the Led Zep and Elton John rip-offs of the 70's). But I've never heard of anyone who even came close to imitating Frank Zappa. I doubt that even 1% of the 20th century's most "successful" rock groups could even understand Zappa, then or now. He was a true original.

Jeff Blehar <> (23.02.2000)

I can see both by your collection of Zappa records and by your comments on his discs that you're not a true hard-core Zappaphile, George. And that's actually a very good thing, because the hardcore Zappa fans often make excuses for albums that aren't really good (for example, even though I like The Yellow Shark, your - perfectly acceptable - trashing of it would never have been done by a hardcore fan). I'm only mentioning this because Zappa's the kind of artist that doesn't produce very many "middle-of-the-road" fans; you're either turned off by almost all of the guy's work or you'd follow him off a cliff. Me, I tend more towards the second type, but I try to recognize his faults - for example, I find the sexism and vulgarity in his lyrics far more difficult to tolerate than you do, and thus I prefer his early works to his later stuff with a few exceptions.

The only other thing I want to mention here at the beginning is something I don't recall coming up anywhere else, and it's what unites Zappa's entire oeuvre (or so he'd claim): Conceptual Continuity. This was Zappa's idea that his ENTIRE recorded (and live, for that matter) works were just part one large piece of music, part of the "output macrostructure," as he called it. He was obsessed with banishing time (thus his constant intechanging of live bands and performances on the You Can't To That On Stage Anymore series, or the concept of xenochronous guitar solos on Joe's Garage), and redefining the concept of music - thus he really HAS worked all sorts of interesting cross-referencing into all his material, ranging from the first album to the last. It's not a concept that would stand up to scientific scrutiny, but the idea behind it is intriguing, and it's an admirable attempt to force the listener not to think in terms of mere "songs" or even "albums," but on a much larger scale. Look around on the album cover art, lyrics, musical instrumentations, etc. All sorts of little references will pop up.

<> (08.05.2000)

Your rating of Zappa should be a 5 . Zappa was moe talented , more versitle and more creative than any other musician/composer in this century . He by far wrote more awesome tunes than The Beatles , Bob Dylan , The Sotnes , and even Led zeppelin . He could paly any style at anytime with ease . He did not veiw himself as a guitarist but ad a composer instead . To say that his music is timed is nuts also , anyone who can appreciate the complexety of his music will listen to it forever . As for being a guitarist he was the best and fastest . As a vocalist he was good he had a voice that contrasted the high screaching voices of the time , anyway I just want to say that he flat out was the best , and so were all of his misicians all vrituoso's of the instruments taht they palyed . Patrick O'Hearn could out do John Paul Jones or John Entwhistle any time . Chad Whackerman was a far better drummer than John Bonham . I cuold make a list like this all night . I think you need to give Zappa a better chance than you give him .

[Special author note: one little side remark. I can't imagine Frank Zappa writing a song like 'Imagine' or 'Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands'. And that's why he'll never get more than a three, much as I agree with a lot of what's written in this comment.]

Philip Maddox <> (24.06.2000)

I agree with your 3. The man wrote some absolutely great stuff throughout the course of his career, of course. I love Hot Rats and Money to death, especially. His lyrics could also be very biting - You Are What You Is, in particular, is great. However, he did have problems. Sometimes he got so wrapped up in the message that he forgot to compose good music to go along with it (some of Joe's Garage can draaaaaag). Also, he liked to go out into spaced out avant-garde material that totally leaves me cold. I like most of Weasels Ripped My Flesh and I LOVE the jams at the end of Freak Out, but stuff like The Yellow Shark and Lumpy Gravy totally puts me to sleep. And even though his lyrics were great for the most part, sometimes I get the feeling that he was attacking people just because they weren't him (he really trashes gays and women in more than one instance). His earlier lyrics, like those on Money, were much better if you ask me. Still, his work was easily good enough to be worth a 3. I have about 20 Zappa records - I think I've pretty much got the gist of him. But then again, you never know. It is Zappa we're talkin' about.

Gohda326 <> (25.05.2002)

I can't believe so many people that 'claim' to be Zappa fans are whining about vulgarity and "trashing of gays". Zappa never trashed gays, he simply sang about them, just as he did every damn thing else, in a humorous manner. He was an observer of human nature. He made fun of himself constantly, that doesn't mean he trashed or hated himself. He made you think, period. He didn't want to tell people what to believe or think, he simply wanted them to think PERIOD. If you are offended by Zappa's lyrics, then you are utterly missing the point. As far as having "bad" albums or music that puts you to sleep, you simply are closed minded to some of the styles of music he incorporated. If you fall asleep to Yellow Shark or any other, then you are probably the type of person that does not appreciate classical music, jazz, or whatever it may be. You better stick to commercial music altogether. I personally am aware of no Zappa album that "draaaaaags", especially not Joe's Garage. I would have to believe that whoever said that has a serious case of ADD, no attention span at all.

Ben Kramer <> (31.07.2002)

Okay, I definitely have to admit that you make many great points in your introduction. However, I have to disagree with you. Maybe it is just that Zappa is a love/hate guy (Though I don't think you hate him.), maybe it is that you spent too much time listening to rock records that get played on the radio. Who knows? But I would have to give Frank Zappa a ****. You said above in a response to one of the comments that Zappa couldn't write a 'Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands' or an 'Imagine'. I'm not even going to try to argue myself around that one. However, there are many **** artists that were not capable of writing such material. Are you telling me that King Crimson or Jimi Hendrix were capable of writing something that beautiful. 'Imagine' was written by a **** artist, so why couldn't it be written by another **** artist?

That is not the only factor however, so prevent you from responding and making me look like an idiot, I will discuss every aspect I can think of. Zappa may not have been able to dig into your soul, but he accels in two other areas. The first is diversity. 200 Motels is the most diverse album I have ever heard. Then there is the fact that he has done classical, jazz, doo-wop... you mentioned everything.Frank is #1 there. Then there is Frank's originality. You mentioned in your Freak Out review that The Beatles created an entire genre, hence making them more original. I'll admit that The Beatles are infinitely more original socially, but Frank wins that battle too. You see, The Beatles may have created an entire new genre and they may have changed music forever, but isn't that influence? Influence is different than originality, though I'm sure you already know that. Frank, in a sense, created complex music. Many of the melodies on We're Only In It For the Money sound progressive to me. It doesn't have the pointless fantasy world lyrics or the pretentious feel to it, but I feel safe saying that it is progressive rock. Frank took music beyond pop music as we know it. And you know what? The Beatles did the same thing. However, Zappa did it to a much greater extent. What The Beatles did was seem more innovative by being the first mature musicians in rock music. Dylan was the first mature lyricist, but just based on the music, The Beatles are the creators of mature music. Frank Zappa is the one who invented a genre.

So far, out of your five point system, which I am not a huge fan of to begin with, Zappa deserves a 5+ in two of them. Now listenability for me would be just barely a 4, because anyone who has created two 14 albums (Freak Out and 200 Motels) deserves at least a 4 for listenability. However, I can see where he can get something lower, because Zappa has done some bad material. It is really dependent on one's personal feeling on Frank. So for your sake, let's call that a 3. Now for adequacy, I would probably give him a four, though I can see where he could be rated lower. Afterall, ruining one of your best albums by adding 37 minutes of boring dialog is hardly adequate. So a 3 for adequacy.

That means on the rating scale, even if Frank only got a 2 for resonance (You gotta admit that some of his guitar solos have a lot of feeling.). Besides, he does a beautiful guitar solo as often as King Crimson does baladeering tha blows you away (Well, me.). So even if he is a low ****, that is the rating I would give him. However, I can definitely see where you would rate him lower in resonance, listenability and adequacy. But I guess I'm just a Zappa freak who sent his guitar out to kill your momma.

[Special author note: I'll only reply to one point here which, for me, is undebatable - yes, King Crimson and Jimi Hendrix were capable of writing something - maybe not as beautiful as 'Imagine', but beautiful in different ways. King Crimson have 'Epitaph', 'Fallen Angel', and 'Matte Kudasai'. Jimi Hendrix has 'Little Wing' and 'Angel'. What matters, though, are not the individual songs, but the very fact that all these artists treasured emotionality in their work; Zappa intentionally trashed emotionality. Ninety-nine percent of his output is basically "tongue-in-cheek music", and the only few signs where you could detect H-E-A-R-T are maybe his neo-classical workouts on Burnt Weeny Sandwich or something like that. And this is the major factor that prevents me from putting the guy in the yellow bin. I admire Frank's spirit and love a ton of his music, but he has less soul in his music (in the traditional sense of the word, of course) than even Captain Beefheart (who actually has a lot of soul, even if he's much less listenable than Frank - cute paradox, eh?)].

Matti Alakulju <Matti.Alakulju@SWTP.RU> (14.03.2003)

What an interesting point to say that Zappa didn't have enough heart and soul in his output. This makes you just another case of not being able to see, or hear, past the most on-yer-face aspects of Zappa's music. Yes, it's always easy to point out that Frank was trashing gays, or Jews, or Republicans, or just being plain dirty. But if you leave out Sheik Yerbouti, Joe's Garage and Thing-Fish, you have very little "dirt" to complain about. And yes, most of his music was tongue-in-cheek, but that's because he was making comments about the world around him. Yes, Frank didn't write too many beautiful songs with vocals ('Uncle Remus' comes to mind), but you seem to miss one very important point: his guitar playing.

There are some moments when Frank's guitar melodies and solos produced so beautiful and emotional pieces that no vocals were needed. Frank once said that 'vocals exist for those who need them'. Take 'Black Napkins' or 'Watermelon In Easter Hay', for the easiest examples. 'What's New In Baltimore?' had incredibly nice solos, and 'Drowning Witch', too. But the most important aspect of his guitar playing is still unmentioned. As far as I know, Frank was the only rock guitar player with real improvisational attitude towards his guitar solos on stage. Sometimes it produced great music, sometimes not. But he had the guts to step on stage every night and start playing 5 -10 guitar solos without planning his solos beforehand. Who else could do that?

When you listen to concert tapes through the years, you can track development of some songs. Some of them were even born in jams within other songs. There's one tape from Fall -74, where Frank is playing a long improvisational solo in 'Dupree's Paradise'. And suddenly he plays some chords unknown at the time, but two years later those chords would pop up as the main theme of 'Zoot Allures'. In -77 Frank used to play long solos in 'Yo' Mama', with a riff that you could later recognise as 'You Are What You Is'. These are just two examples of Frank's bold and experimental approach to his guitar solos. He used to call them 'air sculptures'. For me, they sound like telling stories, fascinating and illustrious, but he leaves you the freedom to fill in the blanks with your imagination.

rachel <> (25.06.2003)

this is a really nice site with lots of comparisons of he do this, they dun that, Fripp farts more emotionally than Belew etc and as a musician who loves most of what u all are writing about i was drawn in.

all i can say is that i think u all have missed the point. firstly Uncle Frank (as i always imagine him...) wrote music that i can escape into. rhythms and harmonies, guitar solos and ideas that capture my imagination. the beauty and fascination of his music for me is embodied in the 74 band playing music i had never even imagined........or guitar solos that never fail to take me out of myself...dangerous when driving hee...A TRUE ORIGINAL......i think that is the key to an understanding of music. what does it do 4 u, regardless of how well u understand the genius of the composer, an please remember UFZ always said his lyrics were junk he added to cater 2 people's expectations...altho sometimes he would vent his spleen admirably, upsetting people who probably deserved it

don't judge music by its relevance to the moment it was released...that time is gone never to return. judge a song by its emotional impact on u..the listener..this is a personal journey 4 u....

i am not just an UFZ fan my tastes range thru the centuries and cultures, always looking for music that captures my imagination from classical thru folk thru jazz and rock to modern present day composers who refuse to die. 2003japan is as fertile a music ground as 1970's california, 19th century europe or 60s england. i am no musical snob either, UFZ said if a piece of music is good 4 u then it's good, end of story.

It is what the music does to your soul that counts!!! not percieved notions of sentimentality in songs like 'imagine' or 'sad eyed lady of the lowlands'....maybe as a woman i think of music in a different way? who knows? but i am gonna stop arguing now an just play my own songs of joy, pain etc 2

everyone has a favourite uncle an mine was FZ...oh i love him in my heart 4ever ..........

<> (15.11.2003)

Let me just say this in response to you saying he couldn't write something as beautiful as certain **** artists. "Watermelon in Easter Hay", "Sharleena", "Strictly Genteel", "Peaches en Regalia", and many more. Often his lyrical pieces were aimed to political/social comments, which made them less emotionally driven, true, but his instrumental pieces were meant to create emotions. There is no denying that even his avantgarde and contemporary classical pieces create emotions in you, through the use of raising and lowering tension and outbursts of pure iddsonance. His avantgarde music was there (often snadwiched among pop melodies in order to illustrate his point) to question our pre-concieved notions of what is music, to poke at our very deepest foundations,but also to evoke emotions and feelings from us. Surely the sudden outbursts of "free music" (avantgarde) interrupting pop melodies in We're Only In It For The Money evoke discomfort, and in a way that is his way of showing us how society has made us dependant on conventional pop melodies. Not that pop melodies are bad, but he believed people deserved to know that there are other, undiscovered forms of music out there.

My point is this: Frank Zappa was one of the most, if not the most, versatile musiciand/composers out there, he was capable of emotion-evoking music andintellectual music of just about every existant genre.

I'll do my own little review here to show why he deserves better than a 3:

Listenability: 3/5. His avantgarde could muck that up sometimes for those not used to avantgarde-isms (I, however, welcome it), but he was perfectly capable, as he has proven from time to time, of making great pop melodies without sacrificing complexity or artistic merit.

Resonance: 3/5. There's no denying that he felt strongly about his political comments, and the humor evident in almost all of his music makes it engaging and worthwhile to listen to, even something you can relate to. His instrumental music also evokes feelings and emotions, so there's no denying was was a resonant person, although often his artistic statements could be a bit alienating in their message.

Originality: 5/5 (maybe even higher). The man brought contemporary classical styles to rock and roll, not to mention just about every other innovative and original thing he did. Say, wasn't it his debut album that inspired, at least according to McCartney, Seargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band? Given its sonic experiments, it probably inspired Are You Experienced? and Piper at the Gates at Dawn as well. Now THAT'S originality for you.

Adequacy: 5/5. A brilliant lyricist and songwriter, more of a composer though which makes it hard to judge him by contemporary music standards. Excellent guitar player too, although he can't claim the award of greatest guitar player, his playing style was unique and resonant (he often compared his soloing to having a conversation with his audience, modeling his soloes after the rythm and smoothness with which people speak; less musically driven than emotionally driven in a way.)

Diversity: 5+/5. More diverse than the Beatles and Stones, 'nuff said.

Overall: 4.2+/5 At the very least a **** on the overall rating scale, possibly a ***** if you in a good mood.

<> (01.12.2003)

I'm revising my earlier rating of Frank Zappa because, on rereading it, I realize I need to rethink a few of those ratings, so here it goes:

Listenability: 4/5. It was really only his avantgarde music that people might find unlistenable (I, however, find them enjoyable, it's really a matter of taste),so I'll subtract a point for that. Otherwise, his music always had hooks to it, whether they were humorous or musical, or both. As said before, he was as capable of making beautiful pop melodies and great riffs whenever he chose to; often he'd write a pop song in order to ridicule pop music, but even his tongue-in-cheek attitude did not stop him from making a wonderful, if sarcastic, pop song.

Resonance: 4/5. The only reason I think people find him un-resonant is because they want to hear somebody singing emotionally. Well, he wasn't a good singer and his voice wasn't so great for showing emotion (except for silliness/glee: you know, sometimes when his voice takes that cartoony sound to it? Other than that, his voice couldn't show emotion so well), so he sometimes had other people sing it for him (which I guess is why he sometimes seems emotionally distant.) my point is, he deserves a 4 for resonance because his intrumental music is in fact resonant, and there's no doubt that he felt very strongly about his political commentary (which makes his political lyrics resonant to me.) he even wrote a few sentimental non-intrumental songs: 'The Village of the Sun' is, like he said, a song about a town he grew up near/in and the lyrics are all about him reflecting on the town. He even considered it a sentimental song himself. Then there's 'Sharleena', which is resonant in its musical beauty more than lyrical, and there's 'Mom and Dad', this is just to name a few, and there are more. Still, it's his instrumental music that he always expressed his deepest emotions in, especially in his completely improvised guitar playing (which is rare at best in any guitar player) which was not only wonderful musically but totally expressive. Perhaps he deserves more of a 3.5/5, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt here.

Originality: 5/5. He used doo-wop influences, just like he used influences of many other genres, but he combined them and spliced them and used them in ways no other band ever had, or even has up to this date. The man introduced avantgarde to rock, and used classical in rock in ways no progressive band ever had; he didn't have to make lengthy jam songs to show his understanding of classical music (though sometimes he made lengthy jam songs anyway.) Just listen to Absolutely Free, there are Stravinsky quotes and classical influences there I can't even begin to identify. not to mention he, according to Paul McCartney at least, inspired Seargent Pepper's... and, like I said before, probably inspired the bulk of Avantgarde-experimental bands to come.

Adequacy: 5+/5. I know you don't agree with me on this one, but you gotta admit he always chose the best musicians and was a great musician himself. And his music, have you ever heard anything so complex? It takes an appreciation for contemporary classical music and avantgarde and certain forms of jazz to like some of his music, but doesn't that just go to show even further how truly more-than-adequate he was at expanding into all these genres and being able to operate within them as well as and better than all his contemporaries? Plus he was never pretentious, his sense of humor and humility never allowed him to be pretentious. he may have been unforgiving of stupidity, which one could consider pretentious under certain circumstances, but don't forget that he used to point at himself when singing, "you're an asshole," in 'Broken Hearts Are For Assholes' live.

Diversity: 5+/5 Like you said, he was more diverse than the Beatles.

Overall: 4.6+/5

Feel free to dock a point from a couple of those because I am a Zappa obsessee (hey, at least I didnt give him all 5+'s, I try to recognize his faults), but it is still an undeniably high 4 Stars at the very least, possibly 5 Stars because of those +'s.

Comment on this if you wish, I'd like to know how you feel about my individual ratings since you didn't provide a numeric rating thingy for him yourself.

Joshua Blinder <> (22.05.2004)

Sure, it is possible to be a satirist and still be considered a "serious" artist, but if you're going to be a sucessful satirist, you'd better have a fairly high rating of direct hits on your targets and you'd better be funny. More often than not, neither circumstance applied to Frank Zappa, which is why I fast-forward my way to his purely instrumental stuff and have bypassed "Billy The Mountain," "Greggery Peccary," "Titties 'N Beer" and the entirety of FILLMORE EAST after hearing them each once. Part of the problem is that, for all of his hi-jinx, Zappa was totally incapable of mastering his contempt for the human condition en tota and, 'scuse me, my idea of enlightenment doesn't include someone telling me how stupid I am regardless of how I feel about his music.

This leaves me with Frank Zappa the "serious" composer, and while I admire that side of him a lot more, I still have problems with it. My biggest beef tends to be with the overabundance of "funny" time signatures that go absolutely nowhere; even his hero, Edgard Verese, was able to achieve self-containment within his compositions, something that eluded Zappa more often than not. And was it absolutely necessary to have mallets predominate every bloody piece? (I hope Ruth Underwood got paid generously during her tenure with the band, because he must have run her ragged!) Still, I go back to "Regyptian Strut," "Pedor's Dowry," "Son of Mr. Green Genes," "Apostrophe" and dozens of his classical, jazz and rock(ish) instrumental work with the feeling that he really was more into his own when the humor and the commentary was spoken without words.

All this is by way of saying that Frank Zappa was often worth listening to in spite of himself and because of himself. There's no question that he was badly served by both MGM and Warner Bros. and, unfortunately, little doubt that some of the folks who were influenced by him are having their own problems getting heard today (Can you say "Col. Bruce Hampton," anybody?). But Zappa, sad to say, was also his own worst critic and it's a shame that so much of what made him worth listening to is undercut by an essentially misanthropic personality who, as Lester Bangs once said, could probably not have written someting as lasting as "Louie, Louie" for all of his considerable talents.

Kent Mackey <> (09.07.2004)

Hmmmm… so you give Frank a 3 out of five eh?! Well I don’t agree but I think it’s easy to understand. I only have one serious problem with Zappa’s musical repertoire and (as much as I hate to say it) it’s too much! It’s just too much diverse material to listen to and become really familiar with. I mean, if you’re not really familiar with something how can you have an opinion that’s worth anything?! I have at least twenty or more Zappa CDs (NOT including about another thirty bootlegs) and a bunch more on tape and another stack in my vinyl collection and I enjoy all of them even though I do have some favorites. Those are mostly albums that I wore the 1st copy of out a long time ago and have replaced on tape and then CD.

IMO he was certainly one of the most interesting musical talents of my day (I’m an old fart now but I wasn’t always) and if music isn’t interesting it’s squatt! Today’s robotic rap crap isn’t even music good or bad. Each Zappa album is interesting in so many different ways that fully appreciating one album isn’t a necessarily easy thing to do. Some of his creations are like reading a fine novel in the respect that there’s more to it than just a toe tapping good time. You pick up more on each listening even years later. We’re Only In It For The Money for instance has some wonderfully sarcastic lyrics and musical parodies but it’s also full of very relevant social commentary, interesting technical trickery (for the time), fascinating blends of conflicting musical styles, lyrics sometime dripping with sardonic wit and then followed by something actually serious???? That’s a lot to take in from one album and that is absolutely typical of almost everything the man put out (and he was a prolific bastard who refused to give the public adequate time to digest all of it before serving up another sumptuous course… I’m feeling like I’m full of Zappa!).

Anyway you mention that all of his stuff is dated and I don’t agree with that. Lyrically his comments were often on what was going on that day but that’s got to be more interesting and entertaining than lyrics that mean nothing at all and I’m sure we’ve all heard plenty of those on the radio. In that respect some junk would be doing well to be thought of as dated rather than something that never should have been created on any date. Zappa’s stuff has always been a great counterpoint to the ridiculously boring commercial junk thrown out by every studio in America.

In retrospect maybe it’s not too much to listen to. Now that he’s stopped making this stuff maybe I’ll actually be able to catch up on it and be able to say (by the time I’m 70) that I’ve heard it all and understand/appreciate most of it.

Steve Siegrist <> (02.09.2005)

Frank Zappa…yawn..I grew up in the 60s and of course had several Mothers albums. Zappa suffered from a very common drawback…satirizing what you are incapable of understanding. OK, he was an interesting guitarist but there was no “there” there. Seems to me he was very insecure about anyone who wasn’t him. In my book, he rates a 1 at most…dated artifact who commented on a scene that produced artists whose outtakes were more interesting than all the self -aware satirizing that he ever produced. You know what they say: All cynicism masks a failure to cope. Do yourself a favor and listen to the real thing.

Steve Jouanny <> (29.06.2006)

Firstly, your usage of the John Lennon song: "Imagine" is unfair as to whether award Zappa anything above a five or not. It reveals, more than anything, your love of the naive, and your guillibility in accepting Lennon's shallow optimism about a moneyless society, basically, a communist one. I know you think that artists should write "emotionally" resonant songs, but you can't simply judge an artist by that, especially since resonance can be measured in so many, much more subtle ways than just crying your heart out insincerely a la Mick Jagger about a girl he couldn't seduce adequately enough so he could fuck the living daylights out of (cf. Countless Stones Songs). Did I say "shallow"? Plus, music isn't, at its fundamental root, about emotions. It is about sound, and any emotions on part of the reviewer, are purely subjective. Take, as hard as it sounds, Stevie Wonder's scorching vocals on a track such as "Lately", put it to another chord progression, and then see if it's any more moving than before. Heck, people find the Scissor Sisters moving, but, according to your subjective conception, does that make them wrong about it?

But I digress. Your idea that the Stones created "timeless" art is perhaps debatable, but it might be one that I agree with. However, to dismiss Zappa as a creator of timeless art, and relativising his music to being the concerns of the day is inaccurate, and contradictory for starters, for the Stones are guilty of the same. When the psychedelic current came around, the Stones were willingly diving in, creating albums such as "Satanic Majesties" and, "Flowers", a current which Zappa ruthlessly, and quite effectively, satirised. So much for their timelessness! Stuff like "Peaches en Regalia", "Watermelon in Easter Hay", "Inca Roads" (which you curiously dislike, despite bequeathing praise upon such epics as "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing") and "What's New in Baltimore" have beautiful melodies, arrangements, and tonal colourings that I bet will be played 100 of years from now, as will some Stones songs no doubt too.

Nevertheless, I reserve praise for a few diagnoses of yours: His adequacy sometimes is offset by his ambition, although it has to be said, of the things he tried to do, he knew quite well, and had the players to do it. Second, he IS definitely viewed too much as a guru than a musician, although, the current music scene could perhaps do with such a person. Thirdly, We're Only in It For the Money is overrated!!!

Mark Singer (17.08.2006)

I really admire Frank Zappa, probably more than any other musician I've heard. And, I have a great affection for much contemporary classical music. But with all that, and owning and having listened to this CD for a couple of years, I have to say the unthinkable... Frank Zappa was a brilliant guitarist, a great pop musician, and a very poor classical composer.

Yes, his stuff is incredibly intricate. But he could not structure or develop anything other than riffs over chord progressions. The "serious" compositions here are either complete formless or Boston Pops versions of rock tunes. No structure whatsoever, no development, completely static backgrounds with noodling above them. This is simply, much of the time, bad music when it's atonal and lightweight when it decides to be more accessible.

It was not his fault in some ways - he was, essentially, untrained and therefore didn't know what he was doing at some very basic levels. His taste was also abominable - Varese has been almost totally forgotten for a reason. (Why couldn't Frank have gotten turned on to someone who knows what he's doing, like Penderecki?) He was at fault in most ways, though, because - from everything I know - he never allowed himself to be criticized, structured, or challenged by anyone other than himself. A composer in a vacuum is no composer at all. The Ensemble Moderne is amazing, though, and maybe this recording should be heard once just for their performance (and the impeccable production). I'd say borrow a copy, though.


Dan Watkins <> (21.07.99)

Being the Zappa freak I am, I thought I should add some comments. While I agree that the album is absolutely fantastic, I think Frank's best work was yet to come. Everyone talks about Sgt. Pepper as being one of the most experimental albums ever. But what about Freak Out? Who but Frank Zappa had the nerve to release such an UGLY album at a time when you heard stuff like the Beach Boys on the radio? That's what's odd about the album. Take a listen to the first LP. Yeah, there's some daring stuff on there, but a lot of it is pretty standard 60's pop. Now listen to the strange, strange second LP. It kind of makes you hard to believe that the two records are by the same band. Zappa's musical style may not have been fully developed by this time, but Frank's sneer is all over the record. Even the poppy love tunes are loaded with Zappa's sarcasm. I'd give it a 9/10 simply because as I said, Zappa's best works were yet to come. Just check out We're Only In It For The Money and Uncle Meat for some cool experimentation. Freak Out does sound a bit dated today, but how can you be hard on the first double rock LP and one of the first concept albums?

By the way, Adrian Belew was not in this band line up. He played with Zappa in '77 and '78.

Mike DeFabio <> (28.07.99)

I, I think you've pretty much hit the mark here, so I won't say much, just my agreement, and that I always thought the line in 'Wowie Zowie' was "I don't even care if your dad's a he." Now that I know the real line I realize that "I don't even care if your dad's a he" is a pretty stupid line. And there are no stupid lines on Freak Out! Only brilliant ones.


Ben Greenstein <> (18.08.99)

Has anybody actually listened to this album? I love Zappa, but this stuff just doesn't strike me as being innovative at all. Aside from the sound collages, which sound really fresh but are also really stupid and boring. But besides those, nearly every single song sounds the same - a simple throwback to 50's doo-wop.

That being said, there are a bunch of songs that I really like. "Trouble Every Day," for one, is a great blues rocker which I find only slightly boring, "Hungry Freaks, Daddy" could have used some better vocals and more wierd sound effects, but is still pretty enjoyable, and "Who Are The Brain Police?" is a hideous abomination that still manages to be more unique than any other track. And some of the poppers, like "I Ain't Got No Heart" and "Motherly Love" are incredibly fun and catchy.

But a masterpiece? No, a bunch of cliched and at times unlistenable doo-wop that one should not need to hear. Zappa's best work was yet to come, despite what the idiots at Rolling "first album is always best" Stone would have you believe. Too little distinctive material gets a low score from me.

Ben Greenstein <> (25.09.99)

Wow! Was I ever wrong this time! My first impression was that it was both derivative and ugly, niether of which are ideas I can even fathom now. Well, in all honesty, I still don't see how any of the tunes on the first side are groundbreaking - most of them are still simple sixties pop - but they ain't ugly! The melodies for "Hungry Freaks" and "Brain Police" are a little odd, but I like them! Really! And "Motherly Love," the "body commercial" for the band, is hilarious! Not his funniest, but good enough in theory to be likeable. I realize now what an idiot I was for condeming this - it's pretty dang fun! I'd give it an eight.

Jeff Blehar <> (23.02.2000)

The first double album ever, for the record. Beat Blonde On Blonde by a few months. It's not better than that album (but then what is, really?), but it's really, really stunning (actually, Jeff isn't quite right here - Frank's album came out in July, and Dylan's in May - G.S.).

Ben's right in saying that *musically* much of the stuff on the first disc isn't groundbreaking. But some of it WAS - listen to "Who Are The Brain Police?" and tell me that section where the music just *snaps* off into a screaming "freak-out" isn't startling as all hell. To our modern ears that's not TOO shocking, and I didn't notice it the first time 'round since I came to Freak Out! through We're Only In It For The Money (which is trillion times more disjunctive), but imagine what kids buying that album raised on The Beatles and their sub-pop imitators must have thought back then? What does make the ostensibly "straight" stuff on the first disc groundbreaking is their tone: never before had anyone pulled such an open pisstake on modern rock and pop. Of the songs, only three I can count are serious, my three favorites: the opener "Hungry Freaks, Daddy" (which brilliantly rips off The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" by copying not the RIFF, but the TONE), "Brain Police," and the best one, "You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here." That last one serves as a comment on the rest of the songs. See, here comes ugly Mr. Frank Zappa, with his talk of hideous people and "freaking-out" on the inner sleeve, and thus far he's pretty much presented us with...pop songs? DOO WOP? With tongue completely in cheek, yes, but genre exercises nonetheless. So then he stops the whole charade and talks to us, saying "you're probably wondering why I'm here, and so am I," going on to insult us, the listeners, completely. Then he sheds his skin, and BOOM, it's "Trouble Every Day." (by the way, I'd argue this is the first rock concept album, too - Paul McCartney tacitly agreed, calling Sgt. Pepper's "our Freak Out!") After that, the insanity of "Help, I'm A Rock," one of those songs whose title you find yourself muttering underneath your breath at odd times, and "Monster Magnet," which I quite unabashedly love. Yes, I LOVE avant-garde noise, I must admit, but it has to be done right. This is. And yet, not a 10. Because some of those pop songs are fairly insubstantial. But a high, high 9.

Rich Bunnell <> (14.06.2000)

A ten? You're darn right it's a ten! The first twelve songs are really catchy with excellent production (it sounds like a more well-produced version of the Animals with goofier vocals), and I especially love the Johnson administration-bashing rockers like "Hungry Freaks, Daddy" and "Trouble Every Day." The catchiest song is "Motherly Love," but pretty much every song out of the first twelve stands up on its own. As for the sound collages, they do get pretty stupid at points, but I can't resist hearing Zappa chant "Help, I'm a rock! Help, I'm a rock!" Additionally, does it scare the crap out of anyone else that the first five or so minutes of "Monster Magnet" features a shuffling dancebeat that sounds straight out of the '90s?! It's like Zappa had a time machine or something!! Like I said, a ten. A TEN.

Philip Maddox <> (25.06.2000)

Hmmm... well, this was the first Zappa album I ever bought (on your recommendation, of course), and though I don't think it's worth a ten, it certainly comes close. The opening 12 tracks are all at least pretty good. Some of them ('Trouble Every Day', 'Wowie Zowie', and 'Who Are the Brain Police?' in particular) are even great! However, even with the zany parody lyrics, a lot of these songs just sound a little too generic. They're still good, of course, but nowhere near as good as the complete hodgepodge of genres on albums like Money. That being said, the lyrics on this album are definitely both far reaching and ahead of their time. 'Trouble Every Day' is my favorite example of the perfect combination of music and lyrics - the tune is a great, genuinely rockin' protest song that bashes racists, television, favoritism, and lots of other less-than-noble things. It's quite possibly the best song Zappa ever did (and that's no small feat!). The teen-love parody lyrics on 'Go Cry on Somebody Else's Shoulders' are a hoot (my favorite lyrics are "I gave you my high school ring/at the root beer stand/we had a teenage love, baby"). So are all the lyrics here. This is still a very strong record even without the funny lyrics. They're just the icing on the cake, if I may use that cliche.

Now, about the second half (actually, the last third). Some people think that the experiments here drag the record down. I'm not a huge fan of experimental Zappa, but I LOVE this part! All of the songs have an actual groove going on, so you can nod your head to the beat while Zappa and the Mothers go nuts. 'Help! I'm A Rock!' has got the best psychedelic lyrics of all time ("Man, it's a drag being a rock" is my favorite). 'The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet' is great, too. Funny voices and noise scream all over the place, keeping you very entertained. And even though it lasts 12 minutes, I never get sick of it. It could easily go on for a little longer and I wouldn't care a bit.

Anyway, George, you're right on about this record. On second consideration, this record might even be worth a low 10 from me. Either a high 9 or low 10 will do. Get this record now. It's better than Lumpy Gravy, I tell ya!

Mike DeFabio <> (15.09.2000)

Hey, you know what? Bunnell's right! "Monster Magnet"'s a techno song! How about that? This album is quickly becoming my most listened to Zappa album. I don't know why. The songs are just so good. There are so many wonderful moments... the spoken word passages during the fade outs to 'Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder' and 'You Didn't Try To Call Me'; The rant at the end of 'Help I'm A Rock'; The "YEEEEEEEAH"s in 'I'm Not Satisfied'; The "Mom, I tore a big hole in the convertible" part in 'You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here'; All of 'Trouble Every Day'. This is an album to get, folks.

<> (10.07.2001)

Whether or not you're into his music, you've gotta cut Frank Zappa points for style -- the guy sure knew how to make an entrance. What a tremendous debut album! A double debut album no less, with some truly unique and innovative music on it. The opening song "Hungry Freaks, Daddy" is a good example of what I'm getting at... a cry of freaks unite! in 1966, a year when 'dropping acid' usually meant being careless in chemistry class and Sgt.Pepper was still a pipedream in the back of Paul McCartney's head. It's a ballsy, ferocious antiestablishment anthem, and in ' 66 there was nothing else quite like it. The perfect intro for such a freaky, spooky, dangerous album. Actually, my vote for the best song goes to the third track on the album, "Who Are The Brain Police"... that paranoid freak-out section in the middle, with all that screaming and those spooky "you're gonna die" murmurs in the background, must have weirded out a lot of listeners when they first heard it. The lyrics about "the people you knew" being made of melted plastic and chromium are creepy as hell, and that weird stop-and-start rhythm they sing the song in, that "what-would-you-do-if-we-let-you-go-hoooome?" rhythm, is eerily brilliant. It really tends to stick in your head. In fact, my girlfriend has even been known to sing the lyrics in her sleep!

Aside from these two "wild" songs, the first record is fairly tame, being mainly 60s pop mixed with latter day doo-wop ("Wowie Zowie," "Any Way The Wind Blows," etc). The second record is the real freak out, where the Mothers abandon any pretense of trying to get their songs on the radio, and proceed to record a blistering musical commentary on the Watts riots which lays blame on both sides and actually makes a lot of sense... a couple more "freaky" songs... and a bizarre sound collage (complete with speeded up dialogue, jungle sounds, and bongoes galore) which runs for the entire fourth side of the album, and which might be the single trippiest song I have EVER heard. It's twice as amazing when you consider Zappa didn't like the drug scene and was not on acid when he recorded the album, fueling his creative processes with only black coffee and cigarettes.

Freak Out! is truly groundbreaking stuff, even for a decade as revolutionary as the 60s. There's a lot going on here, whether it's sarcastic 'anti-pop' songs like "Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder"... funny social commentaries like "Help! I'm A Rock"... creepy, paranoia-soaked mind-fucks like "Who Are The Brain Police"... whatever it is, every song has something interesting to offer. How the record buying public could practically canonize Jefferson Airplane, yet mostly ignore this album, is beyond me. But then as Zappa himself once said, "It's not getting any smarter out there."

Personally, I'd probably give Freak Out! a high 9 on the 1-10 scale. Maybe even a 10, but at least a 9. Being the huge Zappa fan that I am, I was happy to see you giving it a 10, George. It's one of Zappa's more underrated albums, and it's tons better than some of his more "accessible" stuff. I wouldn't call it his best album, but it's definitely high on the list. To everyone else, if you don't own Freak Out! and you have even a passing interest in the music of the 60s, trust George's review and get it at all costs. It's some of the most groundbreaking and visionary music of its day.

Ryan Maffei <> (23.10.2001)

A savage attack on America's youth and culture at the time, Freak Out!, the debut of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, also sports several notably landmark traits, being rock's first concept album, first double album, first album to heavily use overdubbing, and first unconventionally parodic album. Sandwiched two excellently written comments on the state if the nation in the mid-60's, the brilliant "Hungry Freaks, Daddy" and the snide "You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here", Zappa and his band offer the listener a myriad of spot-on sendups of the overly derivative teenybopper music of the decade, each so nicely polished and cleverly conceived that the occasional banality of the selections (see "Wowie Zowee") is instantly forgivable. Following the classic angry-blues rant "Trouble Every Day", the record culminates in a series of rebellious, free-form, intensely avant-garde workouts--no "Apple Jam", because the music ends up as compelling and engaging as its more song-oriented predecessors. (Sounds of the fictional character Suzy Creamcheese getting--how do you say?--fucked nicely on "Return of the Son of the Monster Magnet" don't exactly detract from the entertainment.) Never again equaled by the Mothers or Zappa as a solo artist (though both came pretty close from time to time), Freak Out! is both the group's most daring and engrossing release, and one of the most remarkable albums ever committed to tape. However, despite its genius, in the end Freak Out! sold poorly--primarily because it rightfully insulted the disposition of America's commercially driven masses.

Joe H <> (26.11.2001)

Fantastic record! I dont really have much to say cuz pretty much everyone else hit the mark but yeah, some fantastic songs on here, hilariously sarcastic or pure catchyness fun like "Wowie Zowie", "Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder", "Anyway The Wind Blows", "Trouble Everyday"... great album, but not as good as We're Only In It For The Money. This gets a 9 out of 10. And man, is "Monster Magnet" a fuckin scary song! I agree it is better then "Megaphone..." from Money..

Mattias Lundberg <> (12.02.2002)

As you say, George, weird is the way in which Zappa arrived as a fully-mature, cynical git with this first album. Even musically, it is remarkable how many Zappaesque traits are there already. One is so used to being able to track down some generic roots of the Titans (The Stones-Alexis Korner, The Beatles-The Silver Beatles, Gentle Giant-Simon Dupree and the Big Sound &c. &c.) but the formation of Zappa's musical style will probably remain a mystery to us. I think 'You're probably wondering why I'm here' is the best track on the album; those triplets on kazoo (or comb, or whatever it is) foreshadow the second (Hot Rats) period Zappa. Although I enjoy most of the second album, I think this kind of stuff is not done as good here as it is on Lumpy Gravy; I would probably give both these albums a rating of 8 on your scale, although I prefer the latter (It's a pity you haven't given it a rating). I don't think Freak Out is an absolute masterpiece as some people will have it, but perhaps I haven't listened to it enough. I haven't actually listened to it for years now....I'll put it on in a minute, but for now I give it an 8.


Dan Watkins <dan> (28.07.99)

I pretty much agree with you on this one. It's not as good as Freak Out, but I love the guitar jam on side one! I love 'Brown Shoes Don't Make It'. Really there isn't a song on the album I don't enjoy, but it's just not quite as charming as Freak Out for some reason. This was, however, one of the first albums to integrate rock with classical music. Stravinsky musical quotes are even present on side one. Not an essential album, but it's not bad.

Ben Greenstein <> (06.09.99)

Well, I haven't listened to it very much, but here's my opinion so far.

I disagree! While it's true that they went overboard with the "wierd" aspect of it, the songs are a whole lot more creative and sophisticated, especially the epic "Brown Shoes Don't Make It." The melodies are still really, really ugly, but this time around, the tunes are wierd enough to be considered "sort of ugly expirimental stuff," and not "ugly pop music," like the first album.

"Plastic People," for me, is the centerpiece. You have to be a really open minded person to enjoy this song - otherwise, you'll notice that it's disjointed and not fluid at all. But you're a smarty like me, you'll realize that therein lies its charm! The chorus is so awfully unnapealing that you can't help but like it - great song. Of course, if you think that that one is disjointed, wait until you hear the rest of the album.

Overall, it sort of strikes me as a more musical version of that Lumpy Gravy type stuff -a seamless flow of noises, some of which are actual songs, others being odd guitar jams and silly sound effects. I'd agree on the 8 rating (maybe higher in the future!), but still disagree that Freak Out is better.

Jeff Blehar <> (23.02.2000)

From the first seconds I heard of Absolutely Free, it screamed "WINNER!" to me all over, and a few years down the road it's as strong as it ever was. In fact, this album inaugurated a streak of perfect 10 Mothers albums for me: Absolutely Free, We're Only In It For The Money, and Uncle Meat. (Am I counting Ruben? No, for strange personal reasons...). I simply cannot see your complaint about the lack of melody on this album; if anything, it remains such a favorite of mine due to its really amazing surplus of GREAT melodies. And not "unique" but really "unpleasant" melodies - I really hate it when people talk about some artist's melodic originality without remembering that the melodies have to SOUND good to BE good - but melodies which are insanely catchy. My comments especially point towards the second Oratorio, which I think is actually pretty damn well organized, both beginning and ending on a unifying theme and holding a consistent tone (the attack on bourgeois suburban culture) throughout. The lyrics are great, great, GREAT, especially the rhythm of them, but it wouldn't matter much if the music wasn't as indelible as it is. I'll take my personal favorite, "Uncle Bernie's Farm" as an example. I find the melody of the verses to be unforgettable (around the lines "there's a doll that looks like daddy, he's a funny little man"), but then it swings into that fantabulous middle eight where it becomes, for all intents and purposes, a different song: "We gotta send Santa Claus back to the rescue mission..." And when it spirals upwards for the "murder and destruction" line and back down into the fray of the verses again, it's a classic moment. I was talking about the RHYTHM of the words, before, and when Zappa throws in a carefully choreographed "y'think this'll sell in New York?-There's a man who runs the country" right afterwards, all I can do is just get really excited in a nonverbal sorta way and twitter about the room with a happy grin, since words can't describe the thrills I get.

But that's just one song. Anyway, the whole damn album is like that for me. I haven't even mentioned the hilarity of "Call Any Vegetable" and its "Soft-Sell Conclusion" ("soon...a new and your new little green and yellow grooving together...maintaining your cool together...worshipping together in the church of your choice") or the poppiness of "Status Back Baby," which in an alternate dimension could have gone to the upper reaches of the pop charts, or the magnum opus of "Brown Shoes Don't Make It," hell. It's ALL good. Just go buy it! Now! Honestly, I can no longer imagine a time in my life when I didn't have this album. Absolutely Free is a 10/10, with utterly no reservations, and really, it oughta get a 15/15 even if Zappa only gets a 4 from you.

Wipqmio Emizo <> (13.04.2000)

I like this album a lot. Its ugliness is beautiful. Although, unlike Money, the music probably wouldn't fare too well without the lyrics (especially since most of the Mothers can't sing), you can't help but admit that it's interesting. In particular, the contrast between "America Drinks and Goes Home"'s lounge-parody style and the clipped, harsh variation, "America Drinks", is fascinating. Also, one part of "Brown Shoes Don't Make It' ("We see... in the back.... of the ci-ty hall miiiind...") is very similar in style to Arnold Schoenberg's "Pierrot Lunaire," and uses the same half-sung, half-spoken "Sprechstimme" ("speech-voice") technique. It's brilliant. Oh, and by the way, "Plastic People" is a parody of "Louie Louie."

Philip Maddox <> (25.06.2000)

I'd either give this a 7 or an 8, depending on how I feel. This is a record I really have to be in the mood for to enjoy. Otherwise, it just kinda annoys me. But when I'm in the right mood for it, it's really good. Not as good as Freak Out, or course, but still good. The reason this isn't as good as Freak Out isn't the lyrics - I think they're as good as ever - it's because some of the tunes have no point other than to make you laugh. And they do make you laugh. This is one of Zappa's funniest records. And even though the tunes aren't bad, none of them really stand out. The whole record just sounds like one big blur. The two bonus tracks in the middle are the exceptions, of course, because they weren't intended to be on this record and they sound nothing like the material that bookends them. They're pretty good, but nothing spectacular - they just sound like Freak Out outtakes. This is still a good record, and I recommend it if you're into Zappa at all. Just don't expect brilliant music to go along with the brilliant lyrics. If you want that, please proceed to We're Only in it for the Money.

Don Briago <> (05.04.2001)

Frank Zappa is famous for his humor but most of the time he's desperately unfunny, crude, and juvenile. For the most part, self-respecting listeners should concentrate on his instrumental recordings. But Absolutely Free is a glorious exception. It succeeds as comedy as well as music and satire. I find this album a pure joy, one that gives me a taste of liberation every time I listen to it (and I've listened to it at least 100 times). Not only is every track great on its own, together they uncannily create an amazing cumulative effect by the time we reach the end. "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" makes every other wild hippie songs like "I Am The Walrus" or "Sympathy for the Devil" seem utterly tame by comparison. It's probably more shocking and offensive today than it was when it was released. ("If she were my daughter I'd, uh…."  Nasty, nasty, nasty.)

Ray Collins doesn't get the credit he deserves for his singing. On this album he shows himself to be a skillful parodist of many musical styles, from fake crooning (on "Duke of Prunes", where he holds one note for God knows how long) to teen-idol adenoids ("Status Back Baby"), blues ("Call Any Vegetable"), and cheesy piano-lounge balladeering ("America Drinks and Goes Home."). I can see how this record inspired Vaclav Havel and became a sort of soundtrack for his revolutionary movement. It truly does make you feel "Absolutely Free." There is nothing else like it anywhere.

<> (10.07.2001)

Absolutely Free stumps me. I just can't fit it in with the rest of Frank's 60's albums. It's the second Zappa album, yet it sounds nothing like the album before it, and nothing like the one after it. There's a certain cheesiness to the whole thing, isn't there? A certain tongue-in-cheek phoniness, like it's more of a comedy with background music than anything else. I used to play it a lot when I first bought it, but over time I've gotten tired of it. It does have a weird sort of charm, if you give it half a chance, but really liking this album is one of those guilty-pleasure things. Like an ongoing fondness for David Cassidy songs, or picking your nose and studying the boogers. Well not exactly like that, but you know what I mean. The album plods along with lots of silly sounding Mothers instrumentation - the excessively silly sort, that honky/squeaky "cartoon instrumentation" the Mothers sometimes used, and it's hard to take that stuff seriously - yet, through it's entire run of witty busts on American Culture, it never really achieves anything memorable music-wise. "The perfect album to play a kazoo to" sums it up best, I think, and you can quote me. And after reaching it's magnum opus of caustic silliness and parodies of Americana in "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" (a highly amusing song in its own right), the album ends with "America Drinks and Goes Home" …a sleazy, cheesy, lounge-lizardish piano number, which is actually my favorite song on the album because, unlike the rest of the album, the cheesiness is deliberate on this one. It doesn't even try to say anything profound about American society - it's just your basic Vegas lounge music with a few cliche' lines about breaking people's hearts, then some amusing announcements to the semi-interested audience, ending on cash registers dinging and an unruly bar-crowd screaming and clamoring at closing time. It's a simple lounge song, and that's pretty cool in a way. Actually, there's a lot to be said for lounge music if you don't take it too seriously - it may be "schmaltzy," but it's also smooth and highly listenable. Sort of like a sleazy younger cousin to Jazz. And anyway you gotta love the polyester suits. Those suits are some awesome shit. Sorry, I'm rambling again.

Anyway, I give Absolutely Free only a 6/10. Not that a "6" is bad on my scale, because this is NOT a bad album - it's just not one of the best things FZ & the Mothers ever did. Then again, it's tons more accessible to the general listener than a lot of other 60s Zappa albums. No Hot Rats jam-fests here, and no Lumpy Gravy dissonance, just bouncy parodies with amusing lyrics about paling around with vegetables and making your teenage daughter "do a nasty" on the White House lawn. And it's got plenty of neat little musical gimmicks, stuff ranging from almost classical passages to a Motown-ish parody on D. Ross and The Supremes.

But for all its diversity, it still strikes me as more socially oriented than musically oriented. I can't, for example, respect it as much as I respect We're Only In It For The Money… that album was also socially oriented, attacking as it did 1960s counter-culture rather than 1960s culture, but WOIIFTM had lots of interesting musical ideas and a neat crazy/trippy/spacy atmosphere behind the jokes and silly voices. Not so with Absolutely Free. Like I said, about a 6/10 for this one... maybe a 7/10 (but your rating of 8/10 seems a little high). It's a good album in its own way and it makes a lot of interesting points and it's pretty damn funny, but it falls waaay short of demonstrating Zappa's true creative potential.

Ryan Maffei <> (19.01.2002)

Actually, George, I have to disagree with you on several points here. I'm glad that, unlike other critics, you've recognized that this is an "entertaining mess" rather that a piece of "stunning artistic growth" (who the hell does Dave Weigel think he is?), but I find that this mess is still less admirable than you've made it out to be. For one, I don't feel that the sloppiness elevated the record at all, and in this case I mean from an 'innovation' standpoint: While Freak Out! was not only a masterpiece of wacky parody, but also of careful craft (whenever I put on the seemingly ludicrous "How Could I Be Such a Fool", I find myself amazed by the brass arrangements), Absolutely kind of sacrifices some potentially clever tunes via the noise and jamming, like "Plastic People"--we know the song is a great one, but all the dialogue and stuff prevents it from reaching the brilliant, "Hungry Freaks"-style level it could have. And while were talking about landmark qualities, why does nobody point out that every note of this music is an homage to a certain style of the past? "Monster Magnet" was innovative, but the freaky jam at the end of, say, the opera-based "Duke Regains his Chops" is even revealed in the song to be a Supremes reference! Stravinsky and Ravel are both quoted, the former all over the place! Other flaws are abound--"Duke of Prunes" is a great tune, with a great vocal, but how can the silly lyrics ("the cheese I have for you is real and very new") be ranked above savage satiric banalities like "Wowie Zowie" that actually had purpose and meaning? Meanwhile, "Status Back Baby", one of Zappa's best pop parodies, is buried between a schizophrenic jazz ditty ("America Drinks") and an unlistenable, rowdy little 4/4 misstep ("Uncle Bernie's Farm"). I have no problem calling Freak Out the best, most innovative album of all time, and We're Only in it For the Money a brilliant concept record, but just because Free is sandwiched between these two doesn't mean it has to be seen as anything above a subjectively effective Zappa oddity. A 6 from me, a C+ as a grade, and a B- for the reissue, because the bonus cuts add cohesion and listenability, if not any further greatness.


Dan Watkins <> (29.09.99)

I like it. It's something that takes getting used to for sure. I bought it when I was in fifth grade and grew to love it. I love the orchestral passages, but the dialog stuff gets a little old. I'm crazy about the orchestral versions of 'Oh No' here.

<> (14.02.2000)

Sorry man, but I think you're waaaay off on this one. Sure, Lumpy Gravy comes off as more of a freakish sociological experiment than a musical recording, but I disagree that it's the "worst" Zappa. I actually paid for it and I don't regret shelling out the 11 bucks, or whatever it was at the time, although okay I'll admit I don't play it all that often.

I also disagree that "Take Your Clothes Off " is the only serious musical composition on the album. There are a few, if you have the patience to search them out. My personal favorite would have to be the ominously brilliant "Envelops The BathTub" -- sort of like flow-of-consciousness psychedelia crossed with the background music from that old Kolchak:The Night Stalker show just before the monster came out and mutilated someone, if you can dig that :)

Definetely not his best album, but not his worst either. I think his worst, at least as far as his 60's stuff, would probably be the incomprehensible Weasels Ripped My Flesh (although ironically, I got my screen name from that album LOL).

Jeff Blehar <> (23.02.2000)

I can totally see why you'd despise this, especially as you're obviously no fan of either Varese-ian musique concrete or avante-garde music in general, but I frankly get a big kick out of it. The fellow above me got it just right in calling this one a "freakish sociological experiment," complete with the crazy "voices in the piano," but I love the Dada/absurdist aspect of it; Eugene Ionesco or Samuel Beckett couldn't write dialogue any better in its non-sequitur half-sense as the following exchange midway through part I:

Voice 1: How do you get your water so dark and murky?

Voice 2: Because I'm paranoid. I'm very paranoid. And the water in my washing machine turns dark out of sympathy.

V1: Out of sympathy?

V2: Yes.

V1: Where can I get that?

V2: At your local drugstore.

V1: How much?

V2: It's from Kansas.

Can you scan that, folks? Enjoy it? Then this might be your cup of tea. It's actually a surprisingly serious piece of work, despite the bits of humor here and there. There's a powerful statement being made when Motorhead's banal-as-hell ramble about cars, girls, friends, and jobs is interrupted by random bursts of chatter fading in and out of the mix - a sort of documentary and comment upon American vulgarity. Again, certainly not everyone's cuppa joe, but not really aimless noodling, either. I see a point in Lumpy Gravy, and it's one I quite enjoy getting into. But it compels you to sit down for 30 minutes and LISTEN, since it's not tracked in any way (it has two parts: "Part I," and the appropriately named "Part II." Zappa gives us the helpful hint to begin with Part I. Thanks Frank.). I'll give this a 7/10, because although I'd personally rate it higher, this really isn't for everyone. But there IS a lot of interesting stuff going on here, moreso than is apparent on a few listens. I still pick up new things each time through.

Philip Maddox <> (24.06.2000)

I got this one for free through the BMG Music Service (minus about 3 dollars for shipping and handling), and I STILL feel like I paid to much for this. Sure, the orchestral bits can be great ('Oh No' never sounded better, and I still contend that these versions are better than the one on Weasels), but they can also drag into being WAY to avant-garde ('Envelops the Bath Tub' in particular). So what does that leave? About 20 minutes of nonsensical dialogue. It's not particularly funny, it's just nonsense. And it eats up the majority of the album. 20 minutes out of 30 is just this crap. I'm sorry, but I can't imagine listening to this very often. I give it a 2, maybe a 3 on a good day just for 'Oh No' and 'Take Your Clothes Off'. The rest is absolute drivel.

I still think the 'It's From Kansas' bit is kinda cute, though.

P.S. Since I sent in that last review, I've listened to this record a couple more times and had mixed reactions. The first time I listened to it after sending in my review, I liked it. The second time, I hated it again. I think this record probably isn't as bad as I said - if it was truly horrible, I would never like it as opposed to occasionally liking it. I guess it all depends on what kind of mood you're in and how close you pay attention. I'm gonna change my rating to a simple "unrated". I agree - this is too weird to rate. I still wouldn't recommend it unless you've got most of the other Zappa records already, though.

Derrick Stuart <> (06.07.2000)

Keith Emerson once described this as the greatest album he had ever heard.

Ben Greenstein <> (01.11.2000)

I really don't get the "this is not music" approach that a lot of people approach this album with. This is certainly a wierd and dissonant album, but so are Absolutely Free and In It For The Monkey. The only difference is that the "song" sections on this one are instrumental, and the spoken bits are slightly longer. But this certainly isn't a "sound collage" - parts of it, maybe, but it sounds like it was every bit as difficult to compose as the last few albums. Which is not to say I like it more - in fact, I happen to think that all early Zappa is very overrated. Too much focus on silly studio trickery and not enough songwriting and musicianship. I guess this one could get a seven.

P.S. I have gone back to my initial opinion that Freak Out isn't very good.

Victor Prose <> (11.01.2002)

Music is defined in the dictionary as "Sounds and silence in time". Every piece of music, whether mainstream or underground, deserves a rating, and nothing should be denied equality among other music for being avant-garde or un-melodic. Ideally, you should bring yourself to listen to "The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny" again, allow yourself to be immersed in it and recognize its meaning (and its connotations to Kafka's 'In the Penal Colony', which I'm sure you've read), and, having found a new acceptance for sound collages, come back and give this (Lumpy Gravy) a real rating.

However, I will not press this, because I like your prose here as it is. Just remember the definition above, and that by no means does Zoot Allures deserve more appreciation than this.

Mattias Lundberg <> (14.02.2002)

I really like this album. I've probably got a really bad sense of humour, but I can't help laughing out loud every time I hear that "Almost Chinese !" line. I wonder how he conceived the dialogue and the music for this album. Take 'A bit of nostalgia' and 'Almost Chinese', for example: did he first plan these lines and then created some music to fit them or was the dialogue just a commentary to the pre-existing music ? The sort of spontaneous, thick-sounding "Almost Chinese !" with a reply from someone "Yes, it is !" implies that these things were added later. The orchestral parts are really nice as well, too bad he never made a full-length, purely orchestral album in the 60s. And the small snippets of songs are enjoyable too. I've never found this album hard to listen to, there's something about it that is immediately accessible - unlike the other Mothers-albums, which I really had to give many chances before they grew on me.

Francis Mansell <> (01.02.2004)

I enjoy the hell out of this album, but that's just my own strange musical tastes, I'm not even going to begin to try justifying it but I actually think it's one of Zappa's most entertaining records, rather than looking for "music" and "good tracks", enjoy the album as a whole, it's not one for dipping into ... and how on earth could you ignore the wicked introductory theme - a classic Zappa melody if ever there was one!

For the sake of Mattias Lundberg, a quick description of how the goofy dialogue was created:

During 1967, Zappa abandoned California temporarily for New York. The Mothers played a lengthy and legendary residency at the Garrick Theater. But they also took up a lengthy residency in Apostolic Studios, recording some or all of ... Money, Ruben & The Jets, Uncle Meat and perhaps even Weasels .... Plus, Zappa (for whatever strange reason, but he always had a thing about recording dialogue, sometimes without the knowledge of those involved) decided to rig up the studio's grand piano with a mike and put a blanket over it and get anyone around (studio staff, members of the Mothers, members of other bands using the studio, friends/acquaintances ...) to lean into the piano and talk about any subject he suggested. Hence all the strange mythology about pigs and ponies and smoke etc. But while he suggested the topics and direction of the dialogue, it wasn't scripted. Zappa then chose and edited bits out of it for use in the album (the musical parts of the album had been recorded some months before). I guess there must have been reels and reels of this stuff, and also, it would appear that Lumpy Gravy really meant a lot to Zappa because pretty much the last thing he did when he was already very ill from the cancer that killed him was to create the final magnum opus, (released after his death) Civilization Phase 3 (WOIIFTM had a little bubble on the sleeve saying, "Is This Phase 2 Of Lumpy Gravy?", so there's more of Frank's "conceptual continuity"). Civilization features more of the dialogue from the 1967 sessions (plus some of the same dialogue used in LG) interspersed between new music mostly performed on the Synclavier, plus a certain amount of orchestral stuff. I've got to say that while Civilization is a fascinating album with some excellent music (much more music than LG), I still actually find LG easier listening (that may just be because I first heard LG when I was 19 but didn't hear CP3 until I was 36 and my musical tastes were more set in stone) but to anyone who digs Frank's Synclavier stuff, this is highly recommended, I guess not least because it's the last and most highly developed of these.

Oh no, man, kangaroos ...!


Dan Watkins <> (29.09.99)

What can I say that George hasn't already said about this album? I'll just second his opinion and tell you to buy the album. It's one of the early Mothers' best albums.

Ben Greenstein <> (01.10.99)

Not as bad as I initially thought, I still don't see what could possibly make this an essential album. Don't get me wrong - it's fun, but I just don't get why Zappa had to stick the stupid little dialogue clips in the middle of certain songs. They really ruin any chance of fluidity, and subtract from some of the stronger numbers, particularly "The Idiot Bastard Son." My favourite songs are "Let's Make The Water Turn Black" (does anyone else notice what a nice melody it has?) and the simply gorgeous "What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?" (gorgeous, that is, until it's inexplicably cut short). The other tracks aren't bad, either, but they only exist as part of the album, as opposed to songs on their own.

And, of course, Absolutely Free has almost no standout songs as well, but it flows much better, and is made up mostly of actual music, rather than creepy whispering. I was expected a much more fleshed-out work, and was dissapointed. I give it a seven.

Jeff Blehar <> (23.02.2000)

This was my first Zappa album (yep, went on the critics' opinions), but I still think it's impossibly good and a 10/10. Again, what makes it so indelible isn't necessarily the "avant-garde" aspect of the album (although it certainly helps) but rather the presence of a combination of awesome lyrics and great melodies. This album has something like twenty songs, and amazingly enough, the amount of original and compelling melodies and pieces of music comes out to something near that number as well. "Who Needs The Peace Corps," "Mom & Dad" (with that great middle eight), "Bow Tie Daddy" (which Dave Weigel memorably said on Prindle's page has more personality in its 33-second running time than an entire Silverchair album), "Absolutely Free," "What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body," "Idiot Bastard Son," "Lonely Little Girl," "Mother People," etc, etc, are ALL great songs with lyrics, melody, and personality just spilling out like a fat guy's gut stuffed into trousers two sizes too small.}

Lyrically, I'm surprised that it hasn't dated as much as you think it would. Zappa's snotty remarks on hippie fashion in "Who Needs The Peace Corps?" will always be relevant to any style poseurs, while "Absolutely Free"'s complete assassination of psychedelic cliches is a great antidote to 60's flower-power revivalism (see his later "We're Turning Again" for a much more offensive take on all of this). And come on, we all gotta hand it to Frank that calling his concentration camp "Camp Reagan" was one heck of an eerie stroke of genius.

What caps this album for me is its conceptual, purely theoretical aspects. Moreso than any of his "music" albums up to this point, Money witnesses Zappa actively toying with both the idea of music and the format of vinyl, but with the listener's expectations as well. Dick Kunc's whispered threats on how 's going to erase every Frank Zappa tape are just as intriguing as "Mother People"'s scratching tone-arm. That's one effect that's sadly lost on CD folks - unless you're listening on a record player, the effect (realistically reproduced) in "Mother People" of someone sliding the tone arm of the record player across the record and placing it on what seems to be a completely DIFFERENT album of classical music (really an excerpt from Lumpy Gravy: conceptual continuity makes its first appearance! Unless you count that CIA guy from Laurel Canyon!) doesn't hit you the same way. Ah well. It's still a great album, with a classic cover (to tell the truth, I FAR prefer it to Sgt. Pepper's cover, but maybe that's just 'cause purple's my favorite color and I dig the rotting fruits and vegetables on the cover). One word of warning: avoid AT ALL COSTS the "rerecorded" version Zappa put on CD in the late 80's (the one with Lumpy Gravy on the same disc - alas, it seems to be the version George has). It's really terrible, with rerecorded drums and bass, where the songs seem to be sped up and dried out. It sounds like a completely different album, and not a very good one to be honest (that's how much it's changed!). Get the new Rykodisc version.

Philip Maddox <> (25.06.2000)

This is it. This has everything I love about Zappa (except his amazing guitar skill). I give this album a 10 with no hesitation. It's absoluteley great!

For one thing, this album easily has the best lyrics Zappa ever wrote (though You Are What You Is comes close). He makes fun of everything that was wrong with the sixties in one fell swoop. 'Mom and Dad', 'Concentration Moon', and 'Bow Tie Daddy' all rip the established culture to shreds, while the counterculture gets blasted in numbers like 'Who Needs the Peace Corps?', 'Flower Punk', and 'Absolutely Free' (in which a voice subtly announces "Flower power sucks!"). Some songs are Frank urging people to think for themselves ('What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body?', 'Mother People'), and some of it is just plain weird ('Let's Make the Water Turn Black', 'The Idiot Bastard Son'). All of it is brilliant - even though I wasn't around then, this must have caused quite a stir back in 1968. But we mustn't forget the music! It all works just as well. 'Who Needs the Peace Corps' and 'Let's Make the Water Turn Black' have my favorite melodies on the album, but the others aren't far behind. Outside of the chunks of noise ('Are You Hung Up?', 'Nasal Retentive Calliope Music', 'The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny'), the only really weak melody here is 'The Idiot Bastard Son' (which, as Ben stated, is hurt by being broken up with dialogue). It's all quite diverse as well, so at least a few of these melodies will stick to you, even if others leave you cold (there's 19 tracks in all).

The noise is disposable, as usual, but it's not as bad as it could be. It doesn't really hurt the record for me, because it's all so short (except the almost 7-minute 'Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny', which closes the album anyway). This is a great record. It gets my highest recommendations.

Thomas M. Silvestri <> (01.10.2000)

One could write a book on the greatness and significance of this album and the previous writers have already covered lots of key points impressively, so I won't add much. But a note to Philip Maddox: no, this album did not cause much of a stir when it came out, though people hip to what was happening on FM radio and in West Coast music circles loved it, of course. Fact is, in some ways America wasn't nearly as uptight then as it seems to be becoming today with respect to culture -- though of course stuff like this also flew well below the radar of congressional committees at the time, still smarting as they were over how badly they overreacted in the McCarthy era and, in so doing, helped give birth to the counterculture. At any rate, "The Idiot Bastard Son" is one of the greatest Mothers songs not only because of the wistful melody (ever heard Jean-Luc Ponty's instrumental version on King Kong, his first album?) but also because the words have become more timely than ever. (Used to sing them to myself a lot when Gingrich was still Speaker of the House.)

Don Briago <> (05.04.2001)

This is a disappointing album. Apart from (as George correctly recognizes) the paucity of memorable tunes, the most obvious weakness - so obvious no one ever mentions it - is the absence of a good vocalist. For whatever reason (drugs?), Ray Collins, who was so versatile and dynamic on Absolutely Free, doesn't appear on Money, and we're left with Frank's limited vocals. Though FZ speeds his voice up to Munchkin pitch and tries other gimmicks to compensate for his one-and-a-half octave range, his vocals really weaken the album. It wouldn't matter as much if the words he "sings" were better. The lyrics are too prosy and obvious ("I'm completely stoned, I'm hippie and trippy"), especially when he blurts out "Flower Power sucks!" - just in case we've missed the point. I'd call that the nadir if it weren't for "Mother People". In this song the message is "We may seem weird but please don't hate us, we're plain folks just like you!"  A play for sympathy - from FRANK ZAPPA? Are those snowflakes I see falling in hell? It seems that Money was a rush job; Frank figured he'd better hurry up and ridicule hippies before everyone forgot about the Beatles and Sgt. Pepper.

<> (04.11.2001)

I personaly do not like this album. He shoulin't have made fun of the hippies like that, they are just people that wanted to live and be free. There is nothing wrond with droping out of school-school is completly usless you could learn alot more at a lybary than you could at some stupid school because they force you to learn things you may not want to learn, There is nothing wrong with not working- you can build a house for free, you can grow food for free, you can make clothes for free, and just about everything eles you can do for free, and who wants to work for 9 hours, come home eat, sleep, go to work, come home eat, sleep, go to work for 9 hours come home, eat, sleep,ect. There is nothing wrong with drugs-hallucinogenic drugs give you a different view of the world, they make you more creative, more "deeper" people have been using drugs for thousands of years, and most drugs are natural (mushrooms, marijuana, coca plant, opium,ect) so why would they be here if they are forbidden. I just think that Frank Zappa was being cruel when he made this album.

Joe H <> (23.11.2001)

This is the definate 10 for me. This is an amazing album! All the songs are really great, the are funny, clever, creepy as hell (those experiments "Are You Hung Up", "Nasel Retentive Calliope Music", "Hot Poop", and "Chrome Plated Megaphone Of Destiny") or just plain weird. The sped up vocals and such are a really funny touch as well. I took it upon myself to get both the remixed and re-dubed (bass and drums) and and original mix and wow they are totally different! Some of the songs on the remixed version are totally sped up and robbed of some qualitys of the original (that cool guitar solo part in "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance"), but sometimes its vice versa (the remixed version just sounds clearer to me, and you can hear the backing vocals like on "Absolutely Free"), so i suppose i prefer both. I wish some of these songs were longer because they are so damn good, like "Mother People", "Bow Tie Daddy", or "Whats The Ugliest Part Of Your Body" (its your mind!) but there being 19 songs makes up for it. I havent heard anything as brilliant as this by Zappa, so this is definatly my favorite album by him (or The Mothers).

Victor Prose <> (12.01.2002)

To correct something that another reader said, a good portion of the "Chipmunk"-sounding vocals are sung by the athsmatic, nasal-voiced bassist Roy Estrada, who is still, yes, not as capable as Collins was. And I'm goddamn tired of everybody lambasting the "noise" portions of the record. For once, somebody should READ the frigging Kafka story before hearing "The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny" (it's authentically chilling that way), and recognize that they wouldn't balk against the avant-garde stuff if it were actually by Varese or Satie or Stravinsky or John Cage.

Mattias Lundberg <> (12.02.2002)

Strong melodies and general 'solidness' were never Zappa's forte, so you have to lower your expectations considerably in order to appreciate his albums on these grounds (or just starting enjoying them as Zappa albums). On this album, 'Let's Make the Water Turn Black' and 'What's the Ugliest Part of your Body ?' are tolerable in those respects, I suppose. Zappa's masterpiece - it is not. I guess you could say it's the overall most successful album in the 'Mothers-style'. I'm no real lover of the first Mothers-period, duly I tend to enjoy the stuff on these albums that point towards the solo-Frank instrumental albums of 69-72, and I'd say that there's more such stuff on the three first albums than on this one. As it stands I'll give it a 7.

Ryan Maffei <> (30.03.2002)

Actually, that's spot on. Coming up from the brief lull of Absolutely Free, We're Only in it For the Money is a minor masterpiece, one that could not possibly surpass Frank's tour-de-force debut, but one that succeeds at its trade nonetheless. The lyrics, as usual, provide spot-on, scathing political commentary, and Frank's melodies are at their best with great tunes like "What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body", "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance", "Who Needs the Peace Corps?", etc., etc. The songs actually work better as a suite, with snippets of things going in and out...very interesting production styles, and hell, it's better than Anthem of the Sun. Only Money is also one of Frank's most emotional records (seriously)--"Mom and Dad", "Mother People", "The Idiot Bastard Son", and "The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny" and the like all show true glimpses of HUMAN insight, as opposed to just featuring a Zappa who is the neutral Machine That Tells Us What's Wrong With Us. Plus, I love it. It's catchy, it's well crafted, it's got a good beat, and if you're feeling like a really tripped-up Dick Clark, you can probably dance to it. No, but seriously, this is a great, if minortly flawed piece of work. A 9.

Bertrand Serieyx <> (09.07.2002)

Just to mention that "flower punk" go farther towards mimicking "Hey joe" than just lyrically: the chord structure seems to be actually the same, with a faster, different beat.

I also believe the character Suzy Creamcheese to be directly inspired from a real person - some fan, if I remember correctly.

Tom Mitchell <> (20.04.2004)

One quick mention about We're Only In It For the Money. The song "Flower Punk" does indeed parody "Hey Joe." But it is not the Hendrix version, it's the Love version he's poking fun at. You can hear the Love version (and, yes, it is much faster than the Hendrix version) on their debut disc (which you also reviewed). The similarity of the vocal delivery is what gives it away.

This satire initially caused me pain because I enjoy the early Love records a whole lot. But I think Arthur Lee would have taken it in stride, considering the anti-hippie theme of his Forever Changes record. By the time WOIIFTM was released, so many people had covered "Hey Joe" that it became a stereotypical "hippie" song--its initial impact was completely lost.--->

And that's the main reason I think Zappa chose to parody this song: because it was a favorite "cover song" for up-and-coming "hippie" groups (well-known examples include Hendrix, Love, the Byrds). It's fair to suggest that many amateur "hippie" bands were also covering this song in the wake of others' success with it. I'm sure Zappa had nothing but scorn for these wanna-be musicians. "Flower Punk" even has a fake monologue at the end delivered by a member of a pretend hippie band:

This is one of the most exciting things that's ever happened to me. You know, every time I think about how lucky I am to be in the rock & roll industry. It's SO exciting. You know, when I first got into the rock & roll business, I could barely even play the changes to this song on my, on my guitar. But now I'm very professional. I can play the guitar. I can strum it rhythmically. I can sing along with my guitar as I strum.

As usual, Zappa's focus is direct and unflinching. "I could barely play these changes...but now I'm very professional." Haha! The changes to "Hey Joe"/"Flower Punk" (either) are EASY to play. you don't have to be a "professional" to play a barre chord!

These spoken asides and lyrical allusions are what elevate this record from mere parody to great satire.

Alexey Provolotsky <> (30.09.2005)

Not sure about the money, but he was certainly in it for some weirdness. I’m not saying it is great or something, it’s just somewhat out of this world. The most difficult thing about listening to WOIIFTM is to get over the fact it’s just a big hilarious joke. It’s some kind of a collection of absolutely bizarre stories dealing with (bashing, to be more correct) policemen and hippies. But forget about the lyrics, hear those wonderful melodies, solid and cute. A big problem for you may also be the cartoonish vocals that lack any seriousness. I know it MAY be a problem, ‘cause it took ME quite a time not to pay much attention to those (and, you know, it’s not that easy to do after listening to the Stones, the Who and pretty much all the other bands). But here I am, enjoying almost every second of this record. Enjoying like a Frank Zappa record, of course.

Surely, for an album with so many tracks it’s almost inevitable to be flawed. I won’t say that such “songs” as “Are You Hung Up?” or “Telephone Conversation” are flaws (just because they are rather short and not without their moments and even purpose), but such bullshit as “Hot Poop”, “Nasal Retentive…” and the closing bore are an evident waste of tape. Totally unnecessary, like Zappa’s whispering voice appearing from time to time telling us how original and underground he was. Anyway, forgetting all about those stinkers, the album is marvellous, full of interesting ideas and melodies. My favourite is probably the God-like “What’s The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?”, but there is too much to like here besides that.

Speaking about the lyrics, I’m not a big fan of those. Most of them are rather straightforward (although the most straightforward moment on the record, “flower power sucks…sucks…sucks…” has to be the most hilarious), but some are really smart (“Mom Dad”) and funny (like the parodic “Flower Punk”).

If you’ve noticed, I tried to comment on this album like on an ordinary one, not like on a collection of jokes, but maybe that’s a wrong thing to do. Anyway, that was my way.

I think that the time one needs to get used to WOIIFTM depends on one’s pretentiousness. In the end one has to give in anyway. Zappa won’t allow you to get out that simple.

This album would get either a 12 or 13 from me, but the perspective of rating Frank the Mothers on a regular basis doesn’t entertain me all that much.


Dan Watkins <dan> (28.07.99)

Hmmm... Zappa on doo-wop. This one took a while for me to appreciate. The first time I heard it, I was listening to the '84 remix with the bass and drums re-recorded. I hated it. Later, I came across a dub of the original vinyl and liked it quite a bit. You really have to be in the right mood for it. A funny story is that a radio DJ was playing the album on the air non-stop. He eventually found out it was recorded by the Mothers of Invention and immediately quit playing it. I don't think anyone can decide if the album is a tribute or a parody. Frank really did love doo-wop. He always hated love song lyrics, but he thought the vocal melodies in doo-wop were beautiful. In fact, I feel the same way about this album. Unfortunately, the "love song lyrics" on this album are sincere. That's right. No hilariously sarcastic lyrics like "I gave you my high school ring/At the rootbeer stand/We had a teenage love, baby" lyrics. The lyrics in 'Fountain of Love' are corny enough to make you puke. But the music isn't bad. I like 'Deseri', 'Love of My Life', 'Stuff Up the Cracks', 'Jelly Roll Gum Drop', and 'Later That Night' quite a bit, and I love the falsetto vocals near the end of 'I'm Not Satisfied'. A rock album it ain't, but folks with wide musical tastes might enjoy it.

Joshua Fiero <> (03.01.2000)

Yup, Frank loved doo wop. He said the most transcendent musical experiences in the world were conducting an orchestra and singing traditional five-part doo wop harmony and getting the chords right. Things people tend to forget about FZ: he respected musicianship and folk tradition; just look at his love for the Chieftains. So, guys like the Penguins got points because they could sing like birds, and because their music became a cultural phenomenon. The treacly, stupid lyrics that those gorgeous voices conveyed, he mercilessly parodied. And, hey Dan, the fact that the words to "Fountain of Love" made you want to puke is probably the point.

David Goodwin <> (06.11.2000)

Completely miscellaneous point that I don't know if I've made or not.

"And one last thing: if I'm correct, the newer (post-1984) releases of this album all have re-recorded rhythm tracks imposed on them by Frank in the Eighties. Why he had to do this is beyond me, and since I haven't heard the original, I can't say which version's the better. Luckily, he didn't use drum machines: these would have sounded rather odd on pseudo-Fifties material, I guess."

Interesting statement, especially the part about drum machines. Y'see, Frank did a LOT of drum overdubbage on his back catalogue, some of it frighteningly bizarre (he overdubbed drums on a later release of 1982's Man From Utopia, for christ's sake). I'm convinced that most of it was done around the same time, mostly because it takes effort to set a studio up to do that kind of thing.

But back to the point. At the time these and other overdubs were done, Frank's drummer of choice was Chad Wackerman, a remarkably talented guy who has a almost-Keith-moon-esque "lead" style of playing (eg. he loves to play along with melody lines). This technique, unfortunately, has a downside. Around this time, the drum-set of choice was called something like "Drummer's Studio"; in essense, digital/synth drums that Chad would play. But it doesn't really matter that someone was PLAYING them, as Chad's very precise nature makes it basically sound like overly-sophisticated drum machines.

Don't believe me? Really LISTEN to the re-recorded drums...all of the similar beats are EXACTLY the same, which eventually gets grating. ALthough it certainly isn't as obnoxious here as it is on, say, the re-recorded Money (where Frank had the bright idea of speeding up the drums on tracks like 'Concentration Moon', where they end up sounding even more ridiculously artificial) or most of the '84 tour barring Does Humor.

This might seem like a stupid topic to comment on, but the digital drums have to rank up there as one of Frank's *worst* value judgements of the 80s, and he made several (amoung them, the decision to build his own studio--which almost always results in a sudden burst of filler from ANY artist--his obsession with digital technology, which led to the butchering of a good bit of his back catalogue, etc. etc.)

Anyway, I've had my say..;-)

Jose Pravia <> (28.12.2000)

I don't understand why it is so hard for you to accept that Frank Zappa loved Doo Wop. The fact that he recorded so many songs in that style proves it. Only a moron would spend so much time putting down a genre that he didn't respect. Satire and homage are not mutually exclusive. The film Spinal Tap is proof of this.

Ryan Maffei <> (30.03.2002)

Okay, kids, the lesson today is BASTARDIZATION...

Having been able to appreciate Frank's savagely spot-on skewering of doo-wop and other teen-pop styles of the day on his masterpiece, Freak Out!, I was eager to hear what he would do with the format of doo-wop when I bought Cruising With Ruben and the Jets. I'm still waiting. I'm sorry, people--"Stuff Up the Cracks" shows promise, but the rest of this material has been, in a ridiculous, meaningless decision by Zappa, more meaningless than naming his kid Dweezil or releasing an album like Man From Utopia, corrupted by ELECTRONIC DRUMS (yes, most of them are in fact electronic) and totally uncharacteristic, slinky-sounding bass that may've been pioneered in 1965 with "Think For Yourself" but would sound completely out-of-character in 1955-64. Now a song as banal as "Fountain of Love" is given an even uglier feel with its sophomoric, awkward rhythm track. "Jelly Roll Gum Drop" might as well have been A TOP 10 POP SONG FROM 1984, as its faux-skin-bashing has made the acoustic guitar part sound uncharacteristic as well. The best song on here is "Cheap Thrills"--why? because it's a great song, NOT because it's a dead on parody. That's right--this intentionally horrific album now sounds unintentionally more unappealing, because of the most stupid artistic decision a genius like Frank had to goddamn make. Therefore, George's rating of Cruising as a 7 may be damn well justified. It could be a classic album. It could be a spot on, enjoyable parody of doo-wop. BUT I CAN'T TELL. Having judged the music as it is, I can't give it more than a 4...a grade I would've hoped to save until later-period Zappa, but no. "No no no no no no no no no no no no..."

Mike West <> (18.12.2002)

I am doing this again, I know, but quoting Frank Zappa's Book on this album...well paraphrasing, anyway, since I can't find my copy of the book right now...he claimed that the purpose of this album was, since his favorites of the avant-garde classical musicians found their muse from subverting and dissecting classical conventions, to do the same thing with doo-wop. So, if you listen closely, you start to hear subtle, yet amazing things: chord progressions that you'd NEVER hear in doo-wop (or anywhere else for that matter), melodic cliches turned inside out, and allusions to Stravinsky and Varese. Far more in line with the Zappa tradition than you'd think, eh?


Dan Watkins <> (16.08.99)

Hey, I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I love it! Fortunately, there IS existing video footage of the play! It's on the Uncle Meat home video. Unfortunately, the movie is out of print. According to the Zappa Family Trust, preparation for a re-release of all the Zappa movies is taking place, but they've been saying that for three years.

If your interested you can find dubs of it from people on the internet, including me. To be perfectly honest the rest of the movie is for hard-core blood-and-guts Zappa fans only. I think any one else would find the rest of the movie absolutely unbearable.

Jason Saenz <> (27.04.2004)

Well George I think this album deserves a higher score than a 7, I know the visual side is missing but if you have the liner notes you can imagine the visuals, the liner notes are really detailed and just by reading you can picture the whole mess. Now the music here is excellent for a live album (even though it's not actually considered a live album). This was a low budget project so there is some unwanted hissing but it sort of dissapears when KING KONG appears. This album is sorted out in 2 parts, the first part (tracks 1-9) consists of a bunch of messy-sometimes musical sketches about some weird and funny issues now this is where you need the visuals or the liner notes, then there's the second part (tracks 10-20) that is just music, good jamming worthy of any good Zappa listener. The whole concept is a little bit pointless but does get your attention, the sarcasm is always overflowing but hey it's good old ZAPPA, the dude who created WERE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY so you know what to expect. Ok, I'm losing the point here, this album was really ahead of it's time, there is some refrences about a celebrity running for president, useless and trippy idea for 1968 but what about 1981??? Prophets or just some weird dudes ahead of their time?

Ben Dominici <> (27.08.2006)

I agree that the "music" side of this album is much better than the "play" side. However, I always listen to it all the way through and quite enjoy the "movie for my ears" as Frank himself would say. Anyway- THE ORIGINAL MOTHERS OF INVENTION (1965-1970) ARE ONE OF THE BEST ROCK BANDS EVER!!! This is a great performance of incredible compositions by an amazing group! Sure they weren't as "diciplined" as some of Zappa's later bands, but their character makes them shine. I love their (relative) sloppiness. It creates a perfect balance, because Zappa was such a stubborn perfectionist. That's probably why he fired THE ENTIRE BAND. Oh well, they still were technically really great musicains (except for Jimmy Carl Black- but his drumming still rules!). Anyway, in my humble opinion, the albums that Zappa did with the original Mothers are BY FAR his best, and I honestly think that he couldn't have made any others like them with the later bands if he had tried (though I'm sure he didn't).

All this aside, Zappa was an amazing composer, and I also believe that his 1965-1970 compositions were among his very best. That also goes for the compositions on "Hot Rats" and "Lumpy Gravy", by the way. "Let's Make The Water Turn Black", "King Kong", "The Orange County Lumber Truck", "Who Are The Brain Police?", "Brown Shoes Don't Make It", "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance", "Peaches En Regalia", "Holiday In Berlin"- these, to me, are examples of what makes Zappa really special.


Ben Greenstein <> (27.04.2000)

I have the tape version, which gets rid of the unfunny spoken word crap and leaves in the good stuff. In all honesty, I shouldn't like this record very much - it takes all of the things about Zappa's first three that I don't like about them and cuts out most of the cool melodies and such. But I DO like it, a lot. I give it an eight, five of those for "Dog Breath," two more for "King Kong," and a really big one for the rest.

Philip Maddox <> (25.06.2000)

Maybe it's just me, but this album never hit me as anything spectacular. Sure, it has great parts, but as a whole, the album doesn't quite gel for me. This album is packed with a lot of well played but still tuneless jazz noise like 'Ian Underwood Whips it Out', 'Nine Types of Industrial Pollution', and 'Project X'. None of these songs suck, but they don't exactly make me jump up and down with glee. The live version of 'Louie Louie' is so poorly recorded and mixed that they probably should have just left it off the album. There's also a lot of spoken dialogue ala Lumpy Gravy ('The Voice of Cheese', 'Our Bizarre Relationship', etc.), but at least it's short here. And the quote-unquote "Bonus Tracks" are a disgrace. George is right - without them, the whole album could be crammed onto one disc. Yeesh! George already trashed them above - let's just try to forget they exist. Some of this stuff is still top notch, though. 'King Kong' is pretty cool, all of the different versions of 'Dog Breath' are great (as are the versions of 'Uncle Meat', but to a lesser extent). The doo-wop songs on here are top notch. 'Mr. Green Genes' is about a millionth as good as the Hot Rats version, but it's still ok.

This is a decent record, but probably not worth the money for a double disc. I give it a 6 or 7, though I can't decide right now. And that's not counting the quote-unquote "Bonus Tracks". If you want to count them as actual material, feel free to lower that rating 4 or 5 points, at least. They're that bad. Do what I do if you have the cd - just skip them. Or, if you have a cd burner, make a new cd with the dialogue crap edited out. Makes it more fun that way.

Mike DeFabio <> (22.09.2000)

Heh heh... George Starostin namechecked me. The tape version of this album is quite good, and if you have access to a CD burner and a friend who has the CD, all the better! I'm pretty sure that if you sat down, took all the dialogue stuff and edited it down to, say, 5 minutes, it wouldn't be half bad. Forty minutes though? Ew. And "Tengo Ni Minchia Tanta" is one of the worst songs I've ever heard. Just a terrible song. Why the heck is it on here? It belongs on Sheik Yerbouti or some other late-seventies album that I don't like too much anymore. For more blabber from me, head on over to the Prindle site when yer done here. But before you do, make sure you check out George's review of Winds of Change by the Animals. It makes me wanna hear it!

Yehuda Wolf <> (16.08.2001)


My name is Yochai Wolf,18 from Israel, and I'd like to give a comment on zappa's uncle meat. Let me just say, as a general comment , that I tend to STRONGLY disagree with most of your opinions (sorrry...),eespecially when it comes to Van Der Graaf Generator, but let's leave it. Anyway...Uncle meet=10\10!!!! MAN, this album's great. I agree that zappa, in one of his worst moments,kinda ruined the album with those crappy bonus track. But guess what? I NEVER EVER listen to them-I listen to the real 75 minutes. And man!!I really think this album is one of the best works of the 20th century, and I can find even one track I don't like-it has it all, the whole Zappa music in one album! I think I am a minority here, but for me-this is a perfect creation!

Mefisto <> (20.03.2002)

I'm sorry Zappa jivers, but for me Uncle Meat is the rossetta stone from the underground! I think you should listen to Zappa's work instead of maintain this crappy jive site.

God bless you all and forgive too for all the ugliness of your minds.

Ryan Maffei <> (30.03.2002)

I'll agree, the reissue needlessly augments a great piece of work. Zappa's most ambitious collection of recordings as an artist and composer, Meat's original parts make up what is easily one of the best albums of all time, up there with Hunky Dory, Kind of Blue, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, etc, etc, etc. Unfortunately, the dialogue only serves as conversational material, fascinating but not terribly admirable...and the inclusion of "Tengo Na Minchia Tanta" is just FUCKING mislead. Offensive epithets aside, I have the reissue and still listen to it today, partly because Zappa's genius as a musician is admirably in full flower for 3/4 of it. A high 9 for Meat, an 8 for the reissue.


Mike DeFabio <> (24.01.2000)

I really like Hot Rats. The only song on here I don't think I like is 'Little Umbrellas'. Doesn't do anything for me. But it's short! 'Son of Mister Green Genes' totally SQUASHES the dirgey Uncle Meat version, and the 'Gumbo Variations' tries as hard as it can but fails to bore me throughout its sixteen minutes. I also like 'It Must Be A Camel'. Kinda.

Oh! And 'Peaches En Regalia' is on here! The song that got me interested in Zappa in the first place! No... no wait, that would be 'Montana'. But 'Peaches' is a great song. I'm gonna start humming it right now! Hmmmmm hmhmhm hm hm hm hmmmm hmmmmmmmmmm....

Ben Greenstein <> (26.01.2000)

I'm very glad to see that you enjoy this record - I think that even a non-instrumental fan would have to admit that it's one of Zappa's most consistent and impressive albums. As for the jazz aspect - it IS all jazz, but such an odd branch of it that it's hard for most people to recognize. I agree that the two short songs on side two are probably the weakest, but I still think that they're great - I could listen to "It Must Be A Camel" for days! "Peaches" is the highlight, a psuedo-classical symphony with so much great melody that it makes you want to scream, but "Mr Green Genes" and "Willie The Pimp" are first rate as well. A ten, for me.

Philip Maddox <> (25.06.2000)

This is my second favorite Zappa album, behind Money. It's pretty much instrumental, like you say, but that hardly hurts the record. It gives you a chance to focus on Frank's music as opposed to his lyrics, which tend to overshadow the music sometimes. Anyway, you already summed it all up - this album rules. I even like the short songs on the second half, especially 'Little Umbrellas'. 'Peaches' and 'Willie' are the best songs on here, and they totally rule. Viva Frank, the guitar king! His solo on 'Willie' is easily one of the best solos I've ever heard. The only really weak thing about this record is the really, REALLY long sax solo that opens 'The Gumbo Variations'. A really, really, REALLY high 9. if that solo was about 5 minutes shorter, it'd be a ten.

<> (22.10.2000)

Boring? You call Hot Rats boring? I've had the CD for about 5 years now and I recently obtained the vinyl version (which is a little different...very cool) and they're both one of my most listened to albums that I own. I am a Zappa fanatic and I do side with you about how an album like 'Weasels Ripped My Flesh' is boring and stuff, but Hot Rats?

[Special author note: this is a clear case of somebody taking things way too literally.]

Mattias Lundberg <> (13.02.2002)

The theme of 'Peaches en Regalia' must be the first use of quintuplets in popular music (I may be wrong, but I haven't managed to find any on any earlier record). I just melt inside every time I hear that section with acoustic guitar doubled with flute. It's such a nice sound, not sounding anything like the respective instruments; I believe that acoustic phenomenon is called a 'resultant'. Unfortunately it's over to quick, I always have to go back and listen to it again, before the track is finished. Thoroughly good musicians, but the above-mentioned track is somewhat tarnished by the flat saxophones in the first transition section. I don't like 'Willie the Pimp' that much, but all the others are good and 'Son of Mr.Green Genes' is great.

Ryan Maffei <> (30.03.2002)

Hot Rats may not be "jazz" as much as it is "rock", but as far as instrumental Frank goes, it really cooks. "Peaches En Regalia" is one of the most winningly memorable tunes out there today, worth the price of admission alone, and the freaked-out blues-rock of "Willie the Pimp" is no less excellent...the other selections are great, too, though, including the stunningly effective rehash of "Mr. Green Genes" (it soars rather than plods this time), and the dull-ish but groovy "Gumbo Variations". Admittedly, there are few instrumental albums out there that snag me, what with lack of vocal hooks to go by, et cetera. However, Hot Rats is a great, enjoyable record, and one that would appeal to me as much as any Beatles or Bowie. (Although critically, because of the slightly weaker "It Must Be a Camel" and "Little Umbrellas", it earns an 8 in comparison to those 10s...oh, well).

Jason Saenz <> (27.07.2004)

Just for your information the woman on the cover of Hot Rats' is Christine Frka. She was one of the baby-sitters for Frank's kids and a member of the GTO's (Girls Together Outrageously),"groupie group" that Frank had produced an album for.  She also recommended that Frank record Alice Cooper. She died of an overdose sometime in the '70's. This album is one of Zappa's best (at least jazz-wise), people who don't even like Zappa like this album (yeah, I read that on the new Rykodisc catalog), Beefheart does a vocal number on WILLIE THE PIMP wich isnt that bad, but what really matters here to me is LITTLE UMBRELLAS, what a beautiful peice of music. There is a little filler in each song but it still doesnt ruin anything at all, I would rate this a little bit higher.

Matt(the great)Byrd <> (13.07.2005)

I only have an unlistened-to copy of Freak Out! besides Hot Rats in the HUGE Frank Zappa catalogue, I'll just say that. I have to say, though, this album blew me away!!!! I've never really said that! BORING!!?? This is exciting! More so than Purple Rain or Thriller or Born In The U.S.A.! Hot Rats is in my top ten, you know, with Pet Sounds, Songs In The Key Of Life, Born To Run (ahem), and Blonde On Blonde? EVERY tune is great. I seriously think that if you don't like one of the songs it's because you haven't really listened to it, maybe you've given it a few passing listens, but you gotta really listen. 'Peaches En Regalia' is a grand instrumental but the other ones on here compare, 'Son Of Mr. Greene Genes' RULES!! I think we have a Frank Zappa fanatic in the making here.


<> (01.04.2000)

I see you finally got around to picking up Burnt Weeny Sandwich. And I see you were duly impressed. What'd I tell ya George? So was it worth the price or what? "Aybe Sea" is truly awesome, ain't it?

Great review man, I'm with you totally on this one.

PS : <For me, Sandwich is an even more attractive piece of music than Hot Rats (no kidding - I do realise I'm alone on that one, though).> actually, you're not entirely alone... I agree with you there too. I think Burnt Weeny Sandwich blows Hot Rats clear out of the water. There's just no comparison at all, Sandwich is vastly superior in my book.

Ben Greenstein <> (27.04.2000)

I guess it is stronger than, or at least as strong as, Hot Rats... There's no "Peaches," but the whole thing flows really well. The doo-wop songs are placed perfectly so that you're never tempted to take it too seriosly, and the classical stuff is REALLY interesting. I wasn't expecting to, but I really have to give this a ten. I have no choice.

Alexey Provolotsky <> (30.09.2005)

This record came as a great relief after Zoot Allures. Except for the cover, there is nothing wrong with this album. The most important thing about BWS is that one can never be done with it, it always sounds interesting. There is some immortal intrigue about these instrumentals. Some of them are not very striking melodically (and none of them is striking lyrically, mind you), but like a good book, they have something in them that always slips away from you. I wouldn’t say that I’m in love with this album, though. For example, I’m not a fan of inserting in a record small throwawayish numbers that make a record sound like a collection of outtakes. But hey! What is good, is, actually, very good. Sure enough, the best track here is the 18-minute long “The Little House”, that is absolutely thrilling. It’s very diverse and has so many really breathtaking moments, that you’ll want to listen to the song more and more. Plus, “Aybe Sea” features some gorgeous playing and lovely melody; and the covers that start and finish the record, are quite amusing.

I wouldn’t even call Burnt Weeny Sandwich a great record (anything higher than an average 12 won’t do), but there is something more important about this album. Yeah, something that is more important than greatness.


Ben Greenstein <> (13.09.99)

I haven't heard most of the album yet, but I thought I would point out that R.W. Penniman is the artist more commonly referred to as Little Richard. The original version of "Directly From My Heart To You" is pretty cool, so I can't wait to hear Frank's take on it.

Also, I don't get how you can say that "My Guitar..." wouldn't stand out on any other Zappa album. I think it's his career peak! The complex middle section alone is enough to found a new religon on, but it's also surrounded by a great piece of rocking pop! I don't think he ever topped this one, except maybe with "Peaches En Regalia."

Dan Watkins <> (29.09.99)

Ah, this isn't an easy album to listen to. About half of the album is pretty cool, but the other half is harsh, jazz improv. Most of the cool stuff is on side two, but side one has its moments too. Like George said, this is an album for the experienced fan, but even I have trouble listening to some of it.

<> (06.04.2000)

A couple months back, I sent e-mail about your Lumpy Gravy review where I compared Lumpy Gravy to Weasels Ripped My Flesh. I busted on Weasels for being incomprehensible and claimed it was probably the worst "60's Zappa" album. Yes, I'm fully aware that the release date of Weasels was 1970, but remember that all the stuff on Weasels was actually recorded from 1967-69, which is why I am calling it "60's Zappa".

Anyway, over the last couple months I've been playing Weasels Ripped My Flesh more often, and I'm gaining a newfound respect for it. I think the main reason I didn't like it at first was because it's such an eccentric recording, even for Zappa. After listening to the way 'Didja Get Any Onya' plods along for nearly 7 minutes and go through one weird change after another... or the way 'Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Sexually Aroused Gas Mask' disintegrates midway through the song into hysterical laughter and something that sounds like Luciano Pavarotti with his balls in a vice... or the bizarre improvisations of 'The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue'... or the horrendous, discordant wall of noise that is the title track... my first impression of Weasels was that Frank was just goofing around on this one (although it was one of the most amusing album titles the guy ever came up with, and I still remember the name of this album from way back when I was a kid).

But then I reminded myself that Frank never just "goofed around". No matter how silly he was with the lyrics to some of his songs, he was always serious about the music itself. So I gave Weasels Ripped My Flesh another chance, and I'm glad I did, because it's not half-bad.

Sugar Cane Harris does an impressive job on violin during 'Directly From My Heart To You'... but then Harris rarely if ever lets you down when he's got a violin in his hands. 'My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama' is one of the highpoints of Zappa's early years, if only for the awesome guitar solo which everyone and their mama seems to love. 'Oh No' and 'The Orange County Lumber Truck' are two more really good, really solid tracks. And obviously I like 'Dwarf Nebula Processional March' And 'Dwarf Nebula' at least a little, since I took my screen name from this song -- yes George, imagine that. Even the title track kinda grows on you after a few listens, if only for the sheer auda city of the whole thing (chuckle).

I actually think the overall rating of 9 (on your 1-15 scale) was about right for this album... a 9 or maybe a weak 10. It will never be my favorite Zappa album, but it's still quite a respectable piece of musical creativity. You just have to remember that most Zappa albums, being Zappa albums, are a combination of both complex musical structures and sudden atonal weirdness, and Weasels is a little heavy on sudden atonal weirdness. Still, it's not as bad as I used to think it was. It's just hard to get into the first time you play it, because everything blends together and leaves a blurry afterimage in your mind. It's a deceptive album -- you have to give it a few listens to get any kind of true feel for it. However, I want to point out that Weasels Ripped My Flesh could never compare to something like Burnt Weeny Sandwich. Now that's the album you REALLY want to buy if you want the best of 60's era Zappa. It's another circa-1970 album of late 60's stuff, like Weasels, only better. "Theme From Burnt Weeny Sandwich" easily gets my vote as the best Zappa song of the 60's... "Aybe Sea" probably being my second choice.

Ben Greenstein <> (27.04.2000)

Another album that I really shouldn't like but do. The whole thing is a big tribute to Eric Dolphy (not just that one song!), but the grooves are, in my opinion, more accesible than on a genuine album by the guy. I still don't get why John Coltrane doing this stuff is "respectable," but Zappa doing it is wierd. Ah, well. Every time I feel the album is getting to be too much for me, on comes "My Guitar" (that middle part certainly is the greatest piece of recorded music ever) and the "Oh No/Orange County Lumber Truck" suite, and I'm in heaven. A high eight.

Philip Maddox <> (25.06.2000)

I like this album way more than I should. I guess it's because all of the actual songs are great, and the weirdness is actually pretty good for once. 'Oh No' in particular stands out as a great song. I like the orchestral versions on Lumpy Gravy better, but it isn't buried by 20+ minutes of nonsense here. 'My Guitar' and 'Ornage County' are cool, too. Of the weirder songs, I agree that 'Toads' is by far the best - that opening kinda reminds me of 'Peaches En Regalia'. 'Didja get any Onya?' is ok, too. The rest certainly isn't bad, but it's hardly great. It just kinda floats by. I give it a high 7.

Oh, and the Little Richard cover is cool, too.

Berger <> (16.01.2002)

The album cover was ahead of its time, it showed us Ray Liotta's face years before he grew up to look like that!

Ryan Maffei <> (30.03.2002)

I'm more inclined to appreciate the wierder stuff, so Weasels strikes me as more admirable than many (biased) critics make it out to be. While this isn't as all-out great as Burnt Weeny Sandwich, it's still great to hear the full Mothers lineup do their thangs in a variety of styles, and Zappa's more bizarre compositional side remains quite intriguing. "Didja Get Any Onya" and "Weasels", "Orange County Lumber Truck", and "Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue" are quite good, as are the stellar 'song' recordings, "Directly From My Heart To You" and "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama", a Frank jazz-rock classic that highlights the record for me. That said, there are a handful of missteps--"Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask" is an experimental work that nowhere near surpasses the Debussy work, and "Dwarf Nebula et cetera" is just ridiculous synth pratter, although an interesting precursor to (gulp) video game music. An 8, a low 'un.

Pete Schlenker <> (05.08.2002)

Absolutley one of my favorite Zappa albums. When I was first getting into FZ in college, I stopped by one of the local record shops, and under the "employee picks" some guy had picked Weasels. Let me tell you good people, that I'm sure someone brought it home, expecting to hear maybe some guitar blasts from hell or something, put it on, and about 30 seconds into "Didja Get Any Onya" and went "WHAT THE HIPPIE HELL IS THIS?!?!?". I talked with the guy for about 10 minutes, and he absolutely loved the album more than life itself. I had already gotten the album (I think I picked up another FZ album that day, maybe I was just in to see what they had) and had listened to the album MAYBE once all the way through, and I thought that "my guitar" was cool, but the rest were skippable. However, I stuck the album in my CD player, and walked around campus for like a week with it in there (I was feeling too lazy to change it, I guess), and feel in love with the album. I honestly think that it's one of the top 3 or 4 albums he made, and I love the late Mother's lineup here.... And the guitar work on "Get a Little", etc, can knock the socks off just about anything else that has been done in the past 20 years. Really. And George, as for "My Guitar Wants to Kill your Momma"? Try the "Beat the boots" Live at the Ark and hear it there. It's live Mothers from about the same time period as this stuff, but without overdubbing, etc. And it's great. The solo on "My Guitar" is great. (Can any other FZ fans back me on this one?)

But seriously, this album grows on you. The more I listen to it, the more I get out of it. I just picked it out of my collection and started listening to it, for the first time in years, and I still can go along with every note, etc on it. Great, great album.


Ben Greenstein <> (14.02.2000)

I agree on the eight. Some of the instrumentals are fantastic, like "Transylvania Boogie" and "Twenty Small Cigars," and the vocal tracks are all very first rate as well. "Would You Go All The Way" sometimes threatens to become my favourite, but "Tell Me You Love Me" is the defenite show-stopper. I'm not a huge fan of "Road Ladies," and this version of "Sharleena" (along with all other versions save Lost Episodes) does not cut the mustard with me. Still, a really fun album. Like I say, an eight.

Thomas M. Silvestri <> (07.10.2000)

The Turtles sing quite well on this album, which I like a lot even if it doesn't have the multi-dimensionality of the original Mothers. But as I recall it, Mothers fans' outrage over Flo and Eddie's joining the band stemmed mostly from (a) the fact that they didn't sound as cool as Ray Collins, and (b) the Turtles had been a joke to many people since that line on the inside cover of Freak Out, and folks just couldn't accept those former joke figures now going onstage with ol' Frank. It was probably the closest Zappa ever came to "selling out" -- meaning not very close!

P.S. to George: Not being American, the reference to the USO on "Would You Go All the Way" probably threw you, eh? The song is about a girl having to go out with a really square U.S. serviceman ("the Monster") or at least hypthothetically having to do so, and it asks the question of just "how far she would go" sexually on said undesirable date. ("Would you go all the way for the USA?/Would you go all the way for the USO?," etc.) Indeed, the real cleverness -- and pure Zappa-ness -- of the song is how it mixes, both lyrically and musically, two of his obsessions, namely cheap horror movies and anti-militarism.

Alexey Provolotsky <> (30.09.2005)

Probably I’m a very conservative kind of guy (especially) when it comes to music, but I think this is a mighty good album. It obviously sounds more conventional, more normal (if that’s a suitable word), if you want. And I like it. Sure, there’s not a single great song here, but are most of them good! The very first instrumental (“Transylvania Boogie”) is terribly engaging and so is the bluesy “Road Ladies”, which is very sloppy, but still amusing enough. Frankly, I don’t care that much for the short instrumentals (“Twenty Small Cigars”, “The Clap”), just because why should I, if they are so unimaginative. Also, the title track and that long “The Nancy And Mary Music” don’t do much for me, even though the latter becomes really driving and colourful after about four minutes (I agree, the drum solo is messy and not distinctive). But two thumbs up to the rest: those four remaining tracks are catchy, interesting and really funny. I may sound silly, but I especially adore that one about Rudy, which is such a stupid piece of fun.

I give this a steady 11, just because why shouldn’t I?!


Me <> (12.01.2003)

To really "get" this album, you have to have lived in the Los Angeles area around 1972. I did live there (still do) and I do "get" it. In my opinion, it was Zappa's best album.

You mentioned "The Jack-In-The-Box on Glenoaks". I've been there. Indeed, in the '70s, there was something next door, I don't know what it was, but it sure looked like someplace you should have found "Pools of old poison gas -- and obsolete germ bombs..." I have driven the road between "lovely Rosamond and Gorman"...I have not danced at the Cinegrill, but I did run an electronics store half a block from it for several years...By the way, in Hollywood there is a thriving Russian community...I have been to the Ralph's on Sunset...I watched millions of Zachary All commercials, and in my mind's eye I can still see Eddie, and yes, they did claim to have 60 tailors in the back room...I have been to every town mentioned on the album with the possible exception of Cheviot Hills...(I may have even been there, and just forgot)...I never went to El Monte Legion Stadium, but I used to drive by there daily...I could go on...

I recall seeing a copy of JABFLA for sale in some town in Missouri, I want to say Joplin, but I am not sure...I am sure most of the content would have gone right over the heads of anybody there...


Philip Maddox <> (26.06.2000)

This record isn't really bad, but it can be a bit boring at times. Actually, I really like the opening 'Big Swifty'. Even though it's a little too long, the melody is pretty cool, and the solos and playing are superb. It's my favorite Zappa long-jazz composition - it blows both 'King Kong' and 'The Gumbo Variations' away (though I've never heard The Grand Wazoo).

Unfortunatelly, the album lets down a bit after that - 'Your Mouth' and 'It Just Might Be a One Shot Deal' are decent blues/country excursions, but they're nowhere near being classics. They don't fit the mood of the rest of the record, though. The concluding title track doesn't do much for me either - it's not half as good as 'Big Swifty'. It just drags and drags and drags - it seems much longer than 'Big Swifty' even though it's actually about 6 minutes shorter. But again, it's not bad. I second the 7. Definately not a bad way to kill 40 minutes.

Mattias Lundberg <> (13.02.2002)

This is my favourite Zappa album from my favourite Zappa epoch. I haven't got all of his albums and since I appear to be the last person in the world to discover this new Mp3 thing, I haven't heard much of the stuff I haven't got. But believe me, I have meticulously approached Zappa from all angles and perspectives as regards to style and chronology, and this one is my favourite so far. The two long tracks are sheer bliss, I just love the brass playing and the energy offered by every single performer. Really impressive trumpet flutter-tongue on the last track. Where did he find these players ? The shorter track aren't bad either, really enjoyable for being Mr.Zappa. 'Your mouth' is the best blues I've ever heard from Zappa, and it features some great female vocals. I'd give this album a record rating of 10 or 11, I think.


Dan Watkins <> (09.09.99)

Uh-oh. A five? I'm not a big jazz fanatic either, but I LOVE THIS ALBUM!!!! I guess this is one that you'll either love or not like at all. I avoided the word "hate" because I think there are enough hooks here and there that could please your average rock album purchaser. I love everything on the album. A definite 10 in my book... hell, make that a 20. A small warning: if you don't like this one, you better stay away from Waka/Jawaka. It's pretty much in the same vein as this album.

<> (14.02.2000)

A five? Come on now. Just my humble opinion here, but I think the rating of five for The Grand Wazoo was about fifteen points too low. This is probably one of my three favorite Zappa albums. Believe it or not, I play this cd more than almost any other cd in my collection. And I don't mean my Zappa cd collection, I mean my ENTIRE cd collection, and that's not small.

I think I see what you were getting at when you condemned musical fusions. I do agree that attempts at fusion often muddle things up between "legitimate" genres like jazz and rock (although I think Steely Dan did a helluva good job). But I don't think this is the case with The Grand Wazoo. For starters, the title track is ambitious as all hell, absolutely monstrous experimentation, a bit long maybe but it never put me to sleep. For 'Calvin and His Next 2 Hitchhikers' (my favorite track on the album) has that creepy, spaced-out feel that epitomizes a lot of Zappa's best work -- between the ominous title and the mentally-unbalanced sounding TWANGGG! of the opening chords, Calvin sounds a little like what "serial killer theme music" might sound like, if you see what I'm saying, and all the atonal weirdness only adds to its overall charm. The beginning lyrics, "Where did they go? When did they come from?" still intrigue the hell out of me -- exactly who or what is Calvin, anyway???

'Cletus Awreetus Awrightus' is just so damn enthusiastic that you gotta like it, and that single unforgettable moment when the guitar comes in during the middle of 'Eat That Question' has to be one of the sweetest moments in the history of music. About the only song on the album I'm luke-warm on is 'Blessed Relief'... which at times wanders into something like you'd expect to hear playing in the background during a love scene in Shaft. But even this song has its moments.

I can understand why a lot of people say "dude, if you don't like this one you won't like Waka/Jawaka" because they are similiar. But the funny thing is, I totally love The Grand Wazoo and I'm not entirely crazy about Waka/Jawaka. No accounting for taste I guess. I realize this response was probably too long for you to post on your site, understandably, but I really can't say enough good things about this album. I'd suggest giving it another listen or three, it's the kind of album that grows on ya over time.

Ben Greenstein <> (14.02.2000)

Well, I like it. Not as much as most fans, but I still think that it's often fascinating and rarely boring. I don't understand where you get off insulting the title track - that's the best song on here! I give it an eight.

Jason Saenz <> (13.08.2004)

Come on George, this is a hidden treasure type album, really good and funny as well. George it's ok by me if you are not a Zappa hardcore fan but I do think that you should try this album one last time, think of complexity, think of Erroneous on bass, think of Aynsley Dunbar on drums, think of jazz, think of George Duke on keyboards, think of Zappa composing this mean motherfucker, what? still nothing? Skip to "EAT THAT QUESTION" again and then go back to "THE GRAND WAZOO" but listen carefully. Well if that doesnt work, I guess there's no hope of you ever giving this record a higher rating.


Dan Watkins <> (09.09.99)

What can I say? It's one of Frank's most well-know albums. The whole album is pretty good. Those who don't like guitar solos need to check this one out. Every solo is great. My only complaint is that the album is too short. Same thing for Apostrophe.

Ben Greenstein <> (10.10.99)

Zappa's most song-based album, it's chock full of classics, most of which are incredible. In fact, I think that every song except "50/50" is on some compilation or another. Personal favourites are "Camarillo Brillo" (awesome melody, and the best dwarf-barking I've heard yet), "Montana" (which is hilarious, and not as unmelodic as you seem to think), and "I'm The Slime" (Frank's first expiriment with rap - and years before anyone else did the genre!). The licks in "Zomby Woof" and the awesome "Dirty Love" remind me of Led Zeppelin (only better), and, although I'm not overly fond of the disco monologue section of "Dina-Moe Humm," I really like the first couple of minutes - especially the "you ain't been to it" part. A near-perfect album - somewhere in between an eight and a nine.

Philip Maddox <> (08.07.2000)

I like this one a good bit - an 8, if you will. 'Camarillo Brillo' is an ok opener, but not really great. And 'Zombie Woof' has some slow parts in it. Other than that, it's hard to go wrong with this one. 'I'm The Slime' and 'Dirty Love' groove like nobody's business, 'Montana' has some of the most blistering guitar solos ever, and 'Dinah Moe Humm' is hilarious! I even like the middle bit - the lyrics are funny, and the rhythm sucks you in. Like I said, an 8. This is certainly more normal than other Zappa albums, but it's still hard to call this "normal" - 'Dirty Love' is about sex with poodles, for god's sake! And doesn't that middle part of '50/50' sound like the Simpsons theme song?

Mike DeFabio <> (09.09.2000)

I'd give this a somewhat lower rating than Apostrophe. 'Dinah Moe Humm' annoyingly predicts his late seventies "dirty sex period." Is that supposed to be funny? I thought it was funny at one point in time, but people, I've become a more mature human being since then, and I've come to realize that that song is really boring and stupid. And this is coming from a guy who still listens to the Low Maintenance Perennials. Anyway, 'Montana' is an absolute classic. The first time I heard that song (on the radio!) I knew I had to find it. 'I'm The Slime' is great too. I'd give it a real low eight.

Mark Blakemore <> (27.03.2001)

I haven't got a completist Zappa collection but from what I've heard I think this is my favourite album featuring his funkiest and Jazziest line up. I would'nt say the whole album is consistent but I think there are less misses here than on some of his other works. The horns also gel really well with the rest of the line-up and the rhythm section can certainly kick up a tight funk-rock groove. I'd also pick 'I'm the Slime', '50-50' and 'Zomby Woof' out as the key tracks on the album. 'Slime' has some great lyrics and great vocal work.

However the centrepiece of the album has got to be '50-50'. I don't think there are 3 better solos on most other albums - never mind within the same jam. The first one features the fiery talents of George Duke on what sounds like a suped up - fairground organ. As keyboards solos go its got plenty of fire - a genuine 'rock' solo. This is followed by an amazing electric violin solo which lays down the baton for Zappa'a rather tasty - fast picked lead.

Only tracks I'm not that keen on are 'Camarillo Brillo' and 'Dinamo Humm' . Both tracks I don't find that amusing and I don't think musically they offer much in return either.

'Montana' has a nice laid - back groove but I prefer the rockier and Funnier version on You can't do that....vol 2 that combines the track with 'Whipping Post' to create the superior 'Whipping Floss' remix. Very funny and very quick.

I'd give the album 9/10.

Jason Saenz <> (20.08.2004)

I feel a little bit guilty about writing this, since I consider myself a "diehard hardcore" whatever Zappa fan, and I should be praising and laughing my ass of with this, but I will not do that, I will be objective even though we "fans" are not really allowed to do that. The reason I am writing this is that I have this album just taking up room in my collection, I wish this album was one of my all time fav's but it isnt, everytime I go through my Zappa collection to choose my daily dose of music, this album just like pops up, like if it was wanting me to play it but I refuse to do so. Now talking about music and, leaving behind my own personal feelings, I really dont get it, no jazz no instrumentals, just a bunch of uninteligent sleazy sex songs, not funny at all. There is some good guitaring once in a while but thats it.People: Buy this recored for collection purposes only, it has some good artwork on it.

Alexey Provolotsky <> (30.09.2005)

Never in my life would I call this a normal album. But by Zappa’s standards it certainly is. These songs have structures, more or less adequate titles. Sure, we still have crazy vocals and beautiful lyrics, but a man can’t (and shouldn’t) change completely. Let’s take Zappa as he is.

I should say that the album grew on me. When I heard it for the first time I only liked (or it’s better to say fell in love with) the fantastic upbeat “Camarillo Brillo”, a very effective and memorable track with some great piano. I also thought “Dirty Love” was decent (I believe they should have sung it more or less conventionally). But now I like all the first five songs here and one minute of the sixth (then I can easily turn the record off). Some words about “Dinah-Moe-Hum”. The beginning of the song is truly amazing (a catchy melody with some pretty bass lines), but the rest is SO DISGUSTING, you won’t believe it until you hear it with your own ears. I can stand different kinds of lyrics (after all, I didn’t say anything about “Dirty Love”), but these are unbearable. How one can laugh at them is way beyond my comprehension. But maybe it’s just that my sense of humour sucks, I don’t know. Anyway, those first tracks have all quite amazing melodies and equally wonderful guitar solos (“50/50” comes to mind). As for the closing “Montana”, it’s absolutely undistinguishable and after several listens I have no idea how it goes.

At first I would have given the record a very sad rating, but now it’s a definite low 11!


Ben Greenstein <> (15.11.99)

I'd give it a six as well. I really, really like "Cosmik Debris," "Uncle Remus," and "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow/Nanook Rubs It" (which is like a whole new world if you've heard the single version), and the rest of the songs are certainly okay, but as a whole it does nothing. Just as you think it's about to get exciting, the first side ends, leaving you with only four songs. And then BOOM - it's over. An overlong, pretentious rock opera would have been better. As it is, it just sounds half-baked.

Eric Kline <> (03.02.2000)

"not very solid musically"?

what the hell does that mean?

are you one of those music tech idiots who listen to zappa because your jaded teachers at the tech told you to?

this is zappa's most straightforward, accessible release. and it is also, easily, one of his best.

recorded with his best band (god bless george duke and ruth underwood), it is actually very understated and concise. funny and catchy. this is frank's finest moment of melding rock, jazz, humor, satire and yellow snow. it is also his best sounding album.

this is the one zappa album that people who don't dig his "out there" stuff would like.

Simply, it is one of the better rock albums of the '70's.

Ben Greenstein <> (27.04.2000)

Scratch my previous comment. What the hell was I thinking? This gets a very, very high nine. "Father O'Blivion" kicks!

Philip Maddox <> (26.06.2000)

Hey! I disagree on this one. I think this is a great album. It was the first complete Zappa album I ever hear (it was on a twofer with Overnite Sensation - I borrowed it from a friend. For some reason, they put Apostrophe on first, even though it came out second). This record is chock full of great musical ideas. I LOVE the entire first side, in particular. The 'Yellow Snow' suite is total nonsense, but it's funny, catchy, and EXTREMELY well played. I find myself muttering the words to myself all day. Awesome, awesome stuff. Then comes 'Cosmik Debris', which I think is great, too. The lyrics are again hilarious, and the blues tone to the song fits perfectly. It always get's my head a bobbin'. Side 2 isn't quite as good, though - it starts out strong with the catchy 'Excentrifugal Forz', but then becomes the long, mostly boring instrumental title track. It's well played, but never goes anywhere and basically just bores me. It's not bad, mind you, just not that great. 'Uncle Remus' comes up after that with a groovy soul vibe and more funny lyrics ("I can't wait till my 'fro is full grown!"). 'Stink Foot' is ok, but I don't think it's the best song on here. It's still good, but it's sure no 'Trouble Every Day', like you said. I'd give it an 8 - a point off for being too short, and a point of for the title track. I play this album a whole lot, still. It's both funny and well crafted - what more could you want?

Mike DeFabio <> (09.09.2000)

Great, great album. So catchy! And funny! I'm sorry, the concept of yellow snow does strike me as screamingly funny. This guy had a way with words. The suite on side one is hilarious. It's too short, but it's better to have a great short album with no filler than a two disc set with a half hour of good material (ahem... Joe's Garage.) Try to find the out of print version, with Overnite Sensation tacked on to the end (aye, aye, that's the one I have! Youpee! - G. S.).

And I'm pretty sure that weird guitar sound in Stink Foot is created by means of an envelope filter.

Oh, I forgot! This album, in places, sounds a whole lot like what Steely Dan was doing at the time. That insane chord progression at the end of 'St. Alphonzo's Pancake Breakfast' in particular. It sounds like a cross between that synth riff at the end of 'King of the World' (if you've heard that song) and the main melody of ELP's 'Karn Evil 9: Second Impression'. Just an observation.

Mattias Lundberg <> (13.02.2002)

Bruce's bass playing on the title track is brill, I can't see why everyone seems to think that this jam is boring. 'Uncle Remus' has to be the best soul essai I've ever heard (I'm not really into Stax Volt and Motown stuff), I'm pretty convinced that George Duke wrote that whole song; it's so 'black', if you see what I mean. "We look pretty sharp in our clothes..".... I like it. 'Cosmic Debris' is also good but this version sounds bland if you've ever heard the one that's on the 'Does Humour [Oh, sorry: 'Humor'(can't you see how silly that spelling looks ?)] Belong in Music' Video from 86. I enjoy all the tracks but 'Stink Foot' and I like the storyline as well, so I guess that we have reached a perfect disagreement here.


Ben Greenstein <> (27.04.2000)

Ehh... not as good as you say it is, but still really awesome. "Echidna's Arf" is good music to blast out of your window in a residential zone, and "Penguin In Bondage" really should have been recorded in a studio. Would have sounded even better. But a few songs are boring. So I give it a low eight, which is still a pretty good score!

Ben Dominici <> (27.08.2006)

In my opinion, this is the best album Zappa ever made without the original Mothers Of Invention. Who cares if it's live? First of all, a bands live albums can sometimes be better than their studio albums. ("Live At Leeds", anyone?). Second of all, he never recorded studio versions of most of these songs, and they all rule. Also, I agree with George: This was the tightest band that Zappa ever had, which makes me often forget that I'm listening to a live album in the first place.

Anyway, there's not a weak track on here, (the first two songs, "Penguin In Bondage" and "Pygmy Twylyte" serve as a great intro) and the instrumental passages are amazing. I think that Frank's solo on "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?" might just be his best, but I'm not sure. Also, Frank's comments throughout are goofy and fun, and I'm glad that he left them on the album. The whole thing almost makes me feel like I'm AT this concert, and what an intensely enjoyable concert it is. All people even slightly interested in Zappa should have this.


Dan Watkins <> (09.09.99)

I love it. 'Inca Roads', 'Andy', 'Sofa', 'Florentine Pogan', and 'Can't Afford No Shoes' are all great tunes. No complaints here. I give it a nine.

Ben Greenstein <> (23.09.99)

I disagree (surprise!). I think that this album catches Frank at his most complex and wierdest. Sure, I prefer songs like "Camarillo Brillo" which have really good, solid melodies, but this album is like a milestone in "freak out" music. I agree about "Inca Roads" - parts of that one completely blow - but "Florentine Pogen" and "Andy" are great! I also love the more poppy ones - "San Ber'dino" has an awesome guitar lick, and "Po-jama People," while the solo goes on for a bit too long, is still really groovy. And how can you dis "Evelyn"? A throwaway, sure, but a funny one. I would probably only give this album an eight, though, because I really hate that first tune.

Joshua Fiero <> (03.01.2000)

Interesting interpretation of "Po-Jama People," but according to Zappa himself, the song is about going on tour with all the professional jazz players who recorded Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo with him. Ya see, they went to sleep after their concerts, and FZ was used to his band members partying, drinking, screwing--you know, giving him things to sing about. And, as regards the ongoing "Inca Roads" debate--I think it rocks. But hey, I can definitely understand how some folks would find the tune insufferable, so go figure.

Ben Greenstein <> (01.11.2000)

Another change of opinion. This is the absolute best Zappa album (although that is a rather close contest). "Inca Roads" is fantastic! The whole thing is fantastic!

Al Brooks <> (16.04.2004)

The second-to-last track on One Size Fits All, "Andy" is real fine ('it was sublime, Andy Devine...but it was the wrong kind'). The last few minutes of the opening track 'Inca Roads' is exciting as the synthesizer kicks in, as well as slightly speeded-up vocals from FZ and Ruth Underwood that are rapid-fire to begin with ('guacamole queen, guacamole queen, guacamole queen...').


Dan Watkins <> (29.09.99)

Well, I didn't like this one at all when I first heard it. I just hadn't had any exposure to Captain Beefheart's vocals other than 'Willie The Pimp' on Hot Rats. Indeed, Beefheart's vocals do sound bad here... worse than usual.

In fact, I heard he was having trouble with alcohol at the time, which I'm sure was probably a mjor contribution to his bad voice around that era. Anyway, I did grow to like the album. There isn't a song on the album that don't like. It's a pretty fun album. 'Advance Romance' gets a little draggy at times, but the vocals are fun. And they stole poor George's watch like they always do.

Ben Greenstein <> (27.04.2000)

One more point for me, 'cuz I love "Debra Kadabra." (that was when I still rated the album as a six, so I've upped Ben on that one! - G.S.) Wierd, but with lots of cool melodic bits that jump out rather than bore me. And "Muffin Man" is a really great song. "Carolina Hardcore Ecstacy" certainly is a rewrite of my beloved "Camarillo Brillo," but a good one.

Alexey Provolotsky <> (30.09.2005)

How much bizarreness can you eat at a time? If much, go and buy this thing right now. It’s an ugly mix, Zappa and Captain Beefheart. In fact, it’s so ugly that I always want Zappa to appear more often. ‘Cause when Captain Beefheart is singing I tend to ask myself: “What the @#$%?!?” It’s true to say that only one half of this album is listenable (but what is listenable isn’t always good, you know). What I actually like to listen to again and (probably!) again are “Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy”, which is melodic and has some lovely (no irony!) singing, “Poofter’s Froth Wyoming” and “Muffin Man” (the refrain is unforgettable). Frankly, I don’t care that much for the rest: most of it is weirdness for the sake of weirdness.

It COULD be a ten overall, but gets a healthy nine instead.


Dan Watkins <> (09.09.99)

Cool. Most die-hard Zappa fans don't like it much, I always did. My only disagreement is that I don't think 'the Torture Never Stops' is that great. The song is okay, but the S&M screams get on my nerves. However, I do think this is the best version of the song (Well, the version on Thing-Fish has a pretty cool middle section that's not on this version). 'Wind Up Working In A Gas Station' is my favorite! I love those corny falsetto vocals! The one's here even beat Studio Tan's 'Let Me Take You To The Beach'. The guitar tracks are cool too. 'Disco Boy' is classic Zappa. Not a bad starting place for the new Zappa fan.

Ben Greenstein <> (27.04.2000)

Maybe a really low eight, because "Torture" simply takes too long to go nowhere. It's atmospheric, though, and the album has "Disco Boy" on it! Do you understand how great a song "Disco Boy" is? Probably not! Thank God it was almost a hit! "Mrs Pinky" and "Wonderful Wino" are great, too. I love the line about pooping - it makes the song feel very personal.

Philip Maddox <> (26.06.2000)

At the risk of sounding like an idiot, I hate this record. The album sounds like it's trying to be a "generic" rock record, but it doesn't really work as one. With the exception of 'Wind Up Workin' in a Gas Station', these songs have a negative amount of energy. They all just sort of plod along. 'The Torture Never Stops' is ok, but lasts for WAY too long - it's definitely the best song here, but I'm still not crazy about it. 'Ms. Pinky' sounds ok, but is really repetitive and I usually end up changing the track about halfway through. 'Disco Boy' is ok, but Zappa's voice doesn't work at all on it - in fact, Zappa's voice doesn't fit the feel of this record at all. It sounds like he's talking through the album (like Apostrophe), but, again, without any emotion or energy (unlike Apostrophe, which I still really like). The guitar solos are pretty good technically, but they don't offer enough energy to merit listening to them again. I give this record a VERY low 4. For a "normal" FZ rock record, give me Overnite Sensation any day.

Steve Hatton <> (03.04.2004)

No one mentions 'Black Napkins'.

This is one of the most expressive, EMOTIONAL (unusual for Zappa - inspite of his tremendous guitar playing, unequalled even today), of blues playing, executed with the Zappa 'Sneer' - superb.

Come one everyone wake up!

Alexey Provolotsky <> (30.09.2005)

Shit! This is shit! You know what I’ve noticed? Frank is a big cheater. He somehow limits your requirements and you, while being in that Zappaworld, start to appreciate some very SILLY things that his weirdness offers you (I hope that wasn’t very twisted, it’s just difficult to put in words some things that you have in your head). This record, for example, is tremendously uninteresting. I haven’t heard that many Zappa’s albums, but I’m already not interested in Zoot Allures (I hope you hear what I’m saying). What’s that great about this record? “Gas Station” starts fine, but becomes just an ordinary Zappa song after the first 30 seconds. Aren’t you fed up with such stuff? Then there is the fine intriguing “The Torture Never Stops”. No, it’s obviously overlong, but there’s some spooky charm about it. Finally, “Disco Boy” is rather a melodic piece of fun. That’s it. And I have no time for the rest. Okay, some of the remainder have good guitar solos, but I refuse to buy Zappa’s records (only) for good guitar solos. I can do with J.J. Cale chewing the same gum, but Frank can’t be treated like that.

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