FRANK ZAPPA — One Size Fits All (as Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention)

Jazz music community with review and forums

FRANK ZAPPA - One Size Fits All (as Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention) cover
4.51 | 44 ratings | 5 reviews
Buy this album from MMA partners

Album · 1975


A1 Inca Roads 8:45
A2 Can't Afford No Shoes 2:37
A3 Sofa No. 1 2:38
A4 Po-Jama People 7:38
B1 Florentine Pogen 5:23
B2 Evelyn, A Modified Dog 1:05
B3 San Ber'dino 5:51
B4 Andy 6:03
B5 Sofa No. 2 2:38

Total Time 42:58


- Frank Zappa / guitars vocals
- George Duke / keyboards synthesizers vocals
- Napoleon Murphy Brock / flute tenor sax vocals
- Chester Thompson / drums
- Tom Fowler / bass
- Ruth Underwood / chromatic percussion
- James 'Bird Legs' Youman / bass
- Johhny 'Guitar' Watson / vocals
- Bloodshot Rollin' Red / harmonica

About this release

DiscReet DS 2216 (US)

Thanks to EntertheLemming for the addition and snobb for the updates


More places to buy metal & FRANK ZAPPA music

  • CDUniverse - Specializing in the sale of domestic and imported music CDs and Imports


Specialists/collaborators reviews

Something about this album has always made it stand out to me over the rest of Zappa's huge discography. It is hard to explain the difference, but this album has a real sense of joy and features the sort of creativity that only happens when a group of people are having a blast working together. 'Overnight Sensation' also touches on some interesting musical ground for Frank. This album came out when certain fusion and progressive rock bands were starting to cross over into each other's territory, while at the same time some of the more ambitious funk bands were also mixing both fusion and prog-rock into their musical vision as well. Frank and his cohorts take in this musical environment and re-process it providing us with the missing link between Yes and EW&F, while also touching on Weather Report, Stravinsky, Gentle Giant and Funkadelic.

The album opens with Inca Roads, which starts like a Weather Report/EW&F tribute/satire with the brilliant George Duke supplying the classic 70s style RnB falsetto vocals that EW&F made famous. After this, the song goes into a dizzying array of styles that mixes progressive rock with standard Zappa silliness and includes a section that gives Duke a chance to play an intense kybd solo over a hyper jazz-fusion groove. Throughtout this album Zappa'a sidemen, such as Duke, Napolean Murphy Brock and Johnny Guitar Watson help provide the voices, humor and good vibes that help Frank connect with that Funkadelic styled sarcastic funk that was so big at this time.

Speaking of Funkadelic, the next song, Can't Afford No Shoes, does a pretty good job of capturing thier old school anti-disco tounge-in-cheek funky RnB. Next up on this album is Sofa No. 1, a beautiful gospel tinged progressive rock ballad that only seems a bit ironic because you know it is Zappa. Side one closes with Pojama People, a song that features a text book example of what a two chord rock jam should sound like. Drummer Chester Thompson deserves a lot of credit for keeping the energy pumping on this one with his constant rhythmic variations, while Frank rises to the challenge with one of his best solos ever. Prior to the making of this record Frank had already established himself as a formidable guitarist, but on Pojama People he seems to have a epiphanic breakthrough and plays like a man possessed.

Side two opens with Florentine Pogan, another massive musical collage that mixes 70s rock, Zappa silliness, classic progressive rock and those faux EW&F vocals again. The next song, Evelyn ... is a short bit of silliness that is forgetable, let's move on.

San Ber'dino opens as a 70s boogie rock number with some Zappa styled progressive rock interjections. The opening is nice, but this song really takes off when they hit a groove and the one and only Johnny Guitar Watson steps up to the mic. If you have never heard Watson sing then you are in for a real treat. Johnny is a blues singer from the 50s and has a voice and vibe that does not exist anymore. Kudos to Frank for bringing this legend into the studio and recording one of the finest angry/sarcastic/funny jams ever.

The next song, Andy, continues with that mix of progressive rock and progressive RnB that makes up so much of this album. The icing on the cake on this number is yet another appearence by the legendary Mr Watson. The album closes with a vocal reprise of Sofa No 1 called Sofa No 2. The added faux operatic vocals are both sarcastic and moving at the same time, sheer genius.

This is the one Zappa album that I never get tired of and it hasn't aged a bit in the 30 years since it came out. Frank is great on this one, but much credit should be given to his sidemen (and woman) who bring so much to this project, especially George Duke who's voice, humor and warm personality permeate this album.
The Limbo Variations (Frank, Incense and Mirth)

I had dismissed Zappa long ago as the 'smart arse's smart arse' until I accidentally stumbled upon a transcription of his statement before congress from 1985 in response to attempts by the PMRC to instigate a ratings system for all rock albums with regards the suitability of their lyrics for children. Much to my surprise, his comments revealed a mature, witty and responsible individual who had thought deeply about the perils of censorship for an industry he clearly held in disdain but still felt compelled to protect the rights of its artists. Zappa may have considered Sheena Easton and Prince's projected tantric offspring to be the beneficiaries of a ban on their parents pillow talk but he defended their right to free expression regardless:

The PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real benefits to children, infringes the civil liberties of people who are not children, and promises to keep the courts busy for years, dealing with the interpretation-al and enforce-mental problems inherent in the proposal's design. It is my understanding that, in law, First Amendment Issues are decided with a preference for the least restrictive alternative. In this context, the PMRC's demands are the equivalent of treating dandruff by decapitation. (Frank Zappa)

This is a political act in stark contrast to Frank's routine dissent which up to that point amounted to merely rubbing the noses of middle class US suburbia in their own clandestine droppings for our entertainment. There are so many different faces to the perennially moustachioed one that with over 60 albums to choose from, which Frank you meet beneath the covers is about as predictable as a 5 headed blind date. I find his contemporary classical music wilfully impenetrable, his scatological pastiches to be scribbled prurient adolescence, his musique concrete works don't and his feature length movies strike me as a slapstick and plagiarised take on 'Dada and Surrealism grab a burger from the Psychedelicatessen'. Which of course leaves One Size Fits All where we experience the fusioneering Frank who for me, is representative of Mr Z at his most endearing and loveable.Together with Hot Rats and Zoot Allures these are the only records I ever find myself playing. This is neither 'Rock from Heaven' or 'Jazz from Hell' and occupies a middle ground where the giggling schoolboy is expelled, the contrapuntal sadist is at the very least on a Roman holiday while the adventurous and irreverent composer/musician holds sway.

Inca Roads - One of the most enduring of his compositions that landscapes quite ingeniously a forbidding developmental structure beneath an accessible and attractive surface.The first hints of the subject matter are revealed by Duke's sci-fi synth atmospheres which paint suitably gaudy technicolor images of Martians invading the earth under the command of Emperor Sun Ra. Zappa speculates if aliens could have assisted the ancient Inca people of the Andes in their incredible feat of construction and although you know he doesn't buy this hokey for a second, he loves the Von Daniken storytelling opportunities it affords immensely:

Did a vehicle Did a vehicle, Did a vehicle Fly along the mountains And find a place to park itself Or did someone Build a place To leave a space For such a vehicle to land?

Like many of his 'large scale' melodies, this one does not resolve itself over a couple of bars as is the norm for rock. We are so used to bite sized packets of information in popular music that when anyone steps outside this convention, we're left exposed as tone deaf budgies with A.D.D. Similar to classical Indian ragas, Frank's tunes are certainly not of the 'theme and variation' type so endemic in our culture and, as if things needed to be any harder, he has a consuming fetish for breaking up such lengthy strands of melody with unrelated short 'shocks' of dissonant frisson or musique concrete sound effects and tangential dialogue. I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds this irritating:

George Duke: This is such a beautiful melody, do you have to mess it up? Frank Zappa Yeah, but it needs some messing up

Napoleon Murphy Brock, George Duke and the composer all sing on this number but as to whose voice belongs to whom I'm really none the wiser. Zappa certainly exploits the 'other worldly' quality of Duke's analogue synths on the album and rarely have I heard similar devices receive such a pronounced role in his sound palette as they do here. Then something rather unusual occurs: Zappa plays a guitar solo using a tone that has body, texture and clear articulation. Normally I find his guitar timbre a brittle tinny froth that completely undermines his virtuosity on the instrument. Here he exploits the embouchure of a subtle wah-wah effect to create an exquisite lyrical solo that builds gradually in intensity all the while supported by some stellar bass playing which outlines and gently implies the harmonies without ever sacrificing the hypnotic pulse. This reciprocal dialogue is underpinned by the sparing groove of Chester Thompson who provides a salutary example of how a drummer can create space rather than just fill it.

The final section of the track veers headlong into an up-tempo electronic jazz hybrid featuring the marimba of Ruth Underwood (a brilliant and sympathetic player certainly, but Frank overcooks the chromatic percussion on practically everything I have ever heard that bears his name.) Still, say what you like about both Dylan and Zappa, at least they invented their own clichés (and Frank's are practically impossible to plagiarise without the hand and eye co-ordination of a contortionist ping pong world champion) Unfortunately when the vocals return in a different meter and faster tempo Zappa seems to get cold feet and the story lapses into one of his who dipped that hairy chick from Finland? in-jokes. Shame, as this is a number that otherwise represents everything commendable about the man and his music. (BTW I won't say who it was but his initials are C.H.E.S.T.E.R.)

Can't Afford No Shoes - Transparently silly but great fun all the same. Even on a joke at the expense of heavy rawk riff merchants you sense that Zappa is a little bit too fond of the thing he is lampooning for there ever to appear genuine vitriol in his delivery. He will also never be accused of ingratiating himself to a destitute and needy audience on this evidence either:

Hey anybody, Can you spare a dime? If you're really hurtin', a nickel would be fine

I suspect that the harmonica of 'Bloodshot Rollin Red' is a contractually expedient pseudonym for Captain Beefheart.

Sofa No 1 - has the stately swaying gait of gospel music but as if penned by either a defrocked or cross dressing priest who has pawned the collection plate to finance both his sling-back habits. There is something vaguely unwholesome cooking beneath those swishing vestments but Zappa defies my expectations by playing this one straight as a very beautiful piano dominated instrumental. My suspicions are not entirely unfounded as we shall discover later on.

Po Jama People - As a swipe at middle class mores this comes across as plain half hearted in the extreme. Frank sounds as bored as the people he ridicules and despite a grudgingly memorable chorus hook the whole undertaking is just gauche stereotyping. Since when did someone as avowedly anti establishment as Zappa allow himself to be hoisted by his own hippy petard? Their fans presumably found in the Mothers a kindred spirit, 'bright young thangs' who realised that people should not be judged solely on appearance (Man). So why this creaking excuse for the equation that dressing for bed makes you a square and unthinking conformist ready and willing to gun down the longhairs in their drug infested groovy love shacks? The fact that this song was seldom if ever played live on subsequent tours should tell you that even its author realised he had shot himself squarely in the foot.

Florentine Pogen - I can tell you that a pogen is a Swedish cookie but cannot find any reference to an importer in Italy. More fool me for taking Frank seriously I suppose. It hardly matters that this is verbal gobbledygook as the music is of such a high quality that singing the entire zip codes of Florence over same would have an identical effect. This is another example that like Inca Roads, has what could be described as a 'through composed' melody i.e. the habitually short thematic statements of popular and classical music which are subject to elaborate variations are dispensed with altogether. This is just one of the ways Zappa conspires to avoid what he surely felt was the burdensome gravitational pull of the diatonic key system. In other words, he treats chords merely as a means to 'colour' the melodic contour and thus frees himself from the requirement of harmonising a tune within conventional triad based devices to navigate to a predetermined tonic. (Guess that's what 'chromatic' originally meant?) If you play Em and Bm and whistle a certain tune over the top people might say, if they're old or drunk enough, hey that's Epitaph by Crimson ain't it? You can't do that with Frank's music which explains why you will seldom be regaled by Buskers from the FZ songbook.

Evelyn, A Modified Dog - Those of you who have heard Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire and survived the ordeal may detect a whiff of sprechstimme (spoken voice) in this. Rest easy however because Zappa's deadpan tone poem inhabits a cheerier and more melodic realm where his delivery for the most part is redolent of 'talking on pitch' as exemplified by Rex Harrison in the musical My Fair Lady (No I'm not gay) He does however run out of steam towards the end and his lyrics starts to crib from 'Beefheart for Dummies, lesson 1' - dazzle them with shadows:

Evelyn, a dog, having undergone Further modification Pondered the significance of short-person behaviour In pedal-depressed panchromatic resonance And other highly ambient domains. Arf she said

San Berdino - After the punishing but rewarding obstacle courses represented by the last two tracks it's something of a relief to inhabit more traditional territory. This is as conventional as any blues based boogie under the baton of a lover of the avant garde could reasonably be expected to approach. The track radiates fun in spades and carries several resilient vocal hooks and instrumental disembowelments of blues clichés along the way. Listen to the joy displayed by Zappa's hand picked band, who by this stage could play anything he cared to throw at them and return it with interest, getting 'down and dirty' on a pumping shuffle fade that would put the Allman Brothers to shame. For reasons I'm at a loss to explain I cannot help laughing audibly whenever I hear this line:

She lives in Mojave in a Winnebago His name is Bobby, he looks like a potato

Andy - Possibly as close as Zappa ever came to music that in places is traditional bombastic prog. George Duke's declamatory synths certainly contribute to that feel and I can even imagine someone like Yes tackling this number to impressive effect. However, before we all get carried away this is Frank Zappa remember? and he will not let 6 minutes pass without stamping his contrary carbon footprint on any 'eco friendly' piece of music. Once again the chromatic percussion of Ruth Underwood is everywhere and she starts to resemble a precocious toddler who insists that these 'pussy kiddies instruments' need some serious attitudinal correction. If Andy Devine is the actor typecast as the cowboy sidekick with that distinctive raspy voice, what on earth did he do to merit the caustic bile in these lines that relegate Po Jama People to a spat in the rumpus room?:

Is there anything good inside of you If there is, I really wanna know

Sofa No 2 - Just when you thought it safe to go back on the psychiatrist's couch. The Sofa No 1 music is reprised but this time the latent sedition is released in the rather disappointing form of 'Goons' style German language vocals. Perhaps I just don't get Zappa's humour but why is 'I am a sofa' sung in a schoolboy Teutonic accent deemed hilarious in some quarters?

Given the sheer mass of material that Zappa produced and contributed to in his lifetime, it's very difficult to form an overview of his music so I'm not even going to try as it would undermine the breadth, depth and scope of his undoubted talent.

I'm not a Zappa fan by any stretch of the imagination but this is my favourite album of his by quite a considerable distance.For this reviewer One Size Fits All captures a rare sincerity, a heartfelt anger and a strain of his humour I can at least enjoy.

Members reviews

'One Size Fits All' is known in the prog community as quintessential Zappa featuring some of his greatest compostions. One may look no further than the killer opener 'Inca Roads' with nice harmonies and an absolutely delirious instrumental break. There are massive lead guitar runs, manic keyboard work, and very odd quick tempered meters. It goes into overdrive towards the end with frenetic percussion and squelching synths, not to mention manic xylophones and a blitzkrieg of Magma like vocals at the end.

To follow this hard act is virtually impossible, but Zappa knocks out a nice short thing called 'Can't Afford No Shoes', with a cool groove, tremelo bar guitar vibrations, and silly off the wall vocals. Horrible clich' lyrics are well hidden by innovative structures, and a delightful heavy 70s riff.

'Sofa No. 1' is the sole instrumental but it is a class act with fine keyboard work, Zappa waxing eloquent on axe, and some madcap xylophone passages. 'Po-Jama People' is a hilarious stab at all those who wear pyjamas with comical lunacy in the lyrics department and musicianship. Zappa's guitar is demented brilliance, similar to 'Hot Rats', and the vox are low and derisive. This is how I love Zappa, with off the wall humour and genius musicianship; his lead solo is divine. 'Wrap em up, roll em up, get 'em out of my way!' sums it up.

'Florentine Pogen' is jazz fusion revved to the max, with dirty guitar riffs and nice buzz synths from Duke and solid gold brass with a mean streak. It has outbursts of circus sideshow music and glorious madness. 'Evelyn, A Modified Dog' is simply Zappa being Zappa, not much to write about, no great musicianship. 'San Ber'dino' is okay thanks to some fine harmonica blues and intense lead guitar. The gay lyrics are offensive but that's the way Zappaholics like it, though that ending drags on interminably. 'Andy' is better with some wonderful musicianship and quirky vox. The blazing guitars are heavy in places and the melodies are way off kilter. Duke has a field day on keyboards unleashing some of his best work, especially the passage at 3 minutes in. 'Sofa No. 2' closes it with the same melody as part one except now we have German lyrics, but this feels more opportunistic than inspired. This caps off what may be the best Mothers era Zappa album, that certainly is way better than some previous efforts, and more consistent, out of the box, and it is well worth indulging in with some of the Mothers' most famous material.
The zenith of the mid-1970s Mothers lineup finds Frank Zappa in a surreal mood as opposed to being preoccupied with the scatological subject matter that so often creeps into his discography. Armed with songs about Erich Von Daniken's crackpot Chariots of the Gods theory, economic crisis, B-movie cowboy actors, modified dogs and sofas, the Mothers present a jazz-rock tour de force, featuring guitar heroics (see Zappa's famed solo on Inca Roads), wild vocal harmonies (as on Can't Afford No Shoes), Ruth Underwood's amazing percussion skills and a top-notch performance from all concerned. The last studio album to bear the name of the Mothers (unless you count the part-live part-studio Bongo Fury) sees the erstwhile name be put to rest on a high. Along with You Can't Do That On Stage Any More Volume 2, it's probably my favourite album of this stage of Zappa's career.
One Size Fits All is an album release by American experimental rock artist Frank Zappa. The album was released in June 1975 by DiscReet Records. One Size Fits All was released under Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention monicker and features one of his most loved and respected lineups. The core lineup for this album consists of Frank Zappa on vocals and guitar, George Duke on keyboards, vocals, backing vocals and synthesizer, Ruth Underwood on marimba, vibraphone and various percussion, Chester Thompson on drums, sound effects and voices, Tom Fowler on bass guitar and Napoleon Murphy Brock on tenor saxophone, vocals, backing vocals and flute. Add to that guest appearances by Zappa´s old r´n´b/ blues hero Johnny "Guitar" Watson on vocals, James "Bird Legs" Youman on bass guitar and Captain Beefheart (credited as 'Bloodshot Rollin' Red') on harmonica and you pretty much got an all- star cast.

The music on any Frank Zappa album is hard to describe, but a combination of jazz rock/ fusion, blues rock, progressive rock and some avant garde elements is a shot at it when speaking of the music style on One Size Fits All. An eclectic mix if you will. In addition to the tight musicianship and at times very challenging compositions, the album features some brilliant vocal performances. Both regarding lead and harmony vocals. We´re treated with lead vocals by Frank Zappa, George Duke, Napoleon Murphy Brock and Johnny "Guitar" Watson. It´s one of the great assets of One Size Fits All, that the lead vocals are delivered by so many different vocalist with very different vocal styles. The harmony vocals are exceptional, challenging and unique. Take a listen to a song like Floentine Pogen for proof of that. The 9 tracks on the 42:58 minute long album are all unique in style and sound from the complex and progressive Inca Roads, Floentine Pogen and Andy, the soul, r´n´b and blues of Can't Afford No Shoes, Po-Jama People and San Ber'dino to the hilarious Evelyn, A Modified Dog and the two versions of Sofa ( one instrumental and one with vocals). There´s not a single moment on this album that I don´t enjoy. There´s an attention to detail on this album that you´ll seldom find in music.

At this point Frank Zappa´s unique technique of mixing live tracks ( we´re not talking songs here, but recorded audio tracks) with studio tracks were well implemented and even though there are several of the instrumental tracks on the album that were recorded live, you probably won´t be able to tell which it is. For instance I know that the Frank Zappa guitar solo in the middle of Inca Roads was recorded live and then later spliced with the rest of the tracks in the song and I´ve never been able to tell. This is a typical example of Zappa chosing what he felt was the perfect recording of a certain element for a specific song. He probably knew he had nailed it back in 1974 when he played it at a live show. Sometimes he would even chose a solo played live in one song and put it in a studio recording of another song years later. A very interesting approach IMO.

The production is warm and again the attention to detail is audible.

One Size Fits All is one of the most consistent ( quality wise) Frank Zappa albums out there and it´s probably also one of the most interesting albums from his vast discography for a progressive rock fan. Especially the songs Inca Roads, Floentine Pogen and Andy should bring a smile to the face of most fans of challenging and progressive music. The lyrics on the album are as always humourous and at times clever. There are several conceptual continuety elements in the lyrics ( references to songs from earlier and later albums by Frank Zappa), which is always great for the hardcore fans, but more casual listeners should also be able to appreciate the wacky humour. A 5 star rating is fully deserved.

Ratings only

  • Jack Revelino
  • Polynomial-c
  • MoogHead
  • Decao
  • Phrank
  • lunarston
  • St Tree Fun
  • Fant0mas
  • KK58
  • eurothe65
  • zrong
  • esset55
  • Lynx33
  • Vano
  • fusionfan94
  • nebol
  • historian9
  • chrijom
  • Ponker
  • yair0103
  • Dr Dopo
  • mzztrd
  • trinidadx13
  • Reg
  • timzurita
  • Xaxaar
  • Croteau
  • darkshade
  • frippism
  • Drummer
  • EduMusic
  • HeadlessJazzman
  • zorn1
  • POW
  • Noak2
  • Sean Trane
  • Tychovski
  • The_Jester
  • The Block

Write/edit review

You must be logged in to write or edit review


Rating by members, ranked by custom algorithm
Albums with 30 ratings and more
A Love Supreme Post Bop
Buy this album from our partners
Kind of Blue Cool Jazz
Buy this album from our partners
The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady Progressive Big Band
Buy this album from our partners
Blue Train Hard Bop
Buy this album from our partners
My Favorite Things Hard Bop
Buy this album from our partners

New Jazz Artists

New Jazz Releases

You Never Know Eclectic Fusion
Buy this album from MMA partners
Another Time, Another Place Post Bop
Buy this album from MMA partners
Diversity - Nylon String Energy Volume 3 Pop/Art Song/Folk
Buy this album from MMA partners
Life In Time Avant-Garde Jazz
Buy this album from MMA partners
More new releases

New Jazz Online Videos

Everything Happens to Me
js· 6 hours ago
"Honey B" - Eric Wurzelbacher
js· 1 day ago
Come Find Me
js· 2 days ago
js· 4 days ago
More videos

New JMA Jazz Forum Topics

More in the forums

New Site interactions


Latest Jazz News


More in the forums

Social Media

Follow us