FRANK ZAPPA — Absolutely Free (The Mothers Of Invention) (review)

FRANK ZAPPA — Absolutely Free (The Mothers Of Invention) album cover Album · 1967 · Jazz Related Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Warthur
Consisting of two side-long suites (with contemporary single Big Leg Emma/Why Don'cha Do Me Right? acting as a sort of interlude on most CD versions), Absolutely Free takes the two halves of Freak Out! - skewed pop/rock numbers and avant-garde experimental tracks - and mashes them together until the two ingredients are inextricably bound. Take the first suite, Absolutely Free, which after it sputters into life with the still angry, still politicised Plastic People takes the listener on a journey through a world of vegetable-themed romance which slips Stravinsky lines and free jazz noodlings in as it ricochets from frenetic experimental chaos to Supremes-inspired Wall of Sound pop heaven.

The second suite, the MOI American Pageant, follows up the epic Brown Shoes Don't Make It - arguably one of the first rock operas, along with the Who's A Quick One (While He's Away) - with America Drinks and Goes Home, whose "last orders at the bar" feel would be mimic by the Rolling Stones in the closing track of Between the Buttons.

The sheer, crazed energy evidenced on the album is incredible; it's been a favourite of mine for years and years, and I still haven't unpacked all its secrets, and yet at the same time I also think it's one of the most accessible albums of Zappa's early career - don't get me wrong, it's not simplistic like Freak Out! or Cruising With Ruben and the Jets, but it is less daunting than the likes of, say, Lumpy Gravy or Weasels Ripped My Flesh. New listeners to Zappa could do worse than starting with this one, or the equally classic We're Only In It For The Money - you've got all Zappa's perchant for bizarre experimentation in a nice, digestible package. Eat your vegetables, they're good for you.
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