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Freak Out - Frank Zappa

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Genre: Rock - Progressive Rock / Artist: Frank Zappa / Audio CD released 1987-10-01 at Zappa

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    2 Reviews
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    • More +
      13.03.2011 23:36
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      Zappa starts his career with a bold statement

      That this album, and therefore Frank Zappa's entire musical career, ever saw the light of day is almost a complete miracle. The odds that were stacked against a musical product of this nature hitting the shelves were immense. Not only is it an expensive double album (the first in pop music history), it is also a debut by a completely unknown band, who were quite possibly the ugliest looking and sounding combo from not only Los Angeles but probably the whole world. This was all in a time where most West coast bands who sold pop records were nice boys with shiny harmonies and shinier teeth, such as the Beach Boys, and anyone who didn't resemble a nice, safe band like this was usually shown the door by the record executives. And not only were this bunch of freaks called 'The Mothers', they also sounded like nothing else before, or arguably, since.

      But released it was, mainly due to the open-minded approach of producer Tom Wilson. All of Frank Zappa's work is challenging in some respect, even his more 'commercially viable' efforts of the 1970s are stuffed full of jarring time changes and esoteric satire, and this is no exception. Music of the 1960s tended to fall into two categories; the commercial, and the experimental. Whilst the Beatles managed to straddle both of these spheres, this one falls firmly in the latter of the two. There's even a snippet at the end of the album knowingly sub-titled 'No Commercial Potential'.

      It starts with 'Hungry Freaks, Daddy', which is the musical equivalent of walking down to breakfast only to find a bunch of hobos in your kitchen, eating all your food but playing the most compelling rhythm and blues you've ever met. These Mothers is crazy, and they demand the attention of you and the whole world. And at least some of you are going to give it to them.

      The band's origins lay in grinding R'n'B (that's the real R'n'B, not that Jennifer Lopez style drivel), and the style pervades throughout, but morphs into a whole new sound. Under Zappa's expert guidance, doo-wop and strange woodwind/chamber music enter the equation on 'I Ain't Got No Heart'. Clearly, this is a band with musical skill, and they aren't afraid to challenge themselves, as well the listener. Zappa's humour also jumps out of the speakers, with quite beautifully bonkers and surreal tracks such as 'Who Are the Brain Police?' and 'It Can't Happen Here', which is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Zappa muses on the impending terror that middle-America would experience at the concept of a horde of 'Freaks' (Zappa's affectionate name for his entourage of fellow weirdoes) turned up on their doorstep, while the band make the most ridiculous cacophony. Marvellous stuff.

      But it's not all completely silly. 'Trouble Every Day' is a fiery, burning coal of R'n'B brilliance. A menacing guitar riff howls and gnashes its teeth throughout, while Zappa raps about the unreported side of the infamous Watts race riots of August 1965, in which dozens were killed and hundreds injured. Zappa possessed an eagle's eye for spotting warped news reporting and dodgy editing of events, and had his finger firmly on the pulse of current events. He felt that the TV and news reports were stifling the real version of events, which was a heavy-handed approach by authorities, and had been quick to conveniently snip out the controversial death of a woman driver, who had been found riddled with machine gun bullets. This is Zappa the musician turned reporter, the LP acting as his broadsheet.

      Zappa's love of 1950's doo-wop is prevalent on tracks such as 'You Didn't Try to Call Me' and 'Go Cry on Somebody Else's Shoulder', and his guitar-hero Johnny 'Guitar' Watson resonates in the fiery blues tone of but Zappa's musical influences come from a far-flung net. With just as much respect for 12-tone compose Edgar Varese as he had for The Penguins. and this is immediately evident on the epic, twelve-minute long mind-blasting 'The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet'. An exercise in discordant musique concrete and polyrhythmic noise, this is somewhat akin to 'Revolution 9' by the Beatles, but only much weirder. It's nigh on impossible to describe, and is a startling look inside the bizarre musical concoctions that lived inside Zappa's head.

      This album, along with the next two albums by The Mothers, 'Absolutely Free' and 'We're Only in it For The Money' are part of an overarching theme of Zappa's malcontent with the political and cultural direction that America was headed. Satire and music were his weapons of choice, lampooning the 'Plastic People' of white, middle America just as readily as he targeted the conservatives in government and the hippies in L.A. Everybody was a viable target; a precursor to the equal-opportunity satire later embraced by 'South Park' creators Parker and Stone.

      Zappa's sights were also set within the realm of music as well, despising musical forms and rules with a vengeance. In order to break the rules, you have to know the rules, and the classically minded (and self-taught) Zappa spent much of his time demolishing musical norms and rigid chord progressions with relish. This is the musical sabotage that Stravinsky brought to the world of classical delivered into the rock and roll medium.

      This is a record that will either leave you looking like you've just eaten a lemon vindaloo, or will have you poring over the liner notes and chuckling at the in-jokes, thirsting for more. Zappa and his band of misfits filled the gap in the musical universe for tongue-in-cheek, satirical cynicism that appealed to all the other misfits out there who were just waiting to hear that they weren't alone. If the idea that music can be totally iconoclastic, sneering, humorous, entertaining, thought-provoking and can sound like it's been spawned in a test-tube by a mad scientist is appealing to you, then look no further. Just don't dwell too much on the thought of the 90+ (and growing) releases that Uncle Frankie has in his catalogue; listening to Zappa is an expensive habit, but a hugely rewarding one...

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      • More +
        07.06.2009 17:13
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        Wonderful album

        Frank Zappa & The Mother of Invention's first album "Freak Out" is a a joyful album with cool lyrics and at times dramatic vocals. The music ranges from the type of stuff you'd expect to find from regular 60s bands such as "Go Cry on Somebody Else's Shoulder" and the questioning "Who Are The Brain Police?" - a cynical sounding Beach Boysesque track complete with horror laughter through to cartoonish duck noises that sound like Orville has broken in to the recording studio on "You're Probably Wondering Why I'm here".

        Nice guitar solos, exceptional mouth organ playing and divine social commentary reported through extremely witty rhymeful lyrics are just some of the reasons you should enjoy this album. "Help I'm A Rock" on the other hand is a mad psychedelic jungle rant, a jazzy finish to the album but also seemingly a bit too chaotic and not particularly in the style of the rest of the album.

        For those who find Frank Zappa's work a little bit too wild and disjointed, this debut may well appeal as it's not all out madness yet and doesn't really go anywhere near his orchestral type work.

        1 Hungry Freaks Daddy
        2 I Ain't Got No Heart
        3 Who Are The Brain Police
        4 Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder
        5 Motherly Love
        6 How Could I Be Such A Fool
        7 Wowie Zowie
        8 You Didn't Try To Call Me
        9 Any Way The Wind Blows
        10 I'm Not Satisfied
        11 You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here
        12 Trouble Everyday
        13 Help I'm A Rock
        14 It Can't Happen Here
        15 Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet

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      • Product Details

        Disc #1 Tracklisting
        1 Hungry Freaks Daddy
        2 I Ain't Got No Heart
        3 Who Are The Brain Police
        4 Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder
        5 Motherly Love
        6 How Could I Be Such A Fool
        7 Wowie Zowie
        8 You Didn't Try To Call Me
        9 Any Way The Wind Blows
        10 I'm Not Satisfied
        11 You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here
        12 Trouble Everyday
        13 Help I'm A Rock
        14 It Can't Happen Here
        15 Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet