Review Summary: One of the best ways to start wading through an ocean-sized body of work.
I remember the first time I listened to Frank Zappa. My overbearing guinea uncle (who I love dearly but want to stick a knife in at this point in time)showed me the way. He gave me his own hard earned copies of Joe’s Garage, Freak Out, Sheik Yerbouti, and Lumpy Gravy which showed me that music had no boundaries to speak of. That jazz, rock, orchestral, and even a bit of Dadaism had a place in music. I thank him for that greatly even as I spit on the feet he uses to move his Indian-giving bulk around (he took said albums away from me, hence the knife). However, he did not give me initially, what would have drawn me more rapidly into the world of good thinking music. I could have avoided so much wasted time in my youth. Mili-Vanili, my ex-wife, and well…*** you get what I’m saying. I had bad taste. I admit it. If he had given me an album I could appreciate as a youth, and learn from, as opposed to brilliant albums glazed over with the infantile humor my pre-pubescent mind glommed onto I might have avoided the many pitfalls of my youth. Which brings me to One Size Fits All.
One Size Fits All is an album that I think any non-Zappa fanatic could love. Its humor is left more in the cheek, or is just so out there (for most people) that it can only be taken as silly, as it should be (I give you Evelyn, A Modified Dog). This album reeks of absurdity, from Inca Roads (chariots in the sky anyone?) to the finale of Sofa No.2; One Size is a joyous romp that even the most conservative of parents could tolerate, unless of course they are so conservative that the idea of God creating a sofa before mankind is offensive to them, in which case they can just *** off (lost my breath on that sentence). This album is easily the most accessible of Zappa’s repertoire for anyone on the street.
Now, to the musicality of the piece. In my opinion this is the best era of Zappa’s band. George Duke and Napoleon Murphy Brock are both on vocals (keys and wind instruments respectively), Ruth Underwood on percussion, Chester Thompson on drums, Thom Fowler on bass, with some guest appearances by Captain Beefheart and Johnny ”Guitar” Watson. This incarnation of the Mothers is easily the most accessible. These are a group of talented, well trained individuals (Thompson! Duke!!!) having a great time playing the material they are given, and it shows. No matter what track you listen to, whether they are freaking out, or just building up to the crescendo of a song, as a listener you never doubt that they are having a blast, and this carries over. If I had to say any Zappa album was full of joy (outside of Lumpy Gravy or Hot Rats) it would have to be this one. The music almost makes you want to dance (which is something for a Zappa album) and if you are not dancing at the very least you are tapping your feet and laughing along. On a more serious note, you are also getting a great education on song writing and production; there are changes and logical bridges galore as well as a great mix. Seriously though, seriousness is not needed in these waters, only a love of well thought out music.
So now in the twilight hours of this review I beseech you, with all of the strings I can pluck from my heart, share this album. Share it with your friends, your family, your pet, or whatever is cognizant enough to jiggle back and forth. If you do so you may save a young teen from making the biggest mistake of his life; listening to that which is the Mili-Vanili of his generation. The horror.