Review Summary: Ladies and Gentlemen, The President of the United States...
When following up a great debut, a band has to take in consideration to not make a rehash of the previous album. They also need to make a record that is capable of bettering the debut, which for most groups, is a difficult feat. For The Mothers of Invention, the latter was not a problem at all. In 1967, the magnificent follow-up to “Freak Out!” was released. Known as “Absolutely Free”, this record takes all the elements from “Freak Out!” and expands on it, but in a more condensed form.
With the improvements present on “Absolutely Free”, it would be incorporated into two suites, “Absolutely Free” and “The M.O.I. American Pageant”, both movements in “Underground Oratorios”. The first side, a zany suite consisting of songs dealing with the “Duke of Prunes”, showcasing Zappa’s composing skills, makes for an entertaining listen, and from the first listen, is highly accessible. Side two is practically The Mothers playing in a bar, which from the start you can see a visual of sitting in a dimly-lit bar, fogged up with cigarette smoke while watching the bar band play their music for a few bucks.
The use of nightclub sound effects in the suite would be highly influential and would be used over the years by artists such as Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles. Also in the suite is one of Zappa’s well-known tunes, “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It”. The track begins with an attack on the media and American society, later transitioning to a bizarre tale of a city official fantasizing about sexual intercourse with a minor. “America Drinks & Goes Home” ends the album perfectly: in absolute chaos. And for posterity, “Big Leg Emma” and “Why Don’tcha Do Me Right?”, both extras on the reissue and originally a single, are both decent, but have no place on “Absolutely Free”. It’s unfortunate they were never released on an official album despite it called “a dumb attempt to make dumb music to appeal to dumb teenagers”.
So, when searching for a first Zappa/Mothers record to listen to, check out “Absolutely Free”, it’ll be sure to get a laugh or two out of you and keep you entertained for the next forty minutes. It’s Absolutely Perfect.
The Mothers of Invention (Mk. I) are:
Frank Zappa: guitar, conductor, vocals
Jimmy Carl Black: drums, vocals
Ray Collins: vocals, tambourine
Roy Estrada: bass, vocals
Bunk Gardner: woodwinds
Billy Mundi: drums, percussion
Jim Fielder: guitar, piano
Don Ellis: trumpet
John Rotella: percussion
Pamela Zarubica: vocals