Review Summary: Is the gravy really that lumpy or is that me?
Oh boy, this little record is quite the unique one, considering it’s Frank Zappa’s debut album. It sure is a departure from The Mothers of Invention’s material. Yes, it has the charm that “Absolutely Free” has, and also contains every single bit of weirdness that “Freak Out!” has. When recording “Lumpy Gravy”, Zappa would incorporate session players to create a group known as the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra. Along with this “orchestra”, Zappa and company would create some of the most bizarre music of his career.
Starting the album off is a bit of spoken dialogue, which is highly consistent throughout “Lumpy Gravy”. Throughout the first side, the listener will get a nice audible treat of sound effects, orchestral noodling, and sped-up recordings. Did I mention there’s lots of snorting (of the pig-like variety) involved?
This, along with the quirky snippets of dialogue, makes for a quite “interesting” first side. To tell you the truth, it’s absolutely horrifying. The second side, “White Ugliness (Gravy)”, like before opens with a hilarious dialogue that includes one of the greatest lines of all time: “I’ve heard you’ve been having trouble with pigs and ponies”. The dialogue is more present here, and makes no sense at all, but is enjoyable to hear. “Lumpy Gravy” marked the beginning of Zappa’s highly-influential solo career that spanned over two decades, and while other albums such as “Hot Rats”, “Joe’s Garage” and “Civilization Phase III” are much better albums and certainly overshadow “Lumpy Gravy”. But that doesn't mean this isn't worth your time and doesn't make for a good listen. Zappa’s skills as a composer are fully realized on this record, and show the direction he and The Mothers were heading in, even if The Mothers themselves were not present in this specific recording.
Considering this was part of the project known as “No Commercial Potential”, which included the critically-lauded Mothers album, “We’re Only In It for the Money”. Also part of this project were: “Uncle Meat”, and “Cruising with Ruben & the Jets”. It makes complete sense that in a way, those albums along with “Lumpy Gravy” are related in one way or another. But when thinking about it, this gravy wasn’t so lumpy after all.