Review Summary: "Actually I really fucked up in Europe...Now that I've done it all over and nobody else will accept me. I've come home to my Mothers..."
To get it out of the way, I’ll simply say, Uncle Meat
is really out there. Even for Zappa standards, it’s extremely weird. And it’s absurdly magnificent.
, part of the “No Commercial Potential” series Zappa had going on at the time, Uncle Meat
was the proposed soundtrack to a science-fiction film that Zappa had in the works, but never got completed (behind-the-scenes footage would be released in 1987 however). It is perhaps Zappa’s most diverse album, even more than We’re Only In It For The Money
. Spanning over seventy-five minutes at its original release on April 21, 1969, it gathered its sound from several genres, from straightforward rock music, to orchestral music, and jazz, et cetera, et cetera.
Drawing the elements from the mostly spoken-word remake of Lumpy Gravy
, Uncle Meat
went one step further, and not only increased the use of bizarre spoken-word segments, but the use of percussion and orchestral movements. This all showcased Zappa’s ever-growing strengths as a composer and arranger. For example, Nine Types of Industrial Pollution
and Uncle Meat: Main Title Theme
, are based on percussional instrumentation and are formless in melody. The classic rock ‘n’ Roll influences of the 1950s are effortlessly captured in Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague
, which from the start seems as a typical rock track, then turns into an avant-garde group effort dominated by overdubs and the new recording technology of the time. Throughout the album, the band’s unofficial spokeswoman, Suzy Creamcheese would pipe in and tell short stories of The Mothers, and what they were about, serving as quick introductions to the succeeding tracks. Another unique part of the album was the live segments from the band’s performance at the Royal Albert Hall. To say the least, these live portions of the album are the most droll and forgettable recordings The Mothers had the distinction of releasing, and serve no purpose whatsoever to the album.
But the shining moment of Uncle Meat
most certainly has to be the finale: King Kong
. A side long free jazz behemoth, and clocking in at seventeen minutes, King Kong
was the crowning achievement of the original Mothers incarnation without a doubt. Mainly in ¾ time signature, the suite is one long repetition of the track’s melody in different variations, from a live rendition focusing on saxist Ian Underwood, to a variation of the melody put through various electronic effects, as well as a final variation featuring sped-up gongs, overblown saxophones, and several other instruments.
Although free of the satire associated with many of Zappa and The Mother’s albums and other projects, the abundance of ideas found on Uncle Meat
place it among The Mothers’ greatest works. It most certainly is the most difficult of the classic-era albums to get into due to its avant-garde sound, and its inaccessibility compared to other Zappa/Mothers albums. That definitely doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time, because to put it straight: It is worth investing not only seventy-five minutes of your time, but a whole day dedicated to it.
Nine Types of Industrial Pollution
Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague
Mr. Green Genes