The Mothers of Invention
Cruising with Ruben & the Jets



by Aaron W. STAFF
May 29th, 2013 | 13 replies

Release Date: 1968 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Is this The Mothers of Invention under a different name in a last ditch attempt to get their cruddy music on the radio?

When hearing of a project called “No Commercial Potential”, what is the first thing to come to mind? Avant-Garde nonsense? Droning hullabaloo? “Metal Machine Music”? Well, on “Cruising With Ruben & The Jets”, none of these come into play, with The Mothers doing…doo-wop? Now, most people when looking at the art work and listening to the music would never suspect this being a M.O.I. record (unless you know your Zappa that is). This was part of the idea for this record, according to Frank Zappa, along with the idea to make it related to “Uncle Meat”, with the concept of an old man transforming a band into anthropomorphic animals, as seen on the cover of “…Ruben & The Jets”

The lyrics, written by Zappa, was written as an intentional satire of love songs, while re-living their nostalgic teenage days, which consisted of doo-wop bands and many other kinds of past novelties of the 1950s. Listed on the cover was the quote: “Is this The Mothers of Invention under a different name in a last ditch attempt to get their cruddy music on the radio?” Some could say that was a reason for the creation of “…Ruben & The Jets”, but that was not the reason. Despite the obvious hint that this was a Mothers album with the quote on the cover, “Ruben” turned out to be a hit with radio disk jockeys who believed that Verve unearthed an obscure doo-wop record. Later pressings under “M.O.I” would not receive as much airplay.

Going into “Ruben”, the listener must not expect this to be like any of the other Mothers albums due to the material, in which none of the quirky lyrics are present, with them being replaced with straightforward love songs in the vein of “Go Cry On Somebody Else’s Shoulder” and “Motherly Love” from “Freak Out!” The doo-wop sound takes a few listens to get used to, and after the third or fourth try, it’ll be sure to grab your attention. Unlike on other Mothers albums, the guitar isn’t as prominent, with Ray Collins’ falsetto taking the stage, making the music even more authentic, fooling even more people.

“Cruising With Ruben & The Jets” oddly is an acquired taste, with it being difficult to grasp the idea of the Mothers doing doo-wop of all genres. There are no musical freak-outs present on the album, with the entire album being calm and serene, another trait of doo-wop. But when listening to “Ruben”, it gets tiring halfway through, making you wish you were listening to something more manic and lively, like “Absolutely Free” or “Burnt Weenie Sandwich”. “Ruben” makes for an engaging listen once you get used to the style, but is probably their weakest of the classic Mothers albums. But don’t worry; you can simply take a cruise in a Cadillac with Ruben & The Jets if you’re in the mood for nostalgic doo-wop love songs.

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user ratings (120)

Comments:Add a Comment 
May 29th 2013


Good work. I like this album and a 3 sounds about right. It's got some really catchy songs. I personally like it when Zappa plays with doo-wop elements ("Go Cry" being one of my absolute favourites of Freak Out! the ranting at the end always gets me).

June 1st 2013


It sounds like this isn't that great (the album).

If this was released in 1968, one would think Zappa had hardly
developed his style. I think that's a relevant point here.

I saw mention of other Zappa albums, but I think you could work a bit
on wether or not the album represented artistic progress. I emphasize
that on my reviews, since I like to project the albums within an
evolutionary process, if you will. It's up to you, however, to determine
which albums rank higher and which lower.

Of course, keep the main focus on the album itself, and just use what I
said as complimentary information. Sputnikers generally aren't too fond
of history lessons.

And yes Fripper, you have my pos.

January 3rd 2014


Album Rating: 3.5

Pretty underrated album by Zappa

June 8th 2014


Album Rating: 3.0

"If this was released in 1968, one would think Zappa had hardly

developed his style. I think that's a relevant point here."

Not true. Freak Out!, Absolutely Free, and We're Only in It for the Money came before it and they're all great and stylistically original. with We're Only in It being amazing. Cruising is just weaker.

Previously, I only heard the remaster, which was so butchered I had it at a 2.5, but now that I've heard the original pressing I'm bumping it to a 3.0.

My biggest problem with Cruising is that is takes 0 risks. "Cheap Thrills" is really fun though.

Digging: DJ Krush - Meiso

June 8th 2014


shut up n play yer guitar

June 8th 2014


Album Rating: 3.0

Commercial suicide doesn't necessarily mean risky. A full on doo-wap album could have been much more engaging from Zappa if it were too do something unexpected with it. If at least a few of the songs were a new take on doo-wap.

With Cruising, once the album starts, it's consistently typical 50s doo-wap throughout.

July 27th 2014


Album Rating: 3.0

I agree with the three. It was an all together good album with a couple catchy songs I would listen to again but I don't think I am going to listen to the whole thing from start to finish again any time soon. There are better doo-wap albums out there and better Zappa / Mothers albums out there.

March 6th 2016


Album Rating: 3.5

Zappa loved doo-wop, he grew up with it. If we know anything about Zappa it's that he loves to experiment and try everything. There is no limit to his ability and vision; and we see it here with RATJ. He resurrects doo-wop in the late sixties just because he can.

March 6th 2016


Album Rating: 3.0

Yup, the opener and closer on here rule hard.

October 4th 2016


Album Rating: 4.0

My rating is based on Greasy Love Songs which I would give 4.5.

June 27th 2017


Album Rating: 3.5

Did the Zappa do any other albums like this? I love it.

June 27th 2017


Album Rating: 3.0

Not in full, no

July 19th 2018


Album Rating: 3.0

Nice tunes, but easily forgettable album.

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