Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention: Absolutely Free

Jeff Tamarkin on November 10, 2017

Right out of the gate, with 1966’s double-LP Freak Out!, Mothers of Invention proved to be one of the most audacious, inventive ensembles in rock music. (Frank Zappa’s name was not appended to the band’s until the early-‘70s.) Absolutely Free, the ‘67 followup, took the original concept a step further, ramping up the political/social commentary and satire of the debut on tracks like “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It,” “Plastic People” and “America Drinks and Goes Home,” and going all out on musical experimentation. With the addition of keyboardist Don Preston, woodwinds player Bunk Gardner and drummer Billy Mundi (guitarist Jim Fielder also contributed, but was not credited), Zappa was able to widen his scope considerably. And he utilized every tool in his box to concoct a series of interconnected tracks that tore into the fabric of American society—particularly that of suburbia and high-school culture—always with tongue planted deeply in cheek. The reissue, on vinyl only, expands the original single-LP by one side (the fourth doesn’t contain any music), mostly aimed—as is often the case with this sort of thing—toward completists, who might find the radio ads, radio remixes (from 1969) and bonus tracks “Why Don’tcha Do Me Right” and “Big Leg Emma” worth the investment. Equally enticing is the libretto that Zappa created for the set, including line-by-line lyrical notation that makes it easier to discern what exactly is being sung in some of the more chaotic sections, and which group member is singing it.

Artist: Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention
Album: Absolutely Free