Saturday, May 26, 2012

absolutely free

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention raised the stakes of their eclectic freak rock while they raised eyebrows and ire with the post-modern pastiche and sophomoric social satire of this series of underground oratorios. The band of Jimmy Carl Black on drums and vocals; Ray Collins on vocals and tambourine; Don Ellis on trumpet; Roy Estrada on bass and vocals; John Rotella on percussion; Pamela Zarubica on vocals; had expanded with the addition of saxophone player Bunk Gardner on woodwinds; Don Preston on keyboards; guitarist Jim Fielder on guitar and piano; and Billy Mundi on drums for the sessions at the Sunset-Highland Studios of TTG with Zappa co-producing with Tom Wilson. 

 Zappa recalled: "When it came time for us to do our second album, 'Absolutely Free', MGM proclaimed that we couldn't spend more than eleven thousand dollars on it. The recording schedules were ridiculous, making it impossible to perfect anything on the album. It was typical of the kind of bullshit we had to put up with until I got my own studio. Gail and I moved to New York in 1967 to play in the Garrick Theater on Bleecker Street. The first place we stayed, before we could find an apartment, was the Hotel Van Rensselaer on Eleventh Street. We were living on a small room on one of the upper floors. I was working on the album cover illustration for 'Absolutely Free' at a desk by the window. I remember the place being so dirty I couldn't keep the soot off the artwork."

Melding diverse genres such as acid rock, avante-garde, Broadway, doo-wop, experimental, garage rock, jazz, orchestral, psychedelic, R&B, and vaudeville; 'Absolutely Free' also references classical works by Stravinsky ('The Firebird', 'Petrouchka', 'The Rite of Spring', and 'A Soldier's Tale') and Holst ('Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity') as well as 'Louie, Louie' and Bob Dylan. The album is composed of two side-length suites of interconnected songs that lambaste both the establishment and the counter-culture movement. Zappa explained: "This is a new type of lyric that I'm getting into. These are also social-political things. This is straight bizarre lyric, based on-I made research tapes of behavior of some seventeen-year-old kids in Ontario, California, and this is based on those tapes... 'Call Any Vegetable', for example, was written two weeks after we finished 'Freak Out!', when we were in Hawaii, and it took a year to learn how to play it. 'Son of Suzy Creameheese' took a year to learn how to play. Can you tell why? The time, the time-it's fantastic. It's four bars of 4/ 4, one bar 8/8, one bar of 9/8- O K? And then it goes 8/8, 9/8, 8/8, 9/8, 8/8, 9/8, then it goes 8/8, 4/8, 5/8, 6/8, and back into 4/4 again. To get it together now, we just toss it off and it becomes a flop."

'Absolutely Free' went to number forty-one on the US album chart without any singles. Zappa saw it as a victory over the suits: "That's where I have one basic human drive on my side that they can't defeat-greed. You see, they're so greedy, and the powers that be are not necessarily the government, but you're talking about big industry and the military and all, and that's greed-motivated activity. Industry wants to make money and I'm getting into a phase now where I'm being used by industry to move products. A lot of the industries now are aware of the fact that they're in a vicious cycle: in order to sell their goods to the youth market, which accounts for the major market of most of American products, that same market that buys most of the records, you have a weird situation where in effect record companies especially are helping to disseminate the information which will cause the kids to wake up and move and eventually destroy what they stand for, and they can't help it."

'Absolutely Free'
full album:

Absolutely Free (1st In A Series Of Underground Oratorios)
1. Plastic People 0:00
2. The Duke Of Prunes 3:42
3. Amnesia Vivace 5:55
4. The Duke Regains His Chops 6:56
5. Call Any Vegetable 8:49
6. Invocation & Ritual Dance Of The Young Pumpkin 11:05
7. Soft-Sell Conclusion 18:05
Bonus Tracks:
8. Big Leg Emma 19:45
9. Why Don'tcha Do Me Right? 22:17

The M.O.I. American Pageant (2nd In A Series Of Underground Oratorios)
10. America Drinks 24:54
11. Status Back Baby 26:47
12. Uncle Bernie's Farm 29:41
13. Son Of Suzy Creamcheese 31:52
14. Brown Shoes Don't Make It 33:26
15. America Drinks And Goes Home 40:56

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