ARTIST: The Mothers of Invention
TITLE: Absolutely Free
YEAR RELEASED: 1967
CHART ACTION: #41
SINGLES: Son of Suzy Creamcheese
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Duke of Prunes, Call Any Vegetable, Brown Shoes Don’t Make It, America Drinks and Goes Home
LINEUP: Frank Zappa, Roy Estrada, Jimmy Carl Black, Ray Collins, Billy Mundi, Don Preston, Jim Fielder, Bunk Gardner
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: An album with two thematic suites – one about politics, society and playing in front of drunks. The other is about prunes and vegetables.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Verve Records weren’t going to let Zappa and the Mothers record another double album; that much is certain. They probably had totally forgotten that they signed the Mothers to be a blues band, and this album shows the creativity and focus that Zappa had early on. It also shows how well the band coalesced around his ideas.
The first side deals mainly with vegetables and prunes. Ray Collins’ vocals, oh so serious when singing about the Duke of Prunes, adds that perfect touch. Side two features Zappa’s early takes on sexual politics and hypocrisy, something he’d return to quite a bit.
There are a lots of things going on musically here, with Gardner’s woodwinds adding color and counter melody everywhere. The musicians swirl everything around in this aural stew, and it works. The lyrics are snarky, of course, but as satire they packed a punch back then. The only drawback is that the suites’ long vamps make it a bit tiring at times.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: Fielder left the band right after this was recorded, and wasn’t credited. Motorhead Sherwood joined the band right after this was recorded and was credited in error.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Ryko added sides of a rare stand-alone single in the middle of the CD. It kind of breaks the flow up.
GRADE: A-: The Mothers’ were now solidly in the avant-garde royalty.