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Freak Out! Frank Zappa Review

    These Mothers is crazy. You can tell by their clothes. One guy wears beads and they all smell bad. We were gonna get them for a dance after the basketball game but my best pal warned me you can never tell how many will show up...sometimes the guy in the fur coat doesn't show up and sometimes he does show up only he brings a big bunch of crazy people with him and they dance all over the place. None of the kids at my school like these Mothers...specially since my teacher told us what the words to their songs meant.
-Suzy Creamcheese

    In 1964, an R&B band called The Soul Giants was formed. Later that year, singer Ray Collins and lead guitarist David Coronado got into an argument, making Coronado leave the group. Ray Collins asked the classical composer Frank Zappa to take Coronado’s role as guitar player, and on Mother’s Day 1964 The Mothers of Invention were formed.

    On June 27, 1966 The Mothers released their first album, Freak Out!, a strange mish-mash of doo-wop, psychedelic rock, and avante garde sound collages. Frank Zappa would go on to create 62 albums during his lifetime.

    The album starts with the track “Hungry Freaks, Daddy”, a psychedelic tune written for Carl “Captain Fuck” Franzoni, who was “freaky unto his toes”. The song is a great introduction to the album, showing off Zappa’s guitar chops and his interesting choice of instruments, as this song incorporates both kazoo and vibraphone, instruments that would later be used later in this album and in his discography.

    I Ain’t Got No Heart starts with a guitar riff and more pitched percussion. The song utilises string sample mellotron and, more importantly, some big band stuff. The song ends with some screaming and some more big band.

    The next track, Who Are The Brain Police? is a psychedelic, moany line that came from a voice in Zappa’s head that would annoy him in the morning. The song is a thought experiment on what would happen if the packaging and advertisement on beloved records were removed, and if they would still be beloved. The “plastic” continuity seen on other albums started with this song. The song ends with another screaming section and more kazoo.

    The next eight songs are all doo-wop and R&B, as those were Frank’s favourite genre. The music itself is not that impressive, but the lyrics are great parodies of middle and high school drama and relationships.

    Side three opens with Trouble Every Day, an intense, politically charged blues song about the Watts Riots, LA’s worst riot until the Rodney King Riots in the ‘90s. The song’s verses get longer throughout it, so long that Frank has to take a noticeable breath halfway through the last verse. This is easily one of the greatest most politically charged Zappa songs, rivalling Concentration Moon and Thing Fish.

    The rest of the album is comprised mostly of avant garde music and sound collages. The Help, I’m a Rock! suite starts off with Okay to Tap Dance which is a demented riff, screaming, and moaning building up to In Memoriam, Edgard Varèse, a freak out of breaths and hooting. It Can’t Happen Here is an avant garde piece of strange music and improvised speaking. It ends with the first mention of the character Suzy Creamcheese, also seen on Absolutely Free, and Uncle Meat.

    Return of the Son of Monster Magnet was created when Zappa went to Tom Wilson, the producer of the album, and asked to bring “all the freaks from sunset boulevard” into the studio to perform a freak out. Wilson agreed, and was high on LSD during the recording. The song itself is exactly what you expect from a story like that. It was interesting for the time, but it’s kind of hard to listen to multiple times nowadays. Fun fact: at 11:35 you can hear Frank Zappa smash his finger and yell “Fuck!”

    Freak Out! is a very strange album that was hugely influential and years ahead of its time. Paul McCartney has stated that this album was an inspiration to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and that alone put it up there as one of the most important albums of all time. Add the fact that it started Frank Zappa’s 27 year long rock career, and that gives you reason enough to check this album out. I give it an 8/10.