Wednesday, November 30, 2016
FRANK ZAPPA / THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION: Uncle Meat (1969)
January, 1995. Over at Tower Records, Dad found this one on cassette. I'd seen this one a couple of times over the years, but the older albums by Frank Zappa were always priced pretty high at the used-vinyl places. I really hadn't heard anything from it, and since we were really enjoying exploring Frank's works, this one was added to the collection.
A pretty sprawling set, this one, plus it was a double album, so there was quite a bit to digest in one sitting. The opening overture "Uncle Meat: Main Theme" got me right away, very rhythmic, with loads of marimbas by Ruth (Komanoff) Underwood here, and throughout the pieces. I can't go on enough about how this one piece of music changed and influenced my own playing; before this, it was rather loose and formless, but now it would have some sharp timekeeping.
Frank was really going all out with what the recording studio offered at this point. Instruments such as clarinets, saxophones and other woodwinds were filtered, compressed and recorded at varying speeds, and ended up sounding like weird little trumpets. This was also the first album he did where he mixed studio and live recordings together on one album, including the famous rendition of "Louie Louie" played on the pipe organ at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Some of the vocal songs had some funny references in them, like "Sleeping In A Jar", "Electric Aunt Jemima" and "The Air". During "Dog Breath, In The Year Of The Plague", the line "fizzy dice, bongos in the back" reminded me of that bit from the first Cheech & Chong album, where they're watching a Chicano used-car salesman's commercial...is that where they got that from?
Later on, I eventually found a nice original vinyl copy on the Bizarre/Reprise label. it didn't have the booklet that was included in it, but I was more concerned about the music. These were the originals mixes; the cassette had the 1987 re-mix on it, but I still liked it, although I never played it after hearing the original album.
The album was subtitled Most of the music from the Mothers' movie of the same name, which we haven't got enough money to finish yet. Apparently, this was going to be a documentary about the Mothers, but Frank had broken up the band beforehand, and the ex-members suddenly wanted nothing to do with the project. A few years later, down at Stadium Video, I found the 1987 video that Frank put out, but it was rather disappointing, save for a few montages of the Mothers clowning and goofing off for the camera, and the scenes with "Motorhead" Sherwood and Cal Schenkel were a total riot.