Released: April 1967
- Plastic People
- The Duke Of Prunes
- Amnesia Vivace
- The Duke Regains His Chops
- Call Any Vegetable
- Invocation & Ritual Dance Of the Young Pumpkin
- Soft-Sell Conclusion
- Big Leg Emma
- Why Don’tcha Do Me Right
- America Drinks
- Status Back Baby
- Uncle Bernie’s Farm
- Son Of Suzie Creamcheeze
- Brown Shoes Don’t Make It
- America Drinks & Goes Home
Frank Zappa, Ray Collins, Jim Black, Roy Estrada, Billy Mundi, Don Preston, Bunk Gardner, Jim Sherwood
14 thoughts on “Absolutely Free”
This album shows Zappa’s true genius as a composer in both the classical and the rock genres. His ability to call upon stravinskian and varesean influences within the context of a 60’s rock tune is truly staggering. Brown Shoes Don’t Make It is brilliant!
FZ’s second album with the Mothers of Invention contains some of his most interesting and complex compositions blending rock, do-wop and classicial influences. Side one (on the original vinyl) consisted of a suite of songs about plastic people, prunes and vegetables. Side two consisted of songs and stories about life in America in the mid 1960’s. The sound on the original vinyl was always somewhat muddy, but the cd reissue has cleaned that up quite a bit. Also, a single recorded at about the same time, but not appearing on the original album (Big Leg Emma/ Why Don’tcha Do Me Right?) was inserted between the end of the former side one and the beginning of the former side two of the cd.
“Absolutely Free” tends to get slightly overlooked by Zappalogists, and I only think that this is the case because it was preceded by “Freak Out” and followed by “We’re Only In It For the Money”, two bone-fide Zappa masterpieces. What’s more, “Absolutely Free” truly is a dense, murky record, albiet filled with focused, well arranged playing. The songs and performances segue and slam into each other blindingly, the humor is fast and biting, and this is probably the most realistic studio document of the original Mothers playing prowess.
The song and instrumental composition is staggeringly impressive: “Brown Shoes…” is downright breathtaking as an early Zappa “shoot for the moon”-type of composition. One can listen to the young 25 year old trying to capture all kinds of 20th Century musical trends and styles, and cram them next to each other bar-by-bar. Famous musical quotes abound, such as the brief snippet from Holst’s “Neptune” that crops up along with the opening bassoon line from “The Rite of Spring”, played by Bunk Gardner on soprano sax.
This album is the sound of a brilliant and precocious mind who is synthesizing numerous musical styles, devices, trends and timbres into a social, satirical statement for 1967. This is one amazing piece of Zappa work, and the stunning accomplishment of “We’re Only In It For the Money” seems all the more impressive coming in on the heels of this work. Essential listening (and re-listening) for all Zappa enthusiasts.
Brilliant.This album is very underrated.zappa’s guitar work alone makes it amazing.The acid rock/ free jazz space out of ‘invocation and ritual dance of the young pumpkin”,the stunning classical compsotion of “duke of prunes”.A masterpiece.
I agree with Marko J about how this one often gets overlooked, but I think it’s actually a more fully realized album than either Freak Out! or Money (though they are both fantastic in their own way). In terms of a purely musical statement it was miles ahead of anything that was put out at the time and in terms of thematic continuity and it’s collage-like construction was sophisticated beyond everything else being produced as well. Purposely constructed to give it a loose, freewheeling ad-libbed quality as if the Mothers were just given over to off-the-cuff scathing social observation within the context of deceptively free-flowing musical composition. The real genius of Frank’s early work was the way he promoted a lifestyle within the concept of the teenage LP. The shear density of ideas and influences is hidden beneath the playful surface of happy mayhem which obscures alot of the inventiveness and tight composition. Also the guitar solo on Call Any Vegetable is one Frank’s most inspired and one of the absolute best from the time period.
CAN’T SAY ENOUGH ABOUT HOW THIS RECORD INFLUENCED MY TASTE IN FOOT WEAR,CLOTHING AND CHICKS.I RARELY WEAR ANYTHING BROWN ALMOST ALWAYS WEAR BOOTS OR SNEAKERS ,NOT SHOES!!!
AND I V’E RECENTLY JAMMED WITH A DUDE FROM JERSEY TO” BIG LEGGED EMMA”.NOT TO MENTION I CAN’T RECALL EVER HAVIN’ THAT DILEMMA… AND I DON’T LIKE TV DINNERS!!!
P.S. SUZI CREAM CHEESE WHERE R U???
I always wodnered if there was Fugs influence on the record what with the “quality” of the vocals.
NOTHING WRONG WITH THE FUGS
It is a great record, I would say better than Freak Out and almost as good as Money….and certainly better than that Zappa “solo” stuff after he got rid of his best band and surrounded himself with yes-men session musicians.
Absolutely Free is part of the Zappa triumvirate. I like this album so much more than ‘Freak Out!’ simply because of the expanded instrumentation. i loved the addition of a second drummer and some horns/woodwinds. I believe that the line up of Freak Out playing this album wouldnt be interesting. My personal favorites on this album are: Plastic People, Call Any Vegetable, Invocation…, and Brown Shoes Don’t Make It, although I thoroughly enjoy the album as a whole. The music may jump around a bit and the production budget was a little tight, but I still listen to it just as much as ‘We’re Only In It For The Money’ and ‘Uncle Meat’. This deserves just as much props as any other Mothers of Invention outing, maybe even the most.
I think it is the best Muthers album (well, from the 60’s lineups), aside from Burnt Weeny Sandwhich. It is the first signs of Zappa’s power as a composer (the ending of “Brown Shoes”) and it has a look and feel unlike any of the other albums. I would love to hear the outtakes and the complete sessions since this and Lumpy Gravy were done almost side by side and parallel in sound (check out Lumpy’s “Oh No” and “King Kong”). While “We’re Only…” pretty much captures the Muther’s standard (if you can call it that) sound.
This is indeed a transitional work that holds up with Lather and Yellow Shark as a point of compositional interest and reference to the techniques Frank used throughout his career. Lather: the grouts, YS: the content and AF: the razor blade…
Suzi is on community radio http://www.kafmradio.org
The studio album which best approximates the live 60’s Mothers experience. Also a study in stylistic hybrid. See if you can find all the references to classical works (“Petrushka”, “The Planets”, and more).
Interesting. ‘Plastic People’ is one of the most underrated Zappa songs and ‘Duke of Prunes’ is a parody of a love song.
Agreed. Along with showing his capabilities of being a composer, he also shows some tats for being a great satirist…
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