Ahead Of Their Time

Released: April 1993


  1. Prologue (Bogus Pomp)
  2. Progress?
  3. Like It Or Not
  4. The Jimmy Carl Black Philosophy Lesson
  5. Holding The Group Back
  6. Holiday In Berlin
  7. The Rejected Mexican Pope Leaves The Stage
  8. Undaunted, The Band Plays On
  9. Agency Man
  10. Epilogue
  11. King Kong
  12. Help, I’m A Rock
  13. Transylvania Boogie
  14. Pound For A Brown
  15. Sleeping In A Jar
  16. Let’s Make The Water Turn Black
  17. Harry, You’re A Beast
  18. The Orange County Lumber Truck, Part 1
  19. Oh No
  20. The Orange County Lumber Truck, Part 2


  1. Frank Zappa (guitar &vocals), Ian Underwood (alto sax & piano), Bunk Gardner (tenor sax & clarinet), Euclid James Motorhead Sherwood (baritone sax & tambourine), Roy Estrada (bass & vocals), Don Preston (electric piano & odd noises), Arthur Dyer Tripp III (drums & percussion), Jimmy Carl Black (drums)
  2. Assisted by members of The BBC Symphony Orchestra

8 thoughts on “Ahead Of Their Time”

  1. The first half, I just don’t get. Some great orchestral themes and all…but without the visuals, it just doesn’t work for me.

    The second half(let’s call it side 2)…starting with King Kong is just fantastic! Zappa calls it a medocre performance which it may indeed be…but once it starts, I can’t get it out of my CD player!

    What I find interesting about it is that as we all know…Frank has always been an amazing guitar soloist, but his first extended solo on an official release was on Hot Rats. (I only THINK I am right about that) “Side 2” of this album, is loaded with extended solos. I wonder how the public would have recieved this if it were released sooner.

    If “Side 2” were an album in and of itself, it would be anong my very favorites. Probably in my top 3 (out of all of them). It is THAT GOOD.

  2. I’m biased. I was there. At the concert. So any meaningful review is not possible.

    Just 18. Just arrived in London from the country. Keen to check out everything. So much happening (man). I picked up the vibe on this concert, went to it for an education. I came away bewildered and stunned. Such weirdness. I kind of forgot about it all and got into more accessible music for some years. Then came Hot Rats, a top 10 album in the UK. I loved it, recalled the concert, bought backwards to Freak Out, and kept the faith ever since.

    Couldn’t believe it when the CD was released. To buy back into one’s past after so much time. The crowning glory, to realise that we have a really good tribute band in the UK called The Muffin Men who were playing my city. Went to see them, and got the singer to autograph my CD, and I was 50! And the singer was he of the Philosophy Lesson, Jimmy Carl Black (tiotg).


  3. This is a nice testament to the early Mothers. What I think is the finest thing musically on this release is the crack playing quality of the BBC orchestra that is doing a tight, kick-ass performance on Frank’s thorny “serious music” 20th century originals. I think their playing on this concert has been sorely unrecognized over the years. You can see nice footage of this performance on the “True Story of 200 Motels” video that Frank did. I personally love the way Frank wove the little morality play that the Mothers were doing in a way that also featured his serious instrumental compositions for the first time (“200 Motels and Zubin Mehta concert was a few years away). This is an excellent, well-recorded time capsule of the early Mothers, doing Dadaist theater that no rock band today would EVER have the depth of artistic concept and/or intelligence to do.

    The second half is a great, kickin’ Mothers of Invention workout from the period, and oldy, mouldy fans won’t be disappointed.

    My only criticism is that too much of this concert audio-wise had already been released as the bulk of the second “Mystery Disc” from “The Old Masters, Box II”, but this is a minor crab.

    Some of the die-hards are right about this: The original Mothers of Invention revolutionized what territory a rock band could cover, brought the Caberet Voltaire and Dada aesthetics into the late 20th century, and so greatly expanded the entire “vocabulary” of what a “rock band” could do, it is stunning. It is also a shame that the acrimony between Frank and his original pioneering ensemble deteriorated so deeply in Frank’s later life (just look at all of Frank’s childish graffitti and defacement of the early art and pictures in the first “Old Masters” box that obviously spoke volumes about the painfulness of that deterioration) that more audio testaments like this couldn’t have been released. Essential.

  4. This is an absolutely awesome album, run it from ‘Help, im a rock’ for the uninitiated (This version of KK is a little too sloppy imo) and listen to some of the best examples of live experimental rock EVER RECORDED.

    The only thing that gets on my nerves is that i know the whole concert was filmed, yet there is no release of this bar a few chopped up segments here and there, TO THE ZAPPA ESTATE: Please release a DVD of this, it would be so so good. Cheers!

  5. i think this album is amazing. best versions of king kong & help i’m a rock i’ve heard. those alone make it worth the purchase. the first half seemed a bit ‘difficult’ to me at first but having got into 200 motels since i really enjoy the music in this section too.
    i much prefer FZ’s extended improvisation type tracks in the 60s & 70s when the other musicians got more chance to solo… this is a good example of how on fire his bands could be in that respect. in the late 70s / 80s when the overall zappa sound switched to a heavy guitar focus i think it really lost something special that can be found here in abundance.

  6. Complicated semi-serious music, surreal amateur dramatics, a highly developed sense of fun, very catchy melodies, absurd sounds, wonderful solos and the huge sound of the Mothers in Full Tilt.

    There was, and is, no one else like the Mothers. 41 years later and I can’t imagine going to a concert and seeing and hearing this! Nothing would’ve prepared you for it, least of all the Mothers own albums up to that point. One of my very favourite albums, almost up there with Burnt Weeny Sandwich.

    Frank’s orchestral pieces here are just complicated enough; they still have plenty of melodies and identifiable rhythms. Jimmy Carl Black and Roy Estrada are hilarious without even really trying. Roy’s vocal rendition of Holiday In Berlin is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard, though I know full well it somehow shouldn’t be…..

    One of the many paradoxes about this band, and this composer, is how they could sound terrifying one minute (“Gas mask”) and impossibly cheerful the next (eg:every song during the Mothers part of this concert has a gloriously upbeat melody that just begs to be sung along to!).

    I have a friend who attended this concert, aged just 14. I asked him what he remembered of it, and he answered, “The whole thing was just very confusing…”
    You just can’t find anybody like these guys anymore….

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