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Absolutely Free Original recording remastered

4.6 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, May 2, 1995
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Editorial Reviews

Sandwiched as it is between Freak Out!, Zappa's 1966 debut with the Mothers of Invention, and We're Only in It for the Money, arguably his artistic zenith, Absolutely Free comes in a distant third--but that's only because the competition is so darn fierce. Absolutely Free is a continuation of the weird freakiness--both in sounds and concepts--introduced on Freak Out! "Plastic People" and "America Drinks & Goes Home" continue the artist's lampooning of Middle American values, while this time out, Zappa also seems obsessed with the fruits and vegetables that "keep you regular" ("The Duke of Prunes," "Call Any Vegetable"). The music here jumps from avant-garde jazz snippets to gritty garage rock to operatic vocals in a manner that was truly innovative at the time; in fact, it often sounded like true musical insanity. The definitive highlight here, however, is "Brown Shoes Don't Make It," a seven-and-a-half minute mini-operetta that initially ridicules America's suburban culture of the era before comically looking at the repressed sexual perversions hiding underneath that same culture. With its 13-year-old "Teenage Queen" ("who's rockin' and rollin' and acting obscene"), the Lolita-like obsession of the brown-shoed gentleman in the title, the track was a precursor to the naughty sexual themes later found in tracks like "Dinah Moe Hum" or the entirety of the Fillmore East, June 1971 album--themes that became Zappa's artistic stock in trade. --Bill Holdship

From the Label

The second Mothers Of Invention album, originally released in 1967, continues Zappa's musical combo of rock/satire/jazz/doo-wop and more. With society at large still reeling from the assault of FREAK OUT!, Zappa went a few steps further with "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" and "Plastic People" -- two of his most pointed satirical pieces, and concert standards for many years to come; as was the cheerful surrealism of "Call Any Vegetable." The Mothers consisted of Jimmy Carl Black, Ray Collins, Roy Estrada, Bunk Gardner, Billy Mundi, Don Preston and Motorhead Sherwood -- heard here in all their glory.

At the time of ABSOLUTELY FREE's release, Zappa and company made a stab at hit-singledom with a seven-inch release of two otherwise-unavailable tracks, "Why Don'tcha Do Me Right?" and "Big Leg Emma," both of which are included here.

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Plastic People
  2. The Duke Of Prunes
  3. Amnesia Vivace
  4. The Duke Regains His Chops
  5. Call Any Vegetable
  6. Invocation & Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin
  7. Soft-Sell Conclusion
  8. Big Leg Emma
  9. Why Don'tcha Do Me Right?
  10. America Drinks
  11. Status Back Baby
  12. Uncle Bernie's Farm
  13. Son Of Suzy Creamcheese
  14. Brown Shoes Don't Make It
  15. America Drinks & Goes Home

Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 2, 1995)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Original recording remastered
  • Label: Rykodisc
  • ASIN: B0000009RV
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,883 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Frank Zappa's second release with the Mothers of Invention (following 1966's Freak Out!) displayed the awesome range of his vision (and capacity to achieve it) to a degree that even fans of its predecessor could scarcely comprehend. (In fact, most DIDN'T comprehend and still don't.) It is here that we first realize that Zappa is, first and foremost, a COMPOSER--he was writing modernist orchestral music before he ever picked up a guitar. The Mothers of Invention and the L.A. "freak" scene provided an opportunity for Zappa to get his compositions across in the marketplace and to be used as a weapon against cultural complacency, conformity, idiocy, and the repressive nature of the record industry itself. Absolutely Free succeeds on every level.
Some have found the rapid changes of style on the album disorienting and incoherent. In fact, there is an exacting logic to every moment of the music, each section carefully constructed to be blown away by the proceeding section. The album is constructed as a suite of songs (actually two suites, originally separated thematically by sides on the LP), but each song functions as "mini-suites" in themselves, so rapidly do they change in musical directions. Yet there is an overwhelming propulsion to the sequencing that makes the album roar like a streamlined clown train from start to finish. You may not "get it" on the first listening or two, but stick with it, and the rigor of the musical structure will gradually unfold before you, much like reading James Joyce.
If I'm making the album sound overly intellectual (and it IS intellectual--but not in the ordinary sense), let me not forget to mention that this is one of the funniest albums ever concocted.
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Format: Audio CD
On the original LP, I played Side One more often than Side Two, as it seemed to flow better. The butchering of "Louie Louie" at the beginning of "Plastic People" sets the mood, as when the Mothers Of Invention were a bar band only, under the name of "The Soul Giants," they played such songs on demand to drunk, unruly crowds constantly, and this can make a person hate such a song. But there is obviously a fondness for it, as virtually all of Zappa's work has at least one passing reference to "Louie Louie" in it. Other versions of it, released later, are more true in structure to "Louie Louie," and are pretty funny to listen to. Here, it just permutates into a similar song, but obviously, they got away from that idea.

Organized incoherence becomes the theme of this performance, as "Duke Of Prunes," silly title and words that it has, starts with a soft, soothing melody, building up steam until the bridge, "Amnesia Vivance," which is basically a blitzkrieg of sound, clashing time signatures and different themes assailing the listener's ears at once, cleaning itself up to form the reprise of "Duke," the last verse being subtitled "The Duke Regains His Chops," a faster rendition of "Duke Of Prunes." Segue into "Call Any Vegetable," structurally the same as the "Duke" segment, but with more textures. This song sounds top-heavy and unbalanced, but quickly, one can tell it's intentional. There is a section of sour notes on the instruments, but they are played with deliberation, much like a lot of Captain Beefheart's music, and when it seques into "Invocation And Ritual Dance Of The Young Pumpkin," it's like a tense spring is being released. The extended jam is more about the mood of the piece, than what's actually being played.
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Format: Audio CD
I found the vinyl version over 20 years ago. This album still represents for me one of Zappa's absolute best. From begining to end it is flawless. It is especially meaningful to those my age (46) and a bit older who have strong memories of the time period. If you buy the CD version, play it without Big Leg Emma and Why Don'tcha Do Me Right (neither on the vinyl). While good songs, they just don't fit the homogeneous feel of the rest of the work.
Put on the headphones and marvel at the quality of this mid-sixties excercise in studio wizardry. See if you can find the bit taken from Stravinsky's Rites of Spring. And for a true Zappaphile it is a treasure trove of "continuity" references. Get this album!!
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Format: Audio CD
Upon first hearing this album, I thought it sounded a little sloppy. After listening to it a few more times, i started thinking that maybe this "sloppiness" was part of the appeal. Finally I realized that it wasn't sloppy, but just really fun.
"Absolutely Free" is a favorite among the Mothers, and I can see why. It sounds like they really had a lot of fun recording this album. But DON'T GET ME WRONG: "Absolutely Free" is an example of true greatness. With classics like "Plastic People" and "Call Any Vegetable," it's hard not to like this album. Especially when Ray Collins' voice sounds so darn good!
It also features "Brown Shoes Don't Make It," the seven minute progressive piece that was the song that first made me recognize Zappa's sheer genius. HOWEVER, in my personal opinion, the "Tinseltown Rebellion" version of this song is better, because it makes more sense rhythmically and i think it's closer to Frank's original intention for the song. Though on "Absolutely Free," you get to hear it sung by the Mothers. I particularly enjoy Jimmy Carl Black's vocal contribution. Why didn't Frank let him sing more often?
All in all, this is an EXCELLENT album. Although it's not QUITE as good as "We're Only in it for the Money," in my opinion it's better than "Freak Out!" You need this album if you want to truly understand the Mothers. A perfect "ten."
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