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.