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What "Freaks" Were Up To Back Then,
This review is from: Freak Out (Audio CD)
In 1966, a double LP by a rock band was unheard of. And yes, it was a band. Frank Zappa gets the lion's share of the credit, being the cheif songwriter. But as the title on the cover says, it's "The Mothers Of Invention." The first incarnation of an ever-revolving cast of musicians, all of whom had lots and lots of talent.
As a CD, Freak Out loses some of its impact. Even though the artwork is all intact, and it's the same music, tweaked a little here and there, it's the same recordings, nonetheless. But the tactile sensation of opening a 12x12 cover into a 12x24 gate-fold onslaught is lost here. And you can tell the division of the format a little better on the LP, as the first half is based more on traditional song structure and the second half is more experimental.
Song titles and content vary, from social criticism ("Hungry Freaks") to songs about boy-girl relationships ("You Didn't Try To Call Me") to flat-out weirdness ("Who Are The Brain Police?"). But despite the gritty, even greasy sound, there is an innocence to it; although the band and its image are anything but. This was the most scandalous, possibly the most hated rock band in history, and they used this to their advantage. Radio stations wouldn't touch them, and every television appearance was riddled with controversy. Phone lines would flood with people who loved them, or hated them. It seems that "Freak Out" was more of a social/cultural phenomenon than a piece of music. The sleeve notes describe this in pretty vivid detail, and it would be counter-productive and a little tedious to quote it all here.
Creative highlight: The last segment of the format, from "Help I'm A Rock," right on through "The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet." This is a suite of "songs," for lack of a better word, more like rhythms accompanied by layer upon layer of sounds. "Monster Magnet" is the peak. It has such an elaborate spectrum of sounds and textures, it boggles the mind at first. Warning! NOT FOR PEOPLE WITH CONSERVATIVE TASTES IN MUSIC! Frank Zappa's strict anti-drug stance is cleverly hidden here, because a lot of people think you have to be stoned or tripping to come up with this. But the truth is, absolutely not; You just need some imagination to come up with it, the intellect to pull it out, and the intelligence to pull it off.
Subsequent works showed more sophistication, but this is the true ground-breaker.