Absolutely Free

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Absolutely Free
Studio album by The Mothers of Invention
Released May 26, 1967
Recorded November 15–18, 1966 at Sunset-Highland Studios of TTG
Genre Rock, experimental, avant-garde, doo-wop
Length 38:29
43:37 (reissue)
Label Verve
Producer Frank Zappa,
Tom Wilson
Frank Zappa chronology
Freak Out!
(1966)
Absolutely Free
(1967)
Lumpy Gravy
(1967)
The Mothers of Invention chronology
Freak Out!
(1966)
Absolutely Free
(1967)
We're Only in It for the Money
(1968)
Singles from Absolutely Free
  1. "Son of Suzy Creamcheese"
    Released: 1967
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[1]
The Village Voice B–[2]

Absolutely Free is the second album by The Mothers of Invention, led by Frank Zappa. Absolutely Free is, again, a display of complex musical composition with political and social satire. The band had been augmented since Freak Out! by the addition of woodwinds player Bunk Gardner, keyboardist Don Preston, rhythm guitarist Jim Fielder and drummer Billy Mundi. Fielder quit the group before the album was released and his name was removed from the album credits.

This album's emphasis is on interconnected movements, as each side of the original vinyl LP comprises a mini-suite. It also features one of the most famous songs of Zappa's early career, "Brown Shoes Don't Make It," a track which has been described as a "condensed two-hour musical".[3]

In the book Necessity Is..., former Mothers of Invention band member Ray Collins said that Absolutely Free is probably his favorite of the classic Mothers albums.[4]

Reissues[edit]

The CD reissue adds a single that the Mothers released at the time between side one and side two. It features the songs "Why Dontcha Do Me Right?" (titled "Why Don't You Do Me Right" on the 45) and "Big Leg Emma", both described as "an attempt to make dumb music to appeal to dumb teenagers". These were a rare Verve single.

The UK-67 release (Verve VLP/SVLP 9174) came in a laminated flip-back cover, with a Mike Raven poem at the reverse that was not on any other issue.

In 2007, the Lagunitas Brewing Company put out an India Pale Ale named Kill Ugly Radio, featuring the inside art from the album on the label, one in a series of beers planned to be released on the 40th anniversary of each of Zappa's studio albums.

Album content[edit]

The title of "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" was inspired by an event covered by Time reporter Hugh Sidey in 1966. The reporter correctly guessed something was up when the fastidiously dressed President Lyndon B. Johnson made the fashion faux pas of wearing brown shoes with a gray suit. LBJ flew to Vietnam for a surprise public relations visit later that day.

In the songs "America Drinks and Goes Home" and "America Drinks", Zappa combines a silly tune with nightclub sound effects to parody his experiences playing with drunken bar bands during the early 1960s. Other songs recorded soon after that used the same kinds of ideas include "On with the Show" by The Rolling Stones (released in 1967), "My Friend" by Jimi Hendrix (recorded in 1968, released in 1971) and "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)" by The Beatles (recorded in 1967 and 1969, released in 1970).

"Plastic People" begins with a mock introduction of the President of the United States, who (along with his wife) can only recite the opening notes to "Louie, Louie". "Louie, Louie" is often interpolated in Zappa's compositions (other examples appear in the Uncle Meat and Yellow Shark albums, among others), and when Zappa first began performing "Plastic People" around 1965, the words were set to the tune of "Louie, Louie".

References to other works[edit]

It is not unusual to find melodies or scores from other composers within the music of Frank Zappa. Absolutely Free is full of musical references to other compositions and artists, including Igor Stravinsky.

For example, "Amnesia Vivace" begins with a collage of quotations from Stravinsky ballets: first, the band plays the "Ritual Action of the Ancestors" from The Rite of Spring, Part II; then harpsichord and chattering voices evoke the pounding Dance of the Adolescents in Part I, over which sax and Zappa's voice start quoting the bassoon melody at the very opening of the Rite and continue into the lyrical Berceuse (also for bassoon) at the end of Stravinsky's The Firebird. The opening sequence of Petrouchka is quoted in the middle section of "Status Back Baby". "Soft-Sell Conclusion" ends with a version of the trombone melody that opens Stravinsky's "Marche Royale" from A Soldier's Tale.

The "Invocation & Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin", in the beginning of the saxophone solo (first cadence) quotes the trio directly from the fourth movement of Gustav Holst's The Planets, Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity.

The melody to "The Duke of Prunes" is the love theme from Zappa's own film score to Run Home Slow.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Frank Zappa. 

Side one: "Absolutely Free" (#1 in a Series of Underground Oratorios)
No. Title Length
1. "Plastic People"   3:40
2. "The Duke of Prunes"   2:12
3. "Amnesia Vivace"   1:01
4. "The Duke Regains His Chops"   1:45
5. "Call Any Vegetable"   2:19
6. "Invocation & Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin"   6:57
7. "Soft-Sell Conclusion"   1:40
Side two: "The M.O.I. American Pageant" (#2 in a Series of Underground Oratorios)
No. Title Length
1. "America Drinks"   1:52
2. "Status Back Baby"   2:52
3. "Uncle Bernie's Farm"   2:09
4. "Son of Suzy Creamcheese"   1:33
5. "Brown Shoes Don't Make It"   7:26
6. "America Drinks & Goes Home"   2:43

Personnel[edit]

The Mothers of Invention
Additional personnel
  • Suzy Creamcheese (Lisa Cohen) – vocals on "Brown Shoes Don't Make It"
  • John Balkin – bass on "Invocation & Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin" and "America Drinks"
  • Jim Getzoff – violin on "Brown Shoes Don't Make It"
  • Marshall Sosson – violin on "Brown Shoes Don't Make It"
  • Alvin Dinkin – viola on "Brown Shoes Don't Make It"
  • Armand Kaproff – cello on "Brown Shoes Don't Make It"
  • Don Ellis – trumpet on "Brown Shoes Don't Make It"
  • John Rotella – contrabass clarinet on "Brown Shoes Don't Make It"
  • Herb Cohen – cash register machine sounds on "America Drinks & Goes Home"
  • Terry Gilliam, girlfriend and others – voices in "America Drinks & Goes Home"

(Jim Sherwood was credited as a member of The Mothers on the album's original release, but he actually joined the band during the recording of We're Only in It for the Money, and he isn't featured on this album.)

Production[edit]

  • Producers: Frank Zappa, Tom Wilson
  • Director of engineering: Val Valentin
  • Engineer: Ami Hadani
  • Remixing: David Greene
  • Arranger: Frank Zappa
  • Cover design: Ferenc Dobronyi, Cal Schenkel
  • Layout design: Frank Zappa
  • Cover photo: Alice Ochs
  • Cover art: Frank Zappa
  • Photography: Jerry Deiter
  • Artwork: Alice Ochs
  • Collage: Frank Zappa
  • Liner Notes: Frank Zappa

Charts[edit]

Year Chart Position
1967 US Billboard 200 41

References[edit]

  1. ^ Huey, Steve. "Absolutely Free – The Mothers of Invention | AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  2. ^ Christgau, Robert (December 20, 1976). "Christgau's Consumer Guide to 1967". The Village Voice (New York). p. 69. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  3. ^ Couture, François. "Brown Shoes Don't Make It - The Mothers of Invention,Frank Zappa | Listen, Appearances, Song Review | AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  4. ^ Billy James, Necessity Is...: The Early Years of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, SAF Publishing Ltd (2001), p51, ISBN 978-0-946719-14-3

External links[edit]