The Mothers of Invention - Absolutely Free (1967)

Plastic People 3:42
The Duke of Prunes 2:13
Amnesia Vivace 1:01
The Duke Regains his Chops 1:50
Call Any Vegetable 2:20
Invocation and Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin   7:00
Soft-Sell Conclusion 1:40
Big Leg Emma 2:32
Why Don'tcha Do Me Right? 2:37
America Drinks 1:53
Status Back Baby 2:54
Uncle Bernies' Farm 2:11
Son of Suzy Creamcheese 1:34
Brown Shoes Don't Make It 7:30
America Drinks & Goes Home 2:46
 
Total Time: 43 min, 37 sec

Majority opinion seems to hold that We're Only In It For the Money is the best of the early Mothers of Invention albums, but personally Abosolutely Free has always been my favorite. It's basically two short concept pieces, put together to make sides one and two of the album. Both sides have an overarching theme of social commentary, with side one using somewhat surreal lyrics about fruits and vegetables, and side two using more direct comments about American society. Sandwiched between the two sides are two bonus tracks added for the CD release - Big Leg Emma and Why Don'tcha Do Me Right?. These were the A and B sides of a single put out around the same time as this album, before Frank gave up on trying to have hit singles.

One highlight of side one is The Duke of Prunes, which seems like a silly little Duke of Earl parody here, but reveals itself for the fine composition that it is when the vocals are replaced with orchestral instruments on the Orchestral Favorites album. Call Any Vegetable became a concert staple, while Invocation... is a killer long jam track.

Side two is framed by the America Drinks tracks, sounding like they're being performed in a bar - the first by an avant garde group, the second by a smarmy lounge jazz group. In between, we get commentary on violent war toys for children, the pointlessness of high school, and Suzy Creamcheese breaking out of her cameo role to get an entire song named after her. Then there's Brown Shoes Don't Make It, which is usually hailed as an early Zappa masterpiece. While I agree that musically it's pretty amazing, the lyrics are one of the few places where I think Zappa went too far. It feels like a revenge piece against the authorities who set the young Frank up on a phony morals charge and threw him in jail for a while. The song accuses authority figures of being morally corrupt, engaging in everything from pedophilia to incest. In particular, the part about "smother my daughter in chocolate syrup and strap her on again" makes me uncomfortable, now that I have a daughter of my own (I wonder how Moon Unit feels about that song). Oh well, others hail the track as a masterpiece, so what do I know?

Album Cover

Image of the Absolutely Free album cover