Frank Zappa - Lumpy Gravy (1968)

Lumpy Gravy I 15:48
Lumpy Gravy II 15:50
Total Time: 31 min, 37 sec

Another first (or one of the first, anyway) - a rock album made up of two side-long tracks. This was also the first "solo" project for Zappa, and the first to be released under his name and not the Mothers band name. In fact, the other Mothers don't play a prominent role on this one, with much of the disc being comprised of spoken word snippets and orchestral music.

A blurb on the cover describes the album as "a curiously inconsistent piece which started out to be a BALLET but probably didn't make it." That's about as good a description as any. The album features a mix of rock music, surf music, orchestral music, people talking, and experimental sounds and tape manipulation, all mixed together into two long tracks. Many of the musical themes turn up on other Zappa albums, particularly We're Only In It For the Money, which was being recorded around the same time as this album. The song Oh No (from the future album Weasels Ripped My Flesh) appears in several variations, and there's even a lengthy quote from Uncle Meat's King Kong. This album is almost a blueprint for a lot of what Zappa would do for years to come.

The conversations on the disc are mostly recordings of Frank's friends. They range from monologues on typical 60s teen-age concerns (cars and girls) to strange, ideological discussions of pigs and ponies (with the pigs representing the cops and authorities, and the ponies representing the long-haired youth). Zappa fed the ideas for the pigs and ponies conversations to the participants, and then edited the results into what you hear on the album. Close to three decades later, more pieces from these recording sessions would turn up on the Civilization, Phase III album.

Because of the shortness of the album (the total length is just over half an hour), it was originally released on a two-fer CD along with We're Only In It For the Money. Many people were unhappy with that disc (see the review of We're Only...), so they were later re-issued as two separate discs. This review of Lumpy Gravy is based on the original two-fer, because I never bought the later edition. I've read that the only differences are that the newer disc is a little louder, and has one section accidentally mixed in mono instead of stereo. The new disc's liner notes also give the individual titles of the various sections of the two tracks, the way they were listed on the original vinyl. Unfortunately, the old CD doesn't have that information, so I can't list it.

Update, June 2005: I recently got an email from someone named Sergio who filled me in on the individual track titles. Here they are:

1. The Way I See It, Barry
2. Duodenum
3. Oh No
4. Bit of Nostalgia
5. Itīs From Kansas
6. Bored Out 90 Over
7. Almost Chinese
8. Switching Girls
9. Oh No Again
10. At The Gas Station
11. Another Pickup
12. I Donīt Know If I Can Go Through This Again

1. Very Distraughtening
2. White Ugliness
3. Amen
4. Just One More Time
5. A Vicious Circle
6. King Kong
7. Drums Are Too Noisy
8. Kangaroos
9. Envelops The Bath Tub
10. Take Your Clothes Off

Album Cover

Image of the Lumpy Gravy album cover