Frank Zappa - Uncle Meat (1969)

CD 1:  
Uncle Meat: Main Title Theme 1:54
The Voice of Cheese 0:27
Nine Types of Industrial Pollution (a.k.a. 400 Days of the Year) 5:56
Zolar Czakl 0:57
Dog Breath, In the Year of the Plague 5:51
The Legend of the Golden Arches 1:24
Louie Louie (At the Royal Albert Hall in London) 2:28
The Dog Breath Variations 1:36
Sleeping in a Jar 0:49
Our Bizarre Relationship 1:05
The Uncle Meat Variations 4:40
Electric Aunt Jemima 1:53
Prelude to King Kong 3:24
God Bless America (Live at the Whiskey A Go Go) 1:22
A Pound For A Brown on the Bus 1:29
Ian Underwood Whips it Out (Live on Stage in Copenhagen) 5:08
Mr. Green Genes 3:10
We Can Shoot You 1:48
"If We'd All Been Living in California..." 1:29
The Air 2:57
Project X 4:47
Cruising For Burgers 2:19
   
CD 2:  
Uncle Meat Film Excerpt Part I 37:34
Tengo Na Minchia Tanta 3:46
Uncle Meat Film Excerpt Part II 3:50
King Kong Itself (as played by the Mothers in a Studio) 0:53
King Kong II (its magnificence as interpreted by Dom DeWild) 1:15
King Kong III (as Motorhead explains it) 1:44
King Kong IV (the Gardner Varieties) 6:17
King Kong V (as played by 3 deranged Good Humor Trucks) 0:29
King Kong VI (live on a flat bed diesel in the middle of a race track at a Miami Pop Festival...the Underwood ramifications) 7:22
 
 
 
Total Time: 2 hours, 31 sec

The cover of this album doesn't give a band name, but the CD is credited to Frank Zappa (rather than the Mothers of Invention), so that's how I'll list it here. The album started out as the soundtrack to a movie called Uncle Meat that Frank was trying to get made. The movie project was dropped due to lack of funds (although it was eventually released on home video for a short period, and then went out of print - I've seen a copy of it and it's a really bad combination of Mothers home movies and a b-grade monster movie. If you haven't seen it, you're not really missing too much). All that's left is the album Uncle Meat, but what an album it is. Made up of music written for the film and dialog snippets, this album is considered an early masterpiece by many Zappa fans. The CD release added a lot more movie dialog in the form of two "bonus" tracks, plus a new song called Tengo Na Minchia Tanta (a sort of hard rock track with lyrics comprised of a guy bragging about the size of his dick in Italian). These new tracks are so unpopular amongst some fans that they're referred to on the alt.fan.frank-zappa newsgroup as the "penalty" tracks.

The music on the album ranges from rock to jazz to avant guard tape manipulation to "electric chamber music" (to steal a phrase from other reviews I've seen of Uncle Meat). The themes from the title track, Dog Breath, Pound For a Brown, Mr. Green Genes, King Kong and others would pop up throughout Zappa's career, some even eventually being played by orchestras. This is pretty advanced stuff for a rock band, and Zappa was obviously proud of it. The band had been playing a lot of this stuff live for some time, so they pretty much had it perfected. What's surprising is that the studio versions are usually much shorter (compare the 20+ minute live version of Sleeping In a Jar on Our Man in Nirvana with the under one minute version here).

The "documentary" tracks paint a picture of what the Mothers of Invention were like at the time. We get an update on what Suzy Creamcheese has been doing in The Voice of Cheese, we hear the band abuse the Royal Albert Hall's pipe organ in Louie, Louie, we hear about the groupie situation in Our Bizarre Relationship, we get to hear Ian Underwood's story of how he joined the band in Ian Underwood Whips it Out, and we even get to hear Jimmy Carl Black bitch about the group's lack of money in If We'd All Been Living in California.... The CD release's huge 37 minute bonus track Uncle Meat Film Excerpt Part 1 gives even more documentary info, and outlines some of the surreal plotlines of the movie. It's an interesting track with some music buried in the background (even some synclavier!), but it's the type of thing most fans listen to once or twice then skip.

Other highlights of the album include the very proggy sounding Project X, the concert favorite Cruising For Burgers (which would be used as a long guitar solo vehicle in later live performances), and the excellent, side-long, six part avant-jazz piece King Kong. Based on a catchy melody (and a catchy rhythm section), they first play it straight and then take it though several variations and jam away on it for over fifteen minutes.

All in all, this album is a cornerstone of the Zappa catalog, and a must-hear for anyone who's serious about exploring the man's music. Anyone who's interested in progressive rock, jazz, or experimental rock of any kind should give this disc a spin.

Album Cover

Image of the Uncle Meat album cover