"MoFo" is half reissue, half archival release, something that (somewhat curiously) has never quite happened with a Zappa album before. Barring quibbles with focus, track-listing, and how exactly it relates to the larger, as-yet-unreleased 4-disc variant available directly from the Zappas, it's also an absolutely fantastic thing, and it's a great buy if you're even marginally interested in the album or its author.
Disc 1 of "MoFo" is intended, I suppose, to supplant the current, single-disc "Freak Out!" from Rykodisc. "Freak Out!" was largely spared Zappa's reissue-revisionism (coughCruisin'WithRubencough), but the original 1987 CD of that album--which is, for all intents and purposes, largely identical to the current Ryko CD--didn't escape entirely unscathed. Zappa remixed some cuts, and attempted to compensate for "Freak Out!"'s primitive and muddy stereo presentation by drastically re-equalizing the album and covering it in a layer of digital reverb. The result is far from unpleasant, but still bears little resemblence to "Freak Out!" as it was released in 1966.
MoFo's first disc is thus dedicated entirely to "Freak Out!" as it was, presenting an unvarnished, un-enhanced, 1987-vintage digital transfer of the original stereo mix of the album; in fact, this may have been the very digital transfer that Frank used as the basis for the Ryko "Freak Out." Those familiar with the Ryko album are in for a shock, as this iteration is muddier and heavier and sounds far more like...well, an album from 1966 (those familiar with the difference in tone between the remix of "The Who Sell Out" and the original will find a similar comparison here). Little details, like Ray Collins' "Girl!" at the end of "You Didn't Try to Call Me" or the extra effects on "Who Are the Brain Police?", particularly stand out. It's fantastic to have this presentation of "Freak Out!" back again, and I find it interesting that MoFo's packaging doesn't make its status as a semi-reissue (as opposed to "just" an archival release) more explicit.
It's Disc 2, though, that functions as the main point of the set. Let me get the (few) criticisms out of the way first. Listening to the second disc of MoFo is like listening to the sampler for the three-disc "Pet Sounds Sessions" box, and there's precious little cohesion to be found; as MoFo sort of functions as a "sampler" of the larger box, though, this is understandable. One of the only other criticisms I can muster: it's too short!
Otherwise, Disc 2 is a delight. We're presented with alternate mixes of various vintages, backing tracks, outtakes, and so on, all of which are enlightening to various degrees. The liner notes reveal that a surprising source was utilized for several tracks: apparently, Frank kept a mono reel plugged into the desk at all times. What this means is that the sort of material which wouldn't generally be preserved on the multi-track session tape--say, rough overdub sessions for "Go Cry on Somebody Else's Shoulder" or the "finished" vocal overdub mix of "Motherly Love"--are present and accounted for, giving a distinct "documentary" feel to the procedings. Tantalizing tastes of some other surprises, like a 1966 soundboard recording and snippets of demos that coincide with the "Corsage" material, are similarly spectacular, as are bits and pieces of Monster Magnet. It makes you want to hear MORE, and in that fashion serves as a great sampler for the larger set (I should note that the smaller MoFo does contain some exclusive tracks, so completists will need to have both).
Verdict: A solid reissue and fascinating archival release all in one. The beginning of what looks to be a wonderful new series.