on 23 January 2004
This is my favourite of the early Mothers albums. It's mostly instrumental, and what lyrics there are are dismissed on the album cover as being "private jokes that nobody except the members of the band ever laugh at". It works superbly though, and I never get tired of listening to this one. Highlights are the free form guitar solo on "Nine types of industrial pollution", the dense orchestration on "The Uncle Meat Variations" and the beatiful melodies and playing on "Dog Breath" and the mighty "King Kong" in all of their ramifications. There are some wicked little songs (they could be FZ's version of pop music) which he would carry on playing right through his career - "Cruisin' for burgers", "Sleeping in a jar" and "Mr. Green Genes" among them. Ryko's CD reissue also contains 40 minutes of dialogue and noises from the "Uncle Meat" film - I haven't seen it, but on this evidence I have to say it sounds pretty dreadful - and also a song from the early 80s called "Tengo na minchia tanta" which is pretty dire too - but don't worry about that; it's the actual album you should be interested in. I've got all FZ's albums and this one easily makes the top five.
on 28 September 2001
If FZ was a multifarious talent influenced by multifarious musical sources, then this is the multifarious musical result. This cd (originally a soundtrack for a yet-to-be-completed film of the same name) has everything the specialist fan needs and the beginner ought to have in order to get to know the underlying mystery of The Man With The Funny Moustache. Beautiful tunes, crazy tunes, no tunes at all (but still beautiful)feature on this release. Tapes of the band, tapes of 'phone calls (The Voice of Suzy Creamcheese) orchestral manoeuvres in the light of experience (not in the dark)are interspersed with doo-wop songs about being busted, neat guitar solos, atonal arrangements, pachuco love songs and several versions of King Kong (his great jazz theme, also avilable on 'Lost Episodes')- one apparently played by an ice cream truck. Typically of FZ, like all Serious Artists, many regular themes are revisited or anticipated on this collection. Mr. Green Genes, from his very popular 'Hot Rats',is here, with words! Sing along! Eat your shoes (even eat the box you bought'em in!). Listen, smile, laugh, ponder. Enjoy. Buy. I first heard this music when I was in my teens shortly after it was originally released. I still lisen to it today. The only reason I'm buying the cd is I wore out the original two lp release with repeated playing. See how long your cd lasts. And tell your friends.
I was simply amazed. It was 1977, not really so long after I had, with considerable trepidation, found and bought "one size fits all", which I was relieved to discover had no rude lyrics. You see, I had little choice in this, like some kids in the 70's, I lived in a happy, though somewhat strict home. The cover for THIS one though... I sneaked in the living room and bolted upstairs and tucked it into the usual hiding place.
Then put it on. I reckon you shoud have been a fly on the wall. I just about went nuts. Two whole sides, no, nix that, four ENTIRE sides of the most astonishing music I had ever clapped my ears on. Oh, I don't know.
If I could have written something along the lines of discovering a secret garden, I would. I had secretly hoped that music like this would exist, and suddenly there it was - the crazy musique concrete (that I used to listen to at full volume with headphones on), the strange childrens music with vibraphones and xylophones, telling stories about a land with mysterious golden arches, and what else? I don't tell, though I dreampt about it once.
The most amazing thing is that while I write this, just the memory is making goosepimples appear on the back of my neck. Alas for days gone by, what wonders!
Dog breath in the year of the plague.... Fuzzy dice? Bongos in the back? To a kid in Yorkshire, uncertain and suspicious, this just seemed like dada, stimulating and weird... Fuzzy Dice? Great! That's just about exactly what a song about dog breath SHOULD have in it. Well 30 years and older and wiser, this is a love song no less, a fond reminiscence about days gone by with a clapped out chevrolet, sunny days driving to the middle of a hot nowhere with friends. And of course, it makes sense, it ISN'T dada, it's someones rosy tinted, dewey eyed, utterly unapologetic, terribly sentimental memories. Hooray for the heart! So what is the music - this altered state of woodwinds and something that sounds like ....
I'm still digesting the fact that Zappa wrote this and countless woodwind trios and strange things that, well, maybe NEVER will see the light of day in the studio. While other stuff was happening, while the 24 track Scully was going. A feat of the impossible, driven by necessity, doing what he simply had to do.
I'm just beginning to get the ideas straightened out for my own stuff now. 30 years. Uncle Meat is part of the formative tapestry that made my life that particular colour, that will always confuse me and make me believe that part of my past was somewhile in Laurel Canyon, that none of it was particularly serious, and that it's all vague and wonderful.
I used to think that I encountered Ligeti and Xenakis because of Zappa, now I don't know, they'll all the same, they all knew each other, none of them met each other, they all inhabit the state of surprise and wonder.
I say, join the ship. Leave this feeble place alone. Get out there, or wherever you can. Write about it! Do it! And buy this album RIGHT NOW!
Right, I want another beer pronto.
on 31 October 2003
Seminal Zappa album. A major influence. If you only buy 1 Zappa record this must be it.
on 3 June 2009
This is one of Zappa's real monsters, a truly great album that is arguably his masterwork. It's the most complex album he ever did, and many of the themes on this album were revamped for orchestra years later. And "King Kong" is here - 18 sublime minutes of pure unbridled Mothers majesty! There really isn't any way to describe Uncle Meat in a way that will prepare the listener. An amazing aural collage of chamber music, avant garde instrumentals, dialogue, rock, jazz, musique concrete, and of course doo-wop!!! One of the most bizarre records in popular music, the original release in 1968 was four sides of vinyl, covering many genres and styles. Musicianship is outstanding throughout. The CD is expanded to include a lengthy film dialogue excerpt and one song not on the original album.
Even though Zappa was the group's spearhead, it's obvious that this particular group's sound and image were unique, even in the Zappa canon. At the time, despite what he said later, he needed the original Mothers Of Invention. The mood, sound, and creativity would not have been the same if performed by the sort of session musicians Zappa later employed. There is typical Mothers-style humour here too, as with them playing the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in Los Angeles, a kazoo-accompanied "God Bless America," and the treatment they gave to "Louie Louie" at the Royal Albert Hall, desecrating the "mighty, majestic Albert Hall pipe organ" in the process. Some serious pieces offset this, such as "Project X," and "Legend Of The Golden Arches," "Dog Breath, In The Year Of The Plague," and of course the aforementioned definitive treatment of "King Kong" - no later lineup ever played it with the fire of this original band performance. Uncle Meat may take a little concentrated listening, but once you enter you're unlikely to want to leave...
on 4 December 1999
The compositional genius of Frank Zappa, one of the most underrated artists of the century, is shown in this brilliant album. There is everything here, from far out and weird compositions (uncle meat theme) to 50s doo-wop (The air). A track worth mentioning is the brilliant King Kong, which shows off the best of the Mothers improvisation skills. Buy it, if you like Frank Zappa.
on 13 June 2007
This is a mixture of music recorded live and(mostly)in the studio in New York in 1967.The MOI are now in their prime,and the range of styles they play is amazing-remember though,as FZ points out,"This is basically an instrumental album".
Highlights?"King Kong"in all it's majesty,the weird,almost chamber music sound of "Dog Breath Variations",the wonderfully silly vocals of "The Air",Suzy Creamcheese pointing out the risks of the rock lifestyle when it comes to groupies-"We had fleas and lots of crabs,and proceeded to give them to everyone in Laurel Canyon"-,FZ playing aoucustic guitar(a rarity indeed)Ian Underwood whipping it out in Copenhagen,there's something for all the family in this album.
However,there's also a second disc which is a soundtrack for the "Uncle Meat"film,which is not recommended,hence the 4 stars.
on 20 March 2003
Between the satirical vocal albums (Freak Out, Absolutely Free, We're only in it for the money) and the jazz influenced albums that showcase Zappa's prowess on the guitar (Hot rats, etc), comes this, a kind of chrysalis stage in the Mothers' development (akin to Pink Floyd's Ummagumma). Cross the doo-wop of Rueben and the Jets with the random conversational snippets and avant garde nature of Lumpy Gravy, and this is what you get.
On disc one , you have mostly free-form compositions with a lot of harpsichord and speeded up wind instruments. There are six actual songs, of which the lyrics of Mr Green Genes are so ridiculous that it's hard to dislike it!
On disc two, you have 37 minutes of utterly bizarre and warped dialogue (I was using the chicken to measure it), an eighties-sounding effort in pigeon Italian and a jazz composition (King Kong) which suggests the direction Zappa was headed.
Better that Lumpy Gravy, but still fairly inaccessible to a mainstream audience.
on 10 September 2014
If you only have one album in your collection then this has to be the one. Just make sure it's an original vinyl copy.
The CD is OK (ish) but it will only tickle you. The original vinyl mix will grab you by the throat and throw you round the room. There is no comparison between the vinyl and CD mixes of Mr Green Genes. The vinyl mix has the vocals in your face, not cowering behind your shoulder.
Shame they didn't do a 2012 remix version along the lines of Hot Rats.
on 16 April 2010
This record is quite simply stunning for so many reasons that time and review space will not permit.This a double album of(mostly}instrumental music from FZ and MOI.There are no trademark Zappa guitar solos, no real 'songs'.There are, however, sonic montages like nothing ever committed to rock posterity before and arguably since.I am actually saddened that I do not possess the critical faculty to convey some adequate 'description'of this music.It is sublime,it is the best Mothers album, best Zappa album, best,best,best.
I will point out that the CD issue contains some 37 minutes of Uncle Meat soundtrack dialogue that is not worthy of inclusion alongside the magisterial original double album with which it is packaged.