Weasels Ripped My Flesh

Frank Zappa / Mothers Of Invention

Rykodisc, 1970

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/06/2005

If Burnt Weeny Sandwich was the first warning shot from Frank Zappa that he had full artistic control of his music, then Weasels Ripped My Flesh, his second album to be released with the Mothers Of Invention in 1970, was the full-scale war. If only there were a clear-cut winner.

Featuring more ad-lib material, instrumental squawking and vocal muttering and grunting, this is by far the most challenging disc to come forth from Zappa's mind to this point in his career. Interestingly enough, my take on it ranges from almost unlistenable to halfway decent, depending on my mood at the time. Maybe Zappa just happened to catch me on a good day today.

Make no mistake, anyone who isn't somewhat well-versed with Zappa's style of music (especially in the live setting) is going to be in for one hell of a shock with "Didja Get Any Onya?," a track that definitely will try anyone's patience. (At times, it also made me wish that someone had pulled a Linda McCartney on Lowell George and Roy Estrada's microphones. Yes, you read right - Lowell George.) Likewise, "Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Sexually Aroused Gas Mask" turned out to be nearly four minutes of my life that I want back. The less said about the autoerotic cacophony of the title track, the better.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Yet there is plenty of "straight" material to balance out the bizarre moments. The group's cover of Little Richard's "Directly From My Heart To You" is an absolutely amazing performance, including a violin solo from Don "Sugarcane" Harris that sounds like he's playing one of Zappa's leads on the fiddle. What someone like John Popper did to harmonica is what Harris does to the violin on this track - you just think that something that amazing is humanly impossible. And, while there is some weirdness in "Toads Of The Short Forest," I do kind of like this track, especially with the description of what everyone is doing being narrated by Zappa in the background. (Listen to this track with headphones to get the full effect.)

The one-two punch of "Oh No" (which, surprisingly, doesn't work as well with lyrics as it did instrumentally on Lumpy Gravy) and "The Orange County Lumber Truck" is a natural progression, and hints at the path that Zappa's later work would take, segueing one track into the other with no room for breath. And, I never thought I would say this, but I think I finally was able to appreciate "The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue" this time around - only took, what, 12 years for me to come around?

Weasels Ripped My Flesh marked the end of an era for the Mothers Of Invention, as they would take a stylistic turn with the upcoming additions of Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman (though I'll spare you my view of this style change - you'll read about it in a couple of reviews), though it definitely didn't stop Zappa's experimentation with sounds that, on the surface, don't seem to go together. If anything, Weasels Ripped My Flesh was a primer for what would be coming up a little later in Zappa's career. This one is recommended for the fans only - and if you do decide to check it out, approach with some caution.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2005 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rykodisc, and is used for informational purposes only.