Frank Zappa / Mothers Of Invention

Verve, 1969

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It may be of interest to only myself, but Mothermania is the only Frank Zappa release being covered in this retrospective that has never been released on CD. Basically a contract-finishing album that Zappa put together for Verve, this release focuses solely on the first three Mothers releases, surprisingly ignoring Uncle Meat, which I still feel was their best release from that period.

Interestingly enough, while the 11 tracks that make up this release are good, I'd be hard-pressed to say that anyone should pay blood money to buy a used copy on vinyl from eBay. As solid as the tracks are, it seems a bit redundant that the Mothers would be putting out a greatest-hits release after only three years.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Perhaps it's because I've done little more than listen to non-stop Zappa in the last 24 hours, but unlike many best-of compilations, the tracks contained herein lose little to none of their power when taken out of the context of the albums they originally came from. Tracks like "Who Are The Brain Police?," "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" and "Call Any Vegetable" offer solid proof that the Mothers, even in their early days, were a solid musical unit that never really got the credit they deserved, simply because the music they made didn't fit the mold of popular music... then, or now.

What is unexplainable to me is that We're Only In It For The Money has only two tracks culled from it - and, at least if it had been up to me, I'd have replaced "The Idiot Bastard Son" with "Let's Make The Water Turn Black". Then again, these kind of arguments could apply to every single best-of released since the beginning of time. And while I do feel that the disc leans too heavily on Absolutely Free, I can't make a good argument for cutting any of the selected tracks.

When one thinks about it, you could make the argument for picking up Mothermania if you wanted to learn something about the early Mothers Of Invention - but that argument would fail on two points. First, both Cruising With Ruben & The Jets and Uncle Meat are ignored, and you need at least a taste of these discs to understand the whole trip the Mothers had been on for three years. Second, as much as I said the songs don't lose any of their power, there is something to be said about hearing them in the context of their original albums that can't be replaced by a greatest-hits package.

Do not mistake me; Mothermania, taken on its own, is a solid enough disc that does indeed feature some great work by Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention. But, unless you are a Zappa completist who absolutely must own everything he ever released, you can lead a fulfilling life without owning this record.

Rating: B

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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 Verve, and is used for informational purposes only.