Burnt Weeny Sandwich

Frank Zappa / Mothers Of Invention

Rykodisc, 1970


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


1970 represented a turning point for Frank Zappa. Now fully in control of his musical destiny, he formed a new iteration of the Mothers Of Invention and went to work following his own schitzophrenic muse, making more twists and turns than any roller-coaster you can find at Disneyland.

The first release from the nouveau Mothers, Burnt Weeny Sandwich, finds Zappa and the Mothers treading on previously-covered ground, with a disc featuring '50s doo-wop and what sounds like another instrumental film score, albeit not quite on the same level as that for Uncle Meat. The end result, while still good, is a step down from what Zappa and crew had accomplished with Uncle Meat and Hot Rats.

The disc is book-ended with two doo-wop numbers, the first actually being a cover of The Four Deuces's "WPLJ," but without all of the fire and conviction that one would have expected to hear poured in from Zappa. The latter, "Valarie," is an original that sounds extremely crisp, and not only would have easily fit onto my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Cruising With Ruben & The Jets, but could have been the signature piece.

The remainder of the music all has the feel of a film score (and, if memory serves me right, Zappa did indeed make a short film called "Burnt Weeny Sandwich"). While the overall feel of the music never quite captures the genius that was Uncle Meat, there are certainly many performances worthy of praise. Take "Holiday In Berlin, Full Blown," a definitive tour-de-force that shows that even with a different group of musicians backing him, Zappa could still work wonders with the Mothers. Likewise, "Aybe Sea" may be considered to be a throw-away number at just under three minutes, but its simplicity in sound is what attracts me to this piece, and is a good pairing with "Holiday In Berlin".

The epic number on Burnt Weeny Sandwich, "Little House I Used To Live In," tries to capture the magic of "King Kong" from Uncle Meat, but never really rises to the occasion. Oh, it's good, leave no doubt about that, but it doesn't keep the listener holding on to each note like its predecessor did. Still, it is an admirable piece of work - though it is a bit surprising to have seen Zappa latch onto jazz for three albums in a row. (His flirtation with the genre was by no means over.)

Some of the other pieces, like the two "Igor's Boogie" tracks, are indeed throwaways, and never really capture the listener's ear. Likewise, "Theme From Burnt Weeny Sandwich" just doesn't have the kind of magic that was all but expected from Zappa and the Mothers at this phase in their career. They're not bad tracks, just nothing to write home about.

Burnt Weeny Sandwich is another one of Zappa's works that tends to get pushed to the back of the closet for one reason or another. While it's not as magnificent as Uncle Meat, it still shows that Zappa was riding near the top of the wave of his creativity. If only he could sustain that for a little bit longer.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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