One Size Fits All

Frank Zappa / Mothers Of Invention

Rykodisc, 1975

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Frank Zappa's final studio album with the Mothers Of Invention - the fourth iteration of the band had been born on the Roxy & Elsewhere album - seemed, on the surface, to be bringing things full circle with what the Mothers had been to Zappa. This disc marked a return to an almost theatrical presentation of rock music, albeit missing the sophomoric humor that had marked the "Flo & Eddie"-era Mothers, and dared to even do deeper thinking, albeit on an absurd plane.

Yet it sometimes feels like Zappa and crew are re-treading old ground, and while there are some phenomenal performances on this disc, it serves as a belated swansong for the Mothers. (The Mothers' actual "last" album, not including archival releases, would come one disc later with Bongo Fury.)

Let's focus on the outstanding work first. "Sofa No. 1" is an amazing piece of instrumental work that was part of a story that would not be heard on vinyl until You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Volume 1my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 , but the power isn't in the story, it's in the stellar performance - so much so, in fact, that the vocal performance of "Sofa No. 2" that closes the disc is almost anti-climatic. There is also a guilty pleasure in the opening track "Inca Roads" in that the listener knows they're hearing something special - to me, it's really another birth cry of Zappa the guitar god that was first sounded on "Apostrophe" two albums previous.

Then, there are the performances that aren't quite as stellar, but are still good. "Po-Jama People" and "San Ber'dino" both are tracks that have their own unique charms about them, but the same kind of magic that embodies tracks like "Sofa No. 1" isn't quite at the same level. By no means am I saying these are bad tracks - indeed, they counted among the highlights as I kept going back to this disc for repeat listens. But they're second-tier, if you will.

Then there are the throwaways. "Florentine Pogen" just fails to go anywhere with its concept, and that's a bit of a disappointment to me. Likewise, "Andy" and "Evelyn, A Modified Dog" just seem as if they are taking up space, or trying to show that Zappa and the Mothers are a band to be taken seriously, only coming off as sounding a bit distracted and overblown. If there's a letdown on One Size Fits All, these tracks would constitute it.

For all of the good that one can say about One Size Fits All, one still can't help but feel that this disc was a transitory release for Zappa, almost as if he was forcing a door in his career closed as he pondered his next move. This isn't to say that he would abandon the theatrical-sounding style of his music - both Joe's Garage and Thing-Fish showed that those concepts were still alive. Perhaps it's because Zappa stays in the forefront for most of this disc, not sharing the spotlight as much as he did on Mothers albums from even as recently as the "Flo & Eddie" era.

The Mothers Of Invention would finally be put to rest with the next release, a live disc spotlighting Zappa and his childhood friend Captain Beefheart. But their final studio effort suggested that while there was still some definite magic there, the show was really about Zappa, and not the Mothers. A difficult disc to fully get into, this one is recommended only after the casual Zappa fan has had more time to get their feet wet in Zappa's vast discography.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 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.