The Zappa Family Trust will mark the 50th anniversary of Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention’s politically-charged, envelope-pushing sophomore album, Absolutely Free, with an expanded vinyl-exclusive edition on September 29th via Zappa Records/UMe. This double 180-gram LP version will include the original record mastered by Bernie Grundman cut directly from the original analog master tapes and a second disc with 20 minutes of rare and unreleased bonus material, including the “Why Don’tcha Do Me Right?”/”Big Leg Emma” single as well as vintage remixes and radio ads from The Vault on side one and a laser etching of Zappa’s visage from the album cover on side two. The package features Zappa’s original layout and a reproduction of the rare, highly sought-after “libretto,” an 18-page booklet with a foreword by FZ and lyrics to all the compositions, that was offered only by mail order when originally released.
Released 50 years ago on May 26, 1967 on Verve Records, Absolutely Free was the Mothers of Invention’s follow-up to their landmark debut album, Freak Out! Brash, challenging and exhilarating, the record was revolutionary as it pushed the limits of what an album could be. A pop culture pastiche, the album leaps through genres – from psychedelic pop and progressive rock to free-form jazz and avant-garde noise to doo-wop and garage rock, often in the same composition as on album highlight, “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It,” and is filled with Zappa’s trademark biting political and social satire. Hailed by All Music as a “fabulously inventive record” that is “by turns hilarious, inscrutable, and virtuosically complex,” the album is divided into two “oratorios” or song suites – “Absolutely Free” and “The M.O.I. American Pageant” – and is rife with complex instrumentation, cutting edge experimentation and unconventional editing.
Produced by Tom Wilson (Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground, Sun Ra), who first worked with the band on Freak Out! the year prior, Absolutely Free featured an expanded cadre of musicians working with Zappa and vocalist Ray Collins and included Jim Fielder on guitar, Roy Estrada on bass, Don Preston on keyboards, Bunk Gardner on woodwinds, and drummers Jim Black and Billy Mundi. The album was recorded the week before Thanksgiving, November 1966 in Los Angeles at the Sunset-Highland Studios of T.T.G. Inc., in a series of four sessions. It was edited and re-mixed in New York City at the MGM Studios in five sessions the following week. In Clash’s appreciation of the record, they exclaimed: “Amidst this high-brow inspiration and aggressive musical arrangement we have beautiful passages of melody, laugh-out-loud lyrics about vegetables and lacerating cynicism. Nonconformist, comedic and maverick, Absolutely Free establishes Zappa as a fantastical musical mutineer and pioneering bandleader.”
As Zappa wrote in the “libretto,” “The music of the Mothers speaks of the feelings of what might be described as The Vast Minority. The feelings of the people on the fringe of everything . . . the ones who don’t care if they’re in or out … don’t care if they’re hip, hep, swingin’ or zorch. This is the audience the Mothers want to reach … those few have the power within themselves to cause or motivate social change but have never used it for one reason or another. If you are reading this and understand it (even if you have short hair and watch TV 18 hours a day), it is time that you realized who and what you are. It is time you realized what the words to our songs mean.”
50 years later Absolutely Free resonates as strong as ever and has proven itself to be prescient and wildly ahead of its time.
LP1 – Side 2
LP1 – Side 2
LP 2 – Side 2 Laser Etching
LP 2 – Side 2