Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention One Size Fits All 1975

There are a lot of Zappa records to choose from. There is also a lot of inconsistency in the quality of his product. For every great record there's one with few good songs. Perhaps his best run of consecutive records began in July of 1972 with Waka/Jawaka and ended in 1975 with this one, One Size Fits All. Everything in between is good stuff: The Grand Wazoo (Zappa's incredible big-band jazz moment),  Over-Nite Sensation (Zappa's most sexually explicit record, which also includes the great, and still applicable, I'm The Slime), 'Apostrophe (Frank's biggest hit record, and deserving of the fame), and Roxy & Elsewhere (the live document of the great band being reviewed here). There is one thing that all of these records have in common, and that is George Duke, the highly regarded jazz-rock fusion keyboardist. Duke clearly inspired Zappa to new explorations of fusion music, and Zappa benefited greatly from his ideas and performances.

But Duke is just the beginning. The band on One Size Fits All also includes Chester Thompson on drums, the incomparable Ruth Underwood on vibes, marimba and percussion, Tom Fowler on bass, and long time Zappa sideman Napoleon Murphy Brock on flute, sax and vocals. Most of these tight jams are realized by four or five musicians, and they kick butt.

The other thing that makes this record easy to recommend is the lyrical content. I'm not saying it's great, but it's fun and inoffensive (OK, there's that one line about Bobby and the prison shower). Zappa was clearly trying to be more "commercial". This is a record of songs, five to seven minutes long, with well defined lead breaks of 12-20 bars.

The record opens with Inca Roads, one of Zappa's finest, and a future staple of his live shows. Zappa's hot jazz guitar and Duke's synthesizer lead are incredible. Can't Afford No Shows is a simple structure, with more great guitar. The instrumental Sofa #1 is next, and it's an orchestral introduction for Po-Jama People, with trite mocking lyrics and another incendiary jam by this smokin' band.

Florentine Pogen opens side two, with wacky lyrics mocking the very prog rock that the song emulates. Evelyn, A Modified Dog is, well, you'd have to hear it. It's short, and very funny. That's followed by San Ber'Dino poking fun at trailer trash and producing yet another crazy jazz-rock break. Andy is more of the same, and finally Sofa #2 ends the show with Wagner-style pomposity,  mind-bending vibes from Ms. Underwood, and Frank singing nonsense in German.

This is one of the ones that is great all the way trhough.

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