Sound — 10
Frank Zappa's second release with the Mothers of Invention may be one of his finest. An album filled with humor, political satire, and of course, references to sex. While that may scare off the average listener, fear not, for this album highlights some of Zappa's greatest achievements. The incarnation of the Mothers here consists of Zappa on guitar and vocals, Ray Collins on vocals and tambourine, Jim Fielder (of Blood, Sweat and Tears) on guitar and piano, Don Preston on keyboards, Bunk Gardner on woodwinds, Roy Estrada on bass and vocals, Jimmy Carl Black on drums and vocals, and Billy Mundi on drums and percussion. While it is only Zappa's second album, it is arguably one of his greatest.
Lyrics — 10
01. Plastic People: this song, which starts off with a mock-introduction of the President of the United States, is based loosely on the '60s classic, "Louie, Louie". Zappa clearly liked "Louie, Louie" because he used it a lot in many different songs of his. This is a strange one from Zappa, but the actual singing parts could get stuck in anybody's head. 02. The Duke of Prunes: the title says it all, the lyrics will be odd. "A moonbeam through the prune In June Reveals your chest, I see your lovely beans And in that magic go-kart I bite your neck, The cheese I have for you, My dear, Is real and very new!" That's it for those lyrics, but they repeat again with an almost Motown beat behind it. This one is sort of a twisted love song of sorts. 03. Amnesia Vivace: not much for lyrics here, just some talking over some Stravinsky musical quotations. Funny talking, but no real lyrics. This is part two of the Duke of Prunes suite. 04. The Duke Regains His Chops: part three of the Duke of Prunes suite, the lyrics are repeated from "The Duke of Prunes". The song cites "Baby Love" by the Supremes. It builds up like a Supremes song would, as noted by Zappa in the middle of the builing up. 05. Call Any Vegetable: this is the first recorded version of the Zappa classic that is talking of people who are inactive in society. Another track with nonsensical, funny lyrics that are perfectly fitting to the music. 06. Invocation and Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin: instrumental song with a musical quotation from Gustav Holst's "Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity" from his Planets Suite. This song is part of another suite on the album, and connects Call Any Vegetable and Soft-Sell Conclusion. 07. Soft-Sell Conclusion: the closing to this suite, includes the answer to that life-long question "What can a person say to a vegetable?". The answer my simple is friends, just call and tell them how you feel about muffins, pumpkins, wax paper, caledonia, mahogonies, elbows, and green things in general. The ending of this song includes a faux blues sound to it. 08. Big Leg Emma: this bonus track on the CD is one of the songs Zappa called "a stupid song to attract stupid teenagers". Repetetive lyrics, an r&b feel, everything a stupid teenager loves. 09. Why Don'tcha Do Me Right?: the second bonus track on the CD is another "stupid song for stupid teenagers". More repetetive lyrics, and more of an r&b feel. Yet, it's still good... 10. America Drinks: another type of twisted love song of sorts, with some added speaking parts thrown in here and there. It's got a sort of lounge feel until the last section that feels almost circus-like. 11. Status Back Baby: a song about losing status in high school, which Zappa thought was an unfortunate thing to worry about. This was originally part of a never officially released "rock opera" with Captain Beefheart called I Was a Teenage Malt Shop. After the guitar solo, Zappa again quotes Stravinsky, an occurance common on this album. 12. Uncle Bernie's Farm this song starts with a musical quote from Irving Berlin's "White Congress". This song, as described by Zappa, is a song about ugly toys and the people who make them. Implied here is the possibility that people who buy the ugly toys might be us ugly as the toys themselves. 13. Son of Suzy Creamcheese: this is another song that is loosely based on "Louie, Louie" but only at the chorus, as the verses go through changes in the time signature. A great little song about a great fictional character. 14. Brown Shoes Don't Make It: arguably one of Zappa's finest songs. Some people have referred to this track as a two-hour musical condensed to seven and a half minutes. The title is taken from a headline about LBJ wearing brown shoes with a blue suit. The lyrics here deal with the people who run governments and their sexual frustations. 15. America Drinks and Goes Home: a reprise of "America Drinks", this track has some sound effects of a bar thrown into the background, giving it an almost live sound. This is a more upbeat version, with a little extra speaking part included on the end of it.
Overall Impression — 10
One of Zappa's early masterpieces, this song is certainly not for the listener new to Zappa's work. I feel that if this were the first Zappa album I ever listened to, I would never want to listen to him again. However, if you are a seasoned veteran to his work, you should certainly give this a listen, for it is one of Zappa's most overlooked works. So many styles of music thrown into one album makes this a piece of art.