Sunday, April 28, 2013

Frank Zappa • Uncle Meat


   After the students' revolt in late 60’s, many hidden issues in politics, education, economics and social life came to light. The necessity of rebuilding some elements of culture became apparent. Some processes of fighting against injustice, segregation or unequal rights were taking place for decades; in sixties moving towards civil rights and social liberation were already quite well underway. With great expectations for the future, artists were trying to free social memory of cold war propaganda and imperial ideology. This was the perfect time to show the world the mirror and even most advanced artistic experiments were absorbed by more and more open society. But even then many noble idealists were unreasonably hopeful, escaping into naïve expectations, and the tragic existence on the edge was a final argument protecting them against absurdity.
   Frank Zappa was clearheaded rationalist from his very beginnings. He started with dual musical creation, from one side there was fusion music with some concepts of avant-garde compositions, elements of jazz, and from the other side with songs about popular culture being more sardonic than satirical or critical. Sometimes he was more composer, sometimes more lyricist and songwriter, sometimes just performer. His shows with Mothers of Invention became famous. One of most complex work were his musical movie projects giving him grounds for joining different musical elements and traditions. It is best feature of early Zappa’s works he was enough complex to be inspiring from every point of view. He was acting as a romantic composer using folk tunes and motifs to build advanced constructions, so he was using popular music and many other genres and artifacts to create his own, original, yet somehow decadent vision.

Frank Zappa & Mothers of Invention – Uncle Meat (1969)

   The sixth Frank Zappa album Uncle Meat was copyrighted in 1968 and released in March 1969. Surprisingly this album was selling much better than many other records with big “commercial potential” and Uncle Meat in short time reached the peak on 43rd position of US album chart. This was probably due to good reception of previous albums but in fact this double LP issue was perfectly produced and seemingly more indiscrete while heterogenic and complex. Under the title Uncle Meat printed with Old English typeface there was a subtitle stated: Most of the music from The Mother’s movie of the same name which we haven’t got enough money to finish yet. The material made for the movie Uncle Meat was reedited as a documentary in kind “making of” and published on videocassette in 1987. Also a CD edition was augmented with more than forty minutes of soundtrack excerpts (predominantly dialogues) and song Tengo Na Minchia Tanta recorded in 1982 with singer Massimo Bassoli.
   The original idea of Uncle Meat album looks as the perfect bunch of various ambitions. Sometime surrealistic lyrics were more readable in era of psychedelic rock but all spoken fragments were clearly taken from movie soundtrack. Experiments with tape, percussion and noise, modal scales and complex rhythms, multitrack recording, these entire elements make some fragments of this album can be quite a challenge for listeners with prejudices. What was avant-garde in sixties, today sounds as classical, well balanced concert music. Original and creative combination of traditional instruments and electronics, complex structures developed from simple melodic motifs, resignation of diatonic function in harmonics and the use of techniques of serialism, all this make the music of the Uncle Meat album one of most interesting documents of its time. Without fail it should be regarded as a serious composition. This is why the original album deserves five out of five stars.

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