Frank Zappa & the Mothers
The Mothers 1971 [Super Deluxe Edition]
Finding a single favorite Frank Zappa to suit your needs is an impossible task—the psychedelic social critic, the Stravinsky/Varese-inspired avant-guard gatekeeper, the devious doo-wop crafter of California pachuco cool, the post-progressive jazz master. A particularly winning Zappa for this writer is the one leading The Mothers of 1971. Famously filled with friends and musical miscreants before this, Zappa top loaded this iteration of The Mothers with ferocious instrumental accompanists such as longtime reedsman Ian Underwood, British powerhouse drummer Aynsley Dunbar, and inventive bassist Jim Pons. Equally matched in their invention came Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman—a.k.a. Flo & Eddie of The Turtles, a duo known (as was Zappa) for their dippy, caustic humor and keen sense of absurdity.
Commercially in its prime/time, this iteration of Mothers only officially released Just Another Band from L.A. and Fillmore East – June 1971, and represented the larger chunk of Zappa’s film directorial/compositional debut, 200 Motels. As with all things Frank since his start, the guitarist/composer/producer recorded this band’s brief time as a live sketch comedy/rainbow-hued music collective and has since dropped a motherlode: several previously unreleased Fillmore East showcases in one eight-CD box—to say nothing of two three-LP vinyl editions, one from Fillmore East – June 1971 with two LPs of bonus tracks, including its famed John Lennon and Yoko Ono encore, and a second, London-based Rainbow Theatre concert.
Famous for its LP’s side-long, goofball mini-opera, the silly, multi-part “Billy the Mountain” suite, this live Mothers recording went back to Zappa’s Cali-R&B-vocal-group roots with rare tracks such as “Tears Began to Fall” and its non-album-track B-side “Junier Mintz Boogie.” In two of saxophonist Underwood’s most provocative moments, his winding reed sounds enliven two of his employers’ cleverest instrumental melodies—the prickly, percolating jazz of “Peaches En Regalia” and the rabid, neo-classical “King Kong.” Jumping back to Zappa-the-blues-fiend, the guitarist crunches “Willie the Pimp” into a dirtball, musky funk parade. Despite reliving a majority of its tracks over-and-over, each show—solo and sketch—is different with its own oddball, gorgeous outcome. Worth every penny, Zappa’s The Mothers 1971 is the wired, weird epic you didn’t know you needed.