Saturday, June 27, 2020

Frank Zappa's 1970 Version of The Mothers Is Highlighted By A New Live/Studio Box Set

Musical genius Frank Zappa put together his first band, The Mothers Of Inventions, back in 1964. It was mainly an R&B combo that Frank turned into his rock band, performing any odd or irregular song that was concocted. The original line-up lasted for about five years, before Zappa reassembled The Mothers Of Inventions in 1970. By this time, they were just called "The Mothers" and the new line-up consisted of George Duke, Ian Underwood, Jeff Simmons, Aynsley Dunbar and members of The Turtles (Mark Volman, Howard Kaylan and Jim Pons}. This line-up would only last a couple of years, but created some of the most highly regarded albums in the Frank Zappa catalog ("Chunga's Revenge" and "200 Motels").

In honor of the 50th anniversary of this line-up of The Mothers, Zappa Records and UMe have teamed up to release the new 4-CD box set "The Mothers 1970." This set gathers together about an hour's worth of studio outtakes and three discs worth of live highlights that were recorded by Frank's own tape machine. The twelve tracks that make up the first disc feel like a "fly-on-the-wall" recording, as you hear the band working through the instrumental sounds of "Item 1" and "Envelopes." Some of the tracks have multiple versions, like "Wonderful Wino," as you can see the progress in the different presentations of the song. Highlights from these studio sessions include an amazing nine-minute guitar work-out by Frank on "Red Tubular Lighter" and the solid jazz fusion instrumental of "Giraffe."

Discs two and three contain highlights from the band's shows in June, August and September 1970. I wouldn't say that the recordings sound professionally recorded, but they certainly display an aura about them. The fact that they are not over polished fits perfectly into the sound that The Mothers were creating on this tour. Some of their songs were short and concise pieces of art ("Concentration Moon" & "Mother People"), while epic numbers like "Call Any Vegetable" and the "King Kong" medley showcased how these amazing musicians melded their sounds together to create some outstanding live music. These discs also include a couple of well-known classics, like the Mothers Of Invention's single "Trouble Every Day" and The Turtles' hit "Happy Together."

The final disc in this set includes songs from Frank Zappa's own tape recordings of The Mothers' 1970 tour. These twenty tracks capture a feeling, whether listening to the band talk to the audience or performing some amazing instrumental pieces like "Portuguese Fenders" and "Turn It Down." These recordings have been cleaned-up some and have been overseen by Zappa vault master Joe Travers and produced by Ahmet Zappa, to give you the best sound possible, while also keeping that bootleg feeling that these original recordings are meant to have. While not every Frank Zappa fan will be pleased with the sound, I feel that that they are doing an outstanding job digging through the vaults and giving fans new glimpses into the genius of Frank Zappa. To find out more about the newly released box set "The Mothers 1970," please visit

No comments: