Friday, August 30, 2013

Frank Zappa 20: One Size Fits All

While one of his more challenging albums musically, One Size Fits All is also one of Zappa’s more accessible. Unless we’re missing something, there doesn’t appear to be a single off-color lyric or bathroom subject matter anywhere; instead, the focus is on the music and the incredible performances herein.

The positively dizzying “Inca Roads” approaches prog-rock, from its subject matter to its time signatures to its Moog solos. But as soon as you hear Ruth Underwood’s vibes and marimbas, it’s a Zappa song through and through. “Can’t Afford No Shoes” is political below the surface, which is easy to miss if you just concentrate on the guitar. One of his more majestic (there’s that word again) melodies has got to be “Sofa”, which is heard again at the end of the album, with German lyrics, and no amount of research has been able to explain what the hell it all means. “Po-Jama People” is a pretty tasty showcase for George Duke’s piano and Zappa’s guitar, playing at each other, and particularly after the vocal section finishes.

Side two concentrates more on his own homegrown mythology. One can spend as much time pondering the significance of “Florentine Pogen”, which would seem to be a young lady named after a Swedish brand of cookie, or one could squint at the constellations on the star map all over the cover and play “Find the In-Joke”. Luckily for “Evelyn, A Modified Dog”, she doesn’t suffer the same ridicule and abuse as her poodle relations, and before you know it we’re in the drunk tank in “San Ber’dino”, with a harmonica that sounds like an accordion. In a mild harbinger of a future style, “Andy” gets a grand arrangement, something like Utopia-goes-to-Broadway. Whatever it’s about.

One Size Fits All was partially recorded in a television studio for eventual broadcast, which would account for its fresh, live sound. Again, the music is of such a level and quality that the words seem an afterthought. It’s an excellent place to newcomers to wade in, particularly after such a high silly ratio in much of his other ‘70s work.

Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention One Size Fits All (1975)—4

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