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Ahead of Their Time (Live)

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Album Review

The date is October 28, 1968. The Mothers of Invention are playing the Royal Festival Hall in London. Frank Zappa has booked 14 musicians from the BBC Symphony Orchestra to accompany them during the first part of the show. He had been writing chamber music pieces in the hotel rooms he visited and wanted to try them out. He strung them together by devising a psychodrama he called "Progress?" This was meant (and indeed turned out) to be a one-time performance, so he made sure to record it. He released the whole thing as Ahead of Their Time 25 years later. The first half of the disc is comprised of the "play." A faction of the Mothers want to play conservative concert music. Don Preston advocates progress with his avant-gardist electronics. He and pianist Ian Underwood battle it out while other frivolous characters (played by members of the Mothers) intervene. It must have been a lot of fun to watch (and it was filmed; parts of it appeared in the movie Uncle Meat), but some of the more visual scenes translate poorly on record. More important is the music itself, which definitely points toward the score to 200 Motels — it even includes "Holiday in Berlin," which will eventually become a central theme of the film music. The second half of the CD presents the rock part of that night's concert. All instrumental and very focused, it presents Zappa's best tunes from 1967-1968, including the complete sequence that includes "Let's Make the Water Turn Black," "Harry You're a Beast," "The Orange County Lumber Truck," and "Oh No." The sound quality is far from perfect, but this is a crucial document that fans of the '60s Mothers will enjoy. ~ François Couture, Rovi

Customer Reviews

great 2nd half

the first half of this disc is ok. nothing special. but the 2nd half , from king kong on, is incredible. it's played without pauses and rock out. probably my favorite piece of zappa music. in the liner notes frank says this is just an average end to the show. i must respectfully disagree. it's frigging amazing!

2nd Half Is Outstanding!

First half of this (Songs 1 - 10) is a "play" by Frank that pits his jazz/rock musicians against the classically trained LOS musicians that were hired for the concert.
Seeing it live was probably a treat, but it just doesn't hold up as well without the visuals.

The second half (songs 11-20) is the real treat of this album. Ten instrumental tunes from th '68 band that just cook. They were without a vocalist at the time so they just rocked out on some of the best Mothers music from the 1967-68 period.

Includes the full sequence of "Let's Make The Water Turn Black", "Harry, You're A Beast", "Orange County Lumber Truck, Pt1", "Oh No", and "Orange County Lumber Truck Pt2". Some of the best music you will ever hear in your life.

For those of you who own Weasels Ripped My Flesh, and have always wanted to hear more of the guitar solo Frank was just starting to get into on "The Orange County Lumber Truck" before it ended abruptly at around the 3 and a half minute mark, the Ahead Of Their Time version is the full ten minute version.

First ten songs a 2 star effort---second ten songs, a 5 star effort


Genre: Rock

The Mothers of Invention were led by composer, guitarist, singer, and bandleader Frank Zappa, a singular musical figure during a performing and recording career that lasted from the 1960s to the '90s. His disparate influences included doo wop music and avant-garde classical music; although the Mothers were called a rock & roll band for much of their years together, Zappa used them to create a hybrid style that bordered on jazz and complicated, modern serious music. As if his music were not challenging...
Full Bio
Ahead of Their Time (Live), The Mothers of Invention
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