Influences - One Size Fits All

By Jon Lewin (?)

Making Music, December 1986

Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention
One Size Fits All


Forget any preoccupations of mustachioed hippy FZ, and come back with us to 1975 and this magnificent record. It consists of Zappa's best and funniest songs played by the most accomplished Mothers he ever assembled in the studio.

They are jazz-flavoured keyboardist and sweet-voiced George Duke, windperson Napoleon Murphy Brock, perfect percussionist Ruth Underwood, the melodic bassist Tom Flower, and (not-yet-Genesis) drummer Chester Thompson. Plus, of course, Francis Vincent Zappa, whose sleeve credit "all guitars" understates his luscious distorted six-string wanderings captured throughout the set.

The opening track "Inca Roads" alone has enough meat to sustain the hungriest musician-listener for weeks – complete changes sometimes of all instrument voices, tempo and feel from one bar to the next, brilliant interludes of mesmerizing counterpoint, and mouth-wateringly effective soloing.

Bring a good set of ears close to this record and you'll be rewarded: there's the voices, from rock operatic to close-miked over-intimacy, percussion in obvious almost Herb Alpert colours or more subversive half-hidden shadings, drums that sometimes sound dated but are undoubtedly human, a couple of early voyages into the land of the well-rounded synth baseline, failing however to compete with the electric's over-clever underpinning, and more keyboard noises that recall the fact that analogue synths used to have filter controls on them. Sounds clinical? You should hear them all together ...

It's frighteningly good, I tell you. And very funny too. "The pyjama people are boring me to pieces," Frank tells us, "they all get flannel up 'n down 'em, a little trap door back aroun' 'em ..."

Playing this well, and retaining a sense of humour about it all, is, as far as we're concerned, what it's all about. Get this and learn some lessons.