The Mothers Of Invention: Burnt Weenie Sandwich

By Alan Heineman

DownBeat, 25 June 1970

BURNT WEENIE SANDWICH – Bizarre RS 6370: WPLI; Igor's Boogie, Phase One; Overture to a Holiday in Berlin; Theme from Burnt Weenie Sandwich; Igor's Boogie, Phase Two; Holiday in Berlin, Full Blown; Aybe Sea; Little House I Used to Live In; Valarie.
Personnel: Bunk Gardner, brass, reeds; Jim Sherwood, reeds; Ian Underwood, reeds, keyboards; Don Preston, keyboards; Sugar Cane Harris, violin; Frank Zappa, guitar, vocals; Roy Estrada, electric bass, vocals; Art Tripp, Jimmy Carl Black, drums, percussion.

Rating: ★★★★★

Not much to choose between this and Uncle Meat: both are strange, fragmented, wonderful albums. The opening and closing tunes are pretty much throwaways, though perhaps they serve as frames, a way of saying, "This, oddly enough, is where all our freaky music begins." WPLJ and Valarie are black '50s rock epitomized – not very good, but fun. The Mothers' performances are faithful in spirit to the originals, except that in the spoken interlude of WPLJ, Estrada swears a blue streak in Spanish.

Igor's is a 40-second fragment – Underwood, probably, on clarinet. Holiday Overture is an askew Germanic waltz which ends suddenly as Zappa fades in on wawa rock guitar to begin Theme, plays an interesting solo, and gives way to a percussion section, which then segues to a reprise of Igor's, this time with some texture to it. Another segue to Holiday Full Blown, based on Overture but with elements of Theme in it as well. There is an intentionally sick-sweet tenor solo ( the maudlin '30s at home and abroad?), a poom-pa, poom-pa reeds and brass section; then the rock rhythm surfaces. Some keyboard and reed unison work, possibly electronically altered, after which Zappa solos again, using the ubiquitous wawa (he's incredibly good at controlling the device) and playing much more melodically and developmentally than is his wont, although there are other kinds of passages in his exceptional solo. When he finishes, various combinations of instruments explore the piece's several themes. Gradually, Underwood's piano becomes the dominant voice and the other instruments die away, leaving Underwood to solo unaccompanied (Aybe). Interesting in spots, but Underwood is a better reedman than pianist. All told, Holiday Full Blown is an exciting, variegated, successfully experimental performance.

House takes up 21:52 of the second side, it's led into by some solo piano in the same vein as on Aybe, so maybe House is part of the collage comprising all of side one. The ensemble enters in a rock mode but playing a very strange meter – maybe 6/8, but if so, the accents vary wildly. Evenly accented threes and fours are also interspersed, and the ensemble work throughout the piece is based on these figures. Really electric. What is it?

There's a guitar-drum duet before Harris, who's a bitch on his instrument, enters and dominates the rest of the cut. His entrance is in a slow, bluesy four, but he changes moods, tempos and accents kaleidoscopically. (He gets some of his colors from Mike White, but is technically somewhat superior – in Ponty's league.)

It may well be that in the year 2000 (we should live so long), the Mothers' music will be considered the highest level of music attained during the present period. This album, despite a few fleetingly dull or repetitive passages, makes a good case for that view.

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