Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Mothers Of Invention - 1967 - Absolutely Free

The Mothers Of Invention 
Absolutely Free

01. Plastic People (3:42)
02. The Duke of Prunes (2:13)
03. Amnesia Vivace (1:01)
04. The Duke regains his chops (1:50)
05. Call any vegatable (2:20)
06. Invocation and Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin (7:00)
07. Soft-Sell conclusion (1:40)
08. (Big leg Emma) (2:32)
09. (Why don'tcha do me right?) (2:37)
10. America drinks (1:53)
11. Status back baby (2:54)
12. Uncle Bernie's Farm (2:11)
13. Son of Suzy Creamcheese (1:34)
14. Brown shoes don't make it (7:30)
15. America drinks & goes home (2:46)

- Frank Zappa / guitar, vocals
- Ray Collins / vocals
- Roy Estrada / bass
- Don Preston / keyboards
- Bunk Gardner / saxophone
- Jimmy Carl Black / drums
- Bill Mundi /drums

Tracks 8 & 9 bonus cd tracks, not on originl LP either mono or stereo versions

In the summer of 1966, Uncle Frank had released the iconic debut known as "Freak Out!" which showed that America had some heavy musical hitters of their own competing with the Brits. He had also settled into Laurel Canyon near LA where he would live the rest of his life save for a short time in New York. Still in 1966 he assembled the material that would become "Absolutely Free" and recorded it in just four days in November 1966. There had been some line-up changes, with Billy Mundi, Don Preston, Jim Felder, Jim Sherwood, and Bunk Gardner joining the fold. Mother Elliot Ingber was fired from the band for smoking too much weed, something Frank would not tolerate. Ray Collins remembered one night Elliot was so baked he was trying to tune his guitar while his amp wasn't turned on. Frank noticed, looked at Elliot, looked at the amp, then gave Collins a look which made clear Elliot's days of Motherhood were done.

The album was not released until summer 1967. The Mothers had moved to NY for gigs, Gail was pregnant with Moon, and the band were preparing for a European tour. Frank hastily married Gail just prior to Moon's birth to appease their Catholic parents, not something he was thrilled about. In late 1966 he told an interviewer that if he ever married again "I'd prefer a sterile deaf mute who likes to wash dishes. There are so many American women who fit that description philosophically I might as well own one." Calling his wedding with Gail "cheezy" and still sleeping around on the side, he took off for London just prior to Moon's birth when he could easily have juggled things to be there. Always the romantic. Anyway, it was against this crazy backdrop that Zappa and the Mothers were ready to give London a taste of absolute freedom.

 What a shift we have here. "Absolutely Free" is the perfect bridge-album between the semi-safe sounding songs of "Freak Out!" and the completely intense freak-show cabaret of "We're Only In It For The Money". Although the last 3 tracks on "Freak Out!" were far from safe sounding, "Absolutely Free" completely steamrolls these tracks. The album is an intense concept, which is driven by Frank's cynical lyrics that are mostly aimed to criticize the government and politics of the time. This albums a complete blender of genres, including some rhythm and blues and teenage pop spoofs all culminating into the mock cabaret lounge finale. The album is divided into two parts, with tracks 1-7 being the "Absolutely Free" section (A side on vinyl) and tracks 10-15 being the "The Mothers Of Invention American Pageant", B side on vinyl. On the CD re- master, the gaps is filled with the single "Big Leg Emma" and its B side, "Why Don'tcha Do Me Right?".

The "Absolutely Free" part is one of the most musically challenging pieces Frank has ever written, and it still stands the test of time today as the most eclectic piece on the market. "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" is a brilliantly disturbed track that is considered by many to be his first magnum opus of sorts. The two back-to-back suites are things of absolute beauty. "The Duke Of Prunes/Amnesia Vivace/The Duke Regains His Chops" is a comical, under 5 minute long suite which is a near-classical piece about, you guessed it, The Duke of Prunes. The next three songs form the un-officially titled "Vegetable Suite", with this suite being comprised of "Call Any Vegetable/Invocation & Ritual Dance Of The Young Pumpkin/Soft-Cell Conclusion". "Call Any Vegetable" is the very first song that the Mothers really use their fusion style on, and "Invocation & Ritual Dance Of The Young Pumpkin" is the first instrumental track where they finally find their rhythm and start to groove and jam in harmony, with their full repertoire working simultaneously. The first track on this part is really the only track that isn't part of a suite. "Plastic People" is an excellent track nonetheless, although it is dated because of its lyrics that talk about 'American womanhood', and that is no longer an issue today.

"The Mothers of Invention American Pageant" is not quite as good as "Absolutely Free", but it still has its strong points. "America Drinks" starts this side of the album and it is a really shoddy spoof of an American cabaret lounge that is really a complete lack of substance, although I do enjoy the drumming by Jimmy Carl Black. "Uncle Bernie's Farm" is the second song, and it is a very refreshing, short song that has no apparent subject but still sounds fresh every time you listen. "Son Of Suzy Creamcheese" is another very short song, and as you may have guessed it is the same character that appeared in "The Return Of The Sun Of Monster Magnet" on "Freak Out!", although this song also lacks a little bit of substance. The next song is not only the stand out track of this side, it also the best on the album itself. "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" is a brilliantly disturbed track that is considered by many to be Frank's first magnum opus of sorts. "America Drinks & Goes Home" is the closer of the album, and it is really just the same song as "America Drinks", except this is a little better because it features some funny spoken word by Frank.

So if you really think about it, the first 3 Mothers albums could, in theory, be combined to form an amazing masterpiece of music. "Absolutely Free" has the most important role of the 3, as it is the bridge between the safe and easy majority of "Freak Out!" and the freaky and intensely acidic "We're Only In It For The Money", and this album really does its job. It brings you into it slowly, introducing the true fusion of the band on "The Vegetable Suite" and then going all out on "Brown Shoes Don't Make It". The only down points of the album are the two "America Drinks" songs, which really lack any sort of substance but are still quite comedic, and the "Big Leg Emma" single in the CD re-master.

Different Issues of Absolutely Free:
Original vinyl (Verve V65013 in the US, May 26 1967; Verve SVLP 9174 in the UK (no gatefold cover), October 1967) (also discovered on white Verve label - presumably the very last pressing(s))
Mono vinyl (Verve V 5013 in the US, May 26 1967; Verve VLP 9174 in the UK, October 1967)
German vinyl (Verve 710006)
French vinyl (Verve / Gravure Universelle 710006, single sleeve, different back cover with live picture)
British vinyl re-issue (Verve 71006)
Japanese vinyl (Verve MV 1120, unique cover)
Australian vinyl (Verve V 5013 in mono, V6 5013 in stereo, 1968)
Cassettes (Verve 3113 066, D416-74212)
Reel-to-Reel (Verve VVX 5013, US, stereo, 4-track, 3.75-IPS)
UK vinyl re-issue (Verve Polydor Select 2317-035, June 1972, gatefold cover)
UK cassette (Verve Polydor 3113-036)
White MGM label re-issue (between 1972 and 1975)
"Facsimile bootleg" copy of Verve 2317 035
The Old Masters vinyl (Barking Pumpkin BPR 7777-2, April 1985)
Original CD (Ryko RCD10093 in the US (imported into Australia by Festival Records and re-stickered Ryko D40733), Zappa CDZAP12 in the UK, January 1989; VACK 5022 in Japan)
Russian picture CD (Grammy UL 98909)
Zappa Records cassette (TZAPPA12)
1995 CD (Ryko RCD 10502, May 2 1995; VACK 5111 in Japan, renumbered 5246 in 1998)
1995 cassette (Ryko RAC 10502, May 2 1995)
Japanese paper-sleeve CD (Ryko/VACK 1204, September 21 2001)
UMe 2012 CD (Zappa Records ZR3835 July 31, 2012)

But what do you really need to have the full aural experience

Original Stereo LP... because... it is the original version (Duh!) and because the 2012 issue on CD that re instates the original LP version to CD has a drop out here and there.

Original Mono LP (or needledrop of it), the mono version was a bit different. I used to own this record (maybe I still do. Perhaps I should look). One notable difference (and this is from memory) is in the "Do it again, and do it some more" segment of "Brown Shoes Don't Make It". There is a percussion track in this section which is heard in the left speaker and, after a short delay, in the right speaker - or is it the other way around? Well, anyway, the mono version mixes in this percussion track without the delayed track. Additionally, now that I think about it, the VOCAL on that particular section is slightly out-of-sync when compared to the stereo version. No extended tracks that I can hear. And the "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" issue: the delayed percussion track IS there, just very quiet, but ye gods, is the vocal out of sync! Just for this section, too; it sounds like it's about half a beat late for the entire section. Probably a mistake. On "Status Back Baby", just before the Stravinsky guitar solo, the ref's whistle is heard at a slightly different point than on the stereo pressings. To my ears, side one of Absolutely Free sounds like a reduction of the stereo mix, as does "America Drinks & Goes Home"; however, the remainder of side two sounds like a proper mono mix (albeit one which is very similar to the stereo version).

Original CD, mostly identical to the LP in terms of content, but has added digital reverb. The CD has two bonus tracks: "Big Leg Emma" and "Why Don'tcha Do Me Right". The mix is the same as on the vinyl, but digital reverb has been added.There were also some differences in cover/booklet artwork, but the 1995 CD restored the full original artwork.The CD version of "America Drinks & Goes Home"] has a different stereo image with the voice going radically from left to right to left, and the cash machine is only on the left channel. In the original vinyl version, the voice tends to stay around the middle, and the cash machine can be heard on both channels.

1995 CD, Official Ryko statement: "New master. New timing sheet. Restored artwork." [full statement] Our statement: seems to be the same as the old disc, but with much better packaging.

2012 UMe CD: Revised artwork. New digital master (by Doug Sax), removing the digital reverb applied to earlier CDs, and restoring the equalization of the original vinyl. Essential. Reviewers have reported some problems (a drop-out on Plastic People, tape problems on "America Drinks"), but this is the best we are going to get, probably. The two bonus tracks are in mono instead of fake stereo.

(Also, you can easily edit the intro of "Plastic People" on from the Mothermania web-download version, which doesn't have the glitch, if you are digitally inclined)

So I would go for Needle Drop of Mono version, Ryko CD for completeness sake, and the 2012 remaster coz it's the closest e are ever gonna get to the original stereo LP version.

The Mothers Of Invention - 1966 - Freak Out!

The Mothers Of Invention 
Freak Out!

LP Tracking:
01. Hungry Freaks, Daddy
02. I Ain't Got No Heart
03. Who Are The Brain Police?
04. Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder
05. Motherly Love
06. How Could I Be Such A Fool
07. Wowie Zowie
08. You Didn't Try To Call Me
09. Any Way The Wind Blows
10. I'm Not Satisfied
11. You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here
12. Trouble Every Day
13. Help, I'm A Rock (Suite In Three Movements)
    1st Movement: Okay To Tap Dance
    2nd Movement: In Memoriam, Edgar Varese
    3rd Movement: It Can't Happen Here
14. The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet (Unfinished Ballet In Two Tableaus)
    I. Ritual Dance Of The Child Killers
    II. Nullis Pretii (No Commercial Potential)

CD Tracking:
01. Hungry Freaks, Daddy?
02. I Ain't Got No Heart
03. Who Are The Brain Police?
04. Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder
05. Motherly Love
06. How Could I Be Such A Fool
07. Wowie Zowie
08. You Didn't Try To Call Me
09. Any Way The Wind Blows
10. I'm Not Satisfied
11. You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here
12. Trouble Every Day
13. Help I'm A Rock
14. It Can't Happen Here
15. The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet

- Frank Zappa / guitar, harmonica, arranger, composer, conductor, cymbals, tambourine, vocals, orchestra
- Plas Johnson / saxophone
- Jimmy Carl Black / percussion, drums
- Ray Collins / guitar, harmonica, cymbals, sound effects, tambourine, vocals, finger cymbals
- Gene Estes / percussion
- Roy Estrada / bass, vocals, guitarron, soprano (vocal)
- Elliot Ingber / guitar, guitar (rhythm)
- Carol Kaye / bass
- Ruth Komanofff / percussion
- John Rotella / percussion

Early US sleeves had a small "Hot-Spots Freak Map" promo on the inside spread. There is a literal in the text of this for the venue 'Bido Lido's', which is printed 'Bido Lito's'. Sleeves were reprinted (post-1967) without this ad, upon expiry of map availability. (As the map was mail-order and not included, its inclusion with a valid release does not make that particular copy unique - although the rarity of the original map does greatly enhance its value and sellers need to be mindful of commenting on whether it is included. Caution; reproductions of the map are also in circulation.)

Frank Vincent ZAPPA was born in Baltimore on December 12, 1940. When he was 10 years old, he moved to California with his parents. The first instrument he played was the drums. At that time, Frank ZAPPA really liked rhythm and blues music. But in 1954, ZAPPA found a copy of "The Complete Works Of Edgar Varèse, Vol. One". He was fascinated by the 'weird' avant-garde pieces and it was probably also ZAPPA's first encounter with atonal compositions, something that would later reappear in his own music. During high school, he played in several garage bands, but he didn't write rock and roll music himself until his early twenties. He began writing classical music at 18. Some of his early compositions he wrote for the B-films "The World's Greatest Sinner" and "Run Home Slow" (written by his high school English teacher). You can find the theme from "Run Home Slow" on the "The Lost Episodes" and "The Mystery Disc". From 1962 'til 1964, ZAPPA wrote several songs for different bands (You can find those songs on "Cucamonga" and "For Collectors Only"). In 1964 ZAPPA entered THE SOUL GIANTS. He renamed the band THE MOTHERS (which was a subtle abbreviation of 'motherfuckers') and soon after the band caught the attention of producer Tom Wilson. THE MOTHERS were contracted by the Verve-division of MGM and after they had changed their name into THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION (to satisfy some MGM Records executives, who thought the other name was too provocative), they released 'Freak Out!', the second double-album ever (after Bob DYLAN's "Blonde On Blonde") and also what is said to be the first concept album ever. This milestone contained a strange mix of rhythm and blues, satyrical lyrics and avant-garde dissonance. With this first edition of THE MOTHERS, Frank ZAPPA recorded a number of progressive rock masterpieces. All of his records from the sixties are fantastic, except for "Cruising With Ruben & The Jets", which is a satiric tribute to doo-wop music. Worth mentioning is the fabulous "We're Only In It For The Money", on which ZAPPA ridicules the hippie-culture in general, and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" from THE BEATLES in particular. The entire sleeve of "We're Only In It For The Money" is a parody on that record. On August 20, 1969, ZAPPA disbanded THE MOTHERS. The most important members of the early MOTHERS OF INVENTION had been Frank ZAPPA (guitar, vocals, much more) Ray COLLINS (vocals), Jimmy Carl BLACK (the indian of the group, drums and percussion), Roy ESTRADA (bass, vocals), Don PRESTON (keyboards), Billy MUNDI (drums), Bunk GARDNER (winds), Jim 'Motorhead' SHERWOOD (winds), Ian UNDERWOOD (winds, piano) and Ruth UNDERWOOD (percussion). Some of those member would later reappear in other editions of ZAPPA's band.

In 1970, ZAPPA composed a new edition of THE MOTHERS, including Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan from THE TURTLES, also known as Flo & Eddie. This second edition didn't last very long either, because during a show in the Rainbow Theatre in London, ZAPPA was pushed off the stage by a crazy 'fan'. He was badly injured. After his recovery he reformed THE MOTHERS. At that moment, the band consisted of, amongst others: Ian and Ruth UNDERWOOD, Tom FOWLER (bass), Bruce FOWLER (trombone), George DUKE (keyboards), Jean-Luc PONTY (violin) and Napoleon Murphy BROCK (saxophone) and most of the time, ZAPPA was the lead vocalist and guitarist. In this (legendary) line-up, ZAPPA recorded a few more accessible, funny bluesrock records. While some fans of the early MOTHERS didn't like what he was doing at that moment, other consider the albums "Over-Nite Sensation", "Apostrophe (')" and "One Size Fits All" as his finest moments. I think both periods of his career are fantastic. It was during the seventies, that ZAPPA also started experimenting with overdubs and he recorded an album with his high school friend Don VAN VLIET (CAPTAIN BEEFHEART). The tour from 1975 and 1976 (with Terry BOZZIO on drums) was the last one under the name of THE MOTHERS.

Now ZAPPA officially went 'solo'. During the late seventies and early eighties, he worked with Terry BOZZIO (drums), Adrian BELEW (guitar, vocals), Tommy MARS (keyboards, vocals), Patrick O'HEARN (bass), Eddie JOBSON (violin, keyboards), Ray WHITE (guitar, vocals) and Ike WILLIS (guitar, vocals). In 1979, ZAPPA recorded "Joe's Garage", a rock opera about what would happen if music became illegal. In the eighties, ZAPPA was very busy. He recorded the "Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar" - series and "Guitar", on which he showed what a good guitarist he had become. Besides that, he recorded a few albums (some of them pretty heavy) with a partly new band, including Ray WHITE, Ike WILLIS, Tommy MARS, Bobby MARTIN (keyboards, vocals), Scott THUNES (bass), Chad WACKERMAN (drums), Ed MANN (percussion) and (sometimes) Steve VAI (guitar). ZAPPA also went to Capitol Hill, to fight censorship (the Parents Music Resource Center was planning to label all albums that included 'explicit lyrics'). Pieces from the hearing can be found on "Frank Zappa Meets The Mothers Of Prevention". In the same time, he started experimenting with the synclavier. After a big quarrel in 1988, ZAPPA decided to fire almost the entire band. He was fed-up with working with a band, so he filled the rest of his life playing guitar and synclavier, releasing the "You Can't That On Stage Anymore" live compilations and doing 'classical' music projects, such as "The Yellow Shark". He even continued working when doctors had discovered that he was suffering from prostate cancer. When Frank Vincent ZAPPA died on December 4, 1993 at age 52, the world lost one of his greatest innovators, critics, and composers.

1966's declaration of independence

I have a real thing for debut albums from this period. While many people describe Freak Out, Piper at the Gates, and Velvet Underground in terms of being "promising" and building for better things later, these early works are as exciting as later classics but in their own way. It's hard to imagine what people thought upon hearing something like "Freak Out" in 1966 and I try to put myself in that time frame when listening to early albums. While some continue to insist that Crimson created prog in 1969 it's my opinion that these earlier works are the true conception even if some want to write them off as "just psychedelia" or whatever. Many styles and influences are fused here in a work which screams at the public that it wishes to offend, it wishes to foul the water, to avenge Frank's incarceration, and to wear the badge of "outsider" with pride. But not just a rebel without a clue, Frank had it in for many of those who thought he was one of them, creatively and socially. He demanded authenticity and quality, he lectured his fans to forget about the Prom and go to the library, and he scolded them for their drug use, which didn't exactly endear him to his peers.

It is impossible to avoid discussing the political and social aspects of what the album's lyrics throw in one's face, so skip this paragraph if not interested in my personal opinion. No one's personal comfort zone and no institution's presumed honor would be spared over Frank's career. Years later Zappa would describe himself as "a conservative" (though certainly not in Republican terms, whom he hated, but by his own definition) and later still in one of his last interviews as "unrepentant" in his views. He was a true independent, whose blast against the establishment would not stop with the fashionable railing against government entities or right-wing easy targets, but extend to the counterculture scene and the Lefties whose dough-eyed vision of reality he would skewer on "We're only in it for the Money." Zappa's work would help progress the good things about the counterculture which turned out to be primarily artistic, while wisely remaining suspicious of much of the other nonsense the youth movement touted, some of which was destructive and hollow. In my opinion, Zappa, were he alive today, would rail as much against liberal groupthink and shallow political correctness as he did against right-wing censorship and Reaganism in the 80s or cultural stagnation in the 60s. Frank could really be lassoed by no one: he could be sexist, misanthropic, selfish, and even hypocritical on certain things (his daughter Moon has confirmed he was a less than stellar father even as he lectured other parents on their child-rearing.) He believed in being in control of one's life and practiced DIY musically and otherwise. (The book quoted below is a great source for insight into this complicated fellow and his beliefs.)

"Freak Out!" is an absolutely essential marker in rock history, it is Sha-Na-Na from hell, it is a Cheech and Chong styled Broadway musical with intellectual, razor sharp wit in place of adolescent drug humor. It is a warning shot from a dark stranger who grabbed the mic on talent night and gave the suburban audience some Lenny Bruce level stand-up which sent them home shaking their heads. People who complain about it being "just basic rock and roll" or "too 1950s" completely miss the point. It is about the contrast of the seemingly traditional with pure rebellion, about turning the realities of the moment on their head. Sure the pure musical adventure of later albums would be stimulating in their own way, but taking the seemingly safe and Motherizing it is no less fantastic, and the fact that many of the ditties are pleasing to sing along with can be an asset. The Mothers were perhaps no less than the west coast version of the Velvet Underground, though ironically Zappa and Lou Reed despised each other and openly dissed each other.

Certainly the music may seem rather basic period rock to today's prog fan, but after just a few spins these songs get under your skin as you realize how good they are. Basic blues-rock, DooWop, soulful romantic ballad, creeping psych and avant weirdness make up the template upon which Zappa's monologue is delivered. It works so unbelievably well, sounding completely flowing and cohesive. It entertains with humor even as it disturbs by tearing down the safe and getting weirder as the album staggers towards its end. The sexual innuendo and outright contempt for traditional sensibilities cannot be missed. The final four tracks are amazing, from Dylanesque rapping commentary in "Trouble Every Day" to the mind warping, songs-dissolving "Help, I'm a Rock" and "Monster Magnet." Sandwiched in there is my favorite little Freak Out song "It Can't Happen Here" which warns us stoic Midwesterners that the freaks were coming for us.

"Frank was delighted with the album. He showed up at his family's house...waving a copy of the album, a huge smile on his face. The music startled them, but Frank kept nodding encouragingly and no one expressed any misgivings. The whole family, even Francis, went to see the Mothers play... Freak Out was the first double-rock album, the first rock "concept" album and musically it was about as cutting-edge as a rock album could be without being classified as avant-garde jazz or modern classical. Over the years it has consistently been voted as one of the top 100 greatest albums ever made and even today it has not aged, even if the recording quality now seems a bit raw." --Barry Miles, "Zappa, A Biography"

"Freak Out!" is an authentic slice of history, a masterpiece of the sunrise of progressive music, and an essential title for a well rounded rock collection. Other Mothers albums would get technically better and Frank would expand his horizons greatly after the 1960s, but in my view the original burst of creativity on debuts like this hold charms as magical as later "definitive artist works." I've always felt there is something special about the albums that cooked up something fantastic with the most basic kitchen ingredients of the middle 60s. "Freak Out!" is as gritty and dangerous below the surface as "Exile on Main Street", but Frank delivered it nearly a decade sooner than the Stones.

Verve's original mono Freak Out! cover.

Different versions of Freak Out:

Original vinyl (blue Verve V-65005-2 and/or V-65005-2X, July 1966 - Canadian version reported)
Mono vinyl (blue Verve V-5005, July 1967 - Canadian version reported with hand-written matrix numbers)
British single LP (blue Verve SVLP 9154 in stereo, VLP 9154 in mono, March 1967)
German single LP (blue Verve 710003 - two slightly different labels and matrix numbers reported)
Mexican single LP (sighted in Utrecht, April 1988)
French vinyl (different back cover: black & white group photo)
Japanese vinyl (Verve SMV-9045/46, unique cover)
New Zealand vinyl (Blue Verve V 5005 in Mono, V6 5005 in Stereo, 1967)
Record Club of America Cassette (RCOA 33909-C / Verve 6-5005-2-C)
8-track (Verve 85005)
White MGM label vinyl re-issue
British double vinyl re-issue (Verve/Polydor Select 2683 004 (and/or 2352024), stero only, gatefold cover, December 1971)
"Facsimile bootleg" vinyl
British 1985 vinyl re-issue (Zappa 1, 1985)
The Old Masters vinyl (Barking Pumpkin BPR 7777-1, April 1985)
1988 cassette re-issue (Barking Pumpkin BPR-?)
1991 (?) cassette re-issue (Zappa Records TZAPPA1, 1991?)
Original CD (Ryko RCD40062 in the US (imported into Australia by Festival Records and re-stickered Ryko D40723), Zappa Records CDZAP1 in the UK, October 1987; VACK 5021 in Japan; JPCD 9810432 in Russia (picture CD))
IRS 970.701 CD?
1995 CD (Ryko RCD 10501, May 2 1995; VACK 5101 in Japan, renumbered 5236 in 1998; also in a BMG Record Club version (1086370))
1995 cassette (Ryko RAC 10501, May 2 1995; also in a BMG Record Club version (1086370))
Japanese paper-sleeve CD (Ryko/VACK 1203, September 21 2001 - fold-out cover, sticker & freak map included)
MoFo: The Making of Freak Out! (2CD: Zappa Records ZR 20005 December 5, 2006. 4CD: Zappa Records ZR 20004 December 12, 2006)
UMe 2012 CD (Zappa Records ZR3834 [U.S.] or 0238342 [Elsewhere] July 31, 2012)
2012 Japanese paper-sleeve SHM-CD (Zappa/Universal UICY-75350 November 28, 2012)
2013 Zappa Records 180 Gram Reissue
and several bootleg editions...

If you are a sick completist like me, you want them all... Meanwhile in the real world, what are the main different versions and which ones do you REALLY need (DO NOT TELL MY WIFE!)

This album is so old (lol) that we have a mono and a stereo LP version, and three major CD releases

The original Stereo LP version is the one you will find on CD one of the MOFO releae

The Mono LP version is only to be found... you guessed it, on the Mono LP.... Of course, the mono version is a bit different: it's clearly a different mix and a couple of songs are longer. The British single vinyl was also issued in both stereo and mono versions. Some or all mono versions had sides 1 and 4 on one record, and 2 and 3 on the other. While the mono version is presumably a different and distinct mix, few major variations have been reported.? "You Didn't Try to Call Me" has a longer fade-out, revealing Ray Collins plaintively exclaiming "Girl!" Also, "Trouble Every Day" is longer by exactly one snare hit at the beginning of the song. [Ed: The stereo vinyl version of "You Didn't Cry to Call Me" ends cold as well]

On the original CD version "Hungry Freaks, Daddy," "Who Are the Brain Police," and possibly one or two other songs are remixed from the multi-tracks. The rest of the album is re-equalized, treated with digital reverb, and has its stereo spectrum narrowed.One of the reasons Zappa so fondly welcomed and embraced the digital medium was because of its promise of a broad dynamic range, which extended to +96 db. So now his albums, freed from the constrictions of vinyl, no longer needed to have the life squeezed out of them by compression.? Compression was used heavily to squash dynamic range on LPs, especially in 1966. Stereo was relatively new and the mastering engineers simply did know how, or did not want to deal with rock and roll, so they just set the disk cutters on "auto-pilot" and walk away until the album side was finished. All bass frequencies below 100 Hz were channeled into the center becuase it would otherwise make the stylus (phonograph needle) jump out of the groove. Ask anyone who has put months of hard work into perfecting the sound of an album, only to be horrified when they hear how the final pressing had butchered and mangled the glorious sounds they had recorded into a thin, lifeless and muddy sounding piece of garbage! ? I guess that the record companies didn't mind either because they figured the records would be heavily compressed anyway when played over the air for radio broadcast. This was done to prevent over-modulation in the transmitters. But go figure how often Zappa's records would be played on the radio in the first place! [Ed: Ironically, Zappa seemed all too fond of compression during the later stages of his reissue programmes...] ? The first CD was also missing some artwork from the vinyl; this was restored on the 1995 re-issue. ? The CD doesn't credit Ray Collins as a co-writer on "Go Cry on Somebody Else's Shoulder", but the original vinyl does. The Old Masters vinyl doesn't.

1995 Ryko version, according to their official statement: New master. New timing sheet. Clicks removed. Restored artwork. "Help, I'm a Rock", which was a "suite in three movements" on the original Verve LP, and was one track on the first CD, is now two tracks - "Help, I'm a Rock" and "It Can't Happen Here." (It appeared this way on the Old Masters LP too.)
The "Hot Poop" Ryko press-release claims that the 1995 Freak Out is a "new master," with a new timing sheet and with "clicks removed." As the '95 disc is still the '80s digital remix, it's hardly surprising to discover that the discs are, in fact, exactly the same. The spacing between tracks does differ slightly. As an aside, where exactly where these "clicks" that were supposedly corrected? I didn't hear any of them.

MoFo contains the original stereo mix of "Freak Out!", among countless other goodies. If you want the original LP version of "Freak Out!," this is the one to get.

2012 Reissue, Freak Out! was reissued in 2012 when the catalog passed to UMe. The artwork is different, but the audio is reported to match the previous, non-MoFo CDs; in other words, it's the partial remix. However,I've found a couple of differences between the Ryko and 2012 CDs of FO and Money, in the form of low level digital errors, probably resulting from deterioration of the digital master tapes. Fortunately the errors are so small they are inaudible.
The 1630 masters were in wretched shape by the time we transferred them in 2008. That Ampex tape stock is so problematic, they had to be baked in order to retrieve the data. FYI, we also had to do that for almost all of the 1630 Digital House Masters that the catalog lived on. It took almost a year to treat & save all of those tapes. UGH.
On my European copy, the last name of the big "Contributors" list, i.e., "PAUL BUFF," is deleted.
Also, there is one "I" missed in "COMPOSITIONS," so it reads:

So... what do you really need from a sonic point of view... in my very humble opinion: The original Stereo from MoFo, A needle drop or a expensive LP of the MONO LP and either the 1995 Ryko or the 2012 release on CD, if you have those three I think you have all the variations covered (At least as far as different versions of the music go, If I am wrong, please correct me!)