So, this album I'm reviewing here isn't new. It came out in 1966. And the reissue I'm reviewing isn't even really new. It came out in 2013.
But, lets do a show of hands out there in the studio audience: how many of you even knew about Frank Zappa's Freak Out album being reissued? Yeah, I figured those few of you hardcore fans in the back row did.
However, as far as I have been able to tell most people didn't know much about it (even in my informal poll of three fairly hard-core Zappa fans who are also journalists and PR people).
Thus this review (of sorts).
Really, its more of a "listicle" flavored review because I think that format will serve this purpose better... and I know that some of you, Dear Readers, like to read that sort of visual entertainment.
So here we go with "10 Reasons Why You Need To Freak Out Again" :
1) Frank Zappa's Freak Out is an important slice of counter-culture pop history on many levels. Its one of the first two LP set in rock music (released nearly neck-and-neck with Dylan's Blonde On Blonde). It also is among the first pop records outside of Dylan and the folk music movement to offer lyrics that directly question authority and societal moves around us, from racism and media manipulation to corporate greed.
2) The stereo mix has recently been reissued on high quality, 180-gram vinyl pressed at Pallas in Germany, mastered from the best available sources (the 1987 digital transfer done by Frank Zappa himself off the deteriorating analog master tape). The vinyl is dead quiet and perfectly centered. This version sounds much better than the prior vinyl edition available in the Old Masters box set issued in the mid-1980s.
3) This original vinyl stereo mix was previously only available on CD in the MOFO sets (two- and four-CD versions).
4) Freak Out really was designed for the LP medium, so it works best -- my personal opinion as a nearly life-long Zappa fan -- as a two disc listening experience (as opposed to a CD or a download). The first album is made up of shorter tracks, rock songs mostly featuring Zappa's distinctive pop songwriting and stinging guitar work. The second LP features just three tracks including one taking up the entirety of Side Four, the experimental "The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet."
5) The album art on the new edition of Freak Out is revelatory (yes, revelatory!). For the first time you can really see Zappa's face on the photo on the inner gatefold (original pressings were always too dark, probably due to oversaturated, overly contrasted printing). Additionally there are different pictures there not on the original pressings. For collectors, this occurrence is a blessing and a curse: completists will want to own the new one for the new art and yet will be needing to hold on to at least one of their original pressings for the original layout.
6) The FREAK OUT MAP is included! Yes, kids, you read that right. The elusive and once-impossible to find "Freak Out Map" -- which fans could obtain by writing to Zappa's record label in 1966 at an address that was on early pressings of the album -- has been reproduced as a fold out poster (it is approximately the size of double LP gatefold sleeve). Previously, the only other place you could get this map was in the deluxe edition four CD box set MOFO edition of Freak Out (but even that had been folded up small to fit into the format of the CD-sized box set packaging). So this is simply a really neat thing to have, finally!
7) For those who care about this sort of detail with regards to Freak Out, according to the Wikipedia: "In 1999, the album was honored with the Grammy Hall of Fame Award, and in 2003, Rolling Stone ranked it among the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time."
8) For those who have never heard Freak Out, understand that in 1966, music like this had not really been heard before from a popular artist -- or even from an artist who was seeking an audience to become popular, which is what happened in the case of Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention after releasing this album. They developed a strong cult following and it grew from there...
The rest is history, as they say...