The best compliment I can offer about Universal Music Group and the Frank Zappa Estate’s new remastered version of the “greatest hits” compilation Mothermania is that it sounds for the most part just like the original version released on MGM’s Verve Records label in 1969. In preparing for this review I played my near perfect “OG” copy and when I put on the new edition, I didn’t even have to adjust the volume on my amp (up or down). It sounded just right, like the album sounded back in the day.
Actually, due to the nice vinyl quality — and probably the new mastering led by the great Bernie Grundman — this edition of Mothermania has an arguably greater sense of separation and dynamics than the original. You can really hear this on the chorus of “Call Any Vegetable,” where you can make out all the individual instruments very clearly.
The 180-gram pressing from The Furnace is thick, dark and silent.
Just hearing tracks like the edit of “It Can’t Happen Here” — here located at the top of Side 2 vs. the end of a side of Freak Out (Zappa’s debut) — opens up the track for reconsideration both as a song and a sonic experience. It sounds pretty amazing! Speaking of edits, one of the reasons you, the budding Zappa fan, should want this album is that it contains numerous edits and mixes exclusive to this release.
Curiously, on the cover art inner gatefold the only difference I could notice is something of a disclaimer which I assume must be — at its root — some sort of necessary legalese. Yet it is also offering up very useful information for completists like me (and perhaps you, Dear Reader!):
“All tracks stereo except Mother People & Idiot Bastard Son. All mixes are exclusive to this release EXCEPT *Tracks 1, 3, 4, 9 & 11. Track 4 is an exclusive edit by FZ and as such, a derivative work of the original.”
So that means that “Mother People,” “The Idiot Bastard Son,” “It Can’t Happen Here,” “You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here,” “Who Are The Brain Police?” and “Hungry Freaks, Daddy” are all different mixes than the original albums they emanate from.
Some of the differences are quite significant, particularly the uncensored version of “Mother People” with the previously offensive expletives intact. So even if you have the first three Zappa albums — Freak Out, Absolutely Free and We’re Only In It For The Money* (click each underlined title to jump to my review of those reissues!) — you need Mothermania too!
Not convinced yet? If have access to a good streaming music service you can listen to Mothermania in basic 16-bit, 44.1 kHz CD quality on Tidal by clicking here or on Qobuz here. Both streams sound fairly solid with slight differences between them (and I’d be splitting hairs if I got into that here folks). So, choose the service you like best and you’ll get the idea of what Mothermania is all about.
* and click here for my review of the MONO picture disc version of We’re Only In It For The Money!