Lumpy Gravy was conceptualized and produced at the same time as We're Only in It for the Money, The Mothers of Invention's third album, and although Lumpy Gravy came out beforehand Zappa himself saw it as the second part to that album. Although the albums have some features that resemble each other, like the repeated motif Zappa uses of the snorting pig sounds, overall Lumpy Gravy is a completely different beast. Part sound collage, part orchestral, part vocal snippets, and all the inside of Zappa's mind, Lumpy Gravy is an insane and uncompromising album which sees Zappa playing no part in the actual creation of the sounds but completely in control of what sounds are being made. As the conductor of the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra, Zappa came in with sheets of the score with ridiculous time signatures that even the instrumentalists didn't really believe in and created something both puzzling and pulsating all at the same time.
Although the album lacks some cohesion, due in no part to the shifts between sound collage and orchestra, and then shifting back into loud experimentation, like the entirety of I Don't Know If I Can Go Through This Again, there is still something genuinely brilliant about Lumpy Gravy. Zappa had already proven he understood the inner workings of modern pop and rock music, and this was his first foray into his clear understanding of creating a symphony. Even if that symphony is the inner workings of Zappa's constantly mystifying mind, there is still a clear structure to his madness here.
There is good reason this was separated from the Mothers of Invention moniker. Not that the group were not open to wild experimentation, Lumpy Gravy would lose all of its complexities when boiled down to a rock band sound. Under the Zappa name alone, and with all hands on deck from a full orchestra, Frank Zappa could bring the noises in his head to life for us to try to piece apart decades later. There may be nothing to piece apart, admittedly, but at the same time there could be infinite layers our minds couldn't begin to comprehend. That is often the magic of Zappa, and it isn't lost here.
Favorite track: Part One (Oh No)