|The original lineup of the Mothers of Invention. That's Ray in the upper right hand corner.|
I was very sorry today to learn of the passing of Ray Collins, who along with Frank Zappa founded one of the greatest rock groups in American history, the Mothers of Invention. As a way of paying tribute to Ray, I'd like to play you a particular favorite of mine from the group's catalog. It's a track called "I'm Not Satisfied" from the Mothers' 1968 album, Cruising with Ruben and the Jets. Zappa's interest at the time was in creating outrageous musical satire, while Collins wanted to make what he called "beautiful music." Both traits are evident in this track. Zappa crafted the Cruising album as an over-the-top parody of 1950s rock, but you can hear the sincerity in Ray's voice as he sings the plaintive lyrics.
Before we go, I'd like to play just one more tune for you that showcases Ray's skills as a songwriter. It's a doo wop number called "Memories of El Monte," which Frank and Ray wrote for the Penguins (of "Earth Angel" fame) in the years before the Mothers came into existence. I think you can hear the love and respect that both Collins and Zappa had for the Penguins and their lead singer, Cleve Duncan, who unfortunately also passed away in November 2012. It's a great goddamned record, that's for sure.
P.S. - Just one more. I couldn't end this Ray Collins tribute without including this perfect parody of lounge singer crooning from the Mothers' sophomore album, Absolutely Free. Enjoy.