Half Notes: Mats/Morgan Band – The Music Or The Money? (2010)

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by S. Victor Aaron

The Mats/Morgan Band is a Swedish experimental/progressive rock group that is very closely tied to Frank Zappa. Led by two Swedish child prodigies Mats Oberg (keyboards, harmonica, vocals) and Morgan Agren (drums, programming, keyboards, voice), Zappa was so impressed with the two lads in the late eighties that he took them in as proteges and intended to include them in his touring band before illness sidelined Frank’s gigging activities. But from an early age, both have been hooked on his music and he remains their main influence. After Zappa’s 1993 death, the MMB released a succession of albums under their own label in their native Sweden. Cuneiform has been reissuing these records stateside, and this year they brought to market an expanded and remastered version of 1997’s The Music Or The Money. A wild but virtuosic performance of originals that showcase their vast abilities. Sometimes it’s done at the expense of tightly constructed songs, but such is the trade-off you get when you listen to this band. The payoff comes in amazing performances, like the live, Chick Corea-grade piano/drums improvisation of “Dr. Thor.” Although Zappa influences abound on this record, campiness and all, I’m often reminded more of the Residents than the Mothers. Not a knock at all, as the Residents are just as hard to emulate as Zappa. The Music Or The Money? never takes the easy way out, and Mats/Morgan wouldn’t have it any other way.

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