Although George Carlin had recorded albums prior to FM & AM, including one with his original comedy partner Jack Burns, this 1972 release was the comedian's career-defining effort. While the second part of the record compiles (and puts to rest) the last of Carlin's mainstream lounge-act material, the first part consists of edgier counter-culture riffs like "Birth Control" and "Drugs." It also features the first of Carlin's language-based pieces, "Shoot," which sounds like a dry run for the epic "Seven Dirty Words You Can Never Say on Television" sketch that was soon to follow.
Ironically, the older material, leading off with "Son of Wino," a lengthy revisit to Carlin's popular early routine, riffing on the cliches of manic AM-radio disc jockeys, is largely funnier and sharper than the less-rehearsed, meandering routines on the first side. Carlin had been doing this sort of semi-hip mainstream comedy, skewering the voyeuristic game show THE NEWLYWED GAME and local TV news, for years, and he reels off set-ups and punch lines with the timing and elan of a master. Soon he would be equally at ease with his new FM-oriented style; his next album, CLASS CLOWN, is probably his masterpiece, but FM & AM is a significant transitional effort.