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Frank Zappa - The Grand Wazoo CD (album) cover

THE GRAND WAZOO

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.31 | 546 ratings

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darkshade
5 stars Essential Jazz-Rock/Fusion from a man not usually associated with jazz. You can find jazz throughout Zappa's discography. This album, The Grand Wazoo, may be the best example of FZ jazz. It is the follow up and companion album to Waka/Jawaka, but where that album had its (few) flaws, The Grand Wazoo is near perfect. If you are familiar with Zappa's music, this is a must have. If you're not, but you're trying to have a great jazz-fusion collection, this album is also a must.

My old version of this album has tracks 1 and 2 switched, so it starts out with For Calvin. But I only listen to the 2012 UMe CD, which has better sound due to the fact that it is the original analog recording.

First thing's first, the only vocal track, "For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers)". The song is quite weird and avant-garde; just what you'd expect from Zappa. But from a fusion record? With lots of horns playing dissonant lines, and vocals that sound like a dying witch, it would probably scare off the casual jazz listener away. However, I have always felt that having it as the second track ruins the flow of the album. With For Calvin as the first track, as it is on the original LP, the album can be seen as starting out very chaotic in usual Zappa fashion, and gradually through the album becoming jazzier and more melodic.

The title track is one of Zappa's best tunes, and contains some great improv over a shuffle beat. The song is kind of Third Stream Jazz in nature, but is totally rockin'. I enjoy how the band plays the composed sections and everyone falls into the solo sections quite nicely. What is a Frank Zappa record without a little humor?

Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus is a short little pompous track, with full wind ensemble here; particularly trumpets and clarinets playing very fast lines, complemented by the drums. Eventually, a woman sings the first part of the main theme, followed by Frank himself singing the other half of the main theme, and it's quite funny. I always think of him sitting in the studio recording it. As the album continues, one notices the fact that it's getting jazzier.

Eat That Question contains one of FZ's best rock riffs, and one of George Duke's best keyboard solos. Duke is one of the reasons this album is so good, as he brings a Herbie Hancock type sound to the table, making almost everything Zappa-related that he plays on, very jazzy.

The album closes with the mellow Blessed Relief, which might be hinting at the trip one takes listening to this album and making it to the end. This is one of the most beautiful songs ever conceived by Zappa, with great solos by trumpet, keys, and guitar; Frank plays with that cool effect on his guitar, similar to what he used on Watermelon in Easter Hay from Joes Garage.

As I said before, this album is essential listening for any fan of jazz-fusion. It's also unique in that it has all the trademarks of a classic 70s fusion record, but with the Frank Zappa strangeness (though most of it is not so strange by his standards). Don't let that turn you off though; your fusion collection is not complete without this album. One of the few fusion recordings that is excellent from start to finish. No solos are too long, and Frank doesn't go on and on about politics or sexual harassment in the workplace :)

Be sure to get the 2012 Universal version, which is the original analog recording, and sounds much better than all older CD versions.

darkshade | 5/5 |

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