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Frank Zappa - Hot Rats CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



4.36 | 1843 ratings

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Axel Dyberg
5 stars The legendary Hot Rats LP is finally at my hands, as my beloved father (Who just turned 41 yesterday) magically (and mysteriously) found it beneath loads of contemporary classical music CDs in the closet. I've heard it many times before (I remember all the compositions besides Little Umbrellas in the back of my head) and now I could finally add it to my fast-growing LP collection.

Basically, what you get is some of the best fusion ever to induce my ears into rhythm. Frank had built his own 16-track recorder, and of course, the album sounds as fresh as if it had been played during the 90's. Seriously, compare the sound quality of Hot Rats to The Beatles' 'Let It Be' or even King Crimson's legendary 'In The Court of The Crimson King' (Which I have reviewed as well, if you're interested) and you will see the difference as the first drum fill of Peaches En Regalia blasts out of the speakers. Frank also had a load of musicians on this album, and thus most songs offer extensive soloing on violin and guitar, something I enjoy a lot. Jazz is known for soloing, and this record features top notch soloing all the way through, especially in the magical 'Willie The Pimp' with it's 8 minute guitar solo.

The album cover was pretty psychedelic at the time, and led to confusion whether Frank Zappa had done drugs or not. Zappa always said No to these claims, and strongly dismissed drugs. It was always about the music, something that ultimately (and directly, somehow) shines through in this album. Now, on with the review!

1. Peaches En Regalia - As stated before, a clever drum fill leads this song into the mandolin soaked intro riff, which is very grand and loud. I love this song with all of my heart, and I mean that. An upbeat instrumental. The intro riff goes into another riff, which introduces us to the ''Octave bass'' (A bass guitar recording sped up 2 times). The background instruments really help get that jazzy feeling. Some amazing horn comes up after this (Love the saxophones throughout this LP). Amazing drumming as well, something only topped by one of the latter songs here. A beautiful and playful riff occurs after this, and leads into another joyful bridge. Loud organ notes soar all over the place, before the ''Main riff'' of the song comes in, with loud and wonderful saxophone notes shooting across the room and intense speed. A very loud, almost piercing saxophone bridge comes after this, and now they repeat the introduction theme with more organ and without the mandolin. Keyboards make up for what the octave bass did before, and thus it sorf ot alters the riff slightly. Very vool effect. It slowly fades out after this.

2. Willie The Pimp - Standing 9 minutes long, this song is beloved amongst fans because of it's 8 (Yes, read that again)... Not 6, not 7, no, but 8 minutes long guitar solo. And top it all off, we have the lovely Captain Beefheart on vocals. He has a very raspy voice, and I just love it. Very bluesy. Anyway, it opens up with the well known riff, and this riff will sit in your mind forever because of it's awesomeness. In A Major, the violin plays the riff 4 times, before a drum fill and a slide from the 7th fret of the D string leads us into the amazing verse. Beefheart sings with this sandpaper voice that ''I'm a little pimp with my hair gassed back... Pair 'a khaki pants and my shoes shined black''. Interesting (and funny) lyrics, depicting the pimp stereotype. It's also worth mentioning that this song is the only one on the album that's not an instrumental. 55 seconds in, a bridge comes in, and now we all know what comes. Yes, the wah-wah soaked, psychedelic jazzy guitar solo. At that time Frank was known as a composing virtuoso. Not a guitar virtuoso. This probably made the critics change their minds. Bluesy bends all over the place, fast legatos map out the wonderful fretwork dealt by Frank. The amazing bass and drums in the back helps it out even more, if that was possible. The wah wah pedal goes strong throughout (For those of you who don't know, it makes the guitar go ''wah'', something dealt with by Hendrix on his song 'Voodoo Child'). It's interesting to see that a three minutes and 40 seconds in, Frank uses a different scale of playing, and thus adds a lot to such a long guitar solo being digestible. Frank is also, like me, a guitar soloist who relies much on hammer ons, which makes the solo very bluesy. It goes on for a long time as we all know, somehow keeping it's powerfulness and virtuosity throughout the whole 8 minutes it runs. At 8 minutes and 50 seconds in, the main riff repeats again but much faster, before ending on the last distorted guitar note, clearly ringing out. Lovely.

3. Son of Mr. Green Genes - This has quickly grown to become my favourite song of the album, although I usually don't like to pigeon hole stuff like that. It opens with a wonderful riff, reminiscent of Peaches. Saxophones are heard clearly, and they really mark the spot in this song. A beautiful bridge plays after this, and Frank shows off his amazing composing abilities. A bluesy guitar solo goes up and comes into play 1 minute in the song. It ends quite fastly though, after only 20 seconds. A jazzy part plays after this. Now, the best e-piano fill in all of mankind soars through the speakers. Incredibly jazzy and lovely, I can not cite how strong this section is. Some variations on the main bridge and theme occurs after this, with added or removed instruments and such. Interesting how Frank keeps it fresh all of the time. Loads of saxophone throughout this song makes it just great. Another short guitar solo comes up again, ending to play along the other instruments. But, a surprise. Thought Zappa was done soloing? Forget that! At 4 minutes in, another long (2 minutes) guitar comes in, and very surprisingly, it's features more virtuosity than Willie's did. Really, really amazing fretwork here, I just can't state that enough for that song. Anyway, due to it's rather standard length, this solo is more digestible than Willie's, and shows another dimension to Frank's guitar playing. Again, he plays around with scales during this solo as well. The bluesy two note riff that comes into play during this stage as well is awesome, jazzy and undoubtedly Frank. I also have to state how great the piano playing is now. Mad and lovely, it will make you drop your jaw. For the last two minutes, the main riff is repeated to great effect, and helps the song drop to it's closure.

4. Little Umbrellas - Opens up with a melancholy and strange piano riff. An even stranger saxophone fill plays above this. The riff repeats again, ending on two jazzy notes, which sounds lovely. Some soul-esque organ interlocks with the piano, and forms a great collaboration. Some lovely riffing on the keyboard arises after this, and sounds just lovely. A lot is going on right now, so pay attention during the whole song. It's very rewarding. Going up in key, the piano guides the rest of the instruments around at a joyful pace, resorting at the lovely flute playing that comes after this. The strange intro riff comes into play again before ending on a minor chord.

5. The Gumbo Variations - 'Take two!''... *BASS RIFF* *ORGAN*. That's the introduction to the sixteen minute Gumbo Variations... This has amazing drumming throughout. Suddenly, a loud saxophone note swells above the funky bass, as a distorted guitar riffs about beneath everything. This goes on for eight full bars, then, the saxophone solo begins. This song is, like Willie The Pimp, a showcase for the musicians. This time it's a 7 minute saxophone solo in the lead. And it's amazing. Jazzy and brilliant, the stomping bass drum kicks in after a while, with loud china cymbals clearly ringing out above the bass. The very rhythmic drumming is lovely in this song, I must say. Unarguably the best drumming on the album. Every now and then, the bass takes a stomp-note formation which is awesome. Of course, the saxophone is top priority here. It's lovely! The solo lasts for a very long time, and during this we go through vibratos, screeching, ordinary jazz and whatnot. Then, 5 minutes in, the loud cymbals are replaced by the hi-hat. The saxophone solo is still going strong. After this, it changes to the loud cymbals again, and a second long solo arises from nowhere... But this time, it's on violin. Extremely fast, extremely talanted, extremely everything. This violin solo is the most brilliant moment on the album. Amazing, amazing, amazing! I can't say it enough. Again, it's very fast, so it'll keep you on your toes. The drumming also helps a lot. After 5 minutes, it stops and the heavy guitar by Zappa comes into play. All of a sudden, it's just the drums. Loud and rhythmic, it segues into the lovely and funky bass guitar again. A short violin solo comes after this, and the song then ends. Amazing!

6. It Must Be A Camel - Another shorter song, 5 minutes. Again, jazzy piano playing opens it up (As with Little Umbrellas). Some strange background noise here as well. Ride-cymbal oriented drumming makes it even jazzier. All of a sudden it ends, before the lovely saxophones come into play. Brilliant riff, I must say. After the saxophone and piano collaboration, it ends again. Then comes a strange drum fill, and loads of instruments soar out of the speakers. Wonderful. Some emotional piano playing pops up after this, suddenly becoming more fast. Then Zappa plays a clean guitar solo (Un-distorted, that is). It's lovely! Very jazzy and clever use of sliding as well. Some cool organ sounds help freshening up the lonely piano after this. All of a sudden, a distorted guitar fill is heard. Then it's clean, then distorted, then clean etc. A lenghty drum fill (10 seconds) leads into another saxophone dominated section, which is brilliant as always. After this the song ends.

Let this be your first drift into fusion! It is amazing, and for that I give it five stars. Everything is memorable and emotional, whilst lovely and playful at the same time. The soloing is a treat, and really amazing for anyone who knows his music theory.

Thank you for reading this review.

Axel Dyberg | 5/5 |


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