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Frank Zappa - Hot Rats CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



4.34 | 1625 ratings

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4 stars In retrospect, I'm not sure I'd consider this one of Frank's best albums. But it was the absolute perfect place for me to start listening to his music, and I think it probably will serve that function well for others too.

Mainly, this album is missing his characteristic adolescent (but still very intelligent) humor that is so much present on just about every other Zappa album. Only Willie the Pimp hints at this aspect. But for me 10 years ago, this was the aspect of Zappa I found most turned me off. I never gave his music much chance because, especially being a devout proghead, I didn't want humor in my music. Thankfully, I've lightened up considerably since then and love quite a lot of Franks output. But at that time, there could not have been a more perfect album to start with.

Peaches is a classic Zappa track, giving a jazzy symphonic tinged introduction to Zappa instrumentals. The aforementioned Willie the Pimp has some semi-humorous lyrics, but it's the second half that turned me on to Zappa, with it's creatively intense lengthy guitar workout, highlighting Zappa's unique style of lead guitar. Fantastic stuff for me, even 10 years later. Green Genes is a great instrumental with very nice melodic themes, often carried by guitar, and features yet more excellent solos by Zappa. This one has a symphonic jazzy style also. Great song. After the short jazz piece Little Umbrellas, we come to the meat of the album, The Gumbo Variations. Essentially a two chord jam, it is quite impressive the way the band develops this piece over it's 16 minutes, with Zappa playing some rare rhythm guitar parts (rare for him to play that is..........he almost always would have additional guitarists on later albums). Ian Underwood's sax soloing is a bit, well........overextended for his talents, is the nicest way I can put it. It doesn't seem to me that sax is his primary instrument and some of his note choices and intonations seem quite "off" to me. But after that, we get a wild violin solo followed by a much too short Zappa guitar solo. I would have been much happier if Zappa had gotten the lengthy initial solo space instead of the sax, but even so this song is great. The final song is a quite complex and challenging jazz-like number that manages to be humorous without any vocals.

So all in all, not Zappa's best, or even very representative of his other work (but what of his albums really are?). I'm inclined, with my broad perspective of his other work, to give this a 3. But because it is such a great place to start with his catalog, and an album that made me (and I hope will make others) receptive to the rest of his purely genius work, I will add an extra star. A great jammy, jazzy, mostly instrumental album that I still like to listen to and still ranks highly among his other work for me.

infandous | 4/5 |


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