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Frank Zappa - Hot Rats CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



4.33 | 1460 ratings

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The Ace Face
5 stars Containing one of the best lineups of musicians Zappa ever worked with along with the defining moments of early Jazz-Fusion, and his signature track: Peaches En Regalia, this album cannot be anything but perfect. Zappa, Underwood, Harris, Ponty, Otis, and Beefheart. All together on one album.

Peaches En Regalia: I'm sure everyone who has ever been introduced to Frank Zappa has either been introduced with this song or Don't Eat The Yellow Snow. This song contains so many notes in it, its complex enough to make an entire other album. However, they manage to contain it to a mere 3 and a half minutes, a feat in itself. The Sax, organ, piano, guitar and drums all shine here, with plenty of solo options for all of them. Underwood has never played better and it sounds as though he belongs at Zappa's side. There are some very tricky tom rhythms handled by Paul Humphrey that make you jump with shock and amazement. The keyboard and sax seem to be one instrument as they intertwine with the melody. Perfect opener.

Willie the Pimp: Starting with a jarring violin riff that contrasts starkly with the beauty of Peaches. Beefheat growls some suggestive vocals out, while a weird clicking percussion instrument joins the fray. The violin is very dexterous, using the tapping method as well as the strumming. After the first chorus, we get a teaser solo from Zappa, and then Beefheart starts wooping in that crazy voice of his. He then repeats the chorus and opens up the remaining 7 minutes for Zappa to solo. During this first ever extended solo for Frank, he never bores you. The rhythm section is tight as a drum, and the guitar takes the regular pentatonic scale and makes mincemeat out of it. The drum rhythms mix up a lot, especially late in the song, to keep the listener from skipping the track. It slowly crescendos over a little while, and at the end the violin takes the main riff again.

Son of Mr. Green Genes: contrary to what other reviewers may have said, this song DOES sound similar to the original Mr. Green Genes from Uncle Meat. It merely takes the vocal melody and turns it into an instrumental melody. It also picks up the tempo and the song is far longer than the original. The keyboard is very present here, as is the orchestral percussion in the form of metal xylophones. The sax also comes back into the mix, making it much more similar to Peaches than Willie. After the main intro, Zappa gets a nice guitar solo, not too long, and then a new theme is introduced, paving the way for some absolutely amazing organ runs by Ian Underwood, who is probably my favorite Zappa cohort. The percussion starts to get crazy as the random clicking noises start to come back in, and the Bari Sax growls into a new theme. Soon another guitar solo is added, divided into segments, and one wonders when will the awesome end, if ever? All this time the bass and drums are just keeping the needed tempo, with the drums becoming loud when needed and the bass jumping the octave when needed. The piano is heard in the background as the rhythm to Frank's lead. At around 6 minutes, the tempo is kicked up, and then the orchestral percussion comes in again, adding color and tambre to the already lush sound. The last minute is given over for the repeat of the main theme, the vocal melody stolen from the Father song. After a dramatic close, we get introduced to one of the slower songs...

Little Umbrellas: Starting off with a funky acoustic bass note, the piano jumps in for the quirky feel. The sax takes the melody while the piano provides whimsical runs. Soon the xylophone comes in to back the sax melody, and you wonder, what is Zappa doing on this? The organ takes a running solo overdubbed with a piano solo, which is absolutely mind-blowing. This piano awesomeness continues, and near the end, the recorder takes a solo, which is something you will likely hear nowhere else. Then a sax quartet comes in with dissonant harmonies and engulfs all else to bring it to a close.

The Gumbo Variations: Starting with some studio noises, Frank says, You three start together on this, perhaps talking to Underwood (organ), Otis (Bass) and Humphrey (drums). A light yet funky bass line is introduced, and the organ shimmers nicely in the background. The sax busts in unexpectedly, holding 2 measure long notes while the guitar has some improv work on a riff. However, the first major solo is the saxophone. At times sounding as jarring as David Jackson, it can also be light and delicate, as it is at first. I especially like when all the background music cuts out except for the bass and drums, giving Underwood complete freedom. So this solo continues until the 7 and a half minute mark or so, getting increasingly more frantic and squeaking more and more, and it segues perfectly into Sugar Cane's violin solo. This solo is jarring and screeching, reminding me of Robert Fripp's extreme distorted solo on 21st Century Schizoid Man. Harris has some unbelievably fast runs here, and its difficult to believe he can do all this with his neck bent down to pin the violin to his body. At around 12.5 minutes, Zappa starts soloing, and Harris joins the background fray, where Underwood has been hanging out on the organ for the past 5 minutes. However, Zappa only gets a brief solo and backs off for Otis to take a short bass solo. Then Harris comes back in for more soloing, plenty of trilling, and always awe-inspiring. The violin loses its mind and the key signature, going completely mad, and the guitar joins it. The drums start to get heavy as the toms are emphasized. The outro is a scary hammond organ low-register chord while the drums go wild and the violin screeches one last time for good measure. Overall, a wonderful jam, very self-indulgent, but wonderful nonetheless.

It Must be a Camel: Piano right away tells us this is the relaxing album-ender. Lots of triplet sax riffs dominate here, and the scary sound isn't quite peaceful, but then again, Zappa never is. However, the piano takes a more central role with the organ soothing you, but the sax still wails in the background. The song goes through many other changes, and they are all quite good, but very hard to describe with words.

Overall, amaaazing almost all instrumental album, like Waka and Wazoo. Those two would not reach the heights of this one, but they certainly made two more high peaks in the Zappa discography. This is also a big departure from the anti-music of the first few mothers albums, not that either type is bad, but its good to have both.

The Ace Face | 5/5 |


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