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Frank Zappa - Threesome No. 2 CD (album) cover

THREESOME NO. 2

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.20 | 18 ratings

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UMUR
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Threesome No. 2 is a boxset that consists of Frank Zappaīs most jazz/ rock influenced albums Hot Rats, Waka/ Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo. Hot Rats was released in 1969 while the other two were both released in 1972. This is a great chance for jazz/ rock fans to get to know Zappaīs most jazzy moments.

Hot Rats:

Hot Rats is being praised here on Prog Archives as being one of Frank Zappaīs finest moments, and it is certainly unique in Zappaīs discography. When I first started listening to Frank Zappa it was one of the albums I purchased first and I thought it was really good. Itīs been a couple of years since I last listened to Hot Rats though and after listening to it a couple of times before this review I can honestly say that itīs one of the Frank Zappa albums I will never really be fully content with. Hot Rats is Zappaīs first real solo album if you donīt count Lumpy Gravy which had lots of Mothers of Invention songs incorporated into the classical music and the strange dialogues that made up that album.

Hot Rats is a jazz/ rock fusion album with lots of soloing both from Frank Zappa himself on guitar, Ian underwood on winds and Sugar Cane Harris and Jean-Luc Ponty on violin. The music is generally good, but not outstanding. The only song here that I would classify as a masterpiece is Peaches en Regalia which is a very beautiful song with several intriguing themes. This song is not a vehicle for soloing as most of the other songs are. Instead it is beautifully arranged with lots of winds.

Willie the Pimp used to be a favorite of mine when I was younger, but today I think it is badly arranged a pretty sloppy played. Itīs always a joy to listen to Captain Beefheartīs voice but thatīs not the main focus in this song. The Willie the Pimp theme which both starts and ends the song is really just an excuse for Zappa to play a 6 minute long wah wah guitar solo that gets boring after 2. I know most people really enjoy his solo in Willie the Pimp but IMO his solo skills were much better later in his career when he started using the vibrato arm extensively and played on the edge of feedback most of the time. I find his later solo style to be much more rewarding than this early attempt. Well I guess itīs an aquired taste and my bitching aside I still think the solo in Willie the Pimp is pretty good allthough a bit too long.

Son of Mr. Green Genes uses the theme from the Mr. Green Genes song from The Mothers of Invention album Uncle Meat. The theme is of course played with a different instrumentation and itīs arranged a bit differently but stays true to the original in terms of notes played. Son of Mr. Green Genes is just another vehicle for a Frank Zappa guitar solo though and again I feel the solo is way too long and again the wah wah style Zappa played at the time isnīt as rewarding to me as his later efforts on the guitar.

Little Umbrelllas is a little jazzy tune which is allright but nothing special to me.

The Gumbo Variations with itīs 16:55 minutes is clearly the longest song here and the problem for me is that itīs one long vehicle for sax, violin and guitar soloes that seems to go on forever. The sax soloing is pretty jazzy and I donīt enjoy it one bit while the violin and guitar solo is a bit better even though 16:55 minutes of soloing is way too much for me when itīs not better than this. Again itīs allright but nothing more.

It Must Be A Camel is a pretty good little song too, but again nothing excellent.

The musicianship is very good and Iīm especially impressed with Ian Underwoodīs contributions to the songs. Ianīs multiinstrumentalist abilities are used to the full on Hot Rats. Ian Underwood is by the way the only Mother present on Hot Rats which gives the album a very different sound and mood compared the Mothers of Invention albums.

The production is very good considering this is 1969 and once again Zappa proves that he is a unique producer as well as being a composer and musician.

I must say Iīm a bit disappointed about Hot Rats especially after reading the many reviews with high ratings on Prog Archives but I guess I just donīt share the general opinion about the album. Peaches en Regalia of course is a very positive thing on an otherwise average album but itīs not enough to make Hot Rats a 4 star album though. Iīll give Hot Rats 3 stars as I donīt feel this is a 2 star album even though Iīm not that excited about it.

Waka/ Jawaka:

Waka/ Jawaka was the first album with new material Zappa released after his near fatal fall from the stage in late 1971. Zappa had clearly heard Miles Davis Bitches Brew and wanted to make a jazz rock album himself. Zappaīs Hot Rats album is of course a jazz rock album but with Waka/ Jawaka Zappa got to work with a small orchestra of brass players as well as former Mothers of Invention collegues George Duke, Don Preston, Jeff Simmons, Aynsley Dunbar, Ian Underwood and new man Sal Marquez on trumpet, chimes, flugelhorn and vocals. There is a whole cast of other musicians playing on the album but Sal Marquez needs a special mention as he plays a very central role on Waka/ Jawaka.

The music on Waka/ Jawaka is when it comes the two long pieces Big Swifty ( 17:23 minutes) and the title track (11:18) jazz rock with occasional big band tendencies. Itīs in those two songs were treated with Sal Marquez great trumpet playing. Jazzy but often bordering avant garde. His solo in Big Swifty is actually a transcribed Frank Zappa guitar solo played on trumpet. It sounds great. Big Swifty is of a jam like nature even though there is a structure in the song while Waka/ Jawaka is the most orchestrated affair on the album. There is some really menacing dark moods in that song. Great moog solo from Don Preston.

The two short songs called Your Mouth and It Just Might be a One-Shot Deal are more like avant garde rock that weīre used to from Frank Zappa. Lots of different styles and sections in each song. Your Mouth is great and for the first time we hear female background singing in a Zappa song but itīs with It Just Might Be a One-Shot Deal that weīre treated with a Frank Zappa masterpiece. We have everything from avant garde to country pedal steel solos to blues and jazz rock in 4:16 minutes. Iīm sold. Note that this is the songs where we for the first time hear Frank Zappaīs new lower voice. His Larynx was damaged during his fall from stage and after his recovery his voice had dropped a third.

The musicianship is excellent and again I have to point out how great a musician Sal Marquez is. He contributes so many intriguing features to this album. But Zappaīs guitar playing is also worth mentioning as itīs unpredictable as always. He supports the music with some really challenging tricks here and there. A great performance.

The production is astonishing and I really enjoy the mix with all the layers in the music hearable.

I think Waka/ Jawaka was a groundbreaking release from Frank Zappa. He was obviously venturing into unknown territory with this one and as usual got away with it in style. Zappa would soon assemble a much bigger big band with which he would also tour and release an album called The Grand Wazoo which is much in the same vein as Waka/ Jawaka just a bit more elaborate. Personally I have always enjoyed Waka/ Jawaka more than The Grand Wazoo. I donīt nesseccarely think that Waka/ Jawaka is essential for all prog heads but for Zappa fans this is a must and Iīll rate Waka/ Jawaka 4 stars. For fans of jazz rock this one will probably ( at least partially) please you too.

The Grand Wazoo:

The Grand Wazoo is the sister album to Waka/ Jawaka and it was released in 1972 the same year as Waka/ Jawaka. The music on The Grand Wazoo is also in the same mostly instrumental jazz/ rock style. The original LP has a different tracklist than the CD version which means that For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers) is placed as track number one on the original LP while it is number two on the CD version. Iīm not sure what the reason is for that, but I guess itīs because the title track which is the song For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch- Hikers) changed places with better represents the general style on the album than For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers) which is a very different song from the rest. I own both the original LP and the CD version but Iīll review the CD version as itīs the one Iīve been listening to the most.

The title track starts the album and itīs a 13:20 minutes long jazz/ rock jam with lots of soloing from both guitar, keyboards and brass. There are arranged big band like parts in the song too.

For Calvin ( And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers) is more in avant garde rock territory. Fans of Henry Cow would be pleased with this one. There are some eerie vocals and some great flute playing in the song and the part with singing is actually pretty psychadelic. The middle part of the song is in classical avant garde style. Very great challenging part. There is the typical Frank Zappa conceptual continuity in this song too. The avant garde part in the middle of the song is also a part of The Adventures of Greggery Peccary from Studio Tan.

Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus is one of those silly Zappa songs that I just canīt help liking. It features some humorous vocal performances and some western salon piano parts. Lots of brass in this song too.

Eat That Question is a jazz/ Rock tune with a great opening hard rock riff. Some nice soloing going on in this song.

Blessed Relief is my least favorite on the album. Itīs in jazz/ rock territory but itīs more subtle and features a theme that sounds a bit too close to the theme from M.A.S.H.

The musicianship is excellent on this album and besides Frank Zappaīs great guitar playing there are also lots of brass and woodwinds throughout the album. One of the best performances on the album is Aynsley Dunbarīs drumming though. He is such a powerful drummer yet sophisticated enough to play the technical parts with ease.

The production is very well done. Warm and pleasant.

The Grand Wazoo and Waka/ Jawaka will always stand as two very different albums in Frank Zappaīs discography. You can call them his experiment with jazz/ rock with a big band sound. I think he succeeded very well. I prefer Waka/ Jawaka but The Grand Wazoo is also a great album and it deserves 4 stars even though I usually skip Blessed Relief.

Conclusion:

Hot Rats was never my favorite Frank Zappa album but I greatly enjoy both Waka/ Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo. 4 stars is well deserved for this boxset.

UMUR | 4/5 |

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