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Frank Zappa - Hot Rats CD (album) cover

HOT RATS

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.34 | 1683 ratings

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Lupton
3 stars Frank Zappa -Hot Rats

Listening to a Frank Zappa album can be a deeply frustrating experience for me.Often there are just a few great sounding tracks on each album but often alongside some really irritating or tedious music. Hot Rats is a good example although at least this time the tracks I rate highly are grouped together so I can give my thumb a rest!

The album starts off so well with "Peaches On Regalia". It truly has so many musical ideas crammed in its three and a half minutes. It is one of those pieces of music that seems so much longer than it really is. Far and away my single favorite track by Zappa period.

The second track, "Willie The Pimp" featuring Captain Beefheart's typical growling vocals also starts off brilliantly with a great down and dirty violin riff.The track turns into a vehicle for Zappa's relentless shredding and although I think the track could have been shortened a few minutes without losing its power, there is no doubting his inventiveness on the guitar.

The third and final track on side one "Son of Mr Green Genes" is an instrumental version of the previous album Uncle Meat's "Mr Green Genes".This is a very jazzy take and again showcases Zappa's playing as never before. It also helps that the main melody is very strong and the actual improvising is fairly inventive making this another bit of jazz fusion.

The opening track on Side 2, the cutely titled "Little Umbrellas" is another compact track, similar in structure to "Peaches" at just over three minutes but again crammed with so many musical ideas including a very feisty sounding recorder solo.I am fairly sure that this track and "Peaches" must have been an inspiration for some of those Canterbury Scene groups of the early seventies.They are both supremely whimsical and accessible.

Unfortunately this is where the good news stops."The Gumbo Variations" at nearly seventeen minutes is just pure tedium itself and just does my head in basically. I realize that Hot Rats is an "important" album because it came before "Bitches Brew" etc (another album that I cannot listen to) and therefore "invented" Jazz Fusion.The track actually starts off promisingly with a cool riff but that is basically it and the rest of the track really goes nowhere other than a series of increasingly tedious solos on sax and guitar and even a drum solo. Ultimately I think the problem for me is that if Jazz Fusion in its purist form consists of musicians jamming over a repetitive single riff without a central melodic theme or at least interesting chord progression then I suppose I simply do not like the genre itself. The final track "It must be a Camel" is another fusion but this time is a rather formless piece but has a rather meandering melodic line. It is actually more interesting than the previous "Gumbo" and is at least underscored with some rich chordal voicing. Unfortunately the playing is actually rather jarring in places making it rather irritating.It reminds me a little of Henry Cow.

My final verdict: A great first half, a rather painful second half apart from "Umbrellas". 3 Stars

Lupton | 3/5 |

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