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Frank Zappa - Waka / Jawaka CD (album) cover

WAKA / JAWAKA

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.92 | 333 ratings

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Negoba
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Nice Little Zappa Album

WAKA / JAWAKA is the second installment in the Hots Rats trilogy, and is easy to forget in some ways because both HOT RATS and the following GRAND WAZOO are better. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what the connection to the namesake album is exactly, but the link between W/J and WAZOO is obvious. Essentially the same lineup is playing a big band version of Zappa's composed version of rock fusion. W/J contains a little more vocal work (on the two shorter tunes, "Your Mouth," and "It Just Might be a One-Shot Deal") and much more free-form jamming.

While this album contains some great trademark Frank Zappa composition, there are also sections of free form, directionless wandering. The first track, "Big Swifty" contains both the best and the worst of the album as it progresses through its probably overgenerous 17:23 length. It starts with a great Zappa rapid-fire lead line, bouncing among the different instruments, but has some truly noisy moments that don't always work. The other epic, the title track, is much more focused at 11:18. It also employs some keyboard sounds and phrasing the fans would immediately identify as prog.

The biggest issue with this album is that the band does the same thing much better on the GRAND WAZOO. There are more frequent and more memorable melodic hooks, less aimless noodling, and some additional excitement. There are places in W/J that sound more traditionally jazz-club like than anything else of Zappa's I know. The interplay is very good, and live I think I would have really enjoyed seeing this performed. But on record, it's not necessarily the kind of thing you listen to repeatedly.

The vocal tunes are vintage Uncle Frank, sarcastic, cabaret-influenced, and somewhat humourous. Surrounded by the long instrumentals, they blend into the background. The bluesy "One-Shot Deal" has some interesting melodic ideas, and transforms into a genre- hopping barrel of monkeys about 90 seconds in. Alternating between country-rock, avant- garde chaos, and slow bluesy stomp, the song is interesting to listen to even if it doesn't quite make musical sense. Good fun experimentation, as you'd expect from the king of pushing the envelope.

This is a fine enough album. I certainly don't regret getting it. Certainly lovers of the GRAND WAZOO have an obvious place here to go for another helping. Some of the straightest jazz Frank will do is here. It's all solid, a very clear 3 star offering for me.

Negoba | 3/5 |

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