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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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The Quiet One
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Jazz Rock Installment Part 2

Waka/Jawaka while not actually a sequel to Hot Rats in style, it's undoubtedly a further continuation and "exploration" to what Frank had achieved with Hot Rats. One of the first differences you'll notice is the ''age'' of the album; Hot Rats has without doubt a more primitive and raw sound with the 60's feel still in it, while on the other hand Waka/Jawaka being from 1972 the production is clearly alike all those classic records from the time, while not totally clean like nowadays production, it definitely doesn't feature any major flaw nor does it make you feel you're listening to something ''old'', to say it in some way. Of course, this doesn't mean that the production of Hot Rats affects it's quality, it's still one magnificent record.

Another clear difference is the way Frank decided to play jazz rock. With Hot Rats, besides having the 60's feel within the production, there's also a 60's feel in the playing of Frank's guitar. With the exception of Peaches En Regalia, he plays in a rockin' manner repleted with wah-wah alike Jimi Hendrix and the whole bunch of guitarists from the mid-60's onwards did, plus he seems to be noodling most of the time with much less sense of note-selection as he would later do. His guitar style in those days wasn't his finest that's clear, however with time his guitar abilities started improving and that indeed shows in Waka/Jawaka and even more so in future records like Roxy & Elsewhere, One Size Fits All and Sleep Dirt(Zappa's last jazz rock installment). In Waka/Jawaka Zappa's guitar solos begin to have uniqueness thus making them more rewarding.

The other difference in the style of jazz rock from both albums is the quantity of members playing. While in Hot Rats the only real performers/composers were Frank and Ian Underwood, in Waka/Jawaka there's a whole addition of brass instruments and a pair of extremely talented keyboardists, thus Frank and Ian are not the centre of attention anymore, if not the entire band is what counts. So don't expect Frank being focused in this record because he's not; he's one more from the big band.

While with a wider addition of horns and refined keyboardists Frank was able to explore beyond to what he had made in Hot Rats, the result is by no means better but not that far behind. The promising 17-minute opener, Big Swifty, doesn't live up its long length, a decent keyboard solo and guitar solo, but the composition overall doesn't have anything really attractive nor memorable. Fortunately the final track, the title track, saves the album. The title track shows Frank's perfect use of the additional horns and gifted keyboardists, as a result being an essential Zappa tune to listen to. The other two tracks are, in my opinion, the perfect definition of filler: they simply don't fit at all the style of the two epical jazzy tracks, no matter the quality of one of them, besides, they're lousy stuff for Zappa standards.

Like I already stated, Waka/Jawaka doesn't get even near to the magnitude of Hot Rats, but it still follows the jazz rock trend, even though in a completely different way. By no means a poor album, simply a failed attempt in exploring beyond that made in Hot Rats. The Grand Wazoo, on the other hand, is a vast improvement over this and should be purchased before this without doubt. Also, Sleep Dirt should be purchased before Waka/Jawaka.

It manages to be a decent album as a whole, but not enough to be thrilled nor excited with the exception of the title track thus 3 stars(slightly above average).

The Quiet One | 3/5 |

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