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Frank Zappa - Hot Rats CD (album) cover

HOT RATS

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.33 | 1053 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

J-Man
Prog Reviewer
4 stars A Superb Jazz-Rock Album!

Hot Rats is often praised as Frank Zappa's shining achievement, and I can't say that I disagree with that statement. While I think that some of his other albums are equal to the high quality shown throughout this album, this is surely one of the highlights in his brilliant discography.

This album shows a departure from the avant-garde influenced psychedelic/experimental rock music that Frank Zappa had been known to play around this time. This album leaves most of the experimentation behind, and Zappa goes for making a pure jazz-rock album. The result is an almost completely flawless work of art, filled with excellent solos and groovy rhythms. This album is mostly dominated by Ian Underwood's windwoods and Frank Zappa's guitar heroics. While many people tend to criticize this album for being "just jamming", I heavily disagree. I think the album is filled with tasteful solos that are always fun and captivating. I guess it's just a matter of taste in the end.

The highlight of this entire album, for me at least, is the spectacular musicianship. Of course, the guitar playing from Frank Zappa is nothing less than brilliant, but all of the session musicians are fantastic as well. The rhythm section is superb in all of the songs, which is rare for an album mostly dominated by solos. The memorable melodies and riffs are the icing on the cake, and they really make for a spectacular album.

THE MUSIC:

"Peaches en Regalia"- The first song on the album has always been my personal favorite from the album (though the whole album's great). Whereas most of the rest of the album is jazz-rock jam sessions, this song is structured beautifully with superb melodies. The woodwinds from Ian Underwood are undoubtedly the highlight of this track, aside from the beautiful songwriting. This is a great way to open up the album.

"Willie the Pimp"- The second song takes a rapid departure from the previous track, showing a riff-based bluesy hard rock song. This features Captain Beefheart's low vocals, and I couldn't imagine the song without him on vocals. The Captain doesn't do anything spectacular, but it really adds to the mood of the song. The song mostly builds off of a solitary violin riff, but it is far from a linear song. The guitar soloing from Zappa near the end is superb, and it never tires. The late 60's psych influence is obvious in this section. The song ends with a few measures of the opening riff.

"Son of Mr. Green Genes"- This song uses the same theme from "Mr. Green Genes" from Uncle Meat, and is one of my favorites from the album. The woodwinds throughout the song are the highlight, and give this song a very jazzy feel. The guitar solos are wonderfully crafted, and every instrument works perfectly in the context of the song. The drumming from Paul Humphrey and the bass playing from Max Bennett shouldn't go unnoticed, even though Zappa and Underwood take center stage on this song. The rhythm section is superb.

"Little Umbrellas"- This song is a jazzy instrumental, and I wouldn't even consider it jazz-rock. This is just a beautiful jazz piece with superb keyboard playing from Ian Underwood. The arrangements are extremely noteworthy.

"The Gumbo Variations"- The longest song on the album (almost 17 minutes) is excellent, though it takes some time to sink in. This is a psychedelic jazz-rock jam with some of the catchiest grooves and most interesting solos I've ever heard. The saxophone playing from Ian Underwood is one of the highlights of the entire album for me. He just does a superb job, and the rhythm section is always there to back him up. The drumming from Paul Humphrey is superb, and even though he has no solos, his playing is just as interesting as the people playing the solos. After Underwood's saxophone solo, Sugar Cane Harris has an equally excellent violin solo. Just listen to the rhythm section during this solo! It's fantastic! The flow of sections continues through Frank Zappa's solo that follows soon after. The excitement never shortens at all, and this song is captivating and catchy from beginning to end. Everything about this song is superb.

"It Must Be A Camel"- The final song is a soft jazz piece in the vein of "Little Umbrellas". I prefer this song slightly to the one I just mentioned. This is mostly focused around soothing piano, saxophone, and odd rhythms. This has the only sections of the album that even remotely show Zappa's avant side, though I wouldn't call this avant at all. This is a great way to end the album, as it is filled with interesting chord progressions and melodies.

Conclusion:

Hot Rats is a superb album by Frank Zappa, and it's one of my favorites in his discography. If you're at all interested in hearing Frank Zappa, this is essential listening material. If you're not a jazz fan, don't be put off by the "jazz rock" label that this album often acquires. I don't consider myself a jazz fan, yet I adore this album. My rating for Hot Rats will be 4.5 stars. I'm going to round down, because you can't round up to a "masterpiece". This is highly recommended!

4 stars.

J-Man | 4/5 |

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