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Frank Zappa - The Grand Wazoo CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



4.33 | 889 ratings

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4 stars This album depicts an interesting era in Frank Zappa's career. After allegedly being pushed off a concert stage at a gig in London, Zappa sustained injuries that restrained him from performing live for most of 1972. This gave him an opportunity to expand the jazz fusion that has been touched upon with earlier albums like Hot Rats.

The Grand Wazoo was the second and, generally considered, more successful explorations of big band fusion following Waka / Jawaka. The music here is almost completely instrumental which makes it also sound less sarcastic and critical of anything in particular. This might have attracted some new followers to the Zappa movement at the time of its release. Even today I know a few people in my surroundings that generally don't find Frank Zappa's sense of humor charming, but after I gave them the opportunity to expand their minds with The Grand Wazoo they became enthusiastic enough to proceed with their explorations of this versatile artist! This is basically me saying that if you've given up on Frank Zappa, there might just be hope for you here!

The 13 minute album-titled suite is the main attraction since it takes up more than 1/3 of the total album space. I know that there are mixed opinions about this track's compositional values, mainly directed to the hefty middle section which sounds a lot like an improv jam. I can definitely see the concern raised here but can't say that it actually bothers me all that much. There's just never been a time where I felt the urge to put this music down just because I got weary of the jam portion of this performance since I usually have so much fun while listening to the different instrument interplays that I nearly forget the time and just daze into the experience.

The followup number titled For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers) is a lot less energetic and makes for a cool-off break after experiencing the title-track opener, which would explain why the two pieces switched places on the CD-reissue of the record. This is not really one of my favorites in terms of instrumental or the conceptual qualities of performance but there's enough nice ideas to keep the progression going, warming us up for the next instant classic! I'm talking about the complete genius of the three minute piece called Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus. This is where Frank Zappa manages to combine his radical approaches to humor and music on one and same piece by giving both just the right amount of time in the spotlight!

Eat That Question sinks the music into another slow performance which, just like For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers) before it, manages to maintain the natural progression of the music without either impressing or tiering our senses. The same can unfortunately not be said about the 8 minute monstrosity know simply as Blessed Relief. This composition tends to put me to sleep whenever I hear it and if that was the intriguing idea behind it then I definitely owe Frank Zappa an apology.

As it stands today, Blessed Relief is what ruins the overall impression of The Grand Wazoo for me. This basically means that I do like this album a lot but it just never reaches the higher echelon of my top favorite Frank Zappa releases. Still, there is certainly no way I can deny the album an excellent addition-rating that it deserves, even if this one is a bit more shaky than its predecessors.

***** star songs: The Grand Wazoo (13:20) Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus (2:57)

**** star songs: For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers) (6:06) Eat That Question (6:42)

*** star songs: Blessed Relief (8:00)

Rune2000 | 4/5 |


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