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Frank Zappa - Waka / Jawaka CD (album) cover

WAKA / JAWAKA

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.90 | 317 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
5 stars Whacka/Jawhacka More than 4.5 stars, but not quite 5

Hot Rats part 2 and just like its predecessor it is also a solo album. This album is probably my fave along with Wazoo (but that one is a Mother album). Along with the usual Underwood, we find Dunbar, Duke, Preston, and a bunch of lesser-known musicians as guests. A weird and very green faucet artwork doesn't really pay that much a compliment to the superb music on this album, but it allows Frank to give it the Hot Rats reference on the tap handles.

Opening on the awesome sidelong Big Swifty, this is about as close as Zappa gets to Bitches Brew, Mwandishi or Body Electric and he does a very credible job, in part due to Ainsley Dunbar's incredible drumming. Dunbar is always remembered as a blues drummer as he started with his Retaliation groups, his John Mayall and Jeff Beck collabs, but his best works are with Zappa and the first two albums of Journey. Anyway, Swifty is a superb journey in the arcades of jazz-rock, and in a way prefigures what's coming in The Grand Wazoo.

The flipside starts rather average on the surprising (but not really in a pleasant way) Your Mouth that features some rather strange (for Zappa albums) vocals on a straight blues-rock tune with brass arrangements. Definitely the low point of an otherwise perfect album. Up next is One-Shot Deal that picks up where Your Mouth left out, but with a jazzy slant, especially in the instrumental break, where Francesco plays a twangy Hawaiian guitar solo. The closing title track is another shot at pure jazz-rock (and a recall of Big Swifty), but more in the later 70's fusion-type the brass section kicks-off in big-band (or Chicago Transit Authority) style and later a Moog-style solo, but again Ainsley is the unsung hero. Most people that have been through the Mothers come out of that band as fully accomplished musicians, and from hearing Ainsley on this one but especially the following one, you know that the man is ready for leadership in a jazz way as Hiseman in Colosseum & Tempest or Bruford in his various groups etc...

Swifty and Jawaka are of course the highlights on this one but don't be fooled with the line-up described on this pafe, this is not yet the big band to come with Wazoo (there is less brass on this one). as Zappa decided to forget his usual derision for a while, this album reaches the five stars level, but then again there is still a remain of humour in the music itself, or alse this would not have been a Zappa album. One thing, though: the album is a bit short with its 36-mins, especially when you know that Zappa regularly surpassed 45 mins in most of his albums.

Sean Trane | 5/5 |

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