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Frank Zappa - Hot Rats CD (album) cover

HOT RATS

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.33 | 1054 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Frank Zappa: Hot Rats [1969]

Rating: 10/10

It's difficult for me to write about Frank Zappa's Hot Rats. This album is so near and dear to me, so central to my musical identity, that it's hard to conjure up words with which to evaluate it. Stylistically, Hot Rats is a continuation of the jazz-fusion that first began on Uncle Meat. It's fascinating to me how after releasing that album (his first real foray into jazz) in April 1969, Zappa managed to perfect this style so brilliantly a mere six months later. Zappa and Ian Underwood form the core of this album, but many other great musicians such as Don "Sugercane" Harris, Jean-Luc Ponty, Captain Beefheart, and Max Bennett also make appearances.

The absolutely classic "Peaches in Regalia" opens the album. It's a short song, but it certainly doesn't lack in ideas. Classical guitar, piano/keyboards, sax, and gorgeous flute create one of Zappa's greatest compositions. "Willie the Pimp" begins with an unforgettable electric violin riff, and Captain Beefheart performs the only vocals on the album. The rest of the song is a lengthy improvised guitar solo from Zappa. This is yet another Zappa classic. "Son of Mr. Green Genes" may just be my favorite song here, and that's saying something. I don't think a better combination of big-band and guitar-rock has ever been made. Zappa's solos are sublime and the brass sections are mind-blowing; these nine minutes form a treasure trove of indispensible musical pearls. "Little Umbrellas" is a short composition that slows things down a bit. Heavy piano and brass create an almost menacing rhythm, and fantastic keyboard/piano/flute overdubs flourish the piece. "The Gumbo Variations" is a seventeen-minute track consisting mostly of improvisation. The opening bass and guitar riffs transition into a lengthy squealy sax solo. After the sax stops, Don "Sugarcane" Harris plays some of the best jazz/rock violin ever recorded. I can listen to this violin solo over and over again and never get tired of it. Bennett's magnificent bass playing is also particularly notable. "It Must Be a Camel" is a short piece that ends the album. Piano begins the song, followed by some extremely complicated sax playing. Guitar and violin make an appearance, and sax closes the song.

I can say with high confidence that Hot Rats is the greatest jazz-fusion album ever recorded. Some people would object to this statement, but it's honestly hard for me to understand why. Everything about this album is perfect: the musicianship, the songwriting, the emotion, the atmosphere, the creativity. This is one of those albums that I can listen to repeatedly and never grow tired of. There may be a few naysayers, but I advise ignoring them. Anybody who appreciates prog, jazz, or good music in general owes it to themselves to familiarize themselves with Hot Rats.

Anthony H. | 5/5 |

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