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Frank Zappa - Waka / Jawaka CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.94 | 397 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Frank Zappa: Waka/Jawaka [1972]

Rating: 8/10

Waka/Jawaka signals a return to the jazz-fusion that Zappa explored during the late 60s. This return was catalyzed by Zappa's near-fatal stage fall in late 1971; Zappa was seriously injured and was thus unable to tour. This unfortunate period of downtime caused the demise of Zappa's Flo & Eddie-period Mothers (which I consider to be one of his weaker lineups) and resulted in a few big-band albums recorded with many session musicians. Waka/Jawaka is the first of these. Unlike his previous fusion releases, which were akin to chamber jazz, this album is filled with orchestral-style jazz arrangements (around fifteen musicians were involved in this recording). The jazz-rock/jazz-fusion that was so prevalent during the early 70s is a quite apparent here.

The side-long "Big Swify" is absolutely sublime. It begins with a big-band intro and moves into a lengthy solo section that alternates between organ, sax, and guitar work. The omnipresent percussion groove helps tie everything together perfectly. "Your Mouth" is a short vocal piece with accompaniment from brass instruments and guitar. The combination of blues and big-band make this an interesting track. "It Just Might Be a One-Shot Deal" continues in a similar style. I'm not particularly fond of the vocals here, but the country-style guitar solo is quite excellent. The title track ends this rather short album. This is one of the greatest jazz songs Zappa ever did. The orchestral/big-band sections feature a fantastic main hook, the soloing is sublime, and the rhythm section is superb. This track is a true piece of musical genius.

Waka/Jawaka is the first of a long string of essential Zappa albums. Zappa is in his true zone here, both compositionally and instrumentally. However, I can't consider this album a full-fledged masterpiece despite the numerous moments of absolute brilliance. The main problem is the two vocal tracks; while good, they seem somewhat unnecessary and they don't end up really going anywhere. Regardless, we're quite close to a five-star rating here. Any jazz-fusion fan would eat this album up, and it easily belongs in the upper tier of Zappa's discography.

Anthony H. | 4/5 |


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