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Frank Zappa - Hot Rats CD (album) cover

HOT RATS

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.33 | 1022 ratings

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Wicket
Prog Reviewer
4 stars In common musical circles, the name "Frank Zappa" is usually received with cringes and slight looks of disgust to many music enthusiasts, and there's a good reason.

The name Zappa is synonymous with a psychedelic outlook, unusual instrumentation (he made xylophones cool again), odd time signatures and just an extreme characteristic of babbling nonsense that could make a family mother sue him for rude and inappropriate behavior (Oh wait...). However, in a muddy and cloudy sea of Zappa's 40+ albums, very few see my vote as top notch progressive rock compositions and Hot Rats, in my very honest opinion, his is finest outing. Many classic rock enthusiasts know Zappa for "hits" such as "Dancing Fool" and even "Joe's Garage", but in all honesty, I can sum Zappa up in just three words: "Peaches En Regalia". (Or is that 2 words?)

Either way, I have becomes very familiar to this short but entertaining tune. As a jam band enthusiast as well, I have heard bands such as Phish cover this tune in great fashion (albeit without xylophones and shamisens). It also happens to be a great tune that doesn't have Zappa's subtle, deep and, at times, hypnotic vocals, which is why many non-Zappa regulars tend to take much this piece. However, to me, it's only the beginning of a great album.

Peaches is a great piece to begin with, and nicely leads into "Willie The Pimp", because in all honesty, not many musicians would have a lone violin accompany a standard drum line into a 9 minute jam. Although I would not classify Captain Beefheart as the next Jon Anderson, his vocals sort of play into this, eh, "pimp-like" atmosphere Zappa and co. create throughout this tune. After Beefheart croons, it's pretty much a 7 minute guitar solo to the end, which is why as a jam band enthusiast I crave this piece. There's nothing to it, plus it's a great song to blast out on the open road.

"Son Of Mr. Green Genes" seems to pick up where "Peaches" left off. Only it's longer. Roughly five minutes longer. At this point I realized that Zappa's voice was entirely absent from the album, which only made me smile wider. Yes, I appreciate his bravado and golden pipes on a cd every now and then, but this is an album of jams, jams that can only be with that Zappa flair of ingenuity in them.

"Little Umbrellas" is probably the biggest take away from this disc, though. It's structured as if it was ment to be sung. Instead, recorders and sweeping saxes take its place in a song that seems even shorter than 3 minutes. Then, of course, is "The Gumbo Variations", which is, you guessed it, another jam. Only a 17 minute jam. Although I had other Zappa album's like "Chunga's Revenge", "Joe's Garage", "We're Only In It For The Money" and "Sleep Dirt", "Hot Rats" got me interested in Zappa's live shows which also contained a lot of improvisational jams as evidenced in (bootlegged) CD's such as "Buffalo" and "Imaginary Diseases".

"It Must Be A Camel" concludes a fantastic album which, in my humble opinion, should've been played as an entire suite all the way through, but it's another track that ends in typical Zappa fashion, occasional spastic interludes, prominent vibrophone arpeggios and use of a brass section unlike any artist or band in his time. To sum it all up, it is the most easily accessible album by Frank Zappa to date. Of course, you as a reader of this review may have other ideas,but hey, ol' Frank never exactly lived by normal standards, either.

Wicket | 4/5 |

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