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Frank Zappa - Waka / Jawaka CD (album) cover

WAKA / JAWAKA

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.89 | 318 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars In 1972 after a fateful concert that left him in a wheelchair, Frank Zappa did two things, the first was he hired a bodyguard in John Smothers (who would make many appearances in Zappa video releases in the future) and the second was he returned to the studio and created two albums in the vein of his works with Hot Rats and Burnt Weeny Sandwich, albeit in a more big band fashion. The first album released in this duo of albums was Waka/Jawaka, a largely instrumental album that features the classic and notorious Zappa piece Big Swifty (which like King Kong would make many appearances in various live incarnations of Zappa's band). Now, I'm not going to say this album is a masterpiece, because frankly it is far from it. The follow-up in The Grand Wazoo would remedy all the problems that surfaced with this album, but this one is far from a disappointment, it just could have been a bit more concise in its overall structure.

The album opens with the 17 minute jazz opus Big Swifty, with commanding 7/8 horns bringing in the introduction. The piece takes many different shapes and goes through varying degrees of styles, it seems to lose focus towards the middle and it loses its appeal as a consequence. I'm quite fond of the later versions of this song, the best being the one on Make a Jazz Noise Here, which while being almost as long, has a more concise and tight feel rather than this loosely structured piece presented here. The middle two songs, Your Mouth and It Might be a One Shot Deal, are more or less throwaway pieces that offer nothing really engaging or revolutionary (despite a somewhat amusing vocal performance from Janet Ferguson and Chris Peterson). Waka/Jawaka closes the album with an 11 minute instrumental breakdown that really offers a great ending to this album and really prepares the listener for the masterpiece that is The Grand Wazoo.

In the end, Waka/Jawaka is a good album for those who like the jazzier side of Zappa. It's got a nice overall sound, feel, and groove. Having said that, though, there are some things I can fault this album with. One is that Big Swifty does get a bit tedious and boring in the middle sections, and the two vocal pieces are more or less throwaways that don't really help the album, but they don't really hurt it either. Despite these faults, though, there are many things to like about this album, and it would lay down the blueprints for The Grand Wazoo, which like I said, is a masterpiece that corrects all the faults made by this album. Waka/Jawaka, though, is a good album, but nothing essential unless you're a Zappa fan. 3.5/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 3/5 |

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