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Frank Zappa - Hot Rats CD (album) cover


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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
5 stars Boiling Rats

Presented as Frank's first solo album, this is Chapter one of his explorations of jazz-rock (this is relative, because he had dabbled into the future genre in his previous albums, including King Kong on Uncle Meat) but also the pinnacle of his career. This is a solo album, not a Mothers album, although you'd have a hard time telling it apart, only that it is less goofy and parodic and more instrumental and musically focused. Playing on the album are Ponty, Underwood, and Guerin (among others), while Van "Beefheart" Vliet is singing on a track.

Opening on the amazing Peaches In Regalia, but it is the amazing Willie The Pimp, THE classic of the album, with Don Van Vliet singing raunchily and a wild Zappa guitar solo. Green Genes features Underwood's wind instruments (multi-tracked) and Zappa's guitars again, but also that same Underwood on keyboards as well. An outstanding side of vinyl.

The flipside opens with the shorter jazzy Little Umbrellas instrumental, perhaps the "parent pauvre" of Hot Rats, but the 17-mins Gumbo Variations of pure bliss, especially if you're a fan of solos. Flabbergastingly awesome stuff. The closing Camel piece is the most difficult track of the album, the one closest to dissonant avant-garde music; but this is so very light. Another excellent track.

Every one of these numbers here are a classic but Peaches and Gumbo come out, and Don Beefheart Van Vliet's contributions to Pimp makes this album a gem. Coming with that pink pool shot artwork, this is THE Zappa reference, beit from progheads or the average John Doe and Willie Pimp. One of the main reasons for this album's high tenure is that it is mainly instrumental, thus putting the emphasis on the music and it isn't ruined by Francesco's whacked-out humoristic sketches, although there is still a lot of humour left in the music.

Report this review (#29553)
Posted Wednesday, April 14, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars I am sure most of you are all too well familiar with the late great ZAPPA's work, but for those who have not heard "Hot Rats" you are missing one of the best gems left behind from Frank ZAPPA. Here Frank is joined by a few friends including Jean Luc Ponty, Ian Underwood and vocalist Captain Beefheart. "Hot Rats" is full of surprises and offers many incredible progressive rock moments. This album offers nice long tracks with extended heavy guitar solos and lots of sax and keyboard activity to keep you on the edge of your seat. This album seems to grow on the listener and then is almost one of your collections high points. This is a real gem and should be listened to by all prog fans. It may take a while to hit the first time ZAPPA heads as it moves into the bizarre and strange aspects of music and ZAPPA pushes the boundaries of modern sound and image. This is an essential masterpiece and must be in your collection.
Report this review (#29554)
Posted Saturday, April 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This almost instrumental Zappa's album is very appreciated from miscellaneous kinds of people. It definitely has a jazz tendency, plus obvious rock elements as reveal the numerous guitar & violin solos and pleasant rhythms. There are some excellent piano parts, and I like very much the refined acoustic bass on "Little Umbrellas". "Peaches en regalia", "Son of Mr. Green Genes", "Little umbrellas" and "It must be a Camel" are the best tracks: very structured and complex, they have catchy & colorful horns sounds (sax-oriented). "Willie the pimp", very funny with Beefheart on lead vocals, contains, as usual, an eternal wah-wah guitar solo. "The Gumbo variations" has a free style, fast, definitely too gross and too long (16 minutes), with endless electric violin & guitar solos, and tons of drums; it is definitely not addictive. I find this record very good but slightly overrated.
Report this review (#29556)
Posted Tuesday, April 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars If you regard of the early sixties in the USA, this rock and roll/blues rock album was already quite progressive, even though in some circumstances only... that is you can get an inkling of his talent, which will be better developped in the future.It's not the most "progressive album" by Frank and -probably it should deserve an inferior score;neverthless some tracks such s "Don 'Sugarcane'", "Harris" or "Willie the Pimp", are a tasteful example of things to come later (listen to the experimental album "Weasels Ripped My Flesh"), representing his true mood... well these songs actually are almost equal to the most disappointing version of "Gumbo Variations", which is more similar; but there are some stunning spare classic breaks through (of course I remark these latter as "classic", regarding of his usual high standard). Moreover some of the themes will appear on other albums such as the "Grand Wazoo" and "Waka Jawaka"; while perhaps the song "Son of Mr. Green Genes" is the only one which is not much inspiring... it never minds, this work, not completely mature, is anyway worth checking out at least!!
Report this review (#29557)
Posted Friday, April 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars When the croci in my mind are blooming, then FRANK ZAPPA's whimsical and colorful genius must be in full flower. I see you in the back of the class, looking out the window while all this wondrous music plays on. Well, wake up! Thirty years on, your grandchildren may quiz you on FRANK ZAPPA and Where were you when it all happened. Do you want to be the doddering old fool who pulls out a picture of the sofa bathed in the blue light of the television and point saying "There?" No you don't. You want to tune into "Hot Rats". The wonderful thing is, there's still time. Oh, the good seats on the ground floor are already taken, but there's plenty left in the mezzanine, as good a place as any to witness the miracle of "Peaches En Regalia" or "Son of Mr. Green Genes", where the composer turns our concept of classical music on its head and gives it a much-needed spanking. Or, if that doesn't push your button, than surely the sweaty and buck nakedly brilliant blues rock of "Willie The Pimp" and "The Gumbo Variations" must. I've spent some two-cent words and a coupla ten-dollar ones trying to sell folks on FRANK ZAPPA's music, but "Hot Rats" sells itself. If no other work from ZAPPA should survive (and somewhere in a conservative cabal sick with the smell of cigars, the possibility is probably being discussed right now), "Hot Rats" alone would keep the flame alive through the ages. The composition, the arrangements, the musicianship, the sheer entertainment of it all is initially too much to comprehend, but in time it sinks in, and gestates, and first it's a little blue crocus, and then a white one, and a pink one, and before you know it you're trading bootlegs with some guy in Holland who says you have to hear this killer version of "Valarie" with an alternate ending (or something like that). Stepping back from myself a bit, I'm sure that jazz/classical hybrids like "Little Umbrellas" could trace themselves back to Duke Ellington or some other modern composer without a trail of bread crumbs, but I don't listen to a lot of that stuff, so for me ZAPPA's the gateway to this new musical world. And, honestly, your grandchildren will probably be asking you stuff like "Ew, how could you have had a cRUSH on Eminem (or Britney Spears)?", so I wouldn't worry too much about the ZAPPA shakedown from future generations. But if they do ask you about ZAPPA, start putting money away in a trust fund so they can go to Yale and eventually become president. I'd like to hear "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" played at least once at an inaugural ball in my lifetime, and I don't see any other way to do it.
Report this review (#29551)
Posted Tuesday, May 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Since I ever heard only a couple of countless Zappa albums I cannot consider myself an expert, but this one is really good, in particular for those who like jazz fusion. My favourites are "Peaches en Regalia" and "Willie the Pimp", the latter being the only vocal track on the album, sung by Captain Beefheart and with an unimaginably long guitar solo. However the remainder may sound a bit monotonous for uninitiated listeners, with lenghty instrumental sections, albeit perfectly played by Zappa, Underwood, Ponty and others. I am no fan of jazz-rock fusion, hence I am not giving more than this mark.
Report this review (#29559)
Posted Thursday, May 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of the peak points in music history, is clear music album, with no flaws, studied enough to produce a very wide a omunt of sensations, from the opening act "peaches in regalia" to the long instrumental "gumbo variations", a masterpiece, an incredible collaboration in- between jazz, and rock. go, buy it, your ears and your brain will thank you
Report this review (#29560)
Posted Thursday, May 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars The american cousin of "In the court of KC". Well played, different, strange, progressive, jazzy, thriller, some words to describe this almost all instrumental record, here you will have many instruments in the same music. "peaches in regalia", "son of mr green genes" and "it must be a camel", are my favourite tracks. The look may be strange but the taste is much better, try this dish.
Report this review (#29564)
Posted Friday, August 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Very nice stuff with lots of rich instrumental parts and very complex arrangements. See the pearls "Peaches en regalia", "Gambo variations" and "Son of Mr. Green Genes". The 70's were beggining for Mr. Zappa, and he and his troup were simply creating a very new way of playing rock'n roll music without let beeing hard, sarcastic and innovative. Much better: they started to be explosive, complex, and infinite. Some jazzy parts, some progressive mood. The early ironic Zappa is present in each track, but the musical background is even better! For progressive rock fans and, off course, specially made for complex and extremely well-done rock'n rol fans. A Classic.
Report this review (#29568)
Posted Thursday, February 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a classic album! Frank Zappa is the king of bluesy extended guitar solos. On this album there is a great cast of musicians that get a great sound from the instruments they have. This album is composed, completely using bass, drums, guitar, keyboard and violins, with some great sax in it too i think. They get such a good sound on this album with the instruments they have. It has a really jazzy, blues sound with some immense guitar work. Sometimes it seems like they are jamming out a lot but it actually follows some noticeable prog movement.

"Peaches en Regalia" is a classic introduction. It has amazing production and sounds so lively and upbeat. This is really interesting and always manages to keep listener appealed with its constant flow. It has some really strong guitar work and bass throughout this track. This kind of sound has influenced many artists to follow, even the new Mars Volta album has a lot of Zappa influence, mainly on "L'via L'viaquez". This album instantly starts with a classic 60s sound and can appeal to fans of RIO, fusion, blues, jazz, classic guitar rock as well as psychadelia and space rock. I often find this album pretty trippy!

"Willie the Pimp" is the only track with vocals on this album, sung by the amazing Captain Beefheart. I really like his music and thats what made me want to check out Frank Zappa as they have similar sounds and concepts. They even collaborate together quite often and this is one of the best moments as a team! This track has some amazing extended blues soloing, all members have a great input. I really love the violin intro and the captain's vocals add to it well by making this piece enjoyable and interesting with the humorous lyrics.

the rest of the tracks follow a similar pattern but this does not make them seem like filler, nor does the album get boring or dragged down. They find many ways of making the second half of the album sound interesting, with some great basslines and keyboard work sneaking in. This album is highly recommended for fans of Captain Beefheart and it has so many great influences that lots of people can enjoy music like this. Frank is one of the best musicians in this kind of field and this album really is a great jewel that he left us.

Report this review (#29569)
Posted Sunday, March 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This CD is fantastic. A MUST-HAVE album that explores a multi-genre fusion of experimental music on the threshold of the 1970's. "Peaches en Regalia" and "Son of Mr.Green Genes" showcases Zappa's ability to fuse pop, jazz, and progressive rock in a listenable formula, perhaps even his most listenable. I would suggest this to any fusion fans (Return to Forever, Weather Report, etc.) first and foremost, although I believe it is a must have for any fan of music in general. The wide variety of instruments used and rich texture to the majority of "Hot Rats" gives it a unique feel despite being somewhat "mainstream" for a Zappa album. Furthermore, this album has aged about as well as any classic masterpiece could be expected to. If this doesn't find its way into your CD collection, you might want to go see a Psychiatrist!
Report this review (#29571)
Posted Sunday, May 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have and like all zappa's albums but my favorite is always this hot rats strange, 'cause it's certainly the less zappaesque album of all F.Z discography. Mainly instrumental, no contemporay stuff, no rock, ho delirious vocalsIt's a very good progressive jazz aka soft machine, magma. Musicians are brilliant (more the poor 1st mothers line up) and themes are rich and full olpa
Report this review (#29572)
Posted Sunday, May 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hot Rats is simply a masterpiece. With Bitches Brew, Hot Rats invented fusion. For this album, Frank kind of stepped out of the studio, threw together a nasty, funkier band than the Mothers' and played gut-wrenching soloable compositions.

On a playing level, this band could probably not be touched at the time. You can hear this in Peaches en Regalia, which I think is the coolest, catchiest, and most brilliant instrumental of all time. It's the most known piece on the album, and it's incredibly put together.

Willie the Pimp features the gravelly Howlin' Wolf voice of Captain Beefheart taking the character of a selfish pimp, while the violin carries on with the main riff while Frank playing behind with his gritty distortion and eventually soloing over for a good 7 minutes or so, proving that Frank is serious with his guitar and this cat can PLAY. A pure jam session.

Son Of Mr. Green Genes on it's own represents why fusion was created. It takes the old style of composing a tune, and injects it with sickeningly heavy and funky playing. Mr. Green Genes started out on Uncle Meat, but it's definitely best represented here. Note the incredible playng by multi-instrumentalist virtuoso Ian Underwood on the keyboards and winds.

Little Umbrellas features that great upright bass riff that's often sampled. Another funky and heaily melodic tune, Little Umbrellas will probably be one of the coolest things you've ever heard.

The Gumbo Variations shows Ian Underwood blasting away on a sax over a terrific melody. A free-jazz inspired solo, I acually heard hints of a Buddy Rich sax player take from it at a live show. It's quite the lengthy piece but it's very cool.

It Must Be A Camel is an awesome album closer, the melody very tight and the composition beautiful.

I'd give this album 4.5 stars if I could because some of the pieces can be too long and repetitive, but it's all still amazingly cool, and it's an important history piece, being influential as it was for jazz-rock.

Report this review (#35691)
Posted Wednesday, June 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
Man With Hat
Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
5 stars Awesome and historical!! One of Zappa's best records. I think all the historical stuff has been said here, so i'll skip that and get to the music itself. This contains some of the finest instramentals ever made. Peaches En Regalia, Son Of Mr. Green Genes, and Little Umbrellas are all fantastic. The Gumbo Variations is very good too, letting multiple members of the band show off (including sax, drums, bass, guitar, violin. So you was left out??) It Must Be A Camel is, IMO, the weakest song here. It is good, but not that good. It has some fine moments, but overall it is weak. I am not saying it is bad, just not as good as the rest. Then we have the only song here to have vocal, Willie The Pimp. A great song with a great melody, and wonderful guitar work. All in all this is a great album, and a must in any collection. Recommended till the cows come home.
Report this review (#36824)
Posted Friday, June 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Very good jazz/blues/prog (with the emphasis on jazz), but a little too much filler to make it a truly satisfying experience.

FZ's famous -sometimes hilarious, sometimes offensive and sometimes plain revolting - satirical escapades are absent here, and the album is much better for it. That's not to say that Frank's unique sense of humor is completely gone here, though -- it's simply toned down, but can still be sensed in the wry and whimsical melodies of perfect, energetic little gems like "Peaches in Regalia," "Son of Mr. Green Genes" and "Little Umbrellas."

But even though "Hot Rats" is very restrained compared to many of Zappa's other works, the man still seems a little too much in love with himself. The guitar solo in "Willie the Pimp" should have been shortened at least in half, and "The Gumbo Variations" is about as pointless a jam as you're ever going to hear.

Report this review (#37007)
Posted Sunday, June 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is Zappa's try at fusion. An album full of his usual fun and joy side, Zappa tries to incorporate jazz into his music, with great results. Songs like ''peaches in regalia'' and ''willie the pimp'' remains classics, and the guitar solo on the ladder is seen as one of his greatest ever. As usual, the musicianship is exceptional, and really there is no bad song on this album. For legions of fan, this was theirentry into the crazy world of Zappa, because it is still accessible, and even if it takes a while to grow on you, it is all worth the wait. A classic, historical album. 4.5/5
Report this review (#37160)
Posted Tuesday, June 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wow, what an immediately noticable change from before! Hot Rats is absolutely stunning. Jazz and rock has never been so funky, complex, beautiful, or molded together as well. Peaches en Regalia is the absolute most memorable thing I've ever heard in my life. The bop style of this record is amazingly cool combined with Frank at the top of his game in composition, with incredible musicians on the record, and plenty of solos. Think of this is a more grabbing and infectious Bitches Brew. Zappa's compositional and instrumental dexterity in this particular album is amazing. This album effectively reaches beautiful to incredibly funky moods, combining the laidback feel of jazz and the in-your-face mentality of rock. Melodically incredible and amazingly inventive (the beginning of jazz fusion?), this must be heard. 9.9/10
Report this review (#38706)
Posted Wednesday, July 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Yes, yes, ... im in love with this album, i want it for a long time and i finally buy it yesterday , ( im really happy , im like a boy with a new toy), why ?, because this album is really great , precious , beautiful , sorry, this album has the particular sound of Zappa, but i like it so much more because is almost instrumental , willie the pimp has the curious voice of captain beefheart, and the exquisite sound of the violins of God Ponty , also the only Zappa style, his entire music makes one progressive sub genre, but well, im in love with his album because to me it has an amazing sound, a very complex songs and a collage of great musicians, the opening song, peaches en regalia, it announce us what is going to be the album, is a short song, but instrumentally and great, willie the pimp everybody knows that classic, is a funny song but really a great song, my favourite one is son of Mr Green genes, i love that song, the lead guitar , the bass, the harmony and happiness makes me enjoying, and the skin of chicken puts me each time that I listen it, i love the solo of that song, little umbrellas for me is the worst song of the album , but the word "worst" doesnt exist here, the gumbo variations is also an spectacular song, is an epic, the long song of the album, really great, and finally, ha! it must be a camel, the only way to finishing a Zappa album, is with a song like this, i hope all of you has this album, because is really really good.
Report this review (#40257)
Posted Monday, July 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars As we all know, Frank Zappa was an innovator in his sound and craft. Beginning his career in a very arty abstract kind of fashion, this is the first album to really get him the title of virtuoso musician. The album is mostly instrumental, the only song with actual vocal is Willie the Pimp (sung brilliantly by Captain Beefheart). The musicianship overall is top quality (as is the production). Frank Zappa plays precision guitar riffs and combines them with classy and over-the-top solos to create a very jazzy-blues atmosphere. The violin work on this album is magnificent (especially on the Gumbo Variations).

I will name the stand out tracks rather than describe them all. The album opens up with instrumental favorite Peaches en Regalia, which has a great riff and some great woodwind work from Ian Underwood. An instrumental with a virtuoso punch packed within a 3 minute time frame. My favorite song on the album, Willie the Pimp, is a 9 minute epic of sorts. With a catchy riff, and a convincing vocal from Captain Beefheart (I'm not very big on his voice, though), singing about a "Twenty dollah bill". Combine that with a great Zappa solo and some precision bass and drum interplay, and you get 9 minutes of heaven. The Gumbo Variations is a 16 minute instrumental epic that takes many different shapes and has many different moods. Only one word can describe it, breathtaking. Magnificent violin work from Sugar Cane Harris, great guitar work from Zappa, great bass and drum interplay, and some outstanding keyboard from Ian Underwood make this track a 16 minute utopia of music.

Overall, this is an album I think all Frank Zappa fans should have. I do not think it is as good as one of its counterparts, The Grand Wazoo, because it lacks flow and sometimes Son of Mr. Green Genes gets a bit boring. None the less, a great effort from this prolific artist. 4.5/5.

Report this review (#44304)
Posted Friday, August 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I don't like to give five points for each "good" or "great" album.But this one deserves it all. 1969 is defitely the year of jazz-rock,fusion,jam and all those things: just think to MIles Davis' "Bitches Brew". Zappa and the whole music made a giant step in this direction with this album. -"Little umbrellas" and "It must be a Camel" are nice jazzy song. -"Son of Mr. Green Genes" is a wonderful track with an unforgettable melody at the very beginning But what makes this album a true masterpiece are the other three songs -"Willie the pimp" is the most famous song here.Terrific VIOLIN riff and terrific solos by Frank.Angry voice and funny lyrics sung by Captain Beefheart.Many dislike his presence here becouse of his bad bad bad tone.But, I mean, the song is about a pimp...It must be BEEFHEART!!Imagine Jon Anderson handling the vocals there... -The gumbo varations" is one of the most amazing jam I've evere listened.And I've listened quite a few...if your heart stopped this rhythm section could make it keep on beatin'.There are three great parts.The long, though never boring, improvisation by Ian Underwwod at the sax.I can say that a certain point he's maybe raping his instrument.The listener just can't figure out what's happening because right away Sugar Cane Harris puts on your face a great violin solo.Same thing for Frank and his guitar.Each and every solo here has dozens of great ideas, phrases,magic passages in it.You need that. -"Peaches en Regalia".One of the most catchy songs ever.Without words.With strange instruments leading you in a new fantastic world.This is the peak.Frank showed he could write a great ultra-catchy song making it completely different from what is supposed to be a catchy song (the beatles' style for exemple). THIS IS A MASTERPIECE

Report this review (#44599)
Posted Sunday, August 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
Bob Greece
5 stars This 95% instrumental jazz-fusion album contains so much variety, it's definitely a progressive masterpiece. There's not a note wasted on this album and it must be hard to get tired of listening to it. If you consider that is was done in 1969 and in America, it really is a seminal recording.

It starts off with Peaches En Regalia, which contains such a variety of sounds that don't sound dated even now. The second track Willie the Pimp contains the only vocals from Captain Beefheart and these vocals fit in so well with the track and the album that I'm really glad they put them in. The track continues with a long guitar solo from Zappa that keeps your interest even though it's goes on for about 7 minutes. The other stand-out track on the album is the 17 minute Gumbo Variations, which starts with a sax solo (it grates a little but is still excellent), continues with a violin solo (sounding a bit like a guitar) and finishes with a guitar solo and a drum flurish at the end.

It feels great listening to this album. It's kind of psychedelic. I think that this should be part of any prog collection and is particularly recommended to those who like instrumental music.

Report this review (#52534)
Posted Friday, October 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars "This movie for your ears." proclaims the album credits. Colouful, full of humour, wit and musicianship; and unlike much other Zappa, without the caustic, often obscene themes and lyrics that became tiresome after a while.

The album is entirely instrumental, except for Captain Beefhearts' contribution on "Willie the Pimp". It's an experimental mixture of jazz, blues, and rock, with a twist of Zappa's bizarre humour. Although it's tagged as a solo album, special mention goes to Ian Underwood, multi-instrumentalist, who helps set the style for the proceedings.

"Peaches En Regalia" starts the album and is one of the most original, tuneful pieces of music your ears will come across. "Willie the Pimp" is basically a long Zappa guitar solo, and there's nothing wrong with that. "It Must Be A Camel" can indeed lead you to picture the rather ungainly movement of the beast (the track claims to feature Jon-Luc Ponty but I've never been able to make him out on the mix.).Each track is individual in nature but all fit within the overall style of the album. If you think I'm struggling to describe the music, you'd be right. It's some of the most imaginative stuff you could want to hear, and it stands as a testament of how great Zappa was - and how he squandered much of his talent in his later projects. It's difficult to grade it because it's not flawless, but on the other hand it could be called essential; I'm not sure Zappa ever thought of himself as "progressive" but this is a must have for any self-respecting prog fans collection.

Report this review (#53481)
Posted Wednesday, October 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The quintessential Frank Zappa album? I'm not sure about that as I have only heard a couple of his albums, yet at the moment Hot Rats is the only Zappa album that resides in my collection. Largely drawn to it due to the merger of rock and jazz like sounds Hot Rats is an eclectic mix of thoughts, ideas and sounds from this visionary musician. Zappa makes and creates a collage of tones and noises and sews them together with a building melodic harmony. "Peaches In Regalia" is like a bloody Broadway musical put to the acid rock test on lots of acid, and with added dirt and genius, while Zappa's mate Captain Beefheart makes an appearance on the slick and sleazy "Willie The Pimp". While I always like my instrumental albums to be, well, instrumental, and get annoyed when many attempt to slip in a vocal track (Ian Carr and Nucleus tried it and failed miserably on their second album We'll Talk About It Later a couple of years on from this, and in fact they did so by trying to rip this song off with their tepid and dull "Ballad Of Joe Pimp") the vocals and performance on "Wilie The Pimp" work and create a little menacing side show story for the album. Then slap bang! We're back into the mood with "Son Of Mr. Green Genes" rolling around the jazz rock road. With piano, vibraphone and saxophones, "Little Umbrellas" is a fusion treat and by now the album was starting to become a personal favorite with me. While Davis struggled and frustrated with his double Bitches Brew, Zappa and his Mothers made it all look so easy with a defining effort, with "The Gumbo Variations" and the excellently titled "It Must Be A Camel" becoming, for me at least, staples of the jazz rock fusion canon. Hot Rats is an album with a purpose. The whole fusion era started off on a high expectant platform but it truly ebbed back from that point on. Though John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra would take into to another plane a few years down the line but exclusively so. Released in the same year as Miles Davis Bitches Brew, Hot Rats offers up so much more colour and expression, laced with Zappa's idiosyncratic humour. But perhaps only just. Would it be fair to suggest that Frank Zappa hit the notes that were just out of Miles' reach? But while it may be viewed as idiotic to compare the two albums, it is an interesting juxtaposition to simply do so.
Report this review (#54116)
Posted Monday, October 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "Hot Rats" is often considered as Zappa's masterpiece, and I can understand why. This album is a fantastic mix of Jazz-Fusion, Blues and Rock. The tracks are long, but always interesting all way through, Especially "Peaches En Regalia" - which is one of Zappa's most known songs.

Excellent instrumentation, Zappa's guitar solos are amazing and Captain Beefheart contributes cool vocals on "Willie The Pimp". This is an excellent place to start if you are new to Zappa. Either this, or "The Grand Wazoo".

My rating: between 4.5 and 5 stars - Should be included in any comprehensive prog collection!

Report this review (#56897)
Posted Friday, November 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Zappa's ''Hot Rats'' is probably my favourite Zappa album I own as of yet.

Unlike most Zappa albums, this one lacks the satire and humour. (except for maybe Willie the pimp, which is also the only vocal track)

Peaches En Regalia: This song is great, an upbeat Zappa classic.

Willie The Pimp: Great song, but I do think it's the weakest on the album, it's funny and has some catchy spots and a GREAT solo. But, compared to the rest I think it pales in comparison.

Son Of Mr. Green Genes: Another great song, lot's of interplay between instruments but not as much as Peaches En Regalia, nor is it as upbeat as Peaches En Regalia. But, it's every bit as good.

Little Umbrella's: A Short little tune, but it's every bit as great as the rest.

Gumbo Variation: A long 17 min song, with a simple bassline but lot's of interplay around that said bassline. Very cool.

It Must Be A Camel: The musicianship here pales compared to the other tracks, and I find myself ignoring this track. But, it does make a good closer.

Overall Rating: 4.7/5

Report this review (#58475)
Posted Monday, November 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hot Rats - the best Zappa album? I don't know, you decide, but it damn sure is an essential one and one of my absolute favourite albums, of Zappa and the whole genre. What we have here is a mixture of prog, jazz rock and blues which comes in 6 tracks, of which 3 are extended pieces, or "jams", obviously containing a lot of improvisation. The musicianship is top notch as always, with the likes of Zappa, Ian Underwood, Jean- Luc Ponty & co. Captain Beefheart is also featured as a special guest on "Willie the Pimp" , delivering some of his quite personal vocal style. Well.. what can I say about the music that hasn't been said before? Amazing musicians, jazzy 'n bluesy, highly progressive and highly entertaining music, some shorter tracks and some longer tracks, a bit of humour here and there. See other reviews for a more professional view on the music, but keep this in mind: Essential.
Report this review (#60518)
Posted Friday, December 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I think this is the most mature and professional recording Frank that has ever released. The humor is present in the music, but only as a spice, as the album is mostly about good jazz and rock jamming. The opener "Peaches en Regalia" introduces the overall feeling and themes of this album, which are happy spirit, good co-playing and fine guitar solos from Mr. Zappa. "Willie the Pimp" has a small cameo appearance of CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, and most of the song works as a playfield for Zappa's wild guitar playing. Other elements to be noted are the imaginative use of xylophones and brass arrangements. "Son of Mr. Green Genes" is a matured reworking of a theme from the past "Uncle Meat" album, and the composition is now much better and has great musical climaxes in it. "Little Umbrellas" and "It Must Be A Camel" are also traditional like jazz songs with exceptional and funny rhythmic ideas. "The Gumbo Variations" between them is another improvisational jam number, reaching almost the length of 17 minutes.

I would recommend this record for all music listeners who are interested of jazz fusion, and also to those who haven't appreciated Zappa's other works. I also noticed, that the CD version alters a bit from the original vinyl pressing. It seems that Frank did some subtle re-recordings at some places of this album later?

Report this review (#61449)
Posted Friday, December 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars If you've ever wondered who Frank Zappa was or were afraid to get into his music fearing his famed eclecticisms, this is THE Frank Zappa album to get. This is a primarily instrumental album with only Willy the Pimp sporting any kind of vocals (by Captain Beefheart no less). This is the birth of Jazz Rock and one of the more historically important albums in all of progressive music. The music is brilliant and the playing is exceptional. Even more amazing is that Frank came out with this effort in 1969! There really wasn't anything else like it to be found anywhere at the time.

Peaches en Regalia is perhaps one of Zappa's most appreciated songs. It has often been covered by Jazz/Fusion luminaries over the years; people who truly appreciate exceptional writing. This song is so lyrical that you almost forget it is an instrumental.

Willy the Pimp is the only song sporting vocals. Captain Beefheart provides his unique vocals which really fit the vibe of the song like no one else could. He sings about the worlds oldest profession. The rest of the song is one of Frank's best guitar solos. As long as it is it really never gets boring, he had such a great guitar tone. This is the most "Rockin'" track on the album.

Son of Mr. Green Genes features a great, jazzy performance complete with a great horn section, vibraphone, and another killer guitar solo.

Little Umbrellas sounds vaguely like something you could hear Steely Dan comming up with (minus the vibraphone). It's a short, jazzy piece with flute and horns to spare, but played rather softly as not to disrupt the delicate texture of the song. This is definite a more jazz oriented piece.

The Gumbo Variations is the monster rock/jazz/funk jam that I keep combing back to time and time again. The bass line is very simple, but so incredibly catchy it just gets you going and you can't stop. The song features long jams for sax, guitar and violin. I love wailing tenor / barritone sax and this brings down the house, no doubt about it. It may be over 17min long, but it goes by in no time at all. It makes you tap your toes, bob your head, and gently sway beat and there's nothing you can do about it.

It Must Be a Camel is another jazz oriented tune with the kind of horn section that once again reminds you of 70's Steely Dan. There are lots of percussion accents throughout the song providing lots of wonderful textures.

I can't really express just how incredible this album is. It was recorded 3 years before I was born, yet sounds as current and vibrant today as it did some 37 years ago. I would recommend the Japanese LP replica edition if you can find it. It only costs a couple bucks more, but the sound quality is better than the Ryko version (I've owned both). This album was so magnificantly recorded that it is any audiophile's dream. If you've never experienced the music of Frank Zappa before, this is the perfect introduction. It was for me when I was a 15 year old lad!

Report this review (#64083)
Posted Tuesday, January 10, 2006 | Review Permalink

Frank Zappa's first solo album, Hot Rats is a far-cry from the da-da adventures and audio collages of the original Mothers of Invention. Mostly instrumental and filled with long jams between Zappa, Jean-Luc Ponty and Ian Underwood, this slickly-produced album--one of the first 16 track recordings made--is filled with hummable tunes. The opening track, "Peaches en Regalia," is one of Zappa's most enduring songs and the album's only vocal track, "Willie the Pimp," is by Zappa's long-time friend Don Van Vliet, a.k.a. Captain Beefheart.

This is probably the first FZ album that Most-Folks-Who-Don't-Even-Like-Frank Zappa ever bought, and the one that began to establish him as a virtuoso musician and composer.

Here are my ratings: (5/5)

1. Peaches En Regalia.... 5 stars - This tune has a pretty and laid-back melody and it's also relatively brief in length which adds to its value as easy listening. Zappa at his most beautiful.

2. Willie The Pimp.... 4 stars - Contains Zappa's best solo on this album.

3. Son of Mr. Green Genes.... 5 stars - This is my second fav track on this album and has some magnificent composing.

4. Little Umbrellas.... 4 star - What can i say

5. The Gumbo Variations... 5 stars - This piece is somewhat extended, it lasts 17 minutes. But it is the jewel of "Hot Rats" because of the Sugarcane Harris' violin solo, which is nothing short than musically sublime; with an incredible tone to go with it! Sugarcane's solo is the highpoint of the album. Frank Zappa puts in a nice solo for about 3 minutes after the violin wraps up, but it pales in comparison to Sugarcane's stuff. Frank my hat is off to you.

6. It Must Be A Camel... 5 star - some insaine Jazz with a twist...

The fact that it is instrumental doesn't take this album in the "jazz field" forwhat I am concerned. It is still very rockish, but brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. It will last. Exceptional.

Report this review (#75243)
Posted Monday, April 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Being a Zappa enthuseist requires a lot of time and alot of patience. I own approx. 40 Zappa discs and can say that Hot Rats is amazing and quite possibly his best.

It was his first "solo" attempt and he came out swinging. From Peaches winding melody to Gumbo's nasty sax to Willy's guitar he gives you a bit of everything.It is difficult to say which recording is his "best" since the styles vary so widely from disc to disc.

A feel that no artist on this site has created such a diverse cataloge of music. From Avant to jazz to fusion, heavy rock, pop, to evem du wop. Hot Rats is a gem. What is also amazing is that plays the majority of the instruments. And you can never forget the cover photo.

Report this review (#77400)
Posted Sunday, May 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars 4.5/5.0 Now this is serious! Before listening to "Hot Rats" I used to think "The Grand Wazoo" was Zappa's greatest achievement. My bad, this album rocks! Quite everything on Hot Rats is great: from the soft and harmonic melody on "Peaches En Regalia" to the wild and intriguous foggy-jazz atmosphere on "Little Umbrellas" or the frenetic guitar on "The Gumbo Variations" and the vocals on "Willie The Pimp"!

The only reason I don't give a higher rating is only because at some point "The Gumbo Variations" could have been a bit shorter. But this is not a big problem; this album offers an easy listening, is intense, emotional, and is clearly my idea of what jazz-fusion is or should be. Half way between essential and a masterpiece. 4.5/5.0

Report this review (#77437)
Posted Sunday, May 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars The first time Frank Zappa sans the Mothers entered jazz-rock territory and this is the result: an album of a genius, a classic of the genre. Featuring multi-instrumentalist Ian Underwood, violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and vocalist Captain Beefheart, with the support of Lowell George (guitars) and Don Harris (violin), among others, Zappa successfully brought every part of his compositions and directions and all into life at the most effective way; he managed to lead them to cut an album that flows so freely between jazz and rock, with so much excitement and energy.

Among the most fascinating attractions here is the way each musician marvelously contributes their particular style in mixing sophisticated jazz compositions with blaring, straight ahead rock elements. On the longer compositions (such as “Willy the Pimp”) there are clearly evidences in which Zappa and his supporting musicians push the envelope as far as they can go. In doing so, they are playing freely, with much noise, and without being confined to any limitation -- except the space of the medium (i.e. the tape, the vinyl), of course. On shorter compositions with tight arrangement (say, “Peaches en Regalia”), they can also perform playfully and yet elegantly.

After 25 years since it was released for the first time, this album hasn't lost its appeal. That's why anyone can make it as a gate to the world of Zappa.

Report this review (#81169)
Posted Wednesday, June 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars How can I say that I'm a classic rock music fan while this legendary album by Zappa, "Hot Rats", I have never heard the music before until couple of weeks ago? It's a pity, really. But that's the fact that I can not say the other way. Couple of reasons, probably, that caused this. First, when it was in 70s I could only afford to buy cassette and in my country there was no such cassette with Zappa "Hot Rats" as far as I can remember. Second, when recently almost all albums of Zappa were released in digital format, the price of the CD is unbelievable - damn expensive! Lucky that my prog colleague Purwanto Setiadi (kunangkunangku) lent me his CD of this album, so I could enjoy.

This album blew me away at first spin. Yes, I can see many repetitions of chords and notes especially on the rhythm section but every segment has its own unique texture that makes it weird but very enjoyable because they form excellent harmony. "Peaches en Regalia" (3:37) kicks off the album in relatively fast tempo with unique style mostly combining jazz with rock. "Willie the Pimp" (9:16) is a great example of how the classic rock music is combined with the joy of violin sounds. Captain Beefheart voice is quite unique and suits with Zappa music. In terms of rhythm and chords this song seems like repetitious but it's enjoyable because the texture mives differently in every piece of music segments. Guitar solo plays dominant roles. I'm not sure who is actually playing drums at this track but if it's Ron Selico I can relate with his controbution to John Mayall' Jazz-Blues fusion which I think the styles are similar.

I can see "Son of Mr. Green Genes" (8:58) has influenced many prog bands (like Frogg Cafe) in their musical endeavor. It's not that this track is copied by others but the nuance has been transformed to others. The composition is tight with multi instruments as rhythm section and guitar makes its solo combined with keyboard. "The Gumbo Variations" (16:55) is an instrumental which gives a wide range of instrumentalists to give their expertise, especially saxophone, bass guitar, violin and guitar which form the music beautifully, flowing in relatively fast tempo. I usually get trouble with music where the rhythm section is somewhat monotonous with repeated chords. But this one is different - it's because I can hear different textures every time the music moves from one segment to another like this song. "It Must Be A Camel" (5:15) concludes the album in a combination of jazz and avant-garde styles with dominant piano and saxophone work.

It's an excellent addition to any prog music collection. Recommended.

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#81406)
Posted Sunday, June 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Anybody doubting Zappa's genius, trying to appreciate his music, or looking for some sweet ear candy, need only listen to "Peaches En Regalia" and all doubts will be removed and replaced by an insatiable hunger for more and more Zappa. There's more originality and creativity packed into this concise three min song than most musicians exude in their life. It'll take three mins of your life to listen to, but it will effect the rest of it.

Hot Rats kicks off into perhaps an unmatched start in the music world, but Zappa isn't satisfied and follows it up with a slew of classics. The album consists of five free-rolling instrumental jazz pieces with some lengthy jams, and one lone vocal track done by everyone's favorite captain, Captain Beefheart. His vocal contribution to "Willie The Pimp" elevates the song to new heights.

Of the remaining material most is good but "The Gumbo Variations" tends to outstay its welcome with its tiring length of 16 mins. And "It Must Be A Camel" turns out to be a rather lousy ending to a masterpiece of an album. Two stones that keep this album from really taking off into the stratosphere. But the untarnished material is creativity in its purest and most unadulterated form, and isn't quirky enough that only RIO/Avant Prog fans can get into. However, an appreciation of Fusion is likely required for full enjoyment.

Report this review (#82118)
Posted Tuesday, June 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Let's put it in a simple way: Frank Zappa was a music genius, not only a rock'n'roll genius. His amazing body of work, his visions, his musicianship, his composition and arrangement skills allied to his sense of humour made him one of the dearest rockers of all time, although he was not a commercial success. And let's put it even simpler: this is one of his greatest recordings of all time. I don't have all his catalogue, but I know enough of his work to say that "Hot Rats" is the album you must have at your collection, if you want a piece of Zappa. I know that "We're Only in it..." is usually considered as his masterpiece, but "Hot Rats" is IMHO more enjoyable. Highlights: "Peaches in Regalia", "Willie the Pimp" (with bizarre vocals by Don Van Vliet, AKA Captain Beefheart and an amazing guitar solo), "Son of Mr. green Genes" and the extended "The Gumbo Variations". With a superb jazz-fusion taste, "Hot Rats" is essential not only to prog-rockers, but to eveybody interested in good music. Now, stop reading and buy your copy of "Hot Rats" NOW!!!!!!
Report this review (#84135)
Posted Wednesday, July 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is my favorite Frank Zappa album and one of my favorite instrumental albums ever. Great instrumentation on every song (especially peaches which i find to be an unbelievable composition). Suprisingly amazing guitar work by Zappa (he is certainly underrated). And finally, amazing beats. Songs like Willie the Pimp and Gumbo Variations have amazing beats behind the jam like songs. There's nothing really else to say about this album cause it's pretty self-explanatory. This is a masterpiece in my book
Report this review (#84759)
Posted Tuesday, July 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This was my first Zappa album after Were Only In it For the Money(one of the worst beginner albums, but one of my favorites as well). This choice was because of the fact that I had read about the suposed abundance of guitar playing on this album(as a 12 year old guitarist, I was initially attracted mostly to this ouvre of Zappa's work....Luckily, I matured quickly!). I think that all the songs on this album are at least good, but there are several albums I find more interesting, or generally more compelling. One aspect of this LP that I like very much is the abundance of elegant, genteel and almost cartoonish sounds, such as in Peaches En Regalia and, especially, Little Umbrellas. Also, when you're in the mood for this album, it can be an incredible listening experience.

Peaches En Regalia- Undisputed classic among Zappa fans, great melody and assortment of sounds. (9/10)

Willie the Pimp- Great bluesy guitar riff & solo(I like Frank's soloing best when he is playing in a blues-influenced manner). Never becomes boring despite the length (9:16), and simplicity. Captain Beefheart sings here, and does a great job. (10/10)

Son of Mr. Green Genes- I dig the juxtaposition of lush, elegant passages and a wonderfully dirty guitar solo, though it is rather similar to his "Willie the Pimp" solo (8/10)

Little Umbrellas- Absolutely exquisite arranged. Elegant and very evocative. Love the woodwinds. (10/10)

The Gumbo Variations- Interesting improvisation and saxophone work by the talented Ian Underwood. Unfortunately not that consistent, but not exactly boring. (7/10)

It Must Be A Camel- I must admit that I don't listen to this track much, nice melody though. (7/10)

Report this review (#85454)
Posted Wednesday, August 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars I've listened to this many times now, and I have to say that Peaches En Regalia is one of my faovurite songs of all time. It really is a masterpiece. All the other songs have great themes, but one of their major downfalls is that they don't seem to know when to stop. Unlike Zappa's later works, which were more progressive and had different movements and parts, these songs seem to go nowhere. For example, Willy The Pimp sounds superb at first, and goes into a violin/guitar solo after the lyrics, which is great at first, but quickly gets extremely repetitive and/or boring unless you're stoned. That said, each song has it's great parts and high points, but it just goes on forever. Zappa and his band would improve very much in this fashion over the next few years.
Report this review (#88059)
Posted Wednesday, August 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars AMAZING.

I'd been putting off the acquiring of a Zappa album for so long. Always been on my list but there were always a dozen other 'more important' purchases also. After all, we're talking about some over-appreciated but presumably talented comedy musician, right? Boy, how wrong was I?

After receiving a coupon for free postages and with it being a sale at my usual internet music store, I decided to pick this one up. Hey, it's one of the most appreciated Zappa albums, how could I go wrong? ..And it blew my mind! I'd heard Willie The Pimp before and thought it was very good but this whole album, this.. This is superior musicianship. It plain out left me with my mouth open, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry because it was so beautiful, so incredible, so uncomprehensible. To me, just being able to play songs on a guitar is a thing that requires of talent. But I couldn't imagine ever creating something quite like this album.

I know some of you might think I'm overreacting. Maybe you are right. But this album definitely had an impact on me. I've heard a lot of music and I doubt I have ever (or atleast in a long while) heard something quite as intricate as some of the songs on 'Hot Rats'. Ok, I'm not a jazz expert and am still fairly young. So I suggest that you check it out for yourself. You shouldn't regret it.

I've said it before: I don't know much about 'prog' but this is a masterpiece.

Report this review (#90886)
Posted Thursday, September 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars A hugely jazzy, funky, and really captivating experimental prog journey awaits you! Filled entirely with a massive selection of various instruments, as all RIO, and really outstanding musicianship, this album may be Zappa's magnum opus. All songs are very instrumentally chalenging and always musically interesting. Some solos here are really blazing, and never have I heard such a sax solo as that on the bass-heavy, extremely funky jam of the Gumbo Variations. Zappa, as always, overdoses on both excellent songwriting and incredible talent from his hand-picked line of jaw-dropping musicians. Don't think of Zappa as my mother does: a sick, shaggy, gross pig who only has a mind for titties and bear, and only has the creative capacity for the likes of Dynamo Hum. Though this album's greatest fault is its lack of sensitivity and the emotional touch of any true masterpiece is devoit, the album is still a fresh and genuine instrumental (except for the sub-par Willie the Pimp) album.
Report this review (#95837)
Posted Thursday, October 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars This was Frank's first record without THE MOTHERS and he dedicated it to Dweezil, Bub and Gil.

The first song "Peaches In Regalia" is such an amazing instrumental ! Horned instruments are the focus such as sax, clarinet and flute. Amazing song ! "Willie The Pimp" is where Frank's humour comes out, with CAPTAIN BEEFHEART's gruff vocals suiting this catchy, melodic song so well.The song turns into this long, extended jam-fest with Sugar Cane Harris on violin and Zappa showing how great of a guitar player he is, as he just plays and plays. Great solo !

"Son Of Mr.Green Genes" is a jazzy instrumental with another terrific solo from Frank, as well as some xlophone and some great interplay. "Little Umbrellas" may be the shortest song on the record, but it's a classic with lots of horn melodies that are arranged beautifully. "The Gumbo Variations" features some fantastic sax melodies to begin with followed by some great violin from Sugar Cane Harris and then Zappa comes in with some guitar before they all chime in to end the song. "It Must Be A Camel" opens with light drums, piano and horns before Jean-Luc Ponty comes in with his violin.

This is a must have for all who are into prog.The music here is outstanding !

Report this review (#105094)
Posted Monday, January 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm reviewing this without my CD copy to hand as it has temporarily disappeared through that wormhole in space that seems to open up whenever I'm really looking hard for an album. It'll no doubt leap straight into my hand when I'm looking for something else equally hard.

Anyway though I've listened enough times to it since my elder brother introduced it to me in about 1972 to feel able to pass comment.

This is 1969. Zappa has done some truly strange stuff with The Mothers, then suddenly branches out into this project and reveals himself to be a composer and musician of the highest order. He brings in similarly talented individuals (and his old friend Capt. Beefheart for some excellent vocal contributions on Willie the Pimp).

Result? A mainly instrumental album that, if you disregard improvements in recording technology, still sounds fresh, though it's worth remembering that we're looking back at a time when it was still relatively unusual for 'pop' musicians to display this level of complexity and musicianship.

Standout tracks for me are definitely Peaches En Regalia and Willie the Pimp but the whole thing's a gem. Maybe just a notch short of 5 star status due some repetition alluded to by other reviewers

Report this review (#105340)
Posted Wednesday, January 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars The legendary Hot Rats LP is finally at my hands, as my beloved father (Who just turned 41 yesterday) magically (and mysteriously) found it beneath loads of contemporary classical music CDs in the closet. I've heard it many times before (I remember all the compositions besides Little Umbrellas in the back of my head) and now I could finally add it to my fast-growing LP collection.

Basically, what you get is some of the best fusion ever to induce my ears into rhythm. Frank had built his own 16-track recorder, and of course, the album sounds as fresh as if it had been played during the 90's. Seriously, compare the sound quality of Hot Rats to The Beatles' 'Let It Be' or even King Crimson's legendary 'In The Court of The Crimson King' (Which I have reviewed as well, if you're interested) and you will see the difference as the first drum fill of Peaches En Regalia blasts out of the speakers. Frank also had a load of musicians on this album, and thus most songs offer extensive soloing on violin and guitar, something I enjoy a lot. Jazz is known for soloing, and this record features top notch soloing all the way through, especially in the magical 'Willie The Pimp' with it's 8 minute guitar solo.

The album cover was pretty psychedelic at the time, and led to confusion whether Frank Zappa had done drugs or not. Zappa always said No to these claims, and strongly dismissed drugs. It was always about the music, something that ultimately (and directly, somehow) shines through in this album. Now, on with the review!

1. Peaches En Regalia - As stated before, a clever drum fill leads this song into the mandolin soaked intro riff, which is very grand and loud. I love this song with all of my heart, and I mean that. An upbeat instrumental. The intro riff goes into another riff, which introduces us to the ''Octave bass'' (A bass guitar recording sped up 2 times). The background instruments really help get that jazzy feeling. Some amazing horn comes up after this (Love the saxophones throughout this LP). Amazing drumming as well, something only topped by one of the latter songs here. A beautiful and playful riff occurs after this, and leads into another joyful bridge. Loud organ notes soar all over the place, before the ''Main riff'' of the song comes in, with loud and wonderful saxophone notes shooting across the room and intense speed. A very loud, almost piercing saxophone bridge comes after this, and now they repeat the introduction theme with more organ and without the mandolin. Keyboards make up for what the octave bass did before, and thus it sorf ot alters the riff slightly. Very vool effect. It slowly fades out after this.

2. Willie The Pimp - Standing 9 minutes long, this song is beloved amongst fans because of it's 8 (Yes, read that again)... Not 6, not 7, no, but 8 minutes long guitar solo. And top it all off, we have the lovely Captain Beefheart on vocals. He has a very raspy voice, and I just love it. Very bluesy. Anyway, it opens up with the well known riff, and this riff will sit in your mind forever because of it's awesomeness. In A Major, the violin plays the riff 4 times, before a drum fill and a slide from the 7th fret of the D string leads us into the amazing verse. Beefheart sings with this sandpaper voice that ''I'm a little pimp with my hair gassed back... Pair 'a khaki pants and my shoes shined black''. Interesting (and funny) lyrics, depicting the pimp stereotype. It's also worth mentioning that this song is the only one on the album that's not an instrumental. 55 seconds in, a bridge comes in, and now we all know what comes. Yes, the wah-wah soaked, psychedelic jazzy guitar solo. At that time Frank was known as a composing virtuoso. Not a guitar virtuoso. This probably made the critics change their minds. Bluesy bends all over the place, fast legatos map out the wonderful fretwork dealt by Frank. The amazing bass and drums in the back helps it out even more, if that was possible. The wah wah pedal goes strong throughout (For those of you who don't know, it makes the guitar go ''wah'', something dealt with by Hendrix on his song 'Voodoo Child'). It's interesting to see that a three minutes and 40 seconds in, Frank uses a different scale of playing, and thus adds a lot to such a long guitar solo being digestible. Frank is also, like me, a guitar soloist who relies much on hammer ons, which makes the solo very bluesy. It goes on for a long time as we all know, somehow keeping it's powerfulness and virtuosity throughout the whole 8 minutes it runs. At 8 minutes and 50 seconds in, the main riff repeats again but much faster, before ending on the last distorted guitar note, clearly ringing out. Lovely.

3. Son of Mr. Green Genes - This has quickly grown to become my favourite song of the album, although I usually don't like to pigeon hole stuff like that. It opens with a wonderful riff, reminiscent of Peaches. Saxophones are heard clearly, and they really mark the spot in this song. A beautiful bridge plays after this, and Frank shows off his amazing composing abilities. A bluesy guitar solo goes up and comes into play 1 minute in the song. It ends quite fastly though, after only 20 seconds. A jazzy part plays after this. Now, the best e-piano fill in all of mankind soars through the speakers. Incredibly jazzy and lovely, I can not cite how strong this section is. Some variations on the main bridge and theme occurs after this, with added or removed instruments and such. Interesting how Frank keeps it fresh all of the time. Loads of saxophone throughout this song makes it just great. Another short guitar solo comes up again, ending to play along the other instruments. But, a surprise. Thought Zappa was done soloing? Forget that! At 4 minutes in, another long (2 minutes) guitar comes in, and very surprisingly, it's features more virtuosity than Willie's did. Really, really amazing fretwork here, I just can't state that enough for that song. Anyway, due to it's rather standard length, this solo is more digestible than Willie's, and shows another dimension to Frank's guitar playing. Again, he plays around with scales during this solo as well. The bluesy two note riff that comes into play during this stage as well is awesome, jazzy and undoubtedly Frank. I also have to state how great the piano playing is now. Mad and lovely, it will make you drop your jaw. For the last two minutes, the main riff is repeated to great effect, and helps the song drop to it's closure.

4. Little Umbrellas - Opens up with a melancholy and strange piano riff. An even stranger saxophone fill plays above this. The riff repeats again, ending on two jazzy notes, which sounds lovely. Some soul-esque organ interlocks with the piano, and forms a great collaboration. Some lovely riffing on the keyboard arises after this, and sounds just lovely. A lot is going on right now, so pay attention during the whole song. It's very rewarding. Going up in key, the piano guides the rest of the instruments around at a joyful pace, resorting at the lovely flute playing that comes after this. The strange intro riff comes into play again before ending on a minor chord.

5. The Gumbo Variations - 'Take two!''... *BASS RIFF* *ORGAN*. That's the introduction to the sixteen minute Gumbo Variations... This has amazing drumming throughout. Suddenly, a loud saxophone note swells above the funky bass, as a distorted guitar riffs about beneath everything. This goes on for eight full bars, then, the saxophone solo begins. This song is, like Willie The Pimp, a showcase for the musicians. This time it's a 7 minute saxophone solo in the lead. And it's amazing. Jazzy and brilliant, the stomping bass drum kicks in after a while, with loud china cymbals clearly ringing out above the bass. The very rhythmic drumming is lovely in this song, I must say. Unarguably the best drumming on the album. Every now and then, the bass takes a stomp-note formation which is awesome. Of course, the saxophone is top priority here. It's lovely! The solo lasts for a very long time, and during this we go through vibratos, screeching, ordinary jazz and whatnot. Then, 5 minutes in, the loud cymbals are replaced by the hi-hat. The saxophone solo is still going strong. After this, it changes to the loud cymbals again, and a second long solo arises from nowhere... But this time, it's on violin. Extremely fast, extremely talanted, extremely everything. This violin solo is the most brilliant moment on the album. Amazing, amazing, amazing! I can't say it enough. Again, it's very fast, so it'll keep you on your toes. The drumming also helps a lot. After 5 minutes, it stops and the heavy guitar by Zappa comes into play. All of a sudden, it's just the drums. Loud and rhythmic, it segues into the lovely and funky bass guitar again. A short violin solo comes after this, and the song then ends. Amazing!

6. It Must Be A Camel - Another shorter song, 5 minutes. Again, jazzy piano playing opens it up (As with Little Umbrellas). Some strange background noise here as well. Ride-cymbal oriented drumming makes it even jazzier. All of a sudden it ends, before the lovely saxophones come into play. Brilliant riff, I must say. After the saxophone and piano collaboration, it ends again. Then comes a strange drum fill, and loads of instruments soar out of the speakers. Wonderful. Some emotional piano playing pops up after this, suddenly becoming more fast. Then Zappa plays a clean guitar solo (Un-distorted, that is). It's lovely! Very jazzy and clever use of sliding as well. Some cool organ sounds help freshening up the lonely piano after this. All of a sudden, a distorted guitar fill is heard. Then it's clean, then distorted, then clean etc. A lenghty drum fill (10 seconds) leads into another saxophone dominated section, which is brilliant as always. After this the song ends.

Let this be your first drift into fusion! It is amazing, and for that I give it five stars. Everything is memorable and emotional, whilst lovely and playful at the same time. The soloing is a treat, and really amazing for anyone who knows his music theory.

Thank you for reading this review.

Report this review (#116334)
Posted Sunday, March 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars A remarkable achievement in the history of music.

It's 1969 and you're helping to forge a new direction for music. You're name is Frank Zappa and you are on top of your game and create your most critically acclaimed piece of music, Hot Rats. Now I know that some albums are better, but this is the piece everyone will remember you by, this is your 5th symphony. If you call yourself a fan of prog, jazz, and the like, this is one of those must have albums not only because of its historical implications, but because it's a damn good album.

My preferred song here is the Gumbo Variations, which highlights the amazing abilities of Zappa and partly explains the direction he wanted to take with his music. Essentially, Zappa wanted to tear down barriers of music and normalcy, fusing together rock, R&B, and jazz to create not only Zappa's distorted vision of music (and later we find out the world and politics), but to give the listeners one heck of a good time.

I urge listeners (especially beginning prog listeners) to make sure you pick up Hot Rats or another one of Zappa's highly acclaimed albums. He has done so much for the history of music and deserves our respect, and this album is no better place to begin your Zappa journey.

Report this review (#117254)
Posted Tuesday, April 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars In retrospect, I'm not sure I'd consider this one of Frank's best albums. But it was the absolute perfect place for me to start listening to his music, and I think it probably will serve that function well for others too.

Mainly, this album is missing his characteristic adolescent (but still very intelligent) humor that is so much present on just about every other Zappa album. Only Willie the Pimp hints at this aspect. But for me 10 years ago, this was the aspect of Zappa I found most turned me off. I never gave his music much chance because, especially being a devout proghead, I didn't want humor in my music. Thankfully, I've lightened up considerably since then and love quite a lot of Franks output. But at that time, there could not have been a more perfect album to start with.

Peaches is a classic Zappa track, giving a jazzy symphonic tinged introduction to Zappa instrumentals. The aforementioned Willie the Pimp has some semi-humorous lyrics, but it's the second half that turned me on to Zappa, with it's creatively intense lengthy guitar workout, highlighting Zappa's unique style of lead guitar. Fantastic stuff for me, even 10 years later. Green Genes is a great instrumental with very nice melodic themes, often carried by guitar, and features yet more excellent solos by Zappa. This one has a symphonic jazzy style also. Great song. After the short jazz piece Little Umbrellas, we come to the meat of the album, The Gumbo Variations. Essentially a two chord jam, it is quite impressive the way the band develops this piece over it's 16 minutes, with Zappa playing some rare rhythm guitar parts (rare for him to play that is..........he almost always would have additional guitarists on later albums). Ian Underwood's sax soloing is a bit, well........overextended for his talents, is the nicest way I can put it. It doesn't seem to me that sax is his primary instrument and some of his note choices and intonations seem quite "off" to me. But after that, we get a wild violin solo followed by a much too short Zappa guitar solo. I would have been much happier if Zappa had gotten the lengthy initial solo space instead of the sax, but even so this song is great. The final song is a quite complex and challenging jazz-like number that manages to be humorous without any vocals.

So all in all, not Zappa's best, or even very representative of his other work (but what of his albums really are?). I'm inclined, with my broad perspective of his other work, to give this a 3. But because it is such a great place to start with his catalog, and an album that made me (and I hope will make others) receptive to the rest of his purely genius work, I will add an extra star. A great jammy, jazzy, mostly instrumental album that I still like to listen to and still ranks highly among his other work for me.

Report this review (#117823)
Posted Tuesday, April 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is an album that is supremely easy to listen to, incorporating jazz and rock elements in a really fantastic way. The looseness of a jam session with the solid arrangements of a prog band. Zappa is in fine form. I put in this cd when I do not feel like listening to anything dark and moody...and it brightens my day. From the beginning of "Peaches" to everything else, it just is a plain solid album. The horns and keys and drums and bass and on and well done. Zappa is truly quite the musician and songwriter! I have listened to it many times through and enjoy it every time, and will continue to throughout the future.
Report this review (#121930)
Posted Sunday, May 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Just jamming

For his final album of the 1960's, Zappa seconded a number of guest musicians including Jean Luc Ponty and Captain Beefheart. The performances though are primarily a duet between Frank Zappa and Ian Underwood.

The opening "Peaches in Regalia" is surprisingly orthodox and tuneful, with strong hints of Holst's "The Planets" in parts of the melody. The sprawling "Willie the pimp" is more traditional Zappa with a lengthy guitar workout and some dirty vocals from the Captain, the only singing on the album. The lyrics, which are published on the sleeve, make it apparent why this is effectively an instrumental album. The track is essentially a blues guitar work out, with little progressive development and a single pace.

"Son of Mr. Green Genes" which closes the first side is a long (9 minutes) jazz fusion recital. Zappa's guitar work here is exemplary, the track being relatively tight for what is essentially a jam. Underwood is given the opportunity here to display his multi- instrumental talents. For me, this and the preceding track are a little too indulgent though, both in terms of length and content.

"Little umbrellas" is the shortest track on the album, at just over 3 minutes. This mini- epic manages to cram more changes of style and sound into its allotted time, than the other tracks do in total. From the shortest we are straight into the longest, "The gumbo variations" running to almost 13 minutes (the LP times appear to differ from those of the CD). I have to say that to my ears, the inordinately long, unstructured sax solo which occupies about half of the track is second only to an endless drum solo in terms of tedium. Thankfully, violin eventually assumes control, albeit still in full jazz improvisation mode. The album closes with "It must be a camel", a slower number which is otherwise more of the same.

"Hot Rats" is an album which falls outside my normal boundaries of taste. I readily admit however that it has many redeeming features, with a high quality cast list and some fine instrumentation. Zappa's guitar work is superb if at times over indulgent. Where there is an element of structure to the music, such as on "Peaches in regalia", I find the album to be rewarding. Where however the musicians simply indulge in long unfocussed jams, I have to move to the other side of the road.

Report this review (#125309)
Posted Sunday, June 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Zappa's first solo album marks his first foray into jazz fusion. The Mothers were quite talented, but his time Frank surrounded himself with some true legends, like violin virtuoso Jean-Luc Ponty and Captain Beefheart. This is one of Frank's more acessible records, which makes it a great place for newbies to join.

"Peaches en Regalia" opens the album with tremendous compostion that gives the center stage to no man. Zappa is a true composer rather than a self-serving solo artist. He makes his priority crafting good music instead of being the one noticed. Peaches is one of my favorite instrumentals. "Willie the Pimp" followswith some great bluesy vocals from the Cap'n and a tremendous solo from Frank that lasts nearly the whole song. I guess he's a little self-serving after all, huh? Still, his solo is very musical. This is really the first song that clued people in on what a phenomenal guitarist Frank was. "Son of Mr. Green Genes" has great saxophone and piano fills and another killer solo, which condenses the virtuosity of the previous song into a shorter length. "Little Umbrellas" opens with weird piano before a sax fill comes in that makes the piano seem normal by comparison. The piano really moves this song, as opposed to the drums in Peaches and the guitar in the last two. "The Gumbo Variations" is a 16 minute band showcase featuring funky basslines, distorted guitars, and a 7 minute sax solo (yeah, you heard me). Afterwords, Ponty gets his time in the spotlight with a lenghty violin solo. The drums on this track are superb; crashing yet rhythmic, they stand out just as much as the sax and violin. The album ends with "It Must Be A Camel," which features piano-sax interplay akin to "Little Umbrellas." Zappa's clean guitar is great, as is the piano, which is played with a lot of emotion.

If you wanted to convince someone of the instrumental prowess Zappa had, this would be a good record (Shut Up 'n Play Your Guitar would be another good choice). Despite his lenghty solo on Willie and the long solos he gives to his guests, Zappa's brilliance lies in his compositional skills that allow members to solo without dominating the sound. This is essential for any fans of jazz-rock, avant-rock, or Zappa.

Grade: A-

Report this review (#127836)
Posted Saturday, July 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars A strong and long sip of Zappa's Music.

Because Zappa in this album proposes 6 tracks of intense and complex music. Of course, not recommended for those who have never listen this kind of music. But, paradoxically, this album can be the best way to enter into Zappa's Music. Because this songs are very caothic, but they let you listen without getting crazy after the firsts couple of minutes.

As some of the other said, this can not be the most representative album, but Zappa penetrates in a lot of kinds of music so each album show a different face of Zappa. And this one shows one of his bests.

Report this review (#128139)
Posted Wednesday, July 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Zappa goes jazz rock and improvisational.

Peaches en regalia Marvelous instrumental track with tight playing, wonderful guitar work from Zappa and marvelous organ playing from Ian Underwood. 5 stars

Willie the pimp A heavier rocker ( the only non- instrumental on the album). with a violin added to enhance the sound and sung by Captain Beefhart. Zappa plays marvelous long guitar parts. The melody is not that great, but atmosphere is, and the whole band plays fine, tight and inspired. 5 stars

Son of Mr. Green Genes A melodic track with great work by al the violins and also Ian Underwood again. The band plays tight and Zappa plays fabulous leads again. Overall, there is more of band sound on this one. 5 stars

Little Umbrelas. The melody is good, mostly dominated by Underwood.Not as much as the previous tracks, but good. 3 stars

The gumbo variations Rocking, with a fine intro riff and wonderful bassplaying. The saxophone lead is nice as well, pretty soaring and energetic, although at times it reminds me of a singing elephant a bit. Then we get a violin solo, and then it´s Frank´s turn, after which there are some more solo parts. A powerful, tight improvisational track. 5

It must be a camel. Relaxed and very atmospheric. The melodies are fine, and the whole band is great.Some fine drumming and also undersatated keyboard work from Ian Underwood. 5 stars

Overall rating: 5 STARS


Report this review (#133070)
Posted Tuesday, August 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Hot Rats could be one of Frank Zappa's most famous albums. It certainly does distinguish itself from the rest of his discography as it laid the groundwork for the jazz-rock fusion type of music and was the first album Zappa did without his old mates, the Mothers. Actually this isn't entirely true, as Ian Underwood worked on it with him, but the album is also a departure from previous Zappa as he did not sing on it at all. Of the six tracks on Hot Rats, five of them are instrumental while only one, "Willie the Pimp", has a vocal part, done courtesy of Captain Beefheart.

Now I'll do what I feel were the highlights of the album. The first song is "Peaches en Regalia", a very upbeat and happy sounding song, which is also a great piece of music itself. It sounds shorter then it already is, clocking in at about three and a half minutes, and is a great way to kick off the album. The next song is the aforementioned "Willie the Pimp", a tale about a, yeah you guessed it, pimp. The scratchy vocals done by Captain Beefheart are great and add to the feel of the song. I also like "Little Umbrellas" a lot, though I'm not entirely sure why.

Overall, this is a very good album, but not Zappa's best. After listening to the album, I feel a little underwhelmed because of the way it has been touted, but I hope this doesn't deter people who haven't heard it yet from trying. It is also a great place for a progressive fan to start listening to Zappa.

Report this review (#134047)
Posted Tuesday, August 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I haven't heard very mach Zappa albums yet so i can't do so much comparing to his other productions. Still, i think Hot Rats is a very fine piece of ass.. i mean music. The evergreen opener Peaches En Regalia is very catchy and melodic tune, with some excellent keyboard work from Mr Underwood. A true Zappa-classic indeed. Willie The Pimp has a short bit of Beefheart's grumblig and then it's basically just Frank an his guitar, Shut up and play yer guitar, and he surely does. The solo is just mindblowing stuff.

Son Of Mr Green Genes, also a heavily melodic and keyboard dominared instrumental, like Peaches, and it's the second longest song on the album. Very beatiful melodies and great guitar and percussion work. Very cool.

Little Umbrellas continues the same line, and it's pretty good and cathy also but still, a little bit of certain something is missing.

Gumbo Variations, great bass, great jams all the way. Zappa is truly a compose in a true meaning of the wordr, as they would say Wagner is a composer or Stravinsky etc..

It must be a camel, one of the legendary song titles from Zappa. Like Little Umbrellas, a "short", melodic jazzy piece. Not the highlights of the record but still is an excellent closer to the album.

I'll give it 5/5, allthough it actually might be 4˝, oh well...

Report this review (#135824)
Posted Sunday, September 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars No doubt: this is another great jazz-rock-fusion milestone. Simply because:

1) It features "Peaches en Regalia", the summary of all Zappa's opera. Maybe the greatest track he ever wrote.

2) There are great guitar solos, never again like these.

3) Zappa had a genial idea: "Son of mr. Green Genes", one of my fav ever, nearly moving.

4) "The gumbo variations are exciting, with sax, violin and bass breathtaking solos.

Then I say that this was my first Zappa experience, that would have changed me forever. 10/10

Report this review (#138816)
Posted Monday, September 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's hard to pick a point of entry for an artist with such an extensive and ecclectic catalog of work as Frank Zappa, but if you are a fan of his or are looking to get into his music THIS ALBUM IS ESSENTIAL! It is the peak of his jazz/rock work. The album is almost entirely insrumental (with the exception of "Willie the Pimp"). The album is strong from beginning to end. I won't take the time to go track by track in my review. The album is full of great instrumental work and an excellent example of Zappa's prodigious guitar playing. This is a more serious approach to music than much of Zappa's other work (although the one track with vocals, complements of Captain Beefheart, is decidedly humorous), but it is really a must have for any fan of progressive music.
Report this review (#141090)
Posted Saturday, September 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars What would make you more frightened: having a giant cockroach climbing out of your pool, or Frank Zappa? Given the album cover, I just might choose the cockroach! Fortunately, there's no need to run from the music.

Considering this was made in 1969, Hot Rats is a phenomenal album, coming out at the same time as many legendary debuts (though this isn't Zappa's first). We're a long way from I am the Slime here, and for me that's great news. There's a lot of diversity to be found, from the focused and entertaining intro tune to improv jazz numbers to the rocking jams. I think Zappa tends to be overrated to his followers, and underrated by everyone else, though I'm glad to see that Hot Rats gets proper respect.

Peaches En Regalia. Just an awesome mixture of melody, instrumentation and creativity, and in 1969? That's impressive. This is the most concise offering of the album, but just one of many highlights.

Willie the Pimp. Captain Beefheart delivers some memorable vocals, while Ponty keeps at that simple, killer riff. Then Zappa comes in for some enjoyable, greasy (as another reviewer expertly coined) guitar to take the song home. Downsides: there's a clicking sound near the beginning (and lasts a few minutes) that is really irritating if you pay attention to it, and there's no need for this song to be 8 minutes (and I'm not usually one to complain about extended soloing!).

Son of Mr. Green Genes. Probably my favorite from the album, this has enough diversity to warrant its 9 minute run time (unlike the previous tune). Great guitar and keyboard interplay, and it makes me happy every time I hear it.

Little Umbrellas. Zappa in jazz mode, and this is a great number featuring nice melody and tasteful horns.

The Gumbo Variations. It took me a while to get into this one, but now I think I can appreciate it fully. I assume that's Underwood on the sax, and he delivers some blistering tones. Then we have some violin, followed by some guitar. Sure, it's too long, but the whole band is really cooking for these 16 minutes, and this is definitely my kind of jazz fusion: with a funky edge.

It Must Be a Camel. The most experimental and improvisational piece, I could take or leave it. It's definitely entertaining, with some good guitar from Zappa and keyboard/horn harmonies, but it seems they were mailing it in a bit at this point.

I love this album, make no mistake. It's just not a masterpiece, given the extensive jamming, though I definitely think you should have it in your collection.

Report this review (#141599)
Posted Tuesday, October 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Zappa's masterpiece Hot Rats is on the top of the super necessary Avant Prog section again. Anyway, the music contained on this album is truly a delight to hear, especially for musicians. Peaches en Regalia is simply one of the greatest instrumentals of all time and contains memorable melody after memorable melody with layer after layer of instruments that just make it such an interesing track. The instrumentation and composition of the track contain a comination of jazz, rock, and surprisingly classical elements that was very new for the time and dare I say even progressive (not that that matters) and not many have done it better since. Willie the Pimp is a rocking mostly intstrumental track with some great Beefheart vocals in the beginning. This is one of my all-time favorite tracks from Zappa and it contains what I believe is some of the finest rock improvisation ever recoreded (sure owns the hell outta the Grateful Dead). Son of Mr. Green Genes is a very lush jazzy instrumental with a nice melody. Little Umbrellas and It Must Be a Camel are a couple of strange little pieces, the former being especially nice on the ears. The Gumbo Variations is a track that many say is too long but I happen to like the incessant groove. It's like Can if they had a better sense of catchiness. Overall, this is probably my favorite Zappa album and I would recommend it to anyone with musical tastes beyond the ordinary.
Report this review (#150445)
Posted Tuesday, November 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars And on the first day, the people of Progarchives listened to Hot Rats. And it was good.

And how very good it was! I'll go on to say that it is indeed an Excellent album. Essential, actually, is more like it.

Although I won't go as far as to review every track, I will say this: people who are interested in Zappa or Jazz Fusion in general won't have a better place to begin than here.

Firstly, the generally popular "Peaches En Regalia" is basically a three and half overview of the entire album, with a few musical themes repeated in "Son of Mr. Green Genes". It's fun and accessible as well as complex and quirky. A great opener.

"Willie Pimp" is the "crux of the biscuit", as it were, on this album. Captain Beefheart's vocals never sounded greater than they are here, IMHO. His vocals fit the lyrics and music perfectly, but they are quickly forgotten as Frank Zappa's seven minute, mind-blowing guitar solo hits it's stride.

"Son of Mr. Green Genes", with the possible exception of "Gumbo Variations", is my favorite song on the album. It's songs like this, powerful and uplifting, that make music worth listening to.

And finally, I listened to "The Gumbo Variations". And it was amazing. It's almost too much to handle. Seventeen minutes of saxophone, violin, and guitar soloing. Delicious is the word which comes to my mind.

In conclusion, you will never find a sixties album that sounds as good as Hot Rats. Frank Zappa pioneers sixteen-track recording with Hot Rats, and the result is an unrivaled Jazz Fusion masterpiece.

Report this review (#155458)
Posted Friday, December 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars My, Mr.Zappa certainly was a busy bee at this time, releasing 2 or three albums every year. This one however stands to be one of his best ever. This is the first album that really shows Zappa's musical diversity, twinned excellently with his already established political attitude and sense of humour. Personally I like every track on the album. but my favourite has got to be Willie the Pimp which has everything you could ever want in a Zappa song: great guitar playing, humour, psychedelia- even vocals by Captain Beefheart! Other real highlights from the album are Peaches en Regalia, which is the first ever real Zappa guitar classic, and The Gumbo Variations which also show Zappa's skills as a musical composer. This album is a great starter album for anyone who wants to get into Zappa as it has the balance of variation and quality just right, so there is most likely something you'll like. A really great album here. 4 stars.
Report this review (#156426)
Posted Sunday, December 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Containing one of the best lineups of musicians Zappa ever worked with along with the defining moments of early Jazz-Fusion, and his signature track: Peaches En Regalia, this album cannot be anything but perfect. Zappa, Underwood, Harris, Ponty, Otis, and Beefheart. All together on one album.

Peaches En Regalia: I'm sure everyone who has ever been introduced to Frank Zappa has either been introduced with this song or Don't Eat The Yellow Snow. This song contains so many notes in it, its complex enough to make an entire other album. However, they manage to contain it to a mere 3 and a half minutes, a feat in itself. The Sax, organ, piano, guitar and drums all shine here, with plenty of solo options for all of them. Underwood has never played better and it sounds as though he belongs at Zappa's side. There are some very tricky tom rhythms handled by Paul Humphrey that make you jump with shock and amazement. The keyboard and sax seem to be one instrument as they intertwine with the melody. Perfect opener.

Willie the Pimp: Starting with a jarring violin riff that contrasts starkly with the beauty of Peaches. Beefheat growls some suggestive vocals out, while a weird clicking percussion instrument joins the fray. The violin is very dexterous, using the tapping method as well as the strumming. After the first chorus, we get a teaser solo from Zappa, and then Beefheart starts wooping in that crazy voice of his. He then repeats the chorus and opens up the remaining 7 minutes for Zappa to solo. During this first ever extended solo for Frank, he never bores you. The rhythm section is tight as a drum, and the guitar takes the regular pentatonic scale and makes mincemeat out of it. The drum rhythms mix up a lot, especially late in the song, to keep the listener from skipping the track. It slowly crescendos over a little while, and at the end the violin takes the main riff again.

Son of Mr. Green Genes: contrary to what other reviewers may have said, this song DOES sound similar to the original Mr. Green Genes from Uncle Meat. It merely takes the vocal melody and turns it into an instrumental melody. It also picks up the tempo and the song is far longer than the original. The keyboard is very present here, as is the orchestral percussion in the form of metal xylophones. The sax also comes back into the mix, making it much more similar to Peaches than Willie. After the main intro, Zappa gets a nice guitar solo, not too long, and then a new theme is introduced, paving the way for some absolutely amazing organ runs by Ian Underwood, who is probably my favorite Zappa cohort. The percussion starts to get crazy as the random clicking noises start to come back in, and the Bari Sax growls into a new theme. Soon another guitar solo is added, divided into segments, and one wonders when will the awesome end, if ever? All this time the bass and drums are just keeping the needed tempo, with the drums becoming loud when needed and the bass jumping the octave when needed. The piano is heard in the background as the rhythm to Frank's lead. At around 6 minutes, the tempo is kicked up, and then the orchestral percussion comes in again, adding color and tambre to the already lush sound. The last minute is given over for the repeat of the main theme, the vocal melody stolen from the Father song. After a dramatic close, we get introduced to one of the slower songs...

Little Umbrellas: Starting off with a funky acoustic bass note, the piano jumps in for the quirky feel. The sax takes the melody while the piano provides whimsical runs. Soon the xylophone comes in to back the sax melody, and you wonder, what is Zappa doing on this? The organ takes a running solo overdubbed with a piano solo, which is absolutely mind-blowing. This piano awesomeness continues, and near the end, the recorder takes a solo, which is something you will likely hear nowhere else. Then a sax quartet comes in with dissonant harmonies and engulfs all else to bring it to a close.

The Gumbo Variations: Starting with some studio noises, Frank says, You three start together on this, perhaps talking to Underwood (organ), Otis (Bass) and Humphrey (drums). A light yet funky bass line is introduced, and the organ shimmers nicely in the background. The sax busts in unexpectedly, holding 2 measure long notes while the guitar has some improv work on a riff. However, the first major solo is the saxophone. At times sounding as jarring as David Jackson, it can also be light and delicate, as it is at first. I especially like when all the background music cuts out except for the bass and drums, giving Underwood complete freedom. So this solo continues until the 7 and a half minute mark or so, getting increasingly more frantic and squeaking more and more, and it segues perfectly into Sugar Cane's violin solo. This solo is jarring and screeching, reminding me of Robert Fripp's extreme distorted solo on 21st Century Schizoid Man. Harris has some unbelievably fast runs here, and its difficult to believe he can do all this with his neck bent down to pin the violin to his body. At around 12.5 minutes, Zappa starts soloing, and Harris joins the background fray, where Underwood has been hanging out on the organ for the past 5 minutes. However, Zappa only gets a brief solo and backs off for Otis to take a short bass solo. Then Harris comes back in for more soloing, plenty of trilling, and always awe-inspiring. The violin loses its mind and the key signature, going completely mad, and the guitar joins it. The drums start to get heavy as the toms are emphasized. The outro is a scary hammond organ low-register chord while the drums go wild and the violin screeches one last time for good measure. Overall, a wonderful jam, very self-indulgent, but wonderful nonetheless.

It Must be a Camel: Piano right away tells us this is the relaxing album-ender. Lots of triplet sax riffs dominate here, and the scary sound isn't quite peaceful, but then again, Zappa never is. However, the piano takes a more central role with the organ soothing you, but the sax still wails in the background. The song goes through many other changes, and they are all quite good, but very hard to describe with words.

Overall, amaaazing almost all instrumental album, like Waka and Wazoo. Those two would not reach the heights of this one, but they certainly made two more high peaks in the Zappa discography. This is also a big departure from the anti-music of the first few mothers albums, not that either type is bad, but its good to have both.

Report this review (#160781)
Posted Monday, February 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is my first Zappa album, and I purchased it several weeks ago. I enjoy it a lot, as I have been discovering jazz music recently.

'Peaches in Regalia' is a catchy upbeat number. Short and inoffensive, serving as a good introduction. 'Willie the Pimp' is probably the highlight here. The song starts with a brilliant violin riff, before being joined by guitar and Beefheart's vocals. Once the amusing vocal section is over, Frank unleashes a guitar solo of EPIC proportions, spanninng the remainder of this 9 minute song (making the solo about 7 mins). 'Son of Mr. Green Genes' is a good piece that is reasonably complex. 'Little Umbrellas' is another short and pleasant piece like the opener. 'The Gumbo Variations' is probably the jazziest composition on the album, and really shows the talents of all the musicians involved on this track. 'It Must be a Camel' is my second favourite track on the album, and while having a relaxed mood, it is actually quite complex in musicianship and in structure.

This album has made me want to hear more Zappa, so I probably chose a good place to start with him. I will rate this record 4 stars.

Report this review (#164186)
Posted Tuesday, March 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Hot Rats is being praised here on Prog Archives as being one of Frank Zappa´s finest moments, and it is certainly unique in Zappa´s discography. When I first started listening to Frank Zappa it was one of the albums I purchased first and I thought it was really good. It´s been a couple of years since I last listened to Hot Rats though and after listening to it a couple of times before this review I can honestly say that it´s one of the Frank Zappa albums I will never really be fully content with. Hot Rats is Zappa´s first real solo album if you don´t count Lumpy Gravy which had lots of Mothers of Invention songs incorporated into the classical music and the strange dialogues that made up that album.

Hot Rats is a jazz/ rock fusion album with lots of soloing both from Frank Zappa himself on guitar, Ian underwood on winds and Sugar Cane Harris and Jean-Luc Ponty on violin. The music is generally good, but not outstanding. The only song here that I would classify as a masterpiece is Peaches en Regalia which is a very beautiful song with several intriguing themes. This song is not a vehicle for soloing as most of the other songs are. Instead it is beautifully arranged with lots of winds.

Willie the Pimp used to be a favorite of mine when I was younger, but today I think it is badly arranged a pretty sloppy played. It´s always a joy to listen to Captain Beefheart´s voice but that´s not the main focus in this song. The Willie the Pimp theme which both starts and ends the song is really just an excuse for Zappa to play a 6 minute long wah wah guitar solo that gets boring after 2. I know most people really enjoy his solo in Willie the Pimp but IMO his solo skills were much better later in his career when he started using the vibrato arm extensively and played on the edge of feedback most of the time. I find his later solo style to be much more rewarding than this early attempt. Well I guess it´s an aquired taste and my bitching aside I still think the solo in Willie the Pimp is pretty good allthough a bit too long.

Son of Mr. Green Genes uses the theme from the Mr. Green Genes song from The Mothers of Invention album Uncle Meat. The theme is of course played with a different instrumentation and it´s arranged a bit differently but stays true to the original in terms of notes played. Son of Mr. Green Genes is just another vehicle for a Frank Zappa guitar solo though and again I feel the solo is way too long and again the wah wah style Zappa played at the time isn´t as rewarding to me as his later efforts on the guitar.

Little Umbrelllas is a little jazzy tune which is allright but nothing special to me.

The Gumbo Variations with it´s 16:55 minutes is clearly the longest song here and the problem for me is that it´s one long vehicle for sax, violin and guitar soloes that seems to go on forever. The sax soloing is pretty jazzy and I don´t enjoy it one bit while the violin and guitar solo is a bit better even though 16:55 minutes of soloing is way too much for me when it´s not better than this. Again it´s allright but nothing more.

It Must Be A Camel is a pretty good little song too, but again nothing excellent.

The musicianship is very good and I´m especially impressed with Ian Underwood´s contributions to the songs. Ian´s multiinstrumentalist abilities are used to the full on Hot Rats. Ian Underwood is by the way the only Mother present on Hot Rats which gives the album a very different sound and mood compared the Mothers of Invention albums.

The production is very good considering this is 1969 and once again Zappa proves that he is a unique producer as well as being a composer and musician.

I must say I´m a bit disappointed about Hot Rats especially after reading the many reviews with high ratings on Prog Archives but I guess I just don´t share the general opinion about the album. Peaches en Regalia of course is a very positive thing on an otherwise average album but it´s not enough to make Hot Rats a 4 star album though. I´ll give Hot Rats 3 stars as I don´t feel this is a 2 star album even though I´m not that excited about it.

Report this review (#168506)
Posted Wednesday, April 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Frank Zappa's Hot Rats is a fantastic progressive jazz album and is indicative of future post-Mothers albums to come. the album opens with Peaches en Regalia, one of Zappa's better known jazz songs, and one of my favorites. The song is clean, and straight to the point, and although alittle short, gets the job done. Willie The Pimp features good old Captain Beefheart's vocals which is always fun. This a song in a true zappa sense. The lyrics are fun, and it features a fantastic guitar solo. Son of Green Genes is a reference to Mr. Green Genes of Zappa Past. This is a fun song and certainly has its moments. And while i may be skipping Little Umbrellas, I think The Gumbo Variations are a fantastic jazz piece, and while some people think it is too long, I disagree. I think the length of the song gives the artists the perfect time to really explore the jazz, and some of the solos are fantastic. It must be a camel is a good song, and a good closer to the album. Overall, this is one of my favorite Zappa albums, and definitely an album to jump into if you aren't familiar with Zappa's many MANY works.
Report this review (#168941)
Posted Monday, April 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Zappa is often revered for his hilarious insights, but on Hot Rats he delivers in spades the delicious composition and improvisation for which he deserves even greater accolades. The compositions are superb, particularly on the opener, Peaches en Regalia, where delightful jazzy melodies manifest themselves through saxophones, organs, and acoustic guitars. The album covers a wide range stylistically, mostly localizing itself around playful jazz fusion, but also venturing into dirty blues rock on Willy the Pimp, the only vocal track. Arguably the most impressive part of this album is the virtuoso improvisation that permeates. Zappa delivers some of his finest guitar playing, and he is accompanied by such luminaries as Jean Luc Ponty, who unleashes his legendary jazz rock violin prowess. This stellar improvisational energy makes Hot Rats an excellent addition to the collection of jazz fusion and jam band fans as well as proggers (I can say this as I fit all three of those fan descriptions).
Report this review (#168949)
Posted Monday, April 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars After Frank and the Mothers seperated, it was difficult to guess what he would do next. Luckily, he decided to do some experiment. The more evident jazz-influence here is something special. ''Hot Rats'' is quite challenging if you never heard stuff like that before, because some passages turn out into chaotic jamming and weird improvisation. If you can enjoy this, here you go.

The album is mostly instrumental. To replace the Mothers, Zappa surrounds himself with many more or less famous musicians for this record. All of them are obviously talented and have no fear to show it, as there are a lot of impressive passages spread over the record. We have guitars, basses, violins and keyboards, which sum up for interesting jazz (fusion) music.

The records I knew from Zappa were Apostrophe, Overnite Sensation and Sheik Yerbouti (reviews following), so it came quiet a shock to me when ''Peaches en Regalia'' started. To me, it is the most recognizable song here, with a catchy melody which will stay in your ears a long time, I promise! It has so much energy in it. The next we have ''Willie the Pimp'' with Captain Beefheart doing some extraordinary vocals to make it the most funny piece here. I have a weak point for ''Son of Mr. Green Genes'', with its fusion style more than obvius. A bit to much 'wah-ing' maybe. What nearly prevented me from giving five stars is ''The Gumbo Variations''. Though I like long songs, here it all is carried out too long. Almost 17 minutes of jamming is not very pleasant, especially when some dissonant chords jump in. The rest are brillant composed tunes of instrumental music, and it is that kind of instrumental you remember, what does not drift aimlessly and has a clear focus on melody. I am sure I will be able to go back to this in years, and still think ''hey, that's great music!''.

Well, this is really hard for me. I feel it is essential for anyone interested in jazz/fusion (at least take a listen!), shows another face of Zappa for fans.. but on the whole it is not perfect. The weak points are the solos sometimes drifting into pure chaos. As long as this is in structure, it deserves 5 stars. For the influence it had, for its meaning in the history of Zappa, and the hours I enjoyed with this, here is my rating. Close five stars. It is maybe not the perfect masterpiece, but truly essential, if you want to know how to combine jazz and rock. And Zappa definetly does!

Report this review (#169502)
Posted Friday, May 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hot Rats may well be Zappa's most accomplished album in his discography (Although it's hard to say for sure because I've not listened to them all, yet.) and it is certainly a very different change of pace from his previous albums with The Mothers Of Invention, but I welcome that change.

The album kicks off with Peaches En Regalia, a wonderful little instrumental that could probably sum up what's to come throughout the rest of the album, that being a jazzy show of instrumental muscle flexed so beautifully it could blind a man, or possibly cure cancer.

Willie The Pimp is the only non instrumental song on the album and even then it doesn't have many verses, but what i does have is an excellent middle section that would make any guitarist green (or possibly Hot Pink) with envy.

I absolutely love this next song, Son Of Mr Green Genes gets me every time, It's simply magnificent from the first note to the last, it could be my favourite instrumental of all time. Every instrument blends together so well and it features a guitar solo at 5:55, after which things settle back down and the song returns to the notes it opened on.

Little Umbrellas is nothing special so i won't put to much into this, but it's short and sweet and nothing about hurts the album.

The Gumbo Variations, a 17 minute epic for anyone with a fondness for the sax, simply roars of fire and soul for the entire track, some may argue that it doesn't go anywhere but I don't mind grooving on the same notes for 17 minutes.

It Must Be A Camel closes the album and like Little Umbrellas it's nothing special but fits the style of the album.

I recommend anyone who starts listening to Zappa to start here or with his first album. In my book Essential.

Report this review (#169595)
Posted Friday, May 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is indeed HOT! It an album packed with guitar extravaganzas. One could look at it as a guitar guide to becoming good a impro soloing. Zappa is simply on fire guitar wise on this album. The album opens with one of Zappa's best composed song and to me one of the best composed song in all prog history: Peaches En Regalia is simply a perfect song. It has haunting and beautiful melodies combined with goofy passages and it simply works. Willie The Pimp features a great violin and guitar riff. A great vocal performance by Captain Beefheart and a tremendous guitar solo by Zappa. The solo is so adventures and inspiring. Son of Mr. Green Genes is another favorite of mine on Hot Rats. To begin with a nice theme is presented, but the real gem of this track is another amazing guitar solo. In this solo the backing band is really rocking and you can hear the solo following that lead. This is one of the best solos Zappa ever did imo and it's a prime example of how a great solo can be made. Little Umbrellas to me works as a kinda interlude. It's not bad, but it's not anything special either... next! The Gumbo Variations is a monster. A monster of soloing. Here we have various instrument getting their own solo spot. The track generally rocks. So if you're into a lot of great playing and soloing this is a trip for you. Great song. It Must Be A Camel ends this album. It has an experimental and jazzy feel. It's a good song, but not a great as most of the before mentioned.

In general I tend to dig side one more than side two. Perhaps it's because side one seems more well-balanced to me. I would also like to mention the production which is really great. Zappa did a great job with this one making it so sharp and dry. It really compliments the various musical styles presented on this album.

So overall this is a fantastic album. Especially if you're a guitar player you should have this in your collection.

Report this review (#169990)
Posted Tuesday, May 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hot Rats was released in 1969, a great year for prog-rock and all music in general. This is one of my favourite Frank Zappa albums. I reccommend it to all the people who wants to discover the genius of Zappa. I find it hard to say that Hot Rats is prog, like the most F.Z. records, it can't be put on a particular kind of music, at least I could say this is a jazz-rock album, to give an idea to those which don't know Hot Rats. The musicians are powerful, especially Ian Underwood's awesome talent. Jean Luc Ponty gives one of his best performances on the song It Must Be A Camel. Zappa shows his great ability as composer and fantastic guitarist. Probably Hot Rats is the first real mature work by Frank Vincent Zappa... and it is the first one without The Mothers Of Invention. The greatness of this album, in my opinion, is that it is complex and accessible at one time. If you have only gave it a listen and you think you don't like it, I advise you hear it one more time, and one again, maybe you will discover a masterpiece. That's my experience with this album, when I got it about 15 years ago... now I think it is essential.
Report this review (#170159)
Posted Wednesday, May 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4.5 Stars Really I am by no means a Zappa expert. But, I have already figured out that I like the Jazzy Zappa (this album) much better than the stupid funny Zappa (Freak Out! and others). There are no political agendas here. No bizarre lyrics. Barely any lyrics at all. Just excellent Jazz Rock fusion with no real weak points.
Report this review (#176158)
Posted Saturday, July 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of the first jazz-rock albums it's a fantastic masterpiece. I like to say it's inhuman to dislike even one second from Hot Rats. The fresh air which explode from the first chords and a sentiment of madness will lay upon you at the end. Zappa is not only a multiinstrumentist but also the producer and the arranger. The entire music depend on his way of been. Hot Rats it's well balanced, every song have his touch and like an whole the sum is something very compact. On Peaches En Regalia we hear an exotic sax play, an example of free modern jazz. Willie The Pimp have the rebel artist Captain Beefheart on voice, and a lead guitar which lead the rhythmic section aggressively. No wonder why this disc is so influentially! All that distortions were so originals. The most complex song is Son Of Mr Green Genes, maybe because is a re-working of Mr. Green Genes from Uncle Meat, so based on his old composition, Zappa put together new ideas to upgrade it. Keyboard and horn by Ian Underwood on Little Umbrellas. The short tune have a happy mood, been some kind of classic jazz sax work but placed in the present of Zappa. The Gumbo Variations it's chaotic, and the experimental nature of variations built a only-studio work. Jean- Luc Ponty appear on It Must Be A Camel, and for me this tell a lot about the jazz-rock oriented album.

We are in 1969 and we faced a great change in musical world. Jazz and rock are finally in fusion, speaking about a mainstream world, and if Miles Davis put rock to jazz, Zappa is the one who put jazz to rock. Canterbury Scene is placed somewhere in the middle.

Report this review (#178035)
Posted Thursday, July 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars If you are interested in Frank Zappa at all, buy this.

The pure mastery of this album is proved in the first four minutes. Peaches en Regalia, a clever little instrumental, displays such a scene of impossible melody and a myriad of styles that, to me, it literally defines what good prog really is. To guitarists, wondering what kind of skill the man might show here, the glories of the whole album don't even need to surveyed. Proof lies here, with what is not only some spidery fast fretwork but what I think is the most beautiful and perfect clean tone a guitarist ever recorded. The song is streamable from this site, so listen to it and see if what I have to say holds true.

The album continues with the only non-instrumental song, Willie the Pimp, a nice and traditional Zappa-lyricked bit of humor, with the vocals performed by noted Zappa collaborator Captain Beefheart. The sung portion, however, is only the first few minutes, while the remainder is filled with a wonderful jam session. The main riff, doubled by a violin, returns to clinch the song at the end. Son of Mr. Green Genes and Little Umbrellas continue the album, and though they are less remarkable as far as song goes, compared to most music ever made, they are stellar.

The highlight of this album, especially for the average prog nerd, is the 17-minute The Gumbo Variations. Mostly an extended jam, The Gumbo Variations follows an upbeat bass and drums drive, while solos, ranging from melodic to vicious, play over the top. These solos include some wild saxophone as well. I believe this song alone would launch Frank Zappa to prog stardom, whether or not he had ever written anything else. The album then closes with It Must Be a Camel, a much milder song than its predecessor.

Hot Rats is a terrifyingly unique album, even among Frank Zappa's music. It stands as one of the greatest recordings the man ever made, if not his defining work.

Report this review (#184217)
Posted Tuesday, September 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
TGM: Orb
3 stars Review 74, Hot Rats, Frank Zappa, 1969

Hot Rats is, as I understand it, one of Zappa's sacred cows. I think I can understand why: the playing is flawless, the first couple of pieces are highly entertaining and its mixture of jazzy and avant garde isn't too heavy on either component. My 'good' rating (which will surely be seen as a travesty, but that's that...) is not because I dislike the music much in any particular place, nor because I don't think the playing's great, but just because the album has such a thin emotional tie to me.

The opener Peaches En Regalia, a sample here, opens straight into a cool, classy array of saxophone leaps and whimsical piano flourishes. Zappa's light-hearted rather banjo-like guitar fits perfectly in, and cheery organ swirls meet some hollow percussion whirls. Behind the interlinked leads, the rhythm section wanders about cheerily. All in all, an active, bouncy and highly entertaining piece.

Willie The Pimp is the album's obvious highlight for me. A compulsive, edgy violin riff underlines the piece, accompanied by a mobile bassline and superb drumming from John Guerin. Zappa's own skills particularly come to the fore in this piece, with an extensive, gritty guitar solo, sometimes picking up on the earlier violin part before launching into manic swirls. A few fun piano and percussion flourishes are thrown in. In addition to these worthy features, Beefheart provides a brief amusing vocal complete with general screeching and trite lyrics. Classy stuff.

Son Of Mr. Green Genes is where the album begins to take a bit of a nose dive in connection. While the previous pieces weren't really less jazzy and whimsical, they kept a constant connection and interest. Here, we have many of the same trademarks, neat piano from Ian Underwood, an array of sax and organ effects reeling off from Zappa's range of guitar sounds and wails. At about 3.00 in, the piece catches on quite effectively with a low sax bada-badada theme before wandering off to another guitar solo. Occasionally, the piece does hit just right with a brief jot of darker guitar or a particularly neat effect, especially with the funktacular jumping around 7.00 in, but overall, it fails to make a cohesive impression on me. I think it's that the whimsy gets a bit much at times, or that the guitar lead so key to holding it together is a little thinner than I like, but the reason's difficult to pin down.

Little Umbrellas is a slightly darker piece in feel, with an especial highlight in the piano and organ-work, which ranges from tense chords to light keys to Super Mario soundtrack material, but, to be fair, it works. A slightly ponderous set of clarinet effects fill the background. Not really light, not really menacing, and it's alright, but it never really moves beyond that.

The Gumbo Variations is comfortably the album's longest piece, with a fairly standard jazzy background held up by the rhythm section, and organ underlaying a great strangled saxophone. The saxophone is probably the biggest tie for a fair while, as a couple of neat guitar additions come in then disappear. A squeaky violin appears to replace the sax, and Zappa himself takes a bit more of a position. The rhythm section keeps a mobility throughout, and a couple of stylish effects interplays run nicely over the top. The brief drum solo is probably the piece's high point for me. So, again, nice, but not a lot more. Absolutely top notch playing and interplay, but it simply doesn't really make an impression too often.

It Must Be A Camel is another highlight. After a wandering piano opening with a couple of cool slowed percussion ideas, and an almost obligatory irritating sax blare, it wobbles around for about a minute before Zappa comes in with entertaining guitar sounds all around and adds in a bit of dynamic before the piece comes to its conclusion. Nice, despite the moment of erk.

All in all, then, this album really has nothing bad on it. There are a couple of really great and fun moments in there as well. However, I feel it could have benefited a lot from a little more dynamic playing, and I really just won't listen to it for any other reason than wanting to hear the end of Willie The Pimp and feeling obliged to give the rest another go. I don't dislike it, but my mind just isn't connecting with the comic and musical genius that a lot of Zappa fans and even non-fans would ascribe to it.

Rating: Three Stars. Probably not essential, for me, but still a good buy. Favourite Track: Willie The Pimp

Report this review (#186116)
Posted Friday, October 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Frank Zappa is, in a word, strange. This, however, is one of his more accessible albums. You won't find anything as dirty as Dina Moe Humm or Bobby Brown (Goes Down) on this one, nor is there anything as silly as Joe's Garage. Most of the album is performed in a style of instrumental jazz fusion, the music technical yet fun at the same time.

The album starts off with the tremendously catchy Peaches en Regalia, but the catchiness is deceiving. The various melody lines weave in and out of each other, creating a complex but simultaneously very enjoyable little song. Next is the only vocal track on the album, Willie the Pimp. The lyrics about being a pimp, sung by Captain Beefheart, are more goofy than offensive, and most of the song's time is spent in a very impressive guitar solo from Zappa. Son of Mr. Green Genes is a long instrumental track with some more great soloing from Zappa, and Little Umbrellas is a short instrumental, but more relaxed than Peaches en Regalia. Next is the 16-minute Gumbo Variations, an amazing jam session between Harris, Zappa, and Underwood. The album ends on another shorter instrumental, It Must be a Camel.

While I don't own anywhere near all of Frank Zappa's extensive catalog, this is probably my favorite album out of what I have. Anyone who wants to hear him play some semi-serious music should check this out, and anyone who is new to Zappa would probably do well to start here, unless they're seeking Zappa out for his more humorous and sexual side.

Report this review (#189558)
Posted Sunday, November 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars If I had to sum up Zappa's career in one album, I think I would most likely have a heart attack first. However, this definitely has to be one of the contenders simply because it is one of the greatest and most influential albums of all time.

1. Peaches en Regalia- Absolute brilliance all jammed into the span of a short length. The track is perfect, Zappa's style ideally constructed in a very concise format with his quirkiness, amazing musicianship, and odd melodies and time signatures. If I wanted to show someone a glimpse of what my musical taste entails, this might be the first song I grab. One of the greatest compositions ever written. Flawless. 10+/10

2. Willie the Pimp- One of Frank's signature guitar pieces and it's easy to understand why. His tone here is so unique and powerful, grading away a nearly 9 minute solo with amazing skill, precision, and Zappaish emotions. Beefheart's guest vocals at the beginning are quite fitting. 10/10

3. Son of Mr. Green Genes- Another masterpiece song showcasing Zappa's brilliant compositional style, his virtuosity, and the similar musicianship of those with which he always surrounded himself. Everything runs together perfectly here, the guitar, the drums, every single instrument is meticulously composed and sounds amazing. Not only that, but it's extremely expressive and I could listen to it forever. I really like the feel to this one; it complements yet contrasts uniquely with the two songs that proceeded it. Flawless. 10+/10

4. Little Umbrellas- Very pleasant fusion piece. Short and sweet fits this song nicely, except it's still definitely a Zappa kind of sweet and an entirely unique composition. The saxophone is wonderful here, as always, and all the instruments are amazing as well (as always). Nonetheless, if I had to pick... it's my least favorite on here. And, by my rating of this song, that REALLY says something. Since it's a really good song. 9/10

5. The Gumbo Variations- Holy hell. If you think you've heard it all before, specifically with regards to jazz or fusion, listen to this one. The instrumentalists are on FIRE here, and the duel between the saxophone at the beginning, violin in the middle, and then guitar later on is amazing. The drums are also extremely fitting and played with masterful precision. This is another stunning Zappa composition, managing to create a unique, perfectly crafted and played piece that pushes the boundaries of what music really is. Just listen to that avant-garde sax! Flawless. 10+/10

6. It Must be a Camel- Great song again pushing the envelopes of music as Zappa always did best (particularly with perfection on this album and a few select others). The instruments come together to make a wacky piece of fusion Zappaness that can only be described through hearing it. I love the sax on this one. 9/10

This album is genius. If you haven't heard it, I highly recommend it, despite whatever preconceptions you have about jazz, fusion, Zappa, or anything. A true music collector can't really go without hearing this at least once.

Report this review (#189677)
Posted Monday, November 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
3 stars This, my first Zappa album, is as delicious a surprise as I could ask for, filled with gritty, greasy, lengthy jams. The instrumental blend of jazz/rock is excellently balanced here (with a touch of weirdness for good measure), and the heavy, bluesy grooves don't let up a single beat. Zappa's guitar work is nothing short of Herculean, since he delivers minutes-long solos throughout, the rest of the band doing a fine job keeping up and throwing their own jams into the mix.

Yet, for me Hot Rats is definitely style over substance. The jazzy rock positively grooves... and grooves and grooves until it all blurs together into one extended showcase of crunchy improvisation.

Depending on where one comes from, this makes either 47 minutes of joy or boredom; I am somewhere in the middle. I am not a fan of hippie or stoner rock, and appreciate the signature Zappa weirdness evident throughout, as well as the harder jams found on many of the songs. But, I tend to favor composition over improvisation, so the extended nature of solos and songs tend to get very repetative.

Still, a fine, flavorful addition to any guitar lovers music library, easy enough for most anyone to groove along to-- for a while.

Songwriting: 3 Instrumental Performances: 4 Lyrics/Vocals: NA Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Report this review (#192565)
Posted Wednesday, December 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
Errors & Omissions Team
5 stars 01. Peaches En Regalia Jazz? A bit of everything, but one thing is certain, whoever was making that sound in 69? Neither the Beatles were ahead of everything, Zappa was way ahead of his time there. A crazy and amazing melody over the headphones. Many keyboards, a James Bond atmosphere in the air.

02. Willie The Pimp Riff that would make equal only a few years later, that crazy voice! Violins more infatuate everywhere. And know what? Zappa has the roll up the guitar, my, how can the man playing guitar for so strange and cool? The guy was a virtuoso before it exists. More is not only virtuoso melodies, but the most crazy, and the band he had UAU. Extremely Jazz, but still not boring.

03. Son Of Mr. Green Genes Man, where he took those sounds in 1969? This question will haunt me forever. The keyboards, the 'leak noise' all the sound beyond the experimentalism, is the barrier factor of the pure and simple song. Zappa is King on guitar, his riffs are disconcerting. And the music is super interesting and dancing from the in a musical way.

04. Little Umbrelllas Bass sound and everything, but the contrasts are interesting, with him a violin and synthesizer, a battery rock 'dead' and lost a keyboard on the bottom and clear xylophone. And murmurs, should be clear that blows.

05. The Gumbo Variations Take 2 announces Zappa, and that everyone should start with, say Zappa was authoritarian way in the studio, but a man who recorded over 50 discs in less than 30 year career probably knew what he was doing. Percussion in the band than the bottom and a beautiful line down, we have a saxophone solando everywhere. Basis for insanity is not missing, recorded live, shows the face of Mother Zappa and improvisation to the Jazz. But in this case interesting, because I think Jazz saccal. Violin enter the scene and finish the sound of even more expensive, the amount of virtuosos gathered here is giant. A groove infernal. So far (Already passed 11 minutes) Zappa is just the master, the guitar is tentatively here first. You then he finally gives the air of grace. After a brief solo for drums (I think they are 2) the bottom is a nice monitor, and gave him violins. The end is unexpected, full of details and madness.

06. It Must Be A Camel Full of percussions broken, a lot of them actually. But behind all this is music! And how. The second part is the saxophones as the main vehicles of communication. Completely atonal, but not every man for himself because down and hold a base hit (and still doing it several times). In some moments the poor guitar appears broken, but it is meager.

Zappa! This guy was [%*!#]ing seen!


Report this review (#204099)
Posted Monday, February 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I can be pretty brief with this review and that's for the simple reason that everything there is to be said about this album has already been said in the other reviews. It's indeed a jazzy jamming album and that is for the full 47 minutes.

But what I can add to this is that this album has increased my respect for Frank Zappa a lot. I only knew his Cheap Thrills release so far and that confirmed what I already knew: I'm not a Frank Zappa fan. But now it appears that it was mainly that album that made me feel that way because this magum opus by Zappa is a completely different story. I like just about everything I hear on this album and I had never expected that. Cheap Thrills was a bit of a foolish album to me and I thought that was the one and only Zappa. Boy, am I glad I decided to go for this one as well. And it was double luck because it was for sale.

I like instrumental music, I like jamming, I like energetic music and I like melodic music. All four elements are prominently present on Hot Rats. It even could make me go for the highest score but I feel that would be a bit overdone. But four stars is the least I can do. A true classic !

Report this review (#205937)
Posted Tuesday, March 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars I've never understood the huge appeal of Zappa. I recognize the talent of the man, and I certainly respect him and his music... i just don't find it very entertaining. Endless jams have never been my thing... and I figure, if it hasn't sunk in by now i'll probably never be a fan.

This album doesn't totally convince me either, though it does start off very good. The first two tracks on Hot Rats are, to my ears, the best things he ever recorded. The rest of the album is a long-winded blur of annoying saxophone solos (Gumbo Variations) and half-memorable songs that start with great musical themes, but after cycling through them a few times, and then adding prolix soloing overtop, said themes lose their impact (Son of Mr Green Genes) as songs deteriorate into tedium.

'Peaches En Regalia' is a brilliant early-morning song... it's best heard when you've just awakened, right before the sun comes up... it's a great way to start a day. The Jazzy asian-sounding themes are beautiful and stay with you a long time after the song ends. It's short duration ensures it never overstays it welcome.

The gritty classic 'Willie the Pimp' just plain rocks, and is easily my favorite Zappa song. Captain Beefheart's rough whiskey-soaked rasps add a bruising dimension to this music that is sorely lacking on the remaining songs. The song is about 5 minutes too long though... Frank never seems to know when enough is enough.

This is surely the best place to start if you want to begin exploring the music of Frank Zappa... and if you enjoy long jamming instrumentals full of excellent soloing, you'll be in heaven.

Report this review (#206735)
Posted Thursday, March 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars This was the first Frank Zappa album I ever heard , and it left me with my jar opened down to the floor. The musicians involved in this record are very talented and the various rhythm sections present on it make Hot Rats a really entertaining release. The record is entirely instrumental featuring loads of FZ soloing on guitar as well as sax or violin by other guest musicians.

Peaches in Regalia is probably the most known FZ track in all his career. The song is one of those rare cases in which the popular and the sublime can coexist. Being a little over the 3 minute mark , the composition is varied as hell and also very colourful and uplifting. Truly one of the greatest openers in ANY record.

The second song is mostly a terrific FZ solo. But almost every time that I hear Willie the Pimp , my attention is centered not on the soaring guitar , but on the solid drum & bass work by John Guerin and Max Bennett. Only with such a rhythm backup as that one you can make 6 minutes of guitar soloing sound fine and not overindulgent.

Son of Mr Green Genes is , as the name suggests a rework on the Uncle Meat track but this time without any vocals. Musically this tune is more interesting and varied than the previous track. Apart from guitar soloing there are keyboards , clarinets and saxes. After two earthshaking instrumentals , the subtle Little Umbrellas feels like a breeze of fresh air. By far this is the most jazz oriented track on the album.

Gumbo variations features interesting interplay between Ian Underwood and Sugar Cane Harris. Luckily , guitar soloing is replaced with violin soloing so we have a tad more of variety on the record. Finally the record closes with It Must be a Camel . featuring Jean Luc Ponty on violin. This track includes some dissonant moments as well , but it's very relaxing in the end.

I know several FZ albums have been remastered in the 90's and Hot Rats is no exeption , people that owns the old LP version says there are some different guitar tracks on it. I can't make a comparaison since I never heard the 1969 release , but this Rykodisc version sounds clean as hell. Overall , this record is a masterpiece and one of the most iconic FZ releases. However I would not reccomend it to people interested in discovering Zappa since his overall sound is not vell represented on the album. Hot Rats is a ground breaking JAZZ ROCK release but I would reccomend some live albums of his or some of the mid 70's releases to the newcomer to catch a glimpse of what FZ is all about.

Report this review (#211023)
Posted Saturday, April 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars I was in high school when my friend from the same class played this album to me. In fact he had more Zappa albums (cassettes) but he said 'this one is the best and I have to hear it'. So I did with pain in my ears. This wasn't music for me. I was up to my neck in heavy metal and I didn't care for Frank Zappa and other freaks. Later when I was huge prog rock fan I thought I'd give mr. Zappa a chance. So natural choice was Hot Rats. It wasn't good idea. Now I like some Zappa albums but this is still giving me pain in my ears or even my teeth. Peaches En Regalia is interesting short piece of music and I thought I might like this record. Willie The Pimp gave me a little bit of trauma but I survived those sounds (somehow). The Gumbo Variations? Oh please don't even ask me. Ok if you are jazz fan you can take it as hmm very loose improvisation. I mean not typical improvisation that makes sense. Just kind of jazzy mess which isn't something I enjoy. I have nothing against jazz really. I still love elements of jazz in Van Der Graaf Generator's music. But Zappa? Not this time. Of course I can't say this release is total rubbish but it doesn't prove anything. A bit of jamming sometimes spiced with real ideas. Better listen to Apostrophe.
Report this review (#212280)
Posted Friday, April 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Like all geniuses, Frank Zappa had his good share of insanity, which is demonstrated all along this record, with strange experimentation and unorthodox composition. This record is absolutely fascinating, a true masterpiece.

"Peaches En Regalia" is a marvelous short introduction, carefully arranged, very diverse and really weird followed by the best track in here, "Willie The Pimp", Captain Beefheart's voice is really something, a cool and groovy voice which gives a fantastic tone to the song, although being the only vocal track in "Hot Rats" it is mostly instrumental, with a fantastic guitar solo.

"The Gumbo Variation", the seventeen minute composition has fantastic passages just as "Son Of Mr. Green Genes" which has killer wind sections with strange instruments all over.

This is absolutely essential, real innovation and lots of diversity with fantastic musicianship and very original.

Report this review (#213540)
Posted Sunday, May 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars My favourite of Frank Zappa's albums outside his body of work with the Mothers of Invention. HOT RATS sees Zappa abandon the mindless humour of the Mothers and insert copius amounts of extended jam sessions and jazz ideas making one of the first fusion records. There's many a blistering instrumental performance but it can sometimes get too long in the mouth. ''Gumbo Variations'' starts off with a nice bass riff but gets tiresome with solo upon endless solo (including a drum solo we never needed).

I also wish there was a more consistent lineup here; only Zappa and Ian Underwood play on all tracks with a multitude of violinists, bassists and drummers. Still, both of the main performers really get their chance to shine (Zappa on ''Willie the Pimp'', Underwood on ''Son of Mr. Green Genes''). For those with less patience, ''Peaches en Regalia'', ''Little Umbrellas'' and ''It Must Be a Camel'' are all shorter, more focused fusion pieces with emphasis on tight interplay between band members.

It's mostly instrumental save for Captain Beefheart on ''Willie the Pimp''. It's one of the better fusion records out there even if the jams get old before they end.

Report this review (#215400)
Posted Wednesday, May 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
1 stars The purpose of a critic of album is to say of what we think, I do not naturally agree with the succes of this album, especially because it is considered as Frank Zappa's best album, what is false. The album begins with a continuation(suite) with the xylophone, I stick in no way has this style... I may listen to, to listen again nothing does not make for it. The certainty it is because it is not an album of progressive rock, although that many critic(criticism) monopolized the album. Here we find more the limits of the rock with tres sounds Jazz, a fusion(merger) of a large number of style, what makes it an album provided with many of ééclectisme. An album forgot, for fan of Zappa only.
Report this review (#227684)
Posted Monday, July 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Phenomenal Introduction to a Genius

Hot Rats is the highest rated Zappa album on PA, contains perhaps his most famous song "Peaches En Regalia," and is probably the most frequent entry point for fans into Zappa's vast catalog. This was the case for me, and certainly this strange music is like being dunked fed some new exotic cuisine, where you're not quite certain what the funky spices are. Usually one either learns to love the flavor, or runs away in disgust. My reaction was instead a guarded interest. And luckily I wandered around the catalog a bit until I found the exact dish for my palate, along with some selections that did little for me. However, the fact that I like one facet of Zappa's musicianship (ultra-complex jazz composition) and don't like the camp or stage-y stuff, is just a matter of taste. There are going to be some who gravitate to different albums, different smells, different kinds of funk.

Hot Rats is going to appeal to the musician types more than the potty mouth lovers, but it's still a great place to start for anyone. The musicianship is very good, though not as insanely complex as that found on "One Size Fits All" or "Roxy." The album contains several very long sections of jamming, most of which are quite good. The guitar tone during the long improvised end of "Willie the Pimp" is way ahead of its time and the licks are so great. At the same time, 90 seconds of song followed by 9 minutes of jamming doesn't exactly press my prog buttons that much.

There are many ways one could merge jazz and rock, and Frank has managed to create a style that is fairly distinct from the bands formally labeled jazz-rock fusion. Zappa integrates more rock into a jazz that is much more structured and at times composed than Mahavishnu or Return to Forever. This shouldn't surprise given his affinity for classical music and writing movie score music from early in his career. His famous opinion, that there should be no difference between pop and high art, results in an accessible but still quirky sound that really has never been duplicated.

Listening back over Hots Rats again for this review, there are moments where I think "This really should be 5 stars." Some of the moments are just spectacular, with guest musicians Jean-Luc Ponty and Captain Beefheart taking strong tunes and upping the interest even more. But two things keep it at excellent rather than masterpiece level. First are the numerous extended jams over fairly basic progressions and time signatures. While interesting, it's hard to call an album relying so heavily on this element a masterpiece of prog. Second, I know Zappa does produce the kind of combined, precise complexity that reaches that summit later in his career.

I absolutely recommend this album, especially for newbies to Zappa. It's a great piece of work. But once you've gotten accustomed to the strange combo of spices he puts in the stew, there are even more tasty morsels awaiting.

Report this review (#239808)
Posted Thursday, September 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars First of all, this is Frank Zappa's SOLO album, not Mothers of Invention's. Another thing - if many Zappa's works are absolutely RIO/avantgarde, this one is more usual misx of fusion and bluesy rock.

Main music is produced by Zappa's guitar and Ian Underwood keyboards. Music is quite structured and fully orchestrated, Sugar Cane Harris and Jean Luc Ponty add their violins."The Gumbo Variations" are perfect jazz-rock with exploding Underwood sax solos.And for sure,Cpt.Beefheart singing on "Willie The Pimp" gives his exclusive atmosphere.

Please note, that that album is dated as 1969 (!),few years before of real fusion explosion all around the world. So, in fact, there are roots of modern jazz-rock and fusion! All music is full of Zappa's guitar solos, but is unusualy structured at the same time.

And however Zappa has plenty of strong albums in different styles, this one is one of best structurised and organised, strongly orchestrated and great "usual" music album!

And if Zappa,by himself or with band, often demonstrates more experiments and avantgarde ideas, than concentrates on music, this one is different. Very recommended for jazz-rock or fusion lovers as acceptable entrance to Zappa's world.

Report this review (#244720)
Posted Thursday, October 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
2 stars There's a question that has been torturing me for decades. What do the people see in FRANK ZAPPA'S music and why in God's name I'm unable to discover it?

In 1974 and after a friend bothered me for weeks, I bought "Hot Rats" expecting to find magical music, but to be honest, found nice music with little interest for me, I thought it may e the album so got "We're only in it for the Money", and my impression didn't changed at all, so after listening a couple more albums, decided to place my ZAPPA albums in a box and let them gather dirt for decades.

A few months ago I had to move, so while checking my old record boxes, decided to give "Hot Rats" a new chance, and even when I found the music easier to listen, my impression didn't changed very much.

The album starts with "Peaches in Regalia", a nice instrumental with some lush keyboards by Ian Underwood, but not much ore, still can't find feet or head in the music, seems like the guy went for some blend of early Symphonic and fun, but failed somewhere in the road, making a hybrid without head or feet.

"Willy the Pimp" starts with an interesting Ponty violin section, but it's only a promise, the guys start to jam as if they were in 1967 on an acid trip, Captain Beefheart's voice doesn't help too much and even Jean Luc Ponty falls in the game and goes nowhere. The guitar? Yes, Zappa is good but nothing special compared with the hundreds of great guitarists in the 60's.

After a couple minutes, the guitar jamming by ZAPPA turns boring and absolutely predictable, just distorted sounds with nothing more than most Acid Psyche bands of the era...Maybe a couple years too late.

"Son of Mr Green Genes" is an improvement, the initial melody is somehow catchy, but still I don't believe it's defined as Prog, Rock or Funk, but still very pleasant to listen, the problem is when the jamming starts, I honestly don't know what he pretends, there were thousands doing this on those years, and some with much more interesting results.

The winds are a good addition, but again ZAPPA'S guitar leads nowhere, just jamming with no structure or purpose, maybe the contrapuntal duel between ZAPPA and Underwood is interesting to prove skills, but musically leads nowhere in my opinion. The jazzy "Little Umbrellas" opens side two, again pleasant but nothing really special to consider this a masterpiece, too light to be considered innovative, the song flows gently with no surprises or really interesting moments.

The incredibly long "The Gumbo Variations" should be called "The Gumbo improvisations", because again lacks of structure, it's true that Ponty, Zappa and Underwood have the chance to prove heir skills, but never sound coherent or structured, after a couple of minutes starts to bore, but when the drum solo starts, it's time to press the skip button before the cacophonic ending. Some people should know that sometimes less is more.

Well, I had to wait 42 minutes until "It must be a Camel", the only really good track, melodic interesting and well structured, even the solos are coherent with the atmosphere, this track saves the album from a lower rating, mainly for the delightful piano.

Before I rate "Hot Rats", must say that it's not a bad album, the musicians are talented, but the music is anodyne and lacks of interest (At least for me), I fail to see the greatness people see, but maybe it's my problem.

To rate it I use my own scale, I gave 3 stars to ELP's debut, and I believe "Hot Rats" is not remotely in the level, so I would go with 2.5, being that this is impossible in our system, will go with 2 stars.

Only for FRANK ZAPPA fans and classic Rock collectors.

Report this review (#247811)
Posted Monday, November 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars In the glorious year of 1970 I at last left the safe environs of my parental enclave and moved to the quasi- bohemian, virile town of Denton. I settled into a cozy efficiency bungalow mere blocks away from the University of North Texas (NTSU at the time) campus and relished the unlimited freedom that being on my own afforded. I answered to no one except my own conscience and that egotistical imp wasn't paying close attention to anything other than pretty girls. The burg was teeming with musicians of every ilk and I had many for neighbors who were in groups I'd seen performing in Dallas nightclubs. One of those maniacs was a fellow guitar player named Dave Brown and he was as avid a record collector as I was yet his generosity and trust far exceeded mine in that he left his place unlocked and encouraged me to barge in and borrow any album he owned as long as I returned it in a reasonable time frame and without gouges in the grooves. His taste in music tended to run in more offbeat, unconventional ruts than mine (he didn't share my affection for groups like The Move, for example) but for that reason I got exposed to many artists that I wouldn't have sampled otherwise because of him. He had all of Frank Zappa's stuff in his stacks and I must admit that a lot of it left me as cold as a Siberian Christmas, including "Hot Rats." But that wasn't Zappa's fault or Dave's. It was mine. It wasn't until several years farther down the line that I came to realize that I just wasn't open-minded enough to appreciate what my naďve ears were hearing.

Only recently have I procured a copy of this, Frank's first solo effort, and at long last have been able not only to appraise it with the discretion that age bestows but also in a historical backlight of the blur of progressive thinking that was running unfettered in those heady days of the waning 60s. Forget pushing boundaries. There weren't any. Not for pioneers like Zappa, anyway. He had craftily weaseled his way into a lofty position where he could record what he wanted, who he wanted and how he wanted with impunity. He didn't play it safe with that creative license, either. He wanted to leave behind a legacy of innovation and imaginative contrasts that would flourish and thrive beyond his generation. Suffice it to say, he did just that but for me this album isn't his masterpiece. It's very good, no doubt, and I can understand and support its high ranking but it's his sly, satirical humor that I gravitate towards when considering what his best work is. That's just me. Frank had so many sides to his genius that he draws all kinds of proggers to his music so it just depends on who you talk to, I guess.

Starting an album with supreme greatness like "Peaches en Regalia" certainly can't hurt your reputation one iota. It's one of his finest, most concise songs ever and it's as close to prog perfection as there is to be found on "God's grey earth." It's grandiose yet playful as a speckled puppy. A splendid mixture of Zappa's favorite styles and influences. What I didn't know until now was that there are only four musicians playing on it. It sounds like twice that many, at least. Frank's on guitar, Ron Selico sits on the drum stool, Shuggy Otis plays bass and everything else is Ian Underwood. Now that's amazing. I'll never listen to this tune again without thinking about that humbling fact because what he does is phenomenal. He turns it into a carnival. Next up is "Willie the Pimp," a plodding blues/rock thang that hasn't grown old gracefully. Captain Beefheart's raspy growl is entertaining but he's long gone by the three-minute mark and it becomes a long, tiresome jam session after that. Hey, it's Zappa's solo debut and he had every right to overindulge in a lengthy guitar lead since he so desired (bear in mind that it wasn't unusual, this was the golden age for talented but long-winded noodlers like "Cream" and "The Allman Brothers") yet I still must be honest. It wears me out.

"Son of Mr. Green Genes" is a return to a more tightly-structured format. Here the multi-talented Ian has taken Frank's radical, complex ideas and fleshed them out brilliantly. Zappa's guitar is one part of the soundscape, not the focus, and the number benefits hugely from that. His guitar ride is more taste than flash and Max Bennett's fluid bass playing stands out in particular. There seems to be a lot more thought being put into the track than the previous cut and the pompous, over-the-top ending is to die for. "Little Umbrellas" follows and it's the kind of fantastically dense, challenging avant garde jazz piece that the "serious" musicians who populated the full-ensemble lab bands in the NTSU rehearsal rooms in those days of my randy youth would drool over (perhaps they still do). Yet at the same time this short ditty makes for pleasant, casual listening, as does so much of his material.

"The Gumbo Variations" is a slightly funky boogie that comes off like a "Wow, I've got all these excellent cats assembled here in the studio and the tape's running so let's play already!" moment and who could blame Mr. Z for that? Underwood's sax solo is sinfully frantic and wild as a cornered Tasmanian Devil for a full seven minutes, then Sugar Cane Harris delivers a hot and passionate violin spasm that carries on for another five. Frank wades into the fray for a while, then they mercifully break it all down to the drums and bass before eventually turning it into a screechy melee that collapses from exhaustion. My hat's off to them for their unbridled enthusiasm but it ain't my cup of joe. The album ends on a positive note, though, with the impressive "It Must Be A Camel," another appealing venture into a unique, eclectic jazz fusion climate that's hard to resist. Sitting through it reminds me that this was so very unlike anything else being created even out on the wooly fringes of the vast rock & roll prairie of that time period. It truly was, still is and ever will be music for the progressive mind.

While I will always be much more likely to pull out and put on his wonderful "Roxy and Elsewhere" album when I need a little FZ shot into my veins, I must emphasize that the man never wasted an inch of recording tape in his too-short life and this is no exception. He epitomized creativity and when "Hot Rats" hit the music stores it only added to his reputation for being fearless. I clearly remember feeling a little uneasy each time I spied the wild-haired waif on the fuchsia cover who, at first glance, looked like she was about to crawl out of her crypt because I was afraid that I wouldn't comprehend what Zappa was doing in the vinyl grooves within. Even now I must entertain the possibility that I still can't fully grasp it all and never will. But I keep coming back, nonetheless. Only the greatest of the greatest have that irresistible, magnetic gift. 4.2 stars.

Report this review (#262017)
Posted Friday, January 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars A Superb Jazz-Rock Album!

Hot Rats is often praised as Frank Zappa's shining achievement, and I can't say that I disagree with that statement. While I think that some of his other albums are equal to the high quality shown throughout this album, this is surely one of the highlights in his brilliant discography.

This album shows a departure from the avant-garde influenced psychedelic/experimental rock music that Frank Zappa had been known to play around this time. This album leaves most of the experimentation behind, and Zappa goes for making a pure jazz-rock album. The result is an almost completely flawless work of art, filled with excellent solos and groovy rhythms. This album is mostly dominated by Ian Underwood's windwoods and Frank Zappa's guitar heroics. While many people tend to criticize this album for being "just jamming", I heavily disagree. I think the album is filled with tasteful solos that are always fun and captivating. I guess it's just a matter of taste in the end.

The highlight of this entire album, for me at least, is the spectacular musicianship. Of course, the guitar playing from Frank Zappa is nothing less than brilliant, but all of the session musicians are fantastic as well. The rhythm section is superb in all of the songs, which is rare for an album mostly dominated by solos. The memorable melodies and riffs are the icing on the cake, and they really make for a spectacular album.


"Peaches en Regalia"- The first song on the album has always been my personal favorite from the album (though the whole album's great). Whereas most of the rest of the album is jazz-rock jam sessions, this song is structured beautifully with superb melodies. The woodwinds from Ian Underwood are undoubtedly the highlight of this track, aside from the beautiful songwriting. This is a great way to open up the album.

"Willie the Pimp"- The second song takes a rapid departure from the previous track, showing a riff-based bluesy hard rock song. This features Captain Beefheart's low vocals, and I couldn't imagine the song without him on vocals. The Captain doesn't do anything spectacular, but it really adds to the mood of the song. The song mostly builds off of a solitary violin riff, but it is far from a linear song. The guitar soloing from Zappa near the end is superb, and it never tires. The late 60's psych influence is obvious in this section. The song ends with a few measures of the opening riff.

"Son of Mr. Green Genes"- This song uses the same theme from "Mr. Green Genes" from Uncle Meat, and is one of my favorites from the album. The woodwinds throughout the song are the highlight, and give this song a very jazzy feel. The guitar solos are wonderfully crafted, and every instrument works perfectly in the context of the song. The drumming from Paul Humphrey and the bass playing from Max Bennett shouldn't go unnoticed, even though Zappa and Underwood take center stage on this song. The rhythm section is superb.

"Little Umbrellas"- This song is a jazzy instrumental, and I wouldn't even consider it jazz-rock. This is just a beautiful jazz piece with superb keyboard playing from Ian Underwood. The arrangements are extremely noteworthy.

"The Gumbo Variations"- The longest song on the album (almost 17 minutes) is excellent, though it takes some time to sink in. This is a psychedelic jazz-rock jam with some of the catchiest grooves and most interesting solos I've ever heard. The saxophone playing from Ian Underwood is one of the highlights of the entire album for me. He just does a superb job, and the rhythm section is always there to back him up. The drumming from Paul Humphrey is superb, and even though he has no solos, his playing is just as interesting as the people playing the solos. After Underwood's saxophone solo, Sugar Cane Harris has an equally excellent violin solo. Just listen to the rhythm section during this solo! It's fantastic! The flow of sections continues through Frank Zappa's solo that follows soon after. The excitement never shortens at all, and this song is captivating and catchy from beginning to end. Everything about this song is superb.

"It Must Be A Camel"- The final song is a soft jazz piece in the vein of "Little Umbrellas". I prefer this song slightly to the one I just mentioned. This is mostly focused around soothing piano, saxophone, and odd rhythms. This has the only sections of the album that even remotely show Zappa's avant side, though I wouldn't call this avant at all. This is a great way to end the album, as it is filled with interesting chord progressions and melodies.


Hot Rats is a superb album by Frank Zappa, and it's one of my favorites in his discography. If you're at all interested in hearing Frank Zappa, this is essential listening material. If you're not a jazz fan, don't be put off by the "jazz rock" label that this album often acquires. I don't consider myself a jazz fan, yet I adore this album. My rating for Hot Rats will be 4.5 stars. I'm going to round down, because you can't round up to a "masterpiece". This is highly recommended!

4 stars.

Report this review (#268024)
Posted Wednesday, February 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
1 stars This one hits all the wrong buttons with me. Fair does, Don Van Vliet's vocals certainly get things going, but this album leaves me detached. I much prefer 'We're Only in it for the Money' from the previous year. That one's so wacky and inventive there's nothing not to like about it. There are painful and excruciatingly long guitar and saxophone bursts that seem to go on forever on manye tracks. Vocals is the one thing this album really needs and is sadly missing. Zappa had a good voice, so where is he? This should have been so much better. All the ingredients are there but it just seems to fall flat on it's face, making me want to put on the wonderful 'Trout Mask Replica' instead. Very annoying.
Report this review (#268479)
Posted Friday, February 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars The first time I listened to Freak out ,i was not disapointed but not emotioned about it. It was humorous music ..and you could say "thats it" if not were for those little avangarde touches. Not much for a non english rock listener. But "Hot Rats" is an absolutely different meat-like the one of the uncle. These album is a complet monster. Is like the high cultured version of "Fun House" of the "Stooges", or maybe we could say the real fun house. Is 68 and what Zappa acomplished could only be described as geniality. Maybe is to pretentious and uterly false to say "music doesnt get better than that" but is absolutely true that "America can get better than that". This is the ubber zone of the underground of the 60 were in a incredible melting pot we hear varesse, hendrix, coltrane, davis, all coming wonderfully as one in a wild sonical party and voyage that explodes into the listener burning everything, in a very funny way X) Hot rats for sure. "Peaches en Regalia" is a melodical fantasia with strange moods sweet and difficult at the same time. The main theme is a short of comical western horse-riding delirium, and jazz and rock intensities crosses the song with amazing power and listeneability "Willie the Pimp" is plainly amazing, wild acid rock blues , being the most near music has come to put together Hendrix with Beefheart ( Guitar and voice of the best blues group you could conceive in your wicked mind). "Son of mister Green Geenes" is another avant garde with lots of changes and a kind of roman motive. Is epical, beatifull and ridiculous at the same time. Again the song boils with jazz and rock ideas and freedom is not oposed to delightfullness in this one. "Little Umbrelllas" is really funny and disturbing, maybe the most avant-garde composition of the disc, it have a funerary theme that leads into a jazz fantasy, the flutes in the chorus always make me smile. "The Gumbo Varitions" is contraculture exploding in your hears, as simply as that. Mc5 and Coltrane in the revolutions day with a touch of sceptick humour And overall not being excesivelly long ( like Uncle meat) is simply a masterpiece. Surprising, enancing, uplifting and hot as the hotests jazz of hell. "It Must Be A Camel" is the more jazzy and loosely crafted of the songs. I dont think is at the same level of the rest of the songs, anyway it doesnt matter. The disc is great with or without it. Five stars.

Report this review (#271061)
Posted Wednesday, March 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is one of the most definitive Frank Zappa albums. It's got it all: weird uses of instruments, bizarre solos, strange vocals on Willie the Pimp, you name it. I think the reason it's so highly acclaimed here is because it's everything Frank Zappa is about.

At it's best, it's engaging, funny, and enjoyable. And, it usually hangs around in this area. But at times, particularly on The Gumbo Variations, it felt a little tedious and pretentiousness. Still, if you want a weird but enjoyable album with catchy riffs and great percussion beats, or if you just want (probably) the best gateway drug into the world of Frank Zappa, check this one out.

Report this review (#278477)
Posted Sunday, April 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Hot Rats' - Frank Zappa (6/10)

As a man of many facets in his music, this stands as being Frank Zappa's first real foray into the realm of jazz. Taking a few of his friends along for the ride (Captain Beefheart, and Jean-Luc Ponty for an added jazz flair) 'Hot Rats' has long been considered to be one of his best moments of his career. Relying on heavy instrumentation and the virtuosity of both himself and his fellow musicians, 'Hot Rats' ends up becoming an album of two measures; parts of it are heavily improvised and others are very evident of intent composition.

My only other experience with Frank Zappa before initially listening to this had been the concrete piece 'Lumpy Gravy,' it was certainly a nice change of pace to have some actual music added to the mix. Even though I'm not the biggest fan of this style or album in particular, I can certainly see why it gets exceptional praise. The performances are spectacular and sure to impress even the most anal of critics. The only performance that I don't enjoy is actually that of Captain Beefheart's vocal work on the bluesy track 'Willie The Pimp.' At first it is a bit irritating before erupting into a display of bad taste. Apart from that however, I can at least appreciate the intent of putting a few vocals here and there, but it seems to fall short in the end.

Three of the songs here are relatively laid back, at least in terms of the amount of improvisation that is allowed. The three longer songs are actually do not have more 'composition' as many would assume; instead they have a lot of room for the musicians to improvise. The main contender for this is the massive sixteen minute 'Gumbo Variations.' While I do enjoy listening to musicians solo and showing off their chops, such a large portion (especially when there are other songs with considerable solo sections as well) ends up getting a bit bland and it's easy to zone out and lose interest. There are certainly people that are going to get into this and think it's amazing, but not me.

The three shorter songs are a lot tighter, and still show musical skill without having to do it in long-form. My favourite of the songs would have to be the slightly ominous (and most jazzy track) 'Little Umbrellas.' It's songs like this on the record that really prove that Frank Zappa is an amazing, underrated composer.

I've been really trying to listen to this more and find more things to like about it, and while there's plenty to like here, I find the overdrawn solos and some of the obnoxious sounding timbres to get a bit annoying to the point that it can hurt the appreciation of the parts that really are masterful. Perhaps one day after listening, this will break through to me and I'll appreciate it as what it apparently is; a masterpiece. Until then, this hasn't convinced me as being anything more than 'pretty cool' and 'listenable.'

Report this review (#278566)
Posted Monday, April 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Maybe this is the most famous Frank Zappa album. Is this the his best? Maybe, certainly one of the best album that he has composed. Many prog-fan have written a lot of reviews so, what can i say again? This is a very excellent album, excellent music and well played. The band isn't a typical "Frank Zappa band", we can find only Ian Underwood as "old" Zappa musician. The rest of the group is composed by people who never played with Frank before (Beefheart except) or late. This peculiar feature is not easy to find in a Zappa's album. I recommend this work for everybody who like Zappa and jazz-rock music. My favorite song is "Willie the pimp", absolutely crazy but all the rest of the album contain other music gems. Absolutely a masterpiece.

Report this review (#280955)
Posted Saturday, May 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Hot Rats (1969) was my first, but not my favourite, experience of Frank Zappa. It is widely recognised as having been influential in the development of jazz-rock/fusion, and it seems to be one of those albums you should hear before you die. However without meaning to sound disparaging, the best thing I can say about Hot Rats is that it's ok. It opens promisingly enough with the concise jazz-rock of PEACHES EN REGALIA, and continues with some excellent interplay between Zappa and violinist Don ''Sugar Cane'' Harris on WILLIE THE PIMP. Unfortunately the remainder of the tracks are on a gradual downward-sloping curve, with THE GUMBO VARIATIONS being the lowest point thanks to some painfully long solos. Another problem for me is that Hot Rats is a mainly instrumental album and I miss Zappa's trademark goofiness. It's good without being a classic, so 3 stars.
Report this review (#282675)
Posted Wednesday, May 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars If you consider jazz-rock one of the all-time greatest developments in rock music history, feel free to raise this rating a point; I like jazz more now than I once did, and as such I can finally buy into the idea that this is, in fact, a really freaking great album, but I still can't quite buy the idea of it as Frank's best (like a lot of people think). Frank's first officially solo album is quite a departure from his work with the Mothers, even if signs of this impending approach were manifesting themselves in pieces like "King Kong" (or in some of the various material that the Mothers recorded first on stage). If the main thing stopping you from enjoying the Mothers was the 'stupid' sound effects, or the ever-present feeling of being preached to, this album should probably be one of your first Zappa purchases (of course, Burnt Weeny Sandwich should take precedence, imho, but that's for later). This is the first Zappa album to feature his attention focused solely on the music (which kinda makes sense, given that it's almost all instrumental), and that should be something both lovers and haters of the man should be happy about.

I'm not thrilled with everything on here: no matter how many times I listen to them, I can't shake the feeling that the 3:04 "Little Umbrellas" and the 5:15 "It Must be a Camel" are clearly in the second tier of Zappa tracks. They have somewhat decent themes, and I find the conversations between the instruments somewhat engaging, but ehn, Zappa's done better. Still, they're good tracks, and they show that Zappa could write decent enough "regular" jazz pieces (as opposed to the wilder stuff that makes up the rest of the album). Well, and to be fair, "It Must be a Camel" has a couple of places where it really tears, so calling it "regular" might be a bit of an oversimplification.

I'm also not as thrilled with the main attraction of side 2, the 16:55 of "The Gumbo Variations," as I'm sure many many people are. The thing is, I like when jazz elements are sprinkled into rock, but this is something else entirely. This is Frank taking what I guess is one of the "fundamental jazz aesthetics," (choose your own better description, please), the idea of having most of a group play a single primary theme over and over while one person in the group solos on and on and on and on and on, and fusing it with rock by (a) making the rhythm section play a rather funky foundation ad infinitum and (b) have almost the entire song dominated by a single multi-instrument solo. Indeed, there's a lengthy saxophone solo here, a shorter (but not quick either) violin solo, a bit of a guitar solo, and then a bit of a drum solo for crying out loud. Not only that, though, but if you pay close attention, you'll notice that, near the end of the saxophone solo, the violin starts playing underneath it, and by the time the sax stops, the violin is in full throttle (the same phenomenon occurs with the transition from the violin to the guitar; these smooth transitions allow the soloing to never actually stop, thus making it seem like one continuous solo). Now, don't get me wrong, I do essentially like listening to it; it's awesome to listen to, for instance, if you're driving on Lower Wacker Dr in Chicago on a sunny day. But the solos and the entertainment caused by them during the piece don't stick with me once the piece is over, if you get what I mean. Put another way; the violin solo in "The Gumbo Variations" may be stunning in terms of speed and virtuousity, but it's the violin solo in "The Little House I Used to Live In" that sucked me in enough to desperately need to hear it again and again. Still, "stunning in terms of speed and virtuousity" is a nice compliment, and it is really entertaining when it's on, so that still means a lot.

So, ok, I'm not madly in love with side 2, even if I like it a lot. Side 1, on the other hand, is basically all top-notch winners. The opening "Peaches En Regalia" is a worthy contender for The Greatest Zappa Track Ever, one of the most famous jazz/classical/rock fusions that anybody ever came up with. It's really the closest thing I've ever heard to a symphony that lasts less than four minutes, a piece with so many elements and themes that work not only without negatively affecting one another but that even manage to find a real sense of emotion that was often lacking with his work with the Mothers that it's absolutely mind- boggling. (I have absolutely no idea what the correct way is to split up and punctuate that sentence. Meh.).

"Willie the Pimp" is up next, and it's a 9:16 wankfest that guest features none other than Captain Beefheart on vocals. Wankfest is meant in a good way here, though; the main feature of this is not the recurring violin theme, nor Beefheart's voice, but instead Zappa ripping out an amazingly non-repetitive guitar solo for a good seven minutes. This guitar solo once made a list of the 100 worst guitar solos of all time, and on a certain level I can actually see the justification for this; to say that it's excessive doesn't quite convey just how excessive it is. On the other hand, while it can certainly become boring as a whole after a while, there isn't actually any moment during it that I can pinpoint as the place where boredom officially sets in, because Frank is doing so many things and playing so many interesting themes that boring ends up seeming like a silly trait to identify it as.

Closing out side one is "Son of Mr. Green Genes," an extension of one of the interesting shorter pieces on Uncle Meat. At first I kinda lumped this in with the other pieces as "just another piece of jazz-fusion," but for whatever reason this one grew on me quite a bit. Maybe it's because, throughout all of the jazz-classical trappings of the piece, the essence of a neat, weird, quirky little tune is always shining through. Whatever; I like it.

So that's Hot Rats as seen by me. I know of quite a few people who rate this as Zappa's best, and all I can say is more power to them. If I had it in me to enjoy jazz even more, it's likely I would too. As is, it's still a really marvelous album, one no Zappa fan can possibly be without.

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Posted Monday, June 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars With nearly a hundred written reviews and another 150 in rating form, Hot Rats is currently the most discussed Frank Zappa release in the artist's discography. So it's only natural that I happen to have an opinion of my own on the matter which I dare to share with anyone who is concerned!

This was the album where Zappa finally took a break from the Mothers of Invention and showed the listeners the unexplored frontiers of his talent that he would pursue from here on with his music. But was this first stab at the new direction enough to make it an instant masterpiece? I don't happen to think so! The reasons for this are many and are difficult to break down in simple categories, but that doesn't means that I'll try to do just that!

Starting with the material that was written for the album, we see quite a versatile collection of compositions ranging from pleasant and more distinguishable performances on Peaches En Regalia, Son Of Mr. Green Genes and Little Umbrellas. Here we see a much more personal performance from Frank Zappa that always seemed to be missing on his albums with the Mothers of Invention. This doesn't necessary mean that those albums were inferior in any way, only that Zappa hid his persona behind the collective banner that was the Mothers of Invention.

Of course we can't have a Zappa-related album without a moment of satire and Willie The Pimp marks such an occasion, featuring another in the line of many collaborations with Captain Beefheart himself on vocals! Personally I'm all for Frank Zappa's humor, but surprisingly this particular song has very little appeal to me even though the whole idea of a pimp who dresses up for the occasion sounds hilarious on paper.

The second side of the album is almost entirely devoted to free-form jazz improvisations, staring with the very loose 17 minute jam titled The Gumbo Variations and concluding with the suitable low-key ending on It Must Be A Camel. I can't say that either of these two pieces have any symbolic value to me outside of just being creative music made by the master himself. To me, these are just the stepping stones for future improvements on albums like The Grand Wazoo but I'm sure others will disagree with such an ignorant remark on my part.

Hot Rats was where Frank Zappa finally began going places after being relatively stagnant since the release of Freak Out!. Even though there was a lot of improvement left to achieve, the '70s were definitely both the time and place for such an event to occur! Therefore I can only recommend this album to Zappa-adventurers who have already heard at least two or more of his albums from the '70s before entering this early domain. Hence good, but non-essential.

***** star songs: Peaches En Regalia (3:37)

**** star songs: Son Of Mr. Green Genes (8:58) Little Umbrellas (3:04) The Gumbo Variations (16:55) It Must Be A Camel (5:15)

*** star songs: Willie The Pimp (9:16)

Report this review (#295289)
Posted Thursday, August 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I remember hearing this album back in the 70s with a friend who was a Zappa-freak. My impressions were that it was a little too straightforward hard rock for my tastes and that the vocal performances and lyrics were just not my cup of tea. Fast forward to 2008 when my discovery of ProgArchives helped to resuscitate my passion for prog, old and new, and I've been able to give Frank's music a fresh start. Though I still find myself unamused by many of the puerile lyrics and topics (often unnecessarily drawn out, IMHO), I cannot nor will I deny the unmistakable high caliber of compositional genius and performance prowess in the songs rendered unto vinyl. Frank was a top tier guitarist whose antiauthoritarian genius could often be rather abrasive and uncompromising. His music seems to convey this as well. You either love it or you appreciate it. Hot Rats contains a collection of superb guitar-based, tightly performed songs which definitely put on full display the superior axe-craft of the headliner. It is not an album I go to often, but if I were to choose a FZ/ Mothers album to spin, it would this one or "Shut up..., Vol. 2"--though I think "Freak Out!" is pure genius.

1. "Peaches en Regalia" (3:39) Like many, this is one of my top five favorite FZ songs of all-time. (9.5/10)

2. "Willie the Pimp" (9:23) great music that is rather diminished by Mr. Van Vliet's vocal. (8.5/10)

3. "Son of Mr. Green Genes" (8:57) This song is great for the whole ensemble's contributions; I can listen to it while switching my attention from Frank to bass, drums, keys, and be equally amazed. (9.5/10)

4. "Little Umbrellas" (3:09) an intricately designed, almost European-sounding instrumental with the delightful presence of multiple parts for reed/woodwind instruments and organ. (All Ian Underwood?!) I especially enjoy the presence of the double bass. My second top three song here. (9.5/10)

5. "The Gumbo Variations" (12:54) jazzy blues or is it bluesy jazz? The simple bass lines seem to indicate the former, but Ian Underwood's sax seems to be treading into some serious jazz territory. Don Harris' violin solo in the middle section seems to be mirroring much of Underwood's sax lines, but then he takes it into his own world. Nice loosening up from the bass player in this section. When Frank finally joins in, or, rather, moves to the front, he only does so briefly before the violin and organ weave in with him. Nice performances; not a very exceptional or innovative composition. (8/10)

6. "It Must Be A Camel" (5:17) piano and percussion dominate this song in the opening section, but then a SOFT MACHINE-sounding quirky jazz-song evolves as the horn and violin join in. Interesting sound recording of John Guerin's drums, as can be said for Frank's solo guitar sound. Again, it is the tightness of the ensemble through all of the composition's sonic and textural shifts that makes this one so enjoyable. My other top three songs. (9.5/10)

A seminal album in the infancy of progressive rock music that stands up well over time. Five stars; a masterpiece of progressive rock music.

Report this review (#338021)
Posted Monday, November 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars After the wonderful "Uncle Meat" album, Frank Zappa ventured even further into the jazz rock fusion genre. Here, he replaces the Mothers, except for Ian Underwood, with an array of musicians from the jazz and rock world.

The heavily composed music comprises the three shortest songs on the album, but all three are remarkable pieces. Peaches En Regalia needs no introduction, as it has become one of Frank's most famous works, but Little Umbrellas should also be recognized as one of his most beautiful pieces.

The remainder of the album are extended jams based on relatively simple riffs. But over these riffs you get some blazing solos from Zappa, Underwood and Sugarcane Harris.

Note 1: The CD releases are different edits. On the original Rykodisk CD, Peaches is the same as the LP, but all the rest of the tracks, save The Gumbo Variations fade out a bit earlier than the record. On both Ryko versions of the disk, Gumbo is about four minutes longer than the LP, and the later Ryko version restores about a half a minute back to Son Of Mr. Green Genes.

Note 2: It was the aforementioned Son Of Mr. Green Genes that spawned the rumor among the mundane that Frank's father was the actor who played Mr. Green Jeans on the "Captain Kangaroo" children's TV show. I'm surprised they didn't think his mothe was a Monster Magnet.

Report this review (#383761)
Posted Thursday, January 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Like many people, this was the first Zappa album I owned. I got interested in Zappa shortly after he died, when RollingStone had an article on him and his music. The cover featured Nirvana and many readers rightly complained that Zappa should have been on the cover instead; months later Cobain himself would be on the cover after his death. Go figure. One of the great things about the article was they did a short write up on some of his albums. It was mentioned that a lot of people seem to start with Hot Rats. I was very curious about this guy and his huge discography. I ordered Hot Rats and it was like nothing else my little teenage head had been exposed to.

My copy of course was a CD; anyone who has only heard this album on CD has only heard the 1987 re-mix. You haven't heard Hot Rats until until you have heard the original vinyl mix. It's slightly different sounding than the CD, but the CD has a longer "Gumbo Variations." This was one of the first 16-track recordings and has a much fuller sound than most music from 1969. This is also notable for being Frank's second 'solo' album (Lumpy Gravy being the first). Although he would still have Mothers later on, he made it clear with this album that he didn't exactly *need* them. The line-up features Captain Beefheart on the only song with vocals, "Willie The Pimp" as well as Ian Underwood who returns from Uncle Meat. Two violin players: Jean Luc-Ponty and Sugar Cane Harris, and future R&B artist Shuggy Otis (who wrote the song "Strawberry Letter #23") plays bass on "Peaches En Regalia."

Speaking of "Peaches"...ain't that one hell of a song. One of Zappa's all-time best instrumentals (of which he has many). Opens with a terrific drum fill. Lots of tape manipulation on some instruments, especially guitar and overdubbed drums. No shortage of wonderful melodies here. Love the multi-tracked saxes. "Willie The Pimp" has a great riff played by guitar and violin in unison. Like the overdubbed percussion. After Beefheart does his typical avant-blues vocals, Zappa proceeds to show why he is master of wah-wah guitar. Of all the songs out there with an 8-minute guitar solo, this is clearly one of the best.

"Son Of Mr. Gren Genes" is of course a reworked, instrumental version of "Mr. Green Genes" from Uncle Meat. Frank liked to use that "son of..." thing from time to time. This version has better bass and drum work. Frank gives us another great guitar solo. Like "Willie" the heart of this song is a jam based on Frank's solo, but the music still loosely follows a structure. Ends with a reprise of the main "Green Genes" melody; very orchestral sounding in fact. The first three songs are almost flawless, but the second half of the album is generally not as strong. "Little Umbrellas" features upright bass. Short but sweet.

The longest song and the most jam-oriented is "The Gumbo Variations." First a sax solo. Then a violin solo. Then a guitar solo. Some interesting drumming during Frank's solo. A brief bass solo later on. "It Must Be A Camel" has a typical nonsensical Zappa title. Overall, this is probaly the least interesting song here. Sort of similar to "Umbrellas" but not as good. Cool overdubbed drumming at the start. Short drum solo before it goes back to the opening section (without overdubbed drums).

This was jazz-fusion at a time when most 'fusion' was basically electrified jazz. This was an influential album but Frank did the experimental jazz-rock thing better on the two sequels to Hot Rats: Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo. I don't think this is the greatest place to start with FZ but, what the hell, it's where I started and within five years I had about 20 Zappa albums. A great album but the second half keeps this from being a masterpiece. 4 stars.

Report this review (#418651)
Posted Sunday, March 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
Anthony H.
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.

Report this review (#434590)
Posted Saturday, April 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Of Zappa's many masterpieces, this is a highlight of those masterpieces.

With Hot Rat's, Zappa showed his more serious, instrumental side, and where he had flirted with fusion and long instrumentals before (most notably on "King Kong"), he brings it on full force here. As usual, the musicianship is impeccable and Zappa has even brought along some special guests for this one.

The album opens with one of Zappa's finest compositions ever, "Peaches en Regalia", and is a favorite of many Zappa fans. Captain Beefheart gives it his all on vocals for the classic "Willie the Pimp" that also features a phenomenal extended guitar solo courtesy of Mr. Zappa. The reworking of "Mr. Green Genes" from "Uncle Meat" follows, this one also featuring more great guitar solos and is yet another classic. The shortest song on the album but also one of the most intriguing, "Little Umbrellas", comes next, filled with more amazing music, but this is all preparing you for the 17-minute epic tour-de-force that is "The Gumbo Variations". It is non-stop action from beginning to end featuring many extraordinary solos and unbelievable playing by every musician. The album closes out with "It Must be a Camel" which shows the more avant- garde side of Zappa (that we are actually more familiar with) and it is definitely not any less breathtaking.

This album is a must for all fusion fans and anyone who calls them self a Zappa fan. Many people may not like this because it is more focused on solos and not on long, complex epics, but for those that do, this is one of Zappa's best.

Report this review (#444363)
Posted Sunday, May 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars As one of the first musicians to experiment with fusing jazz and rock - coming from a rock direction just as the likes of Miles Davis and Tony Williams were approaching the idea from a jazz direction - it was only a matter of time before Frank Zappa tried his hand at an all-fusion album. Showcasing both his own guitar technique and the multi-instrumental capabilities of Ian Underwood, Hot Rats is the tour de force which proved that Zappa was still a major progressive figure despite the breakup of the original Mothers of Invention. Captain Beefheart pops in to deliver a furious vocal performance on the jazz-blues-rock meld of Willie the Pimp - the sole composition with vocals - whilst Zappa, Underwood, and the assembled musicians make full use of 16-track recording technologies to create dense, layered labyrinths of sound over the entire album. Standout tracks include Son of Mr Green Genes, a rich vein of improvisation structured around a song originally appearing on Uncle Meat, and the epic Gumbo Variations, but every single song on the album is a furious, blinding sample of Zappa's hot new sound. Five stars.
Report this review (#455766)
Posted Wednesday, June 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#471144)
Posted Monday, June 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars "Hot Rats" is the first Zappa album I heard and it is certainly a good start as it is the genius of the man at a more sane level than some of the crude mumbo jumbo and difficult albums in his repertoire.

It begins with the delightful jazz rock of Peaches en Regalia that is definitely quintessential to the man and features amazing guitar throughout and a melody that locks into your skull and stays there forever.

This is followed by the brilliant Willie the Pimp which is the initiation of Zappa for me. I was drawn to it as it was featured on the website of all time greatest guitar solos. They were not kidding either as Zappa smokes up a storm on lead guitar, featuring some killer melodic phrases and fret melting lead hammering and speed picking. It is improvised in part and seems to make sense catering to the dissonant percussion and jazz domination of instruments competing against each other. It is the only track with vocals and they are well executed by iconic Captain Beefheart.

Son of Mr. Green Genes is another terrific instrumental and features Zappa's manic guitar and a strong rhythm driving it home. Little Umbrellas has the marvellous saxophone sound of Underwood and a pulsating bassline. The dreamy sounds have an Eastern flavour and Ian Underwood's work on the organ is simply stunning on this track.

Later we hear the legends of violin prowess Sugar Cane Harris and Jean-Luc Ponty screeching and improvising on the lengthy jamming Gumbo Variations. This track is certainly complex and an incredible virtuoso performance with delicious guitar licks, Hammond and sporadic jazz drumming.

It Must Be A Camel finishes the album with jazzy percussive accents and wild piano melodies. Underwood's sax soloing is a work of art, allowing the music to breathe interweaving other instruments in the complex time sigs. It is something that only Zappa could pull off.

Overall this is the place to start for Zappa, he restrains the zaniness and crude language, opting for allowing the music to speak for itself, and it is all the better for it.

Report this review (#602103)
Posted Monday, January 2, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars The start of a long chain of strange, brilliant albums that bodge together jazz, rock, blues, doo wop and 20th century classical music, sometimes messily, sometimes with grace. Hot Rats is often considered to be Zappa's best album; all I can say is that it is a strong one. Melodies are plentiful at times, totally absent at others, in all the right places it seems. But I suppose it's the improvisation that is the main draw here, spectacular on every track, particularly Zappa's guitar playing and the saxophone of multi-istrumentalist Ian Underwood. Sometimes, themes or solos outstay their welcome for the wrong reasons (i.e. the build-up of tension or growth in sound has already passed it's event horizon, and we are trapped in a single chord sequence for a further few minutes of pure pointlessness). That fact is a shame for Zappa, because it makes his naturally exciting music become boring at times.

'Peaches' is a wonderful song, the only 'song' on the album, despite it being an instrumental. The piece is highly structured, and besides from it's lovely harmonies and upbeat feel, the point of interest is it's contrasting use of timbre. In a completely different way, 'Willie The Pimp' showcases the tightness of this ensemble even more, but is mainly a vehicle for Zappa's expert grasp of blues guitar soloing. Does his skill justify the track's length though? A matter of debate. 'Son of Mr. Green Genes' contains a better balance of the sensibilities of the previous two tracks. Variation is to be found, but over a repeated set of chords. What more can we expect from early jazz rock? This piece is performed brilliantly and highlights Underwood.

A welcomely brief slice of fusion is 'Little Umbrellas', which less desperately comes across as an attempt to shove everything Frank Zappa stands for down one's throat all at once than some of his other compositions, working in it's ultimate favour. Pieces like this, and the slightly avant-garde yet accessible 'It Must Be A Camel', bring the variation and charm to this album that make it so especially deserving of being heard. The mammoth 'Gumbo Variations' comprises a jam in several sections, which are similar in composition but executed differently. It's a fun thrill-ride, and the main focus, which is the improvisation of the sax, guitar and violin, is nothing short of virtuosic. Not for the faint hearted, but something that will appeal more to jazz fans than rock fans, despite being more rocky in nature.

Hot Rats, and Zappa's work in general, contains quite a unique sound. It has an intimate studio feel, with playing that is enjoyable if often over- enthusiastic about itself. More frequent changes of mood and tempo would improve the overall effect, but this is still a record I really enjoy listening to.

Report this review (#604164)
Posted Friday, January 6, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars 4.8 stars

This certainly cracks my top five Zappa albums. It sounds as though it was recorded just yesterday: the recording techniques are perfect. It shows a remarkably different style of music that Zappa had been leaning towards after recording Uncle Meat. If you enjoy jazz-fusion, this album may be the best started album to Frank Zappa's gigantic music catalogue.

The album starts off with a song that truly never sounds boring and old. "Peaches en Regalia". When the saxophones reach that climatic point in the middle of the song, it gives me chills every time. It's probably one of Zappa's most-known songs, and it really lives up to that status.

"Willie the Pimp" is great if you love Captain Beefheart and Zappa's soloing. The song is basically a elongated jam session with the band (of course, so is "Gumbo Variations"). If you love Zappa's guitar sound (like I do), you'll love this song.

Next we have "Son of Mr. Green Genes". This is 100% better than "Mr. Green Genes" off of Uncle Meat (although that's a good song, too). The speed up the tempo and basically jam to the main parts of the original song, and it really hits the nail on the head.

"Little Umbrellas" is definitely my least favorite track. In my opinion, there is nothing special here. It is probably the only song on the album that doesn't make me tap my foot. Some people really love it. I personally think they should have just had another jam track.

"Gumbo Variations" is genius. It's really only a jam session (as with a lot of this album), but it really hits the spot, especially if you like soloing. Nothing really to say other than "genius".

"It Must Be a Camel" sounds maybe the most like Zappa (that some are used to) on the album. Somewhat dissonant, yet cohesive. A great track (although I would have closed the album with something different, maybe "Son of Mr. Green Genes").

Overall, an amazing album, especially for jazz-fusion lovers (I'm a pretty big fan). Certainly deserves almost 5 stars.

Report this review (#645617)
Posted Sunday, March 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Hot Rats is Frank Zappa's first solorecord. On PA The Mothers of Inventions and Frank Zappa are placed both under the name of Frank Zappa, although there are some differences. If I'd compare Hot Rats to Uncle Meat, which was released in the same year by the Mothers, then the first thing I get in mind is that Hot Rats is far less avant-garde/RIO. There are no polyrhythms or avant-jazz saxophones and the compositions are far more accessible with less shifts in moods or rhythms. Hot Rats is less absurd instrumentally as well as in vocals. This may be the biggest reason that Hot Rats is one of the most appreciated Frank Zappa records in Prog Archives.

This music falls into the jazz-rock fusion category with long, almost endless, solo's of Frank Zappa on guitar, Jean Luc Ponty on Violins and Ian Underwood on Piano, flute, clarinet and saxophone. There are different drummers active during the album and in some occasions Zappa is playing bass. Don van Vliet alias Captain Beefheart takes care of the vocals on the only vocal song "Willie the Pimp". This is rock with jazz and blues influences. The soundscapes are in the like of the Mothers, but as I said before without the absurdities.

Although Jimi Hendrix pointed at Frank Zappa about the question of the greatest guitarist at the time, I think that Zappa's greatest skill was his composition writing. Especially the compositions of "Peaches en Regalia", "Son of Mr. Green Genes" and "Litle Umbrella's" are great. Frank Zappa just really knew how to use several instruments in an effective way and during the compositions some melodies are taken over by other instruments for giving the song another atmosphere. On some of these songs the guitarplaying of Zappa is of minor importance and especially Ian Underwood is playing the intellectual passages. For fans of Zappa as a guitarist there are plenty of changes on this record of appreciation. Zappa plays very tight and mostly with the wah-wah pedal going up and down.

Some of the solo's durations may be a bit too long. I do prefer the previous Uncle Meat, because this was more exciting because of the continual surprises and avant-garde approach. This record is a very nice addition and advised for those who want to check out Frank Zappa for the first time and for lovers of the Jazz-rock fusion genre. Also for symphonic and eclectic prog fans this is a record to check out. Prepare for endless jams.

Report this review (#728689)
Posted Sunday, April 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
Jazz Rock/Fusion Team
5 stars I think plenty has been said about this album already (just look at the many reviews). My review will consist explaining that there are 2 versions of this album, and if you like Zappa enough, you will want both.

The original vinyl release and the newest CDs, released by Universal (UMe) in 2012, consist of the analog recording, and then there is the 1987 remix (done by Frank himself), which is a completely different mix. Certain harmonies can be heard on the remix, and vis versa, or some are missing on the remix and vis versa. The drums sound different on the remix, and has a fuller sound than the analog recording, but there is no better or worse version.

Both versions of Hot Rats are essential, and are like 2 different albums, because of how different the mixes are. However, if you're one that doesn't like the revisionist work Frank did to some of his older albums, then make sure you get the vinyl, or the CD version released in 2012 by Universal. The 1987 version is from RYKO. Just keep in mind, that the remix has more music on it than the original (The Gumbo Variations is about 4 minutes longer on the remix)

I grew up on the remix, so I prefer that one, but the analog version is drier, and fits more with the time it was released. But both are very good and worth owning. By the way, the music on Hot Rats is awesome, ahead of its time, great early jazz-rock fusion, and man does it ROCK. It's also got Peaches En Regalia, one of the best progressive rock songs ever written.

Report this review (#1089013)
Posted Thursday, December 12, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm not typically a Frank Zappa fan, but I love this album. Perhaps it's because on this album Zappa gets down to business. No satire. No juvenile songs. Just music. And on this album Zappa really plays his ass off. Absolutely phenomenal! He shreds like a madman! I really think Zappa could have given Jimi Hendrix a run for his money if he choose to play guitar like this all the time. Sure, this is a jazz-rock album. One of the first of it's kind actually. But, the emphasis here is more on the rock then on the jazz. Yes, it's a bit quirky. But, what Zappa album isn't? Only one song features any vocals, 'Willie the Pimp', and those are courtesy of Captain Beefheart (who I generally cannot stand). However, here Captain Beefheart just sounds like an old bluesman and is not too annoying. My personal favorite song on the album is 'The Gumbo Variations'. Zappa is on fire here! Just some really amazing guitar work. 'Peaches en Regalia' is another highlight and has a really lovely melody. Something you don't typically say of a Zappa tune. For those of you typically put off by Zappa's weirdness and his juvenile antics give this album a try. It's still a little off-beat, but in a pleasant way. A great addition to any prog-rock collection.
Report this review (#1159763)
Posted Thursday, April 10, 2014 | Review Permalink
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
5 stars Those interested in the jazz fusion side of Frank Zappa need to invest in this album and be familiar with it. Most people know there are many sides to Frank Zappa and his music, some are turned off by his humor and others are turned off by his eclectic jazz or classical works, and yet others love his doo wop music. How does one tell which album has which kind of music on it? You have to explore because his discography is so immense. But let it be known that this album "Hot Rats" is a necessary album, especially for jazz fusion lovers. This was FZ's first official, complete (well almost) jazz record and it is essential.

This is also the first studio recording by Zappa after the breakup of The Mothers (though not necessarily the first solo album because he released solo projects while The Mothers were formed). The album itself is completely jazz fusion and instrumental, that is all except for one track, which is a straightforward rocker, which has vocals by Captain Beefheart. That track is "Willie the Pimp". The vocals are not very long though, and most of the track is devoted to an electrifying guitar solo.

As far as the rest of the album, it starts off with FZ's most recognizable jazz fusion work "Peaches en Regalia", which is a short structured jazz work recorded at a faster than normal speed, but when it is performed live, is performed at this speed. This little gem is a quick study in jazz fusion progressive with tricky rhythms and quite a complex melody which is Zappa's trademark. This track works as a great introduction to the album and prepares you for what is ahead. Following this is the aforementioned "Willie the Pimp". This is one of FZs best straightforward guitar solos which stands out on the album since it isn't really jazz oriented as the other tracks. Next is another long track called "Son of Mr. Green Genes" which returns us back to the great jazz fusion that makes up most of the album. This track is based on the melody from "Mr. Green Genes" from the Uncle Meat album. FZ fans will definitely recognize the melody played as a jazz band and the melody acts as the basis for the mostly improvised piece. Zappa solos again but the feeling is different this time. Also, a rarity in Zappa tracks that feature his guitar, he returns to a clear variation of the melody in the middle of the improvisation. Other instruments are acting not only as support but also do improvisations. These things make this track unique among the many improvised solos in Zappa's repretoire.

The second half of this album starts out with another short structured piece called 'Little Umbrellas' which is similar to the structure of 'Peaches en Regalia'. This is followed by an epic fusion piece called 'The Gumbo Variations' which is over 16 minutes on the CD re-issue which had originally been trimmed down to just under 13 minutes on the vinyl version. The longer version starts with some instructions from FZ to the band for starting the track. This is a perfect improvisation piece which features a brass solo followed by an amazing and quite excellent violin solo and followed by another Zappa guitar solo. There are short interludes between each solo involving different sections of the band, including a short percussion solo. Excellent music. The album ends with the 5 minute track called 'Must Be a Camel' which is mostly structured and involves the entire band. Apparently, the title for this track comes from the large melodic jumps that are in the main melody and how this made the notes on the written manuscript look like camel humps. Again, this is an example of Zappa's 'not-so-apparent' humor in his music.

This album remains a staple in the Zappa catalog and is a great introduction to his fusion music. It should be in every progressive rock library and it sets a lot of standards for this style of music. People can't say they don't usually like Zappa music based on a single facet or style of his music. His style would change from one album to the next. You can be a fan of a style of his music and not so much of a fan of another style. The man, overall, is a musical genius, and anyone with a love or an understanding of music will recognize this. That is why Zappa's music is studied in universities and institutions alongside the music of Bach, Bartok, Gerswin and other music geniuses. Of course, Zappa had some not so great endeavors, but that doesn't take away from the fact that the man understood music and had a desire to make his music known to all people, hence the reason for so many different styles and also for his off-color humor. This album is a great representation of the jazz-fusion style of his music and is an essential album. 5 stars.

Report this review (#1420929)
Posted Thursday, May 28, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is one of Zappa´s best albums. From beginning to end it shows Frank's genius. The short songs are great: -"Peaches en Regalia" in one of my all time favourites (the first Zappa´s song I ever listen to on 1970 and my "ringtone" many times in the last years). -"Little Umbrellas" is great with its exotic harmonies and fantastic bass and piano sound. -The jazzy "I must be a camel" sounds very good. The long pieces are incomparable: -The eight minutes plus "Son of Mr. Green Genes" got the typical Zappa's 70's sound and the guitar solos are great and interminable. -Almost 13 minutes "The Gumbo Variations"evidences the big team work made by Zappa, Underwood and Sugarcane Harris. -Last but not least "Willy the Pimp", again with Sugarcane's violin, fabulous Captain Beefheart on voice and eternal guitar solo, is a "must listen to" piece of work. In summary, a collage that shows the different types of music Zappa could do when he was not joking. A work of art that shows how to be serious without losing humor.
Report this review (#1459068)
Posted Thursday, September 3, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars The original jazzrock album and arguably the best. Frank warped the sensibilities in others like no musical artist before or since. The recommendation for listeners is sit down in a room alone and either blast this album through your best speakers or listen with headphones on. Frank sets the stage with his most resplendent peaches en regalia then the Beef warms the cockles singing about street merchant Willie. Sugar Cane Harris and Jean Luc Ponty add unbelievable color to the already colorful and the result is one of the most important and individualized statements released in modern times. Frank didn't break molds, he made them.
Report this review (#1946494)
Posted Sunday, July 8, 2018 | Review Permalink
3 stars Frank Zappa -Hot Rats

Listening to a Frank Zappa album can be a deeply frustrating experience for me.Often there are just a few great sounding tracks on each album but often alongside some really irritating or tedious music. Hot Rats is a good example although at least this time the tracks I rate highly are grouped together so I can give my thumb a rest!

The album starts off so well with "Peaches On Regalia". It truly has so many musical ideas crammed in its three and a half minutes. It is one of those pieces of music that seems so much longer than it really is. Far and away my single favorite track by Zappa period.

The second track, "Willie The Pimp" featuring Captain Beefheart's typical growling vocals also starts off brilliantly with a great down and dirty violin riff.The track turns into a vehicle for Zappa's relentless shredding and although I think the track could have been shortened a few minutes without losing its power, there is no doubting his inventiveness on the guitar.

The third and final track on side one "Son of Mr Green Genes" is an instrumental version of the previous album Uncle Meat's "Mr Green Genes".This is a very jazzy take and again showcases Zappa's playing as never before. It also helps that the main melody is very strong and the actual improvising is fairly inventive making this another bit of jazz fusion.

The opening track on Side 2, the cutely titled "Little Umbrellas" is another compact track, similar in structure to "Peaches" at just over three minutes but again crammed with so many musical ideas including a very feisty sounding recorder solo.I am fairly sure that this track and "Peaches" must have been an inspiration for some of those Canterbury Scene groups of the early seventies.They are both supremely whimsical and accessible.

Unfortunately this is where the good news stops."The Gumbo Variations" at nearly seventeen minutes is just pure tedium itself and just does my head in basically. I realize that Hot Rats is an "important" album because it came before "Bitches Brew" etc (another album that I cannot listen to) and therefore "invented" Jazz Fusion.The track actually starts off promisingly with a cool riff but that is basically it and the rest of the track really goes nowhere other than a series of increasingly tedious solos on sax and guitar and even a drum solo. Ultimately I think the problem for me is that if Jazz Fusion in its purist form consists of musicians jamming over a repetitive single riff without a central melodic theme or at least interesting chord progression then I suppose I simply do not like the genre itself. The final track "It must be a Camel" is another fusion but this time is a rather formless piece but has a rather meandering melodic line. It is actually more interesting than the previous "Gumbo" and is at least underscored with some rich chordal voicing. Unfortunately the playing is actually rather jarring in places making it rather irritating.It reminds me a little of Henry Cow.

My final verdict: A great first half, a rather painful second half apart from "Umbrellas". 3 Stars

Report this review (#1999092)
Posted Thursday, August 23, 2018 | Review Permalink
5 stars FRANK ZAPPA took me a minute to get used to and now that I have I now realize how great his music is. A while back I tried to listen to this album but I could not get myself to like him. Now that I have I finally understand why he is so great.

Hot Rats is Frank's greatest album because it shows off all that is great about his music. The guitar solos, the jazz rhythms, the odd, avant-garde side to it, and the overall humor that Zappa has become known for. This album while it may take a few to get into, and being one of Zappa's less accessible albums, is a must listen for any fan of prog rock.

Report this review (#2336777)
Posted Monday, February 17, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hot Rats by Frank Zappa is Zappa's second solo album, the album released in October of 1969. Hot Rats is a mostly instrumental album, The only song with lyrics on it is Willie the Pimp which features Captain Beefheart on vocals, and he delivers a fun and comedic performance that I can appreciate. The rest of the album shows great instrumentation from everyone else involved. The music has a lot of jazzy sections and it works really well with the rocky foundation. I will give this a 5/5 because its great throughout, but whether or not its essential is debatable because I am sure a lot of people who would prefer there be lyrics, but for me, its not essential.
Report this review (#2508400)
Posted Tuesday, February 23, 2021 | Review Permalink

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