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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
5 stars Whacka/Jawhacka More than 4.5 stars, but not quite 5

Hot Rats part 2 and just like its predecessor it is also a solo album. This album is probably my fave along with Wazoo (but that one is a Mother album). Along with the usual Underwood, we find Dunbar, Duke, Preston, and a bunch of lesser-known musicians as guests. A weird and very green faucet artwork doesn't really pay that much a compliment to the superb music on this album, but it allows Frank to give it the Hot Rats reference on the tap handles.

Opening on the awesome sidelong Big Swifty, this is about as close as Zappa gets to Bitches Brew, Mwandishi or Body Electric and he does a very credible job, in part due to Ainsley Dunbar's incredible drumming. Dunbar is always remembered as a blues drummer as he started with his Retaliation groups, his John Mayall and Jeff Beck collabs, but his best works are with Zappa and the first two albums of Journey. Anyway, Swifty is a superb journey in the arcades of jazz-rock, and in a way prefigures what's coming in The Grand Wazoo.

The flipside starts rather average on the surprising (but not really in a pleasant way) Your Mouth that features some rather strange (for Zappa albums) vocals on a straight blues-rock tune with brass arrangements. Definitely the low point of an otherwise perfect album. Up next is One-Shot Deal that picks up where Your Mouth left out, but with a jazzy slant, especially in the instrumental break, where Francesco plays a twangy Hawaiian guitar solo. The closing title track is another shot at pure jazz-rock (and a recall of Big Swifty), but more in the later 70's fusion-type the brass section kicks-off in big-band (or Chicago Transit Authority) style and later a Moog-style solo, but again Ainsley is the unsung hero. Most people that have been through the Mothers come out of that band as fully accomplished musicians, and from hearing Ainsley on this one but especially the following one, you know that the man is ready for leadership in a jazz way as Hiseman in Colosseum & Tempest or Bruford in his various groups etc...

Swifty and Jawaka are of course the highlights on this one but don't be fooled with the line-up described on this pafe, this is not yet the big band to come with Wazoo (there is less brass on this one). as Zappa decided to forget his usual derision for a while, this album reaches the five stars level, but then again there is still a remain of humour in the music itself, or alse this would not have been a Zappa album. One thing, though: the album is a bit short with its 36-mins, especially when you know that Zappa regularly surpassed 45 mins in most of his albums.

Report this review (#30033)
Posted Tuesday, April 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The first epic track, "Big Swifty", lasts nearly 18 minutes; the first 13 minutes consist in some kind of loaded instrumental free jazz, full of a brass sounds and guitars. A noticeable thing is the lack of melody and structure: everything seems improvised. Passed the 13th minute, there are some interesting melodic horns arrangements, but it only lasts about 2 minutes. The Side 2 is a bit better: The track "Your mouth" is as improvised as the side one. The second part of "It Just Might Be a One-Shot Deal" is very good. The final track "Waka/jawaka", has good beginning and end, as reveal the structured & melodic horns arrangements: it gives a Latino winning ambience. But the keyboards and guitar solos in the middle are too long and seem to go nowhere.

Raing: 3.5 stars

Report this review (#30034)
Posted Tuesday, April 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's difficult to appreciate it at its first listen, but after being in the habit with his experimental stuff, this album can be essential in every "prog collection", even though the whole material is a bit out of such "progressive genre"... I suggest you to listen to every song carefully, and then you can enter his magical world more easily!!


Report this review (#30035)
Posted Friday, April 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Something of a sequel to "Hot Rats", recorded while FRANK ZAPPA was in convalescence following a serious stage accident. Maybe it's the product of an itchy cast or a febrile mind, but Waka/Jawaka is more restless than usual; noisy, Frankly. The opening "Big Swifty" is standoffishly notey, forsaking the warm jazz/classical tones of earlier (and future) works to indulge in an agitated jam that smacks of post-bop elitism on a sprawling scale. At least that's my take on it, though listeners who revel in jazz excess for its own sake might see big plans afoot here. Better by far is the instrumental "Waka/Jawaka", a clear harbinger of the music for small, horny orchestra that would pop up all over The Grand Wazoo. In between the two "serious" works are a pair of vocal songs: the demented Dixieland blues (sorry, that's not quite it at all) of "Your Mouth" and the delightful "It Might Just Be A One- Shot Deal." Both could be seen as extensions of "Chunga's Revenge" ("Road Ladies" and "Rudy Wants To Buy Yez A Drink", respectively), though "One-Shot Deal" is such a prime example of ZAPPA's warped, offhand genius that I put it on something of a pedestal. Yet among the great Dubyas (Weeny, Weasels, Wazoo), Waka/Jawaka's is an intermittent intelligence, an experiment that creates a lot of smoke but no groundbreaking realizations.

Given that some folks' antennae go up when they hear FRANK and fusion cited in the same sentence, all I can do is offer the cautionary caveat that Waka/Jawaka leaves many of my FRANK ZAPPA fusion buttons unpushed.

Report this review (#30038)
Posted Tuesday, May 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
James Lee
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars With such a large and varied discography there's bound to be albums which contain forgotten gems and under-appreciated experiments. "Waka/ Jawaka", on the other hand, is probably pretty deserving of its second (or third) tier status. "Big Swifty" is a largely forgettable extended jazz piece; the drums are bland to the point of autopilot- I'm used to a lot better from Dunbar. Some of the call-and-response and wah guitar work is interesting, but there are hundreds of better guitar showcases in Zappa's discography. "Your Mouth" brings an instant smile, and "It Just Might Be a One Shot Deal" has a great pedal steel guitar (very unique in the Zappa universe), but both songs are relative under-acheivers, like leftover tracks from the "Chunga's Revenge" sessions. The title track is the best thing on the album, a long fusion-esque piece with some great brass, but it still doesn't justify this as a truly worthwhile album for anyone except the ZAPPA completist. Three stars for the consistent quality, but anyone who isn't already a jazz or ZAPPA fan can probably ignore one or two of those stars.
Report this review (#30040)
Posted Friday, July 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Everything on this album is great! the instrumental begining, the interlude with "Your Mouth", the magnifiscent end with Waka Jawaka....! Even the "cover" paint I the Zappa Style, I think this is not a 2nd part of Hot not has to see anything with it, I think this material is comparable with The Grand Wazoo because the instrumental sounds... Very recomendable, and not only for those dead Zappa fans as said of the last may not miss this great material. I give this four stars, Zappa gives you a great interpretation, with strong structural harmonic sounds, feeling like Jazz-Classic fusion.
Report this review (#30042)
Posted Friday, February 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Personally, I don't think there is any better way to herald a hot summer afternoon than the first few notes of "Big Swifty". When, this past Monday" I walked out into the bright sunlight, sunglasses on, headphones affixed to skull, and this came flowing into my ears, I knew it was summertime and a bounce found its way to my step and I was off to stroll around Philadelphia, with my old pal Frank Zappa.

In 1970 Frank Zappa was pushed offstage during a show at London's Rainbow Theatre. The injuries he sustained took a full year to heal. He took up convalescence in his studio, giving most of the Mothers the year off and turning his attention towards more serious composition. Although there are five records between 1969's classic Hot Rats and Waka/Jawaka this is the first since 1969 to be recorded and intended to be heard as a whole (the others being compilations). It's a logical next step. While Hot Rats mated Hard Rock and Jazz with furious and fruitful success, Waka/Jawaka adds some more ingredients to the stew. There's funk, Bop, big band, and even a little country in here. Zappa enters into Miles Davis and John Coltrane realms here and predates much of P-Funk's experimentation. This is beautiful, baffling, challenging music.

My favorite moment on the record. About a minute-a- a-half into "It Just Might Be a One- Shot Deal" there is a pedal steel solo. accompanied by strummed guitar, mandolin, bass, and drum. It's a transcendent few minutes, some of the most beautiful ever captured on record. It features Burrito Brother Sneaky Pete Kleinow, one of the greatest (and unsung) musicians of our time.

Just perfect for a sunny stroll though Philadelphia- Greg Trout

Report this review (#35939)
Posted Thursday, June 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars There's some real beauty here. Some times there's 10 minutes of clock-watching, too. To me, that's FZ all over. He can bore me, or impress the hell out of me. That's why this is such a great album. One shot deal is supreme. Waka Jawaka is like a high school band on steroids, acid and cough syrup. Aint no Hollaback Girls there. Great and wierd and shuffling along. Awesome. The other two don't move me as much, but so what ... the two songs I like, will be with me forever, their sound is so tireless.

To all the non-believers, I say ... peace

Report this review (#38302)
Posted Sunday, July 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The beginning of a new era for Zappa after scrapping Flo & Eddie following the "wheelchair incident", Waka/Jawaka starts the what I call "Prog Big Band" era of his career. If some of you want to call this a sequel to Hot Rats, then this is Hot Rats with more improvisation, less structure and a bigger band. Aynsley is still there as well. Well, Big Swifty starts the album reaching 18 minutes of dissonant jazz-rock, completely free-form for the majority of it. It's pure chill freak-out music, and you'll hear something new each time you listen, pay attention to Frank's guitar, where he twists the Swifty melody sly-like. The 2 middle songs in the album are not really like Big Swifty, more conventional songs. They're not particularly memorable, they're the (dare I say) passable parts of the album. Heading into the title track you get something like Big Swifty again, and it's just as good if not better depending on what you like. Waka is a more big-band sounding song, summarizing the album and foreshadowing the likes of The Grand Wazoo. 8.6/10
Report this review (#45670)
Posted Monday, September 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars It requires a real effort to focus on this music, except for 'It Just Might Be A One- Shot Deal' which only requires a half assed effort to be able to focus on. The two endless jazz jams 'Big Swifty' and 'Waka/Jawaka' probably have to be listened to a million times before you can even begin to appreciate them, assuming you will ever be able to appreciate them, which I highly doubt. 'Your Mouth' is a track so hard to notice that after hearing it I forget instantly what it's made up of so I'm unable to comment on it even after repeated listenings. So what we are left with is the fairly entertaining 'It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal' a four minute track. Feel free to buy the album for this one track if you have endless money to throw away.
Report this review (#68820)
Posted Wednesday, February 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album and Wazoo are quite possibly my favorite Zappa albums (though that is difficult to say with the mass of material he has........there are so many favorites for me). The only thing that brings it down for me is the two vocal numbers. They are not particularly bad, but they are the kind of "comedy music" that I just can't get into from Zappa. But the two instrumentals, making up more than a third of the playing time, more than make up for it. Fantastic jazz oriented music with great solos by all involved. For me, this is essential Zappa. I wavered between 3 and 4 stars because for the most part with Zappa it is hard to say any of his ablums are an "Excellent addition to any prog music collection" because you can't really pigeon hole his music as being "prog" in the first place. He certainly was progressive in the most literal sense though. So take my 4 stars to indicate how much I like it, but if you are not familiar with Zappa or don't like a lot of his other work, approach with caution. For myself, I love just about all the instrumental work I've heard from Zappa, but am not crazy about most of the vocals (though there are a lot of exceptions). So for myself, I have to give 4 stars, though I would say I prefer Wazoo due to it having one vocal number I like as well as great instrumentals.
Report this review (#68865)
Posted Thursday, February 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A prologue to "The Grand Wazoo" and a very good big-band Jazz/Fusion record overall. I would not consider this as a "Hot Rats" part two though, since they're both in different styles to each other, but that's not really important. The two shorter songs here kinda ruins the albums epic style to it, but still manage to keep the albums overall mood, though it would have been quite a bit better without them. The instrumentation is great and arrangements flow well, though it's predecessor, "Grand Wazoo", turned out even better. This is still a highly recommended album for any fans of Zappa or regular Jazz/Fusion. 4/5
Report this review (#73493)
Posted Wednesday, March 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars After his stage accident in 72' it seemed like Zappa got better at what he did. No more Flo and Eddie, which is good if you want more music and less stage madness as well.

Overall all these songs are fantastic, people have posted that it drifts, or it jams in a rough improvised manner. Completely untrue, considering Zappa wrote all of the stuff on paper. He didnt improvise he worked 15 hours a day average until he died.

Fantastic horn sections and professional as always Zappa guitar that will make you groove and you'll at the very least be inspired to move your feet around. Drink Turkish coffee with Zappa music.

Report this review (#81394)
Posted Saturday, June 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 4.5 stars

Waka / Jawaka represent an achievement in Zappa's discography. Released in '72, in its jazz-rock period, before another (close) masterpiece: The gran wazoo.

The long piece "Big swiffty" is probably Zappa's most ambitious and its most technically accomplished piece, featuring extremely virtuoso playing, complex arrangements with many breaks. The intensity doesn't fade throughout the piece and Zappa's solos are mind blowing as usual. The others pieces are excellent as well, from the funny "Your mouth", to the powerful countryprog moments of "It Just Might Be a One-Shot Deal" and to end the excellent jazzy and aerial Waka/Jawaka. A jazz-rock summit.

Report this review (#86136)
Posted Tuesday, August 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars In 1972 after a fateful concert that left him in a wheelchair, Frank Zappa did two things, the first was he hired a bodyguard in John Smothers (who would make many appearances in Zappa video releases in the future) and the second was he returned to the studio and created two albums in the vein of his works with Hot Rats and Burnt Weeny Sandwich, albeit in a more big band fashion. The first album released in this duo of albums was Waka/Jawaka, a largely instrumental album that features the classic and notorious Zappa piece Big Swifty (which like King Kong would make many appearances in various live incarnations of Zappa's band). Now, I'm not going to say this album is a masterpiece, because frankly it is far from it. The follow-up in The Grand Wazoo would remedy all the problems that surfaced with this album, but this one is far from a disappointment, it just could have been a bit more concise in its overall structure.

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

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

Report this review (#93718)
Posted Sunday, October 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars With Hot Rats and The Grand Wazoo (this album is the second part of the impressive album Hot Rats) it follows the line of Avant-Jazz-Fusion, this album is made up of four songs:

Big Swifty: this piece is only instrumental and combines a base of jazz with movements of big band, the great unfolding of instruments that they go from the guitar to synthesizer, although its seventeen minutes the song can become a little boring, but is worth the trouble to listen to it.

In your mouth: Here there is a blues base, this song if there are voices, the choirs of women are very good, which if it does not have is single of guitar but believe me that does not need it.

Deal It just might be to one-shot: they follow the voices in this song, the drummer really makes an excellent work. Later a fantastic solo from guitar, and it mantains a base of country and the band maintains a jazzy base simultaneously. Finishes with a base of blues and voices.

Waka/Jawaka: The song begins with a domination of the wind instruments, has a jazz base, continues with a solo of synthesizer and a other of guitar. the drummer for constant changes and has been seeming automatic, does a solo really fantastic. It finishes with a great unfolding of wind instruments and an acceleration.

This album for the lovers of the jazz is recommendable and for which he does not know Frank Zappa is a good beginning.

Report this review (#109359)
Posted Monday, January 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Overall qouite similar to Hot rats, but weaker.

Big swifty An imrovisation piecew, very jazzy. The trombone parts are horrible, and overall the track doesn´t sound as inspired as anything on Hot rats. Frank´s guitar solo is not one of his best, either. 2.5 stars

My mouth A boring track with uninspired female vocals. No great instrumental parts (just a few wah wahed guitar lines by Frank) and the melody is sub par. 1 star

It might just be a one- shot deal A boring, hilarious avantgarde track. If I want prime avantgarde stuff by Zappa, I listen to Absolutely free. Thankfully, the instrumental part is great , very melodic with some fabulous slide guitar work from Tony Duran. The blues rock outro is neat as well. 3.5 stars

Waka Jawaka A well played instrumental, but the long keyboard part is boring. Thankfully things get better with a moody and inspired guitar solo from Frank. The horn section sounds also fine and in place on this one. 4

Overall rating: 3 stars


Report this review (#133182)
Posted Wednesday, August 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars After being attacked by a fan at one of his concerts (being pushed off the stage), Frank would be laid up in a wheelchair. He took this time to create two Jazz records in a similar vein to "Hot Rats". This is the first one, and on the cover is a picture of a sink with the names "Hot" and "Rats" on the taps. The second album he recorded after this was the "Grand Wazoo".This would also end the Flo and Eddie experiment.

"Big Swifty" is a massive, complex Jazz tune that for me goes on too long. It's a side long suite that is uptempo with constant outbreaks of various instruments. The tempo does shift at times and I like the guitar and drumming before 8 minutes. "Your Mouth" is the weakest track on the album. Vocals and horns lead the way. I just don't like it very much.

"Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal" is another vocal track. This one is more dynamic and ingenius. The pedal-steel guitar solo goes on and on. Nice. It has a real Southern feel to it. I like it. "Waka / Jawaka" is similar to the first song but better in my opinion. Some great drumming 8 minutes in but before that the horns and moog offer enjoyment.

I like this record but it doesn't match up well with "Hot Rats" in my opinion. What does though ? Still an easy 4 stars.

Report this review (#137793)
Posted Tuesday, September 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4 tracks only, including one track for the entirety of the first side (Big Swifty, radically the best track here). Maybe not as great as Hot Rats, The Grand Wazoo or Uncle Meat. Indeed, radically different (even if there is some points of comparison with Hot Rats). I really like this album, even if this is not one of my favorites from Zappa. Not one of his best works also. Efficient, and short, very short (36 minutes) album.
Report this review (#162990)
Posted Saturday, March 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Waka/Jawaka is another of Zappa's intense jazz odysseys, in a very Hot Rats vein. Following this second of an unintentional musical trilogy was The Grand Wazoo; the best of three, selon moi. This middle link is probably the weakest of the three, but is still an incredibly strong piece of music. It's clear that Hot Rats is the most popular, and Grand Wazoo is my recommendation, so this part two of sorts is by no means essential, and shouldn't be too high on anyone's lists, unless you've already explored a good deal of Frank's extensive catalog and are a huge jazz fan.

Addictive brass compliment the band, adding their voices to a nice brand of improvised and spontaneous music. But it's not exclusively that. It sparks off with, and is full of that great, painfully complex stuff, prog rock's hallmark. The massive Big Swifty kicks off with one daring little riff that sounds even better live. The monstrous jazz attire is accompanied by a subtle but lovely avant-garde buffing. But overall, this is a jazz record. What makes it good is tension it can build through the restless instrumental treks. It always recalls the main theme, keeping it very coherent.

However, after Big Swifty the album takes a bit of a dive. The rest is merely jazz, minus the intensity, complexity, spontaneity. The singing on It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal is great, and it twists into avant-garde land sometimes, but then cuts back to a uninspiring southern-rocker. Thankfully, another longer jazz track wraps up the album, cleaning up a bit of the mess of the last two tracks. Bright brass are in the foreground, with some nice piano to reinforce it. It quickly moves into territory similar to the first track, and finishes the album off nicely. It's a nice album in general - in fact, I understate: it's great - but it's nothing to write home about.

Report this review (#168438)
Posted Tuesday, April 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Waka/ Jawaka was the first album with new material Zappa released after his near fatal fall from the stage in late 1971. Zappa had clearly heard Miles Davis Bitches Brew and wanted to make a jazz rock album himself. Zappa´s Hot Rats album is of course a jazz rock album but with Waka/ Jawaka Zappa got to work with a small orchestra of brass players as well as former Mothers of Invention collegues George Duke, Don Preston, Jeff Simmons, Aynsley Dunbar, Ian Underwood and new man Sal Marquez on trumpet, chimes, flugelhorn and vocals. There is a whole cast of other musicians playing on the album but Sal Marquez needs a special mention as he plays a very central role on Waka/ Jawaka.

The music on Waka/ Jawaka is when it comes the two long pieces Big Swifty ( 17:23 minutes) and the title track (11:18) jazz rock with occasional big band tendencies. It´s in those two songs were treated with Sal Marquez great trumpet playing. Jazzy but often bordering avant garde. His solo in Big Swifty is actually a transcribed Frank Zappa guitar solo played on trumpet. It sounds great. Big Swifty is of a jam like nature even though there is a structure in the song while Waka/ Jawaka is the most orchestrated affair on the album. There is some really menacing dark moods in that song. Great moog solo from Don Preston.

The two short songs called Your Mouth and It Just Might be a One-Shot Deal are more like avant garde rock that we´re used to from Frank Zappa. Lots of different styles and sections in each song. Your Mouth is great and for the first time we hear female background singing in a Zappa song but it´s with It Just Might Be a One-Shot Deal that we´re treated with a Frank Zappa masterpiece. We have everything from avant garde to country pedal steel solos to blues and jazz rock in 4:16 minutes. I´m sold. Note that this is the songs where we for the first time hear Frank Zappa´s new lower voice. His Larynx was damaged during his fall from stage and after his recovery his voice had dropped a third.

The musicianship is excellent and again I have to point out how great a musician Sal Marquez is. He contributes so many intriguing features to this album. But Zappa´s guitar playing is also worth mentioning as it´s unpredictable as always. He supports the music with some really challenging tricks here and there. A great performance.

The production is astonishing and I really enjoy the mix with all the layers in the music hearable.

I think Waka/ Jawaka was a groundbreaking release from Frank Zappa. He was obviously venturing into unknown territory with this one and as usual got away with it in style. Zappa would soon assemble a much bigger big band with which he would also tour and release an album called The Grand Wazoo which is much in the same vein as Waka/ Jawaka just a bit more elaborate. Personally I have always enjoyed Waka/ Jawaka more than The Grand Wazoo. I don´t nesseccarely think that Waka/ Jawaka is essential for all prog heads but for Zappa fans this is a must and I´ll rate Waka/ Jawaka 4 stars. For fans of jazz rock this one will probably ( at least partially) please you too.

Report this review (#180974)
Posted Thursday, August 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Waka/Jawaka is for the most part Frank Zappa's direct successor to his '69 album Hot Rats. That means that here we have bombastic orchestral and big band parts, jazzy improvisations, and general sorts of uncommon musical oddity.

Resting right in the middle of a seeming trilogy with Hot Rats and The Grand Wazoo, this album is shadowed from either direction. The songs feature less direction and purpose, the playing is less inventive, and the volume of music is less. Nevertheless, if either Hot Rats or The Grand Wazoo strike you as great albums, chances are you'll love Waka/Jawaka as well. The guitar is much downplayed throughout the course of the album, perhaps taking a bit more of a Gumbo Variations turn as opposed to a Willie the Pimp one. Zappa's guitar solos are present, but he seems to sit back and direct this album. The sound is once again absolutely stellar, with Frank knowing just how to crank various sonic deviances from each of the instruments. And, boy, are there a lot of instruments. Like on Hot Rats, Frank imported talented musicians from all over to come fill his album to the full--perhaps even fuller than any other Zappa album to be released short of the London Symphony Orchestra ones.

Big Swifty seems like a song that started as a quick little improv and just continued on to fill a whole side. There are a lot of good moments, like the guitar soloing about eleven or twelve minutes in, or the saxophone bits throughout, but on the whole, it's a weak Frankenstein of a track with more or less no direction and nothing impressive in the way of a beginning or an end. Compared to The Gumbo Variations or The Grand Wazoo title track, Big Swifty comes across as particularly weak. Your Mouth is a Chunga's Revenge sort of track, with slightly obnoxious vocals presented in some form of oldie style (complete with the female background vocals). The music is fairly interesting throughout the middle, but it is not enough to make this track truly stand out on its own. Your Mouth in the end also is a fairly weak track compared to Frank's usual output of genius.

It Just Might Be a One-Shot Deal is a much more solid tune, sounding like an Allman Brothers Band tune with some odd Germanic verses and a doo-wop sort of chorus reminiscent of the bulk of Zappa's earlier musical creations. Some creativity and awkward harmonies turn this song quickly into a unique and fascinating tune. And, yes, that is Frank on an acoustic, one of those rare moments. Some pedal steel or something sounding like it fills in a nifty little solo, drawing this song to its end. One-Shot Deal is a huge improvement over the previous two tracks. And speaking of improvements, here comes the title track. Brass and horns power a strange big band sound with all the flair you'd hope for from Frank, while the guitar still takes a leading role. The song moves forward, progressing to a distorted guitar solo (much of this song is reminiscent to its big brother, The Grand Wazoo). The drums and bass back a myriad of wild musical ramblings with a solidity that truly grounds the song. About seven minutes in, the brass returns to the front in one of Zappa's strongest musical moments. A drum solo, a cinematic melody, and a triumphant conclusion wrap up this song.

All in all, an album with a very weak first half but a rather entertaining second half. Fans of Frank, especially the Hot Rats/Grand Wazoo style, will find plenty to love here. Nevertheless, it is a particularly bad place to start with for Frank, as it does not remotely do justice to his usual style and quality of songwriting.

Report this review (#190507)
Posted Tuesday, November 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a very good jazz offering from Zappa in the vein of Hot Rats, only with less prog and more of a big band feel to it.

1. Big Swifty- If you want jazz, you got it! This is my favorite part of the album, and is a wonderful Zappa epic. The horned instruments fit this very well and this is an extremely well-constructed piece of jazz music with some Zappa quirks. It is not as explorative nor as guitar driven as Hot Rats, but it still has a great feel to it and is a wonderful composition that is hard to find any fault with. 10/10

2. Your Mouth- Humorous Zappa interlude with typical voice parts and similarly humor-suggesting instrumentation. It's nice, but there's not a whole lot to it other than it being a solid, fun song. 6/10

3. It Just Might Be a One-Shot Deal- This song is similar to the previous one, only it has a distinctly American, blues feel to it. I like in the middle of the song where the instrumentation goes solo without vocals. That part is really pleasant. A pretty good, unique song here, which works as a great interlude. 8/10

4. Waka/Jawaka- This starts off where Big Swifty left off with the grandiose, horn-driven jazz that made up the first 18 minutes of the album. It has a different structure and feel than Swifty, and doesn't quite match the genius of the opener, but nonetheless is a very good track. Filled with good instrumentation and Zappa's usual compositional skills in the form of a jazz entry that is unique in his discography. 9/10

If you're into jazz, and particularly horned instruments and/or anything by Zappa, this is a really good album to check out. It is not a masterpiece, but it nonetheless represents another uniquely substantial album in Zappa's vast discography. Just don't expect to hear Zappa's blazing guitar on this one as you did with Hot Rats!

An excellent addition to any prog collection.

Report this review (#192228)
Posted Sunday, December 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Nice Little Zappa Album

WAKA / JAWAKA is the second installment in the Hots Rats trilogy, and is easy to forget in some ways because both HOT RATS and the following GRAND WAZOO are better. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what the connection to the namesake album is exactly, but the link between W/J and WAZOO is obvious. Essentially the same lineup is playing a big band version of Zappa's composed version of rock fusion. W/J contains a little more vocal work (on the two shorter tunes, "Your Mouth," and "It Just Might be a One-Shot Deal") and much more free-form jamming.

While this album contains some great trademark Frank Zappa composition, there are also sections of free form, directionless wandering. The first track, "Big Swifty" contains both the best and the worst of the album as it progresses through its probably overgenerous 17:23 length. It starts with a great Zappa rapid-fire lead line, bouncing among the different instruments, but has some truly noisy moments that don't always work. The other epic, the title track, is much more focused at 11:18. It also employs some keyboard sounds and phrasing the fans would immediately identify as prog.

The biggest issue with this album is that the band does the same thing much better on the GRAND WAZOO. There are more frequent and more memorable melodic hooks, less aimless noodling, and some additional excitement. There are places in W/J that sound more traditionally jazz-club like than anything else of Zappa's I know. The interplay is very good, and live I think I would have really enjoyed seeing this performed. But on record, it's not necessarily the kind of thing you listen to repeatedly.

The vocal tunes are vintage Uncle Frank, sarcastic, cabaret-influenced, and somewhat humourous. Surrounded by the long instrumentals, they blend into the background. The bluesy "One-Shot Deal" has some interesting melodic ideas, and transforms into a genre- hopping barrel of monkeys about 90 seconds in. Alternating between country-rock, avant- garde chaos, and slow bluesy stomp, the song is interesting to listen to even if it doesn't quite make musical sense. Good fun experimentation, as you'd expect from the king of pushing the envelope.

This is a fine enough album. I certainly don't regret getting it. Certainly lovers of the GRAND WAZOO have an obvious place here to go for another helping. Some of the straightest jazz Frank will do is here. It's all solid, a very clear 3 star offering for me.

Report this review (#260387)
Posted Monday, January 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
The Quiet One
3 stars Jazz Rock Installment Part 2

Waka/Jawaka while not actually a sequel to Hot Rats in style, it's undoubtedly a further continuation and "exploration" to what Frank had achieved with Hot Rats. One of the first differences you'll notice is the ''age'' of the album; Hot Rats has without doubt a more primitive and raw sound with the 60's feel still in it, while on the other hand Waka/Jawaka being from 1972 the production is clearly alike all those classic records from the time, while not totally clean like nowadays production, it definitely doesn't feature any major flaw nor does it make you feel you're listening to something ''old'', to say it in some way. Of course, this doesn't mean that the production of Hot Rats affects it's quality, it's still one magnificent record.

Another clear difference is the way Frank decided to play jazz rock. With Hot Rats, besides having the 60's feel within the production, there's also a 60's feel in the playing of Frank's guitar. With the exception of Peaches En Regalia, he plays in a rockin' manner repleted with wah-wah alike Jimi Hendrix and the whole bunch of guitarists from the mid-60's onwards did, plus he seems to be noodling most of the time with much less sense of note-selection as he would later do. His guitar style in those days wasn't his finest that's clear, however with time his guitar abilities started improving and that indeed shows in Waka/Jawaka and even more so in future records like Roxy & Elsewhere, One Size Fits All and Sleep Dirt(Zappa's last jazz rock installment). In Waka/Jawaka Zappa's guitar solos begin to have uniqueness thus making them more rewarding.

The other difference in the style of jazz rock from both albums is the quantity of members playing. While in Hot Rats the only real performers/composers were Frank and Ian Underwood, in Waka/Jawaka there's a whole addition of brass instruments and a pair of extremely talented keyboardists, thus Frank and Ian are not the centre of attention anymore, if not the entire band is what counts. So don't expect Frank being focused in this record because he's not; he's one more from the big band.

While with a wider addition of horns and refined keyboardists Frank was able to explore beyond to what he had made in Hot Rats, the result is by no means better but not that far behind. The promising 17-minute opener, Big Swifty, doesn't live up its long length, a decent keyboard solo and guitar solo, but the composition overall doesn't have anything really attractive nor memorable. Fortunately the final track, the title track, saves the album. The title track shows Frank's perfect use of the additional horns and gifted keyboardists, as a result being an essential Zappa tune to listen to. The other two tracks are, in my opinion, the perfect definition of filler: they simply don't fit at all the style of the two epical jazzy tracks, no matter the quality of one of them, besides, they're lousy stuff for Zappa standards.

Like I already stated, Waka/Jawaka doesn't get even near to the magnitude of Hot Rats, but it still follows the jazz rock trend, even though in a completely different way. By no means a poor album, simply a failed attempt in exploring beyond that made in Hot Rats. The Grand Wazoo, on the other hand, is a vast improvement over this and should be purchased before this without doubt. Also, Sleep Dirt should be purchased before Waka/Jawaka.

It manages to be a decent album as a whole, but not enough to be thrilled nor excited with the exception of the title track thus 3 stars(slightly above average).

Report this review (#260884)
Posted Thursday, January 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars It's funny what being attacked by a fan, thrown off stage and confined to your bed will do for your artistic direction. I guess he found time for some introspection during his convalescence, and in these quiet hours he probably realized that his band and his last few albums were, on the whole, on the bad side of suck. Hence, he made as close to a 180 degree shift from the last few "comedic" albums as one would think possible, and committed himself back to the world of hyper-complex jazz fusion. This and the next album are essentially the children of Hot Rats, and given that I'm not as worshipful of that album as many are, it shouldn't be surprising that these albums are a bit wasted on a plebe like me.

The majority of the album is occupied by the opening sidelong, "The Big Swifty," and the closing title-track, both of which are instrumentals with a small amount of neat, obviously "composed" sections, (worthy successors to "Peaches in Regalia"), and an awful lot of rambling jamming. The opening of "TBS" is a great set of aggressive, complicated guitar-and-trumpets call-and-response and other neat things, but eventually it settles into a long, long collection of trumpet and guitar meanderings that I can enjoy as pleasant background music but little more (there is a brief passage where Frank tears, though). Still, in the moments where I can nudge myself back to paying attention, the meanderings tend to make me happy to listen to them. Anyway, the title track is better to my ears, with some pleasantly moody bits (especially in the beginning, courtesy of the brass) and a totally unexpected synth solo that any prog keyboardist would have been proud to write (and perform, despite it having no "show off" aspects). And hey, there's a decent guitar passage in there that hooks my interest for a while too. Of course, my brain can't hold off from shutting down forever while listening to this, and I forget what was neat about it almost as soon as the track stops, but it's a nice enough listen while on.

The second side also contains a pair of short "normal" songs, featuring the kind of bizarre genre-bending that I tend to prefer from Frank anyway. They're not among his very best, but they're quite good. The first part of "Big Mouth" irritates the hell out of me (mostly from the vocals), but the big-band jazz-blues aspects meld into other areas as the song goes on, and the song becomes a winner in the end. "It Just Might be a One-Shot Deal" is even more interesting, and has the extremely pleasant surprise of a gorgeous pedal steel solo popping up in the middle. The rest of the song is kinda non-descript, but that solo makes it all worth it, man.

In the end, jazz-fusion isn't 100% my cup of tea, and I don't even think this is among the absolute best jazz-fusion I've heard. And yet, I find myself enjoying this album more and more over time. Even when it gets relatively boring, the musicmanship is fantastic, and there are some simply blistering moments that I can't just deny. Zappa's done better, but it's a fine album nonetheless.

Report this review (#293118)
Posted Monday, August 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars Frank Zappa had many albums where his music changed immensely. On this one he jettisoned the baggage in his band, and hire some top notch players to perform some big band versions of his brand of fusion (he continued this with the also excellent "Grand Wazoo"). The result was another masterpiece from a guy who created more of them than most.

The two featured tracks are thr opener, Big Swifty, and the closer Waka/Jawaka. Both of these are long tracks, where the band gets tested, playing some of the most intense compositions you will here anywhere, with some fine solo sections interspersed.

The two tracks in between, Your Mouth and It Just Might Be A One Shot Deal, are great as well. These are vocal tracks, that offer a brief respite between the two fusion powerhouses.

An absolute must for the fusion collector.

Report this review (#456681)
Posted Friday, June 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Unable to tour due to injuries caused by a fan shoving him offstage during the ill-fated final tour with the Flo and Eddie lineup of the Mothers, Zappa spent a couple of months during his recuperation indulging a fascinating experiment in fusion - taking fusion-based compositional ideas as developed during the Hot Rats session, and applying them not to a rock group-sized band as most fusion artists were doing at a time, but to a "big band" lineup reminiscent of the larger jazz groups of bygone years.

The Grand Wazoo big band yielded two albums, of which this is one, and fans of Zappa's Hot Rats work - featuring minimal lyrics and complex, interwoven soloing between instruments - will find a lot to like here, and whilst it isn't quite the groundbreakingly innovative piece that Hot Rats was, it's certainly a great contribution to the genre. Try Hot Rats first, but give this a go if you liked it.

Report this review (#497854)
Posted Friday, August 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Frank Zappa made so much music in his lifetime. Each album was differant and varied, bringing new styles and genres into the mix. In the early/mid seventies, Zappa made two very Jazz-infulinced albums; Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazzo. Waka/Jawaka is my favorite of the two. The album opens with "Big Swifty", an 18 minute long big-band swing piece full of improv and solos. After losing yourself in the opening tracks, you find yourself in "Your Mouth", a slow, odd Jazzish rock ballad. Then comes my favorite Zappa song, "It Just Might Be a One Shot Deal". It starts off as a slow country song with teird-sounding, mumbling vocals. After a serise of time signature and theme changes, it's back to a country song, but fast this time. After an instumental passage, Zappa breaks in with the final line of the song, which abrutptly ends and goes straight into the title track, an eleven minute big-band swing song, much like the opener.

Favorites from the album:

"Big Swifty" "It Might Just be a One Shot Deal" "Waka/Jawaka"

This is a fantastic album, especialy if you're looking for something jazzy and avant. 4/5

Report this review (#752102)
Posted Saturday, May 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
Jazz Rock/Fusion Team
5 stars WOW. Coming out of the Flo n Eddie period of Zappa's work after being thrown off stage and finding himself in a wheelchair for half a year, Frank Zappa did a 180 in 1972 and released two jazz-rock fusion albums, the first one being this, Waka/Jawaka. It's almost a little hard to imagine going from the music Frank made in 1970-71, to this. The music is classic 1970s jazz rock fusion with a full big band, so lots of horns, and synthesizers making a big part of the sound. Frank's guitar tone on these albums is very unique, I don't think he ever got the same tone again. His playing is in transition from the 60s/early 70s bluesy, hard edged sound, to more exploratory, technical playing that he'd be known for later in the decade and beyond.

This album is not far off from the fusion of Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi albums, though more intricately composed, and of course that Zappa flair that Herbie or Miles Davis obviously didn't have. Speaking of jazz guys, George Duke returns to the Zappa world, and it is here where he is used to his potential for the first time only to get better from here. He was in Frank's band during the Flo n Eddie years before leaving, but he was underutilized, and played more trombone than keyboards, and the music wasn't exactly fitting for Duke's keyboard style. He returns on this album and stayed with Frank until 1975. Ian Underwood is still around on this album, and plays some great synths as he always has. Ansley Dunbar also returns from the Flo n Eddie band on drums, always playing with a great swinging beat.

This is a great jazz-rock album, anyone into the genre needs to have this album in their collection. The album was recently re-released in 2012 on Universal, reverting back to the original, dry,and warm analog recording, so make sure you get that copy if you decide to pick this album up. You won't regret it.

Report this review (#1089046)
Posted Thursday, December 12, 2013 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
3 stars This brassy, flashy, and playful Zappa release mixes the largely instrumental jams heard on the excellent Hot Rats with the full on jazz orchestra sound from Grand Wazoo. As such, it's an album in transition which is a little fluffy in terms of content to sink one's teeth into, but is never the less a lot of fun.

The big draws of Waka/Jawaja are the extended instrumental works, "Big Swifty" and "Waka/Jawaka". "Big Swifty" especially offers up tasty grooves, heavy brass hits, complex time signature changes, and non-stop soloing that interweaves its way through a rich palette of sounds. A genuinely great fusion song, and very likable thanks to the outstanding playing by the diverse band. "Waka/Jawaka" is a bit tighter in its composition, and has more Zappa guitar work. Despite having a shorter running length, it seems to get more done than "Big Swifty," probably because there's less open-endlessness to the soloing. Fans of rhythm section work are in for a treat.

The shorter songs are largely diversions that tickle the funny bone but don't stand up to the same scrutiny or repeated listens as the jams. Zappa doesn't hit it out of the park with Waka/Jawaka, but adds another solid record to his extensive library. A worthy release for fans of the mustached one's orchestra work.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

Report this review (#1579359)
Posted Thursday, June 16, 2016 | Review Permalink

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