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Frank Zappa - Hot Rats CD (album) cover

HOT RATS

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.32 | 1410 ratings

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TCat
Prog Reviewer
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.

TCat | 5/5 |

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