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Frank Zappa - Waka / Jawaka CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa



3.92 | 460 ratings

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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.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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