Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Frank Zappa - Hot Rats

Frank Zappa
Hot Rats


Released 1969 on Bizarre
Reviewed by zmnathanson, 03/05/2009ce


For most jazz musicians, they wanted to push the door down and go beyond the lovely ballads of Bebop and Swing and go into what we call now "Jazz Fusion", but for Frank Zappa, he decided it was time to go and push the envelope and give the guitar gods like Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck a run for their own money and bow their heads of the Grand Wazoo. After he broke up the original Mothers of Invention with Uncle Meat in 1969, he wanted to go beyond the doo-wop and garage-punk rock sound to more arrangement and compositions for the composer.
One of the albums that would make a leap through after his own take of a tribute to Varese, Stravinsky, and the guitarish Spaghetti Western sounds of Lumpy Gravy, would be Hot Rats. This album shows Zappa moving away from the classical music taste to more of the mad scientist conductor than doing R&B soul and chipmunk vocals in a high-speed take. So he got away from the Hungry Freaks Daddy Freak Out! era and came the jam sessions which featured Zappa, Shuggie Otis, Ian Underwood to come something that was unbelivable and a mind-boggling fantasy that you'll never hear on any Frank Zappa record in the Past, Present, and Future. And in Frank Zappa's words about the genre of Jazz, "Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny." Well it does smell funny, in a good way ladies and gentleman. Not to mention the cover of "Miss Christine" Frka coming out of the grave looking for some bodies to eat in a sexual way who was part of the groupie band the GTOs which featured Pamela Des Barres, Sandra Leano, and Linda Sue Parker.
Peaches En Regalia, a classical virtuoso gypsy jazz rock introduction to the album, is dazzling piece of work featuring Zappa doing a Django Reinhardt style on the guitar while Ian Underwood does some Coltrane solos on his Sax and then it becomes a wah-wah bizarre journey on the acoustic guitar as if Zappa was writing a musical flourish as it goes to a dramatic bridge and then, BAM! it goes back to the beginning and ends like a romantic movie gone bizarre in a good way while the Howlin' Wolf prostitute song, Willie the Pimp continues as a evil pimp looking at 15 year old girls to get some pussy at Lido Hotel. Starting off with Captain Beefheart's raunchy vocals as violinist, Don Harris, does some heavy duty eerie violin solos and then plucking the strings to give it an evil and crime scenery of the slums of illegal girls getting paid to make sweet love. And then the last 7-minutes of the composition becomes a Psychedelic guitar solo stand off as Zappa takes the guitar into higher places.
Then it becomes almost like a prequel in the album with Son of Mr. Green Genes which is part of the Mr. Green Genes from the Uncle Meat album released in April of the same year. It starts off the same notes from the song as it goes into massive passages throughout the number with a horn section, flourshing keyboards, and then again Zappa takes over on the guitar doing some amazing fretwork while the bass either Shuggie Otis or Max Bennett is doing some glorified bass lines to keep the tempo flowing while Ian Underwood comes in doing a heavy solo on the keyboards as Zappa and Underwood take it on like dueling brothers as to see who will win between Guitar and Keyboards. It then becomes a Miles Davis fusion/hard rock style for the last few minutes and then the intro for the beginning comes in as it ends like a climatic climax of the organ giving the dynamic finale as Zappa shreds and Ian does a small homage to beethoven.
If you are heavily into Bebop Jazz meets Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, this is it! The Thelonious Monk homage tribute on Little Umbrellas becomes a beautiful walk in the park theme for a few minutes and then it becomes something out of the Uncle Meat Sessions on The Dog Breath Variations as Ian does some heavy Organ work while the drums do a 4/4 time signature as the stand-up bass is almost a cross between Paul Chambers and Jimmy Garrison walking bass line as the piece moves like a diamond that hasn't been found for a long time while the flute comes in to lay in some melodic ballad and then it comes back in like an eerie soundtrack for a picture show in the ballet orchestra.
Meanwhile, the 16-minute instrumental jam piece, The Gumbo Variations, becomes a free-for-all grand old time for anyone who has a love of epic suites roll into one. The sax lays down the groove as it does some heavy bluesy jazz that almost sounded like metal gears grinding like a chainsaw while the Bass goes with it to lay down some funky riffs as Zappa shreds like a motherfucker and then the Sax starts to go into a VDGG seizure mode ala David Jackson style and then it goes back into the King Crimson mode again as Ian takes over coming up with some Avant-Garde feeling on the Sax while the Bass and drums lay down on the groove and then Zappa comes in to follow the Sax as he's the Pied Piper and Ian is Dr. Frankenstein on the woodwind and then the drums does a Bonham moment while Jean-Luc Ponty comes in doing shreiking violin solo. Lowell George does some blistering guitar work before Little Feat and then its Zappa's turn to take it over like a drill sergeant as he makes the guitar sound like a synthesized god and then the drum solo is almost a cross of Zeppelin and Sabbath ala fusion style while Shuggie Otis does funkadelic style's on the Bass and then the Organ, Violin, and Zappa come in to bring the number down to a T.
The eerie finale, It Must Be A Camel, sounds pre-Magma meets Henry Cow in the early days as if they had put something bizarre in their tea. This is one of the strangest piece as it shows Zappa composing the piece as if Edgard Varese is doing a jazz number in a bizarre mode as Zappa does some licky guitar frets as the piano and the bass seemed very Mars Voltaish while the Saxes come in to give a Wes Montgomery ending to fill your music with bizarre twists.


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