Sunday, April 8, 2007

Frank Zappa - Hot Rats - 320 CBR

Recorded in August and September of 1969, Frank Zappa's Hot Rats is one of the most influential albums of the jazz fusion genre; in my opinion, it is a pillar that stands alongside Bitches Brew, Soft Machine's Third and a handful of others as the best and most important albums that the genre ever produced. Hot Rats is so strong and so universal that it transcends the catalog of its maker — this is widely known as "the Frank Zappa album for people who don't like Frank Zappa." I think that it also transcends the genre and is a great pick for people who don't normally listen to much jazz fusion.
Hot Rats is the first record that Zappa made after breaking up the original Mothers of Invention. Zappa retained the services of multi-instrumentalist Ian Underwood and recorded each of the six tracks with a different configuration of guest musicians (one of whom, violinist Don "Sugarcane" Harris, would become a permanent part of Zappa's band for a couple of years). The notorious Captain Beefheart performed the album's only vocals, which consisted of a few verses on "Willie The Pimp."
I think that Hot Rats is a great record and I would rank it among the top 20 rock albums that I've ever heard. I could go on about it for a long time, but because there's already plenty of valuable commentary on this page, I'll be as brief as possible. Hot Rats is the first studio album on which Frank Zappa really showcased his guitar playing skills and, as far as I know, it is the first album of its kind. Nevertheless, the music on Hot Rats is about so much more than Zappa's solos: I think these pieces — especially the three long tracks plus "Peaches en Regalia," are flat-out great compositions. Anybody who objects to the sides of Zappa's musical personality that include social satire, perverse humor, schizophrenic musical collages, forays into avant-garde classical composition — or simply his smarmy attitude and general air of cynicism — will find that, save for the ribald lyrics to "Willie the Pimp," none of these things are present on Hot Rats. The music can be tough and visceral in spots but there is an overarching grandness, beauty and optimism to these pieces that is downright shocking, considering the source. This is an album that I like to play loud with the windows and doors open on one of the first really warm days of spring.
Zappa recovered from this bout of relative sincerity in short order — within a year he had assembled the Flo and Eddie incarnation of his band and toured the world playing jokey music and acting out groupie sex skits onstage. Zappa would revisit jazz fusion at various times throughout his career, but for many fans of Zappa's instrumental music, it never got any better than these glorious forty-seven minutes from 1969.

Links in comments.


Blogger said...


April 8, 2007 at 9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo!...I mean Hot Rats :-)

Thanks again...snø

April 8, 2007 at 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've got a lot of the canonical Zappa already, but I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your blog, especially the commentaries for each record. They're smart, informative, and in general a pleasure to read.

April 8, 2007 at 2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, your comments really do add to the listening experience. Many thanks!

April 8, 2007 at 9:43 PM  
Blogger poor said...

Beautiful !
Thanks a lot!

April 8, 2007 at 10:08 PM  
Blogger BlackwatchPlaid said...

Nice job on the place, Daggie...

Here is a nice addendum to this album, 5 radio spots in promotion of this album, with some humorous quotes from whatever DJ it was...

Hot Rats Radio Spot


April 11, 2007 at 5:54 AM  
Anonymous Milly said...

Good words.

November 10, 2008 at 10:28 PM  

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