CD Review Directory Mott the Dog's CD Collection

Mott the Dog's review on....

Frank Zappa – Hot Rats

Review: 115
Date: 14 Feb 03

 


Rating: 5 Sparkling               Stars

Musicians:
Frank Zappa – Guitar, Octave Bass, Percussion
Ian Underwood – Piano, Organus Maximus, All Clarinets, All Saxes
Captain Beefheart – Vocal on Willie The Pimp
Sugar Cane Harris – Violin on Willie The Pimp & The Gumbo Variations
Jean Luc Ponty – Violin on It Must Be A Camel
John Guerin – Drums on Willie The Pimp, Little Umbrellas & It Must Be A Camel
Paul Humphrey – Drums on Son of Mr. Green Genes & The Gumbo Variations
Ron Selico – Drums on Peaches En Regalia
Max Bennett – Bass on Willie The Pimp, Son Of Mr. Green Genes, Little Umbrellas, The Gumbo Variations & It Must Be A Camel
Shuggy Otis – Bass on Peaches En Regalia

Tracks Listing:
1. Peaches En Regalia
2. Willie The Pimp
3. Son Of Mr. Green Genes
4. Little Umbrellas
5. The Gumbo Variations
6. It Must Be A Camel

 


Basically just dropping the name ‘Mothers of Invention’ and releasing this as his first solo album, Mr. Zappa showed, who had been boss all the time, and let the unsuspecting music world cop it in the teeth with this blast of basically instrumental work. Gone were the dropping off into the world of parody or spoken word humour, that had often enlivened, but more often marred ‘The Mothers’ albums. A joke is only funny the first couple of times, but soon becomes annoying, especially after repeated playing in between bits of your favorite music.

But here on ‘Hot Rats’ Mr. Zappa surrounds himself with some of the finest musicians in the United States of America, who just happened to also be his best friends, and went from cult figure to International Superstar. In the high brow student world of 1970, if you didn’t have the Hot Rats poster in your bed sit, you were considered very square. The album was an absolute ‘must have’. (Mind you it was also required to wear your hair down to your ankles, platform boots 2 foot tall, huge bell bottom trousers that hid them anyway, say things like “Cosmic” or “Groovy” a lot, and end every sentence with “Man”. Eat your heart out Austin Powers, looking back it all seems terribly complicated now.)

But that was one thing that Mr. Zappa had mastered, although all of the playing on this album is intricate in the extreme, with great lolloping extended solos and each song has a terribly gripping hum able tune that makes your fingers twitch and your feet tap.

The first piece of music presented here for your edification (it would almost be an insult to label them down as just plain old songs) is the wonderfully monickered “Peaches En Regalia”, where Mr. Zappa on guitar, and multi-instrumentalist Ian Underwood get to flex their musical muscles. These two musicians are the only two to appear on every track. “Peaches En Regalia” is certainly one of Mr. Zappa’s most commercial and popular tracks and, almost certainly, one of his best. In an amazing way the album starts, leading us into a treasure trove of sound. Yes, this was what started what is called ‘Jazz/Rock’, but at the time it was just a convenient label for journalists to put it under. Mr. Zappa should not take the responsibility for the driveling of some, who tried to follow in his footsteps.

Next up is the infamous “Willie The Pimp” the only vocal track on the album sung by the esteemed Don Van Vliet, better known as ‘Captain Beefheart’, and what lyrics they were too!

“I’m a little pimp with my hair gassed back
Pair of khaki pants with my shoe shined black”

You can hear the gleam in the great Captain’s eye, the guitar solo that follows will take the roof off your head every time you hear it. And remember, Steve Vai was an apprentice of Mr. Zappa’s for many years and has never been able to step out of his shadow.

After “Son of Mr. Green Genes”, and for this album the short “Little Umbrellas”, you get the full version of “The Gumbo Variations”. This had to be severely edited for the vinyl release due to time constraints, but now with the wonders off compact discs, you get the whole thing remastered from the original tapes, all but seventeen minutes (what’s three seconds between friends), where the soloists, Mr. Zappa guitar, Ian Underwood everything, and Sugar Cane Harris on violin, all vie for the spotlight, holding your attention with every nuance of sound.

Then finally we get “It Must Be A Camel” (the title of which sounds like something J.K. would say out on the golf course after a bad night), where the legendry Jen Luc Ponty joins the fray to bring it all to a fitting climax.

A truly magnificent collection. If it’s not in yours, make it so.

You may notice the artist referred to as Mr. Zappa through out this review commanded a fair amount of respect, did the Guvnor.

 

Pawed by Mott The Dog
Remastered by Ella Crew

E-mail: review@mott-the-dog.com


Back to Top

 
 

[an error occurred while processing this directive]