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
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
Pair of khaki pants with my shoe shined
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