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Frank Zappa – Hot Rats (1969)

November 20, 2013

[Album 263/1001]Hot_Rats

It wouldn’t be Movember without a Zappa reference.

I think two of his quotes describe Hot Rats effectively:

1. From his original sleeve notes, Hot Rats is “A movie for your ears”

2. As self-deprecatingly quoted the 1001 Albums book, “The very idea!  An instrumental album, except for one vocal cut – and that had to feature Captain Beefheart!…Why are you wasting America’s precious time with this, you a**hole!”

That lone vocal track, Willie the Pimp, is the standout.  Beefheart’s growl in the opening few minutes adds a certain je ne sais quoi and the extended guitar solo drives the song the rest of the way.  What really brings it all together?  The violin doubling up on the lead part in the intro and outro.

The 5 instrumental cuts feature:
– unusual harmonies, particularly Ian Underwood’s woodwind parts
– unconventional arrangements, with The Gumbo Variations extending to almost 17 minutes
– unique recording methods, creating interesting effects by changing the tape speed when recording overdubs

Which is what listening to a Frank Zappa record should be all about.  Certainly not the waste of time he declared it was!

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From → 1960s

9 Comments
  1. This has always been among my Top 5 Zappa albums. Nice to see that it made the list, and glad you featured it here.

    • Thanks Rich – two Mothers of Invention records also made it (Freak out and We’re only in it for the money). Two of Captain Beefheart’s are on the list as well, so I have to give the 1001 list credit – the obvious ones are there but they choose some ones that certainly weren’t mainstream!

  2. I have a few Zappa, but not Hot Rats (yet). Time to wishlist it. Christmas is coming.

    • It’s wishlist worthy, another artist I have to be in the right mood for. When I feel radio songs are starting to sound the same, put on a Zappa record, nothing sounds like Zappa!

      • True. My sister has performed his pieces in the past for that exact reason. (They did The Black Page)

      • Good for her – that’s not the easiest cover to do! And on bass clarinet? Very cool.

      • It was actually a full quintet performance — double bass, bass clarinet, drum kit, piano and percussion. It was pretty cool.

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