Sound — 10
After the first incarnation of The Mothers Of Invention disbanded Frank Zappa focused on jazz-fusion, a genre that was just beginning to grow in 1969. For the album Hot Rats, Frank Zappa enlisted the help of Ian Underwood. Ian is one talented bastard. He contributes to the majority of the sound on this album. Zappa always favored Underwood due to his musicianship. He plays all of the keyboards, woodwinds, and saxophones. Other important players on this album are Jean Luc-Ponty (a french electric-violinist who was already spearheading the jazz-fusion scene overseas) and Don "Sugarcane" Harris (another violinist with a passion for blues style improvising). Other than that, there are only a handful of other musicians on the album. The reason this album sounds so rich and full is because it is the first album to use a 16 track recorder. Every instrument got a track (some even had multiple tracks). The songs on this album are diverse, while still falling into the confines of chamber jazz-fusion. Some of the melodies Zappa wrote for this album are mind-blowing and drop my jaw every time I hear them. "Peaches En Regalia" is a classic example of a perfectly written instrumental. The structure is perfect on this song as well as the other shorter tracks on the album. These tracks tend to focus on a focused and orderly format while the longer tracks tend to have a little structure and allow for some amazing improvisation. This is the sort of album that you will want to listen to in it's entirety.
Lyrics — 10
As with a lot of Zappa's jazz fusion albums, this one is an instrumental album for the most part. The only track with vocals is "Willie The Pimp", which features Frank's best friend, Captain Beefheart on vocals. Beefheart sings in a harsh, yet catchy vocal style. The lyrics are about a pimp named "Willie". It's just sneaking in some humor into even one of his most serious albums.
Overall Impression — 10
Hot Rats is one of Zappa's finest albums. I consider it one of the best jazz fusion albums ever crafted. Typically when it comes to Jazz Fusion or Jazz Rock, there tends to be a favoritism towards either Jazz or Rock. I believe this album is the best representation of the true fusion of jazz and rock. The best aspects of this album are the dynamics. The recording quality is also top notch. The only thing really missing is Zappa's usual satire. I don't believe that is a flaw though. Zappa proved with this album that he could be just as serious as he is funny. There have been many times where I get mesmerized by this album and drop everything, just to appreciate the beauty of this masterpiece. You have no reason not to listen to this album at least once.