Frank Zappa "Waka/Jawaka"

By David Thomas

Scene, 20 July 1972

Frank Zappa
Warner Bros./Reprise 2094

You’re digging the Lone Ranger every afternoon at 4:30 and life is safe as milk. Normality – it’s dull but comfortable.

And then, one day, without warning, bizarrity rears its laminated head. McGovern is nominated. A best friend reveals she has a zit-squeezing fetish. Billy Graham crowds the Stadium with his Troupe of Babbling Dwarves. And Frank Zappa releases The Album America Has Been Waiting For: the sequel to HOT RATS.

The name is WAKA/JAWAKA – HOT RATS and it represents an entirely new direction for Zappa – it’s serious. Children in the streets shouting, “Wowie-zowie!! Frank Zappa has grown up!”

Employing the HOT RATS formula, Zappa abandoned the Mothers and specially gathered 14 musicians for a “one-shot deal” The result, heavy on brass and proto-jazz, is freer and more exciting than most of the Mothers’ usual sharply structured pieces. The p.r. describes it as “free-wheeling improvisation.” That, however, I can’t believe – the album is too tight and Zappa is such a nit-picking composer and arranger. The hype, however, does come close to describing the feel of the album.

The first side, “Big Swifty,” is reminiscent of Sun Ra’s celestial jazz, but it nears jazz by a Zappa route – thru an Aralia Elegatism bush, over a collection of mutant glass bottles and around a set of zorch-stroking electric bed-springs: taints of bizarre harmonies, maniacal percussion and adjusted themes.

“Your Mouth” and “It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal” have some surprises for dedicated Zappa freaks – “Is THAT Zappa?” Both are serious vocals (as far as I can tell – you never know with Zappa), which is in itself a surprise. “Your Mouth” is slightly bluesy, while “It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal” includes some Greatful Dead-like country which ends in a fit of self-destruction.

WAKA/JAWAKA – HOT RATS just may be Zappa’s finest instrumental production, exceling even HOT RATS and 200 MOTELS.