Frank Zappa
The Grand Wazoo


4.5
superb

Review

by Edwin USER (14 Reviews)
July 20th, 2010 | 21 replies


Release Date: 1972 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The crown jewel of the Zappa jazz fusion era.

As a guitarist and musician, Frank Zappa is among the best. His distinctive soloing, crooning vocals, and quirky mannerisms exist in the upper region of modern music history. As a bandleader and song-crafter in the era of early 70’s rock and jazz, there is nothing between himself and the sky – no one at all beyond him. The Grand Wazoo, Zappa’s May 1973 LP, affirms this divine status.

Less than a year prior, Waka/Jawaka took Zappa’s song writing capabilities to a larger scale. His progressions were polished a smidgen, his directions became clearer, and he and his band put together an excellent recording. There wasn’t anything wrong with that album; sure, the inconspicuous two songs in the middle of the album weren’t miraculous, but Waka/Jawaka had enough quality content to stay afloat. Where does it fall behind in comparison to its brother album, then? Well, The Grand Wazoo doesn’t have time to float… it’s too busy soaring, into jazz-rock sanctity.

The chief difference between Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo is the increase in band size. Over 20 musicians and vocalists contributed to the recording of this album, which proves to energise the music itself, which isn’t dissimilar to that of the previous record. The contributing artist list reads more like a jazz chamber orchestra, rather than a tight rock band line up. The crisp production, and the grand scale of the recording sessions are obvious, and as a result, The Grand Wazoo just sounds delightful.

The strength of the album lays mostly on the shoulders of the instrumental composition. The big band jazz tendencies of the opening title track are regal; it features solos from most conceivable instruments, but never descends into musical masturbation, as the underlying grooves and progressions of the track keep it legitimate. ‘The Grand Wazoo’ is about as much fun as you’ll have with a genuine big band tune. Not to be outdone, the final two tracks live as instrumental equals with their blockbusting album-opener brother. ‘Eat That Question’ is as pure as fusion can be; George Duke’s keyboards trade off with Zappa’s guitar throughout, and… well, the result is a track thoroughly deserving of a residence on the peak of the jazz-rock mountain. ‘Blessed Relief’ is just as good, in a less explosive manner. Electric pianos and trumpets compliment a surprisingly subdued Zappa guitar appearance, in the formulation of a luxuriant eight minutes of modern music – a charmingly attractive, serious piece.

Not so serious are the second and third songs on the album. ‘For Calvin’ relieves the intensity of the opening track for the listener, but is it really necessary? Well, it may not be necessary, but this is a Frank Zappa album: you have to take the serious with the ridiculous. The saving grace of the tune is its quirky descent into a jazz/rock detonation; even at his silliest, Zappa keeps it musical, and therefore, keeps it real. ‘Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus’ is about as hilarious as a song without words can be. In particular, keep an ear out for Frank’s vocal performance near the end of the track – lovably funny subtleties. These comedic moments of madness aren’t essential, and this would be a superb record without them, but that’s exactly all it would be: an ‘album’. Not a piece of music by Frank Zappa.

Of all the jazz influenced pieces in Zappa’s early career, (meaning this, Hot Rats, Waka/Jawaka, and his work with Jean-Luc Ponty), The Grand Wazoo is surely the most definitive. To use the cliché, the melodic sections are more melodic, and the music as a whole reaches lofty heights. With his big band by his side, Frank Zappa had reached a height in jazz fusion that few would have imagined possible for him. An exemplary piece of music, by a vastly significant individual.



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user ratings (173)
Chart.
4.1
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Edwin
July 20th 2010


1399 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hm. The CD version of this has 'The Grand Wazoo' as the opening track of the album, but it seems the original has it as the second song. Confusing.

Ire
July 20th 2010


41780 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i hope this review gets like a bajillion comments bro

ZAPPA FANS UNITE... but not at the same time because that would be cliche

Edwin
July 20th 2010


1399 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Haha me too man.. Sadly, I don't think many around these parts care for him.
Couldn't believe this hadn't already been reviewed.

eggsvonsatan
July 20th 2010


1087 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Been listening to this a lot recently. Glad to see it get a review.

Ire
July 28th 2010


41780 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Oh god it's so good.

will 5 anything zappa puts out

supertouchox2
July 28th 2010


1062 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Zappa's finest, nice review.

Edwin
July 28th 2010


1399 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks. And yeah, this is a huge album. More people really need to listen to this..

bailar11
July 28th 2010


2433 Comments


site really needed this.

[img]http://userserve-ak.last.fm/serve/_/30011427/Enrique+Iglesias+e24.jpg[/img]

pos.

Edwin
July 28th 2010


1399 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Enrique, I am moved by your alluring presence. Thank you.

Thane
December 20th 2010


2165 Comments


Getting this now. I've been listening to Hot Rats and Freak Out! for years, need more Zappa in my life.

Edwin
December 20th 2010


1399 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This would be a great choice after those two. Don't forget Waka/Jawaka as well.

MarvinLapsus
March 17th 2012


132 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Pos'd. Great review for a classic album. The backstory and cover art were funny as hell, also.

CaptainDooRight
March 15th 2013


29132 Comments


faith


Digging: Kangding Ray - Solens Arc

DeputyExorcist
March 17th 2013


69 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

My personal favourite Zappa album.
Amazing jazz/rock fusion played by one of the tightest bands ever.

ILJ
April 7th 2013


6670 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this needs more love. srsly

Yazz_Flute
January 8th 2014


18783 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Best Zappa probably...though I love Joe's Garage for its ridiculousness and One-Size Fits All for its accessibility.

Digging: Battles - Mirrored

Veldin
January 19th 2014


1208 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This is brilliant!

Digging: Kayo Dot - Coffins On Io

Killerhit
January 19th 2014


5250 Comments


lol i love zap

lyzakthellama
January 19th 2014


1741 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Fucking love zappa

gosk8n
February 20th 2014


1050 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Eat that Question has one of the best riffs ever!

Digging: Jonny L - Magnetic



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