Released in1969, the year so many classic rock albums appeared, 'Hot Rats' is a perfect entry point into the Zappa discography as it is a musically fertile work which sees Zappa surround himself with other prodigies such as Captain Beefheart ('Trout Mask Replica') and Shuggie Otis ('Freedom Flight'). Across the 43 minutes, six-track masterpiece, Zappa arranges a glorious expansion of rock music, elevating it into the orchestral realm.
Described by Zappa as 'a movie for your ears', the soaring highs of the brief but beautiful, 'Peaches En Regalia' achieves the desired effect with a cinematic, bright soundscape. The ideas presented on the opener are explored to their limit in the penultimate 'The Gumbo Variations'. This 13-minute beast explores the whole sonic spectrum presented, stretching the formula to its outer limits, reminiscing Jimi Hendrix's 'Voodoo Chile' or 'In A Silent Way'.
The most direct track is the satirical 'Willie the Pimp', which features Beefheart's signature comical vocals. It serves as a nice counterpoint to the likes of Curtis Mayfield's 'Superfly' (1972), released during the following decade's explosion of the golden era of funk and soul music. The track shows an open disdain towards hedonism and American culture at large, a theme Zappa would become synonymous with, best seen on his controversial assault on society in 'Shiek Yerbouti' (1979).
All this and more explored in the latest documentary, 'Zappa', directed by Alex Winter (Bill and Ted), and released through Magnolia Pictures. The documentary explores Zappa's life and works from the Mothers of Invention through his censorship activism and up to his final work 'The Yellow Shark' (1993).
As it stands, the excellent Dweezil Zappa is due to tour Australia with the album in full whenever restrictions lift, so keep an eye out for updates. Until then, 'Hot Rats' and other Zappa essentials are available in the store today.
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