It takes us YEARS to find copies that sound like this one. Bernie’s version for Classic beats a lot of copies out there, but it can’t hold a candle to this one.
I’ve been listening to Hot Rats since I was in high school. It’s still remarkably fresh and original, even now. This is not music for the faint of heart. Audiophiles who prefer a steady diet of Patricia Barber and her like will find little of interest here. But for those of you who want to explore something completely original and a bit “out there,” this should be right up your alley — and be sure to check out Waka Jawaka too.
Reading in the liner notes today, I see that one of the engineers on this album is Jack Hunt, the famous half-speed mastering engineer who cut records for Mobile Fidelity and Direct Disc Labs. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
Excellent tonal balance from top to bottom, with more transparency and top end than the typical copy.
Rich and tubey with nice top extension and a spacious, three-dimensional quality.
Peaches En Regalia
This track tends to be a bit dull and could use a little sweetening on the top end on almost any copy you find. 1 or 2 dB at 10k might just be what the doctor ordered.
Willie the Pimp
This is one of the two extended tracks on the album; the second track on each side is “the long one,” and they both suffer from the same slight upper midrange boost. This song and The Gumbo Variations on side two are both difficult to turn up due to their tendency to be slightly aggressive.
Son Of Mr. Green Genes
One of the best sounding tracks on the album, and probably the best sound to be found on side one.
Possibly the best sounding song Zappa ever recorded. With the right pressing, the sound is PERFECTION.
The Gumbo Variations
Again, a slight tendency towards the aggressive, but great music. If you like hard bop sax, this track is for you.
It Must Be A Camel
The second best sounding track on the album, and some of the best music Zappa ever recorded. You have to love all the Edgar Varese-inspired percussion.
Aside from the experimental side project Lumpy Gravy, Hot Rats was the first album Frank Zappa recorded as a solo artist sans the Mothers, though he continued to employ previous musical collaborators, most notably multi-instrumentalist Ian Underwood. Other than another side project — the doo wop tribute Cruising With Ruben and the Jets — Hot Rats was also the first time Zappa focused his efforts in one general area, namely jazz-rock. The result is a classic of the genre.
Hot Rats’ genius lies in the way it fuses the compositional sophistication of jazz with rock’s down-and-dirty attitude — there’s a real looseness and grit to the three lengthy jams, and a surprising, wry elegance to the three shorter, tightly arranged numbers (particularly the sumptuous “Peaches en Regalia”). Perhaps the biggest revelation isn’t the straightforward presentation, or the intricately shifting instrumental voices in Zappa’s arrangements — it’s his own virtuosity on the electric guitar, recorded during extended improvisational workouts for the first time here. His wonderfully scuzzy, distorted tone is an especially good fit on “Willie the Pimp,” with its greasy blues riffs and guest vocalist Captain Beefheart’s Howlin’ Wolf theatrics.
Elsewhere, his skill as a melodist was in full flower, whether dominating an entire piece or providing a memorable theme as a jumping-off point. In addition to Underwood, the backing band featured contributions from Jean-Luc Ponty, Lowell George, and Don “Sugarcane” Harris, among others; still, Zappa is unquestionably the star of the show.
Hot Rats still sizzles; few albums originating on the rock side of jazz-rock fusion flowed so freely between both sides of the equation, or achieved such unwavering excitement and energy.