Frank Zappa / The Grand Wazoo – Smear, Sibilance and Tubey Magical Keyboards to Die For

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The Tubey Magic found on the title cut is really something to hear.

The Grand Wazoo now gets my vote as the best sounding record Zappa ever made (along with Absolutely Free).

Biggest Problems

Smear on the horn transients are always a problem on this album (and Zappa’s previous big band album, Waka/Jawaka) .

After that we would say a lack of top end is the other most common shortcoming we hear. To find a copy that’s not dull and smeary is no mean feat.

The vocals on For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers) are usually slightly spitty. The best copies keep the spit under control.

It’s practically impossible to find clean, quiet, good sounding copies of The Grand Wazoo these days, which is why you haven’t seen very many copies hit the site over the years. Our last big shootout was all the way back in 2015, and that’s a long time considering that our more popular albums get shot out two and three times a year nowadays.

Not Zappa’s; he’s too hard to find and too expensive when you do.

Side One

Big, present and clear, with lots of lovely studio space, yet full-bodied, making this side as right as any we’ve ever heard.

As noted above, the Tubey Magical keyboards at the start of The Grand Wazoo are amazing sounding here.

How Zappa ever decided to go digital when he managed to record so well in analog (from time to time, let’s be honest) is beyond me.

Side Two

Huge space, highly resolving, this side was nearly as good as side one and one of the best we played.

Blue Labels and Reissues

The Blue Label originals are dramatically better than the later Warner Brother reissues. I would avoid any reissues of Zappa’s albums; we’ve never heard a good one. And that includes the Classic Heavy Vinyl reissue of Hot Rats.

Reviewers

The reviewers at the All Music Guide actually think this is a better album than Waka Jawaka, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Waka/ Jawaka is Zappa’s masterpiece. This, the follow-up, is certainly an excellent Zappa record. We love his music and look forward to doing shootouts for his albums whenever we can find enough copies to make it possible. These days that’s not very often.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers) 
The Grand Wazoo 

Side Two

Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus 
Eat That Question 
Blessed Relief

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

Like its immediate predecessor, Waka/Jawaka, The Grand Wazoo was a largely instrumental jazz rock album recorded during Frank Zappa’s convalescence from injuries sustained after being pushed off a concert stage.

While Zappa contributes some guitar solos and occasional vocals, the focus is more on his skills as a composer and arranger. Most of the five selections supposedly form a musical representation of a story told in the liner notes about two warring musical factions, but the bottom line is that, overall, the compositions here are more memorably melodic and consistently engaging than Waka/Jawaka.

The instrumentation is somewhat unique in the Zappa catalog as well, with the band more of a chamber jazz orchestra than a compact rock unit; over 20 musicians and vocalists contribute to the record.

While Hot Rats is still the peak of Zappa’s jazz-rock fusion efforts, The Grand Wazoo comes close, and it’s essential for anyone interested in Zappa’s instrumental works.