Frank Zappa

Rykodisc, 1972


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's safe to say that 1971 ended on a terrible note for Frank Zappa. First, he and the Mothers Of Invention lost all their instruments in a fire in Montreux - yes, the infamous fire immortalized on Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water". Then, when playing a concert in London, he was pushed off the stage and into the orchestra pit by a deranged "fan", causing Zappa to be wheelchair-bound for most of 1972. (The incident also caused Zappa's voice to drop an octave.)

So one can argue whether Waka/Jawaka was part of the natural progression of Zappa's music, or whether it was a matter of Zappa having a little more free time on his hands than he originally planned. Whatever the case, Zappa's third solo release is a bit of a letdown, featuring a crisper production sound and a little more edge to his guitar work, but otherwise not sounding as inspired as his previous works.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It would be wrong to say that this disc is bad; indeed, there are times that the four tracks on this one appeal to me. The title track is probably the best of the bunch, capturing Zappa's mood in a jazz-rock fusion that absorbs and excites the listener. Regrettably, this turns out to be the best effort on the disc - and when there are only four songs to bank on, that puts the artist in a dangerous position, having almost nothing to fall back on.

It's made a little more dangerous when you lead off the disc with "Big Swifty," a 17-minute composition that doesn't know whether it wants to follow in the tradition of works like "Peaches En Regalia" or if it wants to blaze its own musical trail, so it does neither. The fact is, while there are moments during this piece which are worthy of excitement and attention, the listener will probably find themselves getting very bored while this one unfolds. That's a shame, really, because this particular number could have really been a foundation for Zappa to build the whole disc on.

The two remaining tracks, "Your Mouth" and "It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal," aren't anything special, though they're by no means throwaways. Of the two, "One-Shot Deal" seems to be the more lasting of them, especially as it goes straight into "Waka/Jawaka" seamlessly.

The key word here is "excitement" - or, to best describe Waka/Jawaka, a lack thereof. Where Hot Rats seemed to constantly unfold into something new, innovative and exciting, this disc seems to be perfectly content to just keep pace with previous musical outings. I'm not saying I could have done better had I been in Zappa's shoes at this stage in his career, but one would like to think that the forced time off would have really allowed Zappa's creativity to peak. Instead, Waka/Jawaka sounds like a third-rate, albeit somewhat entertaining, Hot Rats - and I don't think that's what Zappa's aim ever was.

2005 Christopher Thelen and "The Daily Vault." All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of the Zappa Family Trust / record label, and is used for informational purposes only.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2005 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rykodisc, and is used for informational purposes only.