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Frank Zappa

Waka/Jawaka (vinyl)

Review by Gary Hill

This disc was the fourth solo album from Frank Zappa. It was released in 1972. It has two shorter tracks that feature vocals along with two epic instrumentals. Well, the second of those does have some non-lyrical vocals more as instrumentation. This is a very jazz based album, and it has some pretty crazed stuff. Among the musicians on the album, a couple names stand out for me in the persons of George Duke and Aynsley Dunbar.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 5. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
Side One
               
Big Swifty

The album starts with a nearly 17-and-a-half epic that took up the entire first side of the vinyl record. It comes in with some frantic fusion jamming that is instantly recognizable as Zappa. They take it through all kinds of rapid-fire twists and turns. It dissolves into spacey weirdness around the minute-and-a-half mark. It gets pretty free form and freaky from there. The track keeps getting reinvented with some real free-form, improv style jazz jamming. A guitar dominated section around the halfway mark turns it more rocking, but this is still freeform jazz, just with some scorching guitar. More of a structured jazz arrangement works in later and takes hold. That again gets shifted toward more freeform jamming, and we get some scorching guitar over the top as it works forward. That section eventually closes the track.

Side Two
             
Your Mouth

Another jazzy tune, this one includes vocals. It has a bluesy kind of groove and a decidedly Zappa-like arrangement.

It Just Might Be a One-Shot Deal
There is almost a down-home blues feeling to this thing. It is, as you might imagine, twisted into weird angles by Zappa. It has plenty of jazz in the arrangement, too. It turns to strange, freeform jazz meets psychedelic concepts for a time. Then it twists to a country styled jam from there around the halfway mark. Then it twists into more chaotic jazz zones beyond that before settling into a classic blues progression.
Waka/Jawaka
The closer is another epic, although a shorter one than the opener was. It's nearly 11-and-a-half minutes long. It comes in with a killer jazz jam that has plenty of Zappa-trademarks in the shifts and changes. The synthesizer gets noisy later in a classy way. The whole tune has a lot of that freeform vibe that the opener also showcased, but this doesn't turn as weird as that one did. There is some killer Zappa guitar soloing later. There are some non-lyrical vocals mirroring a horn arrangement for a while further down the road. This also includes a drum solo that leads into some trademark Zappa jazz rock. It continues to evolve, getting into some almost marching band territory before it's over. The song fades down to end the album.
 
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