The Grand Wazoo

Frank Zappa

Rykodisc, 1972

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Frank Zappa closed out 1972 - and a particularly bad year all around for him (as he was still recovering from being pushed off-stage in London in December 1971) - with The Grand Wazoo, an album that built on the jazz-rock concept he dusted off for Waka/Jawaka, with more of an emphasis on a larger band.

He also seemed to learn from the mistakes of Waka/Jawaka. The Grand Wazoo, while not a perfect release, showed that Zappa's concept for presenting his music on a larger scale was well-suited for his overall sound, and although this disc takes time to grow on you, it's well worth the effort.

It doesn't start off very promising, though. "For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers)" seems to continue with the musical absurdity that plagued much of Waka/Jawakamy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 ; the lack of focus in the performances (especially in the solos) turns out to be more of a hindrance than a help. Likewise, the closing track "Blessed Relief" doesn't do much to bring the whole project together, though it's by no means a bad track. It's just something that feels transitory, almost as if Zappa had regrets about closing this musical chapter.

It is the three tracks sandwiched in between that make up the tasty meat of The Grand Wazoo. The title track alone is the closest thing that Zappa had done to matching his output on Hot Rats, though he made sure to share the spotlight with his entire band. The effect works well, and you have to be comatose not to want to get up and groove to this track. "Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus" is an interesting number, sounding almost like a fanfare wrapped around a rock music core, but it works well, most likely because of its brevity. Had Zappa stretched this one out to five, seven or ten minutes, the energy of the track would droop, and any emphasis the song had would have been quickly lost. Instead, Zappa and crew get in, get their message across, and get out.

This is, by no means, knocking the longer tracks on The Grand Wazoo - indeed, even with the longer ones like "Eat That Question" and "The Grand Wazoo," it rarely sounds like a note is being wasted, and Zappa is able to successfully keep the listener's interest throughout. "Eat That Question" almost has the vibe of an older-style Zappa composition, despite having richer instrumentation.

As good as The Grand Wazoo is, this is not the kind of album that one can appreciate with just a cursory listen or two. To really appreciate the disc, you almost have to lock it into continuous mode on your CD player, sit down and really listen to the disc. Even those well-schooled in all things Zappa may find it a little harder to get into this one, as it's just not as approachable as Hot Rats or any of his vocal-based rock discs. Still, The Grand Wazoo, despite a few mis-steps, proves to be worth the time and effort.

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: B-

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.