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4.7 out of 5 stars97
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 7 August 2012
For the first time ever, the 1969 mix of Frank Zappa's 'Hot Rats' has been released on CD. This album was released long before I was born, so my first approach to it was in its 1987 remix encarnation. I considered it a masterpiece back then, and I must say it is not a bad remix, but the original is superior nevertheless. First of all, the sound has more low end, therefore the instruments sound "fatter" (especially bass and drums). This original mix is also drier and clearer compared to the 1987 mix which featured reverb and an overall not very pleasing "tinny" sound quality. However, the remix featured a longer "Gumbo Variations" and some extra flute work on "Little Umbrellas", but some sped-up percussion parts are sorely missed. There are many other differences, some of them much more subtle.
A lot has been said about this album. It is one of FZ's masterpieces. He makes a clever use of the then state-of-the-art 16-track recording system to orchestrate his magnificent compositions always avoiding to sound excessive or overloaded with sonic information. A special mention must be done to Ian Underwood, who plays all winds and keyboards like the extraordinary multi-instrumentist he is.
Conclusion: the original mix (the one recovered for this 2012 reissue) sounds great. The 1987 mix (previous CD editions) has some sound deffects, but featured extra material. If you love this album, try to get both (I'm sure you have at least the old CD version by now if you love it!). If you have to choose, pick the ORIGINAL MIX, mark my word.
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VINE VOICEon 10 December 2006
Apologies for the slightly corny review title but it's pinched from Chris Welch's piece from the 1969 issue of Melody Maker which reviewed Frank's wonderful instrumental masterpiece. The impact that Hot Rats made at the time was huge. One of the first ever 16-track recordings, we'd not heard anything like it before. The brilliant melodies, the beautiful interweaving flutes, clarinets, saxophones, keyboards, percussion and guitar, knitted together with FZ's distinctive, creative arrangements, were quite stunning. I'd hesitate to describe it simply as jazz-rock - but if you're new to FZ, it's a helpful enough definition of what you'll get. In reality, its boundaries spread somewhat wider, from the bluesy Willie the Pimp to the almost indefinable It Must Be A Camel, one of my favourite ever FZ compositions, which is kind of jazzy but has hints of the orchestral Zappa yet to come, notwithstanding the few titbits to be found on Lumpy Gravy. With Hot Rats, we get our first real taste of Zappa the incredible guitarist, from the acoustic coupled with a wah-wah pedal on Peaches En Regalia, through the rocking electric of Willie the Pimp and Son of Mr. Green Genes, to the fat, mellow jazz break on the final track. Yes, out of the blue, as if the rest of the album wasn't enough, we have a guitar hero too! Regarding the comments elsewhere about the mix of the CD, I would agree that it is very different from the vinyl. But words such as "disaster" and "beware" are ridiculous. However, if you only have the CD, then the LP is worth tracking down. Frank remixed almost his entire catalogue to CD in the early nineties, knowing he did not have long to live. I would guess that he was trying to bring the best out of the original master tapes and that must have been a tricky task with only 16 tracks to draw upon, given the complexity of the music. Maybe he fell short of his usual meticulous standard but you do hear things on the CD which were pretty well masked - or completely absent - on the original. Perhaps Dweezil will do another remix sometime - or maybe even re-record it. That said, almost forty years on - and still there is no musician in the world who seems able or willing to do stuff like this - Hot Rats captures the essential FZ and wraps it in a package which remains as accessible and enjoyable as ever.
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VINE VOICEon 18 December 2003
Yeah, it's a cracking record that has well stood the test of time. Some of the flourish on it has made many people describe 'Hot Rats' as jazz, which is maybe a little misleading.
Zappa was a zany and often inspired creator, whose records could swing from beauty to near-banality. Hot Rats is perhaps his most consistent and satisfying offering, with subtle arrangments, a rock edge and the trademark walkie-talkie guitar. Other than a brief guest appearance from Captain Beefheart - as "Willie the Pimp" - it is entirely instrumental.
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on 8 March 2004
This was the first Zappa album i bought and right from the start of 'Peaches En Regalia' (reason enough to buy this album) to the end of 'It Must Be A Camel' this is a fantastic classic album. If you are familiar with Zappa's music (especially with the MOI) then you will love this album. If you haven't heard any of his stuff then this album is the most accessible and all of the tracks will grow on you eventually. Buy It!
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on 17 May 2001
I remember first hearing this LP when it came out in 1969, at a music club at school. I'd heard of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart but never heard their music.
I bought the record the following year when I started at university and it was a huge hit with all my friends - especially "Son of Mr Green Genes". This track really is a tour de force. Perhaps for jazz fans the variations and returns to a theme (was this orchestrated or improvised?) will be familiar - to a rock fan like myself there is nothing else quite as good (although the Doors "Light My Fire" runs it close).
While it's probably a bit too slick for hard-line MoI fans (and I think I would probably agree with this criticism of "Peaches En Regalia"), I still listen to this music with the same exhilaration I felt when I first heard it. Buy it.
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on 11 November 2005
I used to own and love the vinyl version of this album but when I bought the CD I was horrified!
It has been severely remixed and the balance of the album has been altered dramatically and, to my mind, detrimentally.
I wish I still had the vinyl or that the original mix was released on CD. This just sounds wrong.
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on 16 March 2010
Snap this up if you don't have it and ignore complaints about it being "the remix". For anyone coming to the album for the first time or someone who doesnt have a firm memory of its previous incarnation it's a revelation. It has the richness of jazz, the impact of rock and the sheer up-ness of gospel, all perfectly blended into something virtually unique. Musical blue-label Johnnie Walker! Frank Zappa is the subject, sometimes justifiably, of all sorts of criticisms, but all anyone needs by way of refutation is this stunning album, maybe THE guitar album, the only possible rival IMHO being Marquee Moon. Willie the Pimp -- enough said!
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It's hard not to look at Christine Frka's frizzy-haired mad-as-a-dingbat-on-acid stare as she peaks over a wrecked/abandoned Beverley Hill's swimming pool on the cover of Frank Zappa's iconic Jazz-Rock album "Hot Rats" - and not smile. In some ways she summed up the adventure contained within the grooves – gonna be a little frizzled around the edges by the time you're done. Miss Christine was one of the all-girl group The GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously) – another Bizarre Records act – and the one who reputedly talked Frank into signing Alice Cooper.

After five incendiary albums with The Mothers Of Invention since 1966 (two of which were doubles) – it was time for the inevitable Solo LP proper from Frank Zappa and instead of Vocal Group pastiches and Comedy Soundtracks – Zappa went Rock in a very Jazzy way and never looked back. "Hot Rats" even hit No 9 in the UK charts in late February 1970 – his first and highest chart placing in good old Blighty (the Bizarre Records LP scraped into 173 in the USA).

His CD reissues from this period have been dogged with controversy. Having acquired the rights to own back catalogue - Zappa began remixing the masters to what many felt were sacred cows – even adding posthumous parts that weren't on the originals thereby altering their very nature (he argued he was the artist). Most notorious is the extra four minutes of music added on to the 12:53 of "The Gumbo Variations" on the 1995 Rykodisc CD reissue. Using the Zappa approved 'edit' master of the 1969 album – this BERNIE GRUNDMAN 2008 Remaster goes back to basics and yet still packs a lot of punch especially in those huge instrumental stretches within "Willie The Pimp", "Son Of Mrs. Green Genes" and the Saxophone-driven "The Gumbo Variations". Here are the 'little umbrellas'...

UK released July 2012 – "Hot Rats" by FRANK ZAPPA on Zappa Records 0238412 (Barcode 824302384121) is a straightforward transfer of the original 1969 LP onto CD (using a 2008 remaster) and plays out as follows (43:19 minutes):

1. Peaches En Regalia
2. Willie The Pimp
3. Son Of Mrs. Green Genes
4. Little Umbrellas [Side 2]
5. The Gumbo Variations
6. It Must Be A Camel
Tracks 1 to 6 are the album "Hot Rats" – released early October 1969 in the USA on Bizarre/Reprise RS 6356 and February 1970 in the UK on Reprise RSLP 6356 (re-issued July 1971 in the UK on Reprise K 44078).

Players were:
FRANK ZAPPA – Guitars, Octave Bass & Percussion
LOWELL GEORGE – Guitar (uncredited)
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART – Vocals on "Willie The Pimp"
SUGAR CANE HARRIS – Violin on "Willie The Pimp" and "The Gumbo Variations"
JEAN LUC PONTY – Violin on "It Must Be A Camel"
IAN UNDERWOOD – Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone & Keyboards (solo on "The Gumbo Variations")
MAX BENNETT – Bass on all except "Peaches En Regalia"
SHUGGIE OTIS – Bass on "Peaches En Regalia"
JOHN GUERIN – Drums on "Willie The Pimp", "Little Umbrellas" and "It Must Be A Camel"
PAUL HUMPHREY – Drums on "Son Of Mr. Green Genes" and "The Gumbo Variations"
RON SELICAO – Drums on "Peaches En Regalia"

The fold-out inlay reinstates the colour photos on the inner gatefold of the original LP and those not quite complete musician credits – but unfortunately very little else. Someone could have produced the lyrics to the only song with vocals on it – "Willie The Pimp" – or even explained about the album's intricate history on LP and CD – but alas – you barely get the BG remaster mention and that's it. Still at least the Audio is restored and wicked into the bargain...

The album opens with perhaps his most famous piece – the instrumental "Peaches En Regalia" which features the Bass playing of future Columbia Records guitar whizz Shuggie Otis. Great audio as those keyboard overdubs punch in. The mighty Captain Beefheart adds his considerable larynx to "Willie The Pimp" giving the 9:23 minutes an anchor – but what shines even more is Frank's Guitar soloing giving the piece an almost hypnotic feel as it stoner-rocks along defying all conventional wisdom as to what a Pop Song should be.

The battle between Zappa's Guitar, Sugar Cane Harris' Violin and Paul Humphrey’s extraordinary Drumming on relentless groove of "The Gumbo Variations" certainly tests the Remaster to the max and Bernie Grundman has seen to it that you can appreciate the individual contributions and crescendo all at the same time. The Piano and Flute passages on "Little Umbrellas" are fuller and the almost lounge-room vibe of the Piano and Drums on "It Must Be A Camel" is very clear - a sort of five-minute 'settle down' piece of Jazz Rock that ends the album on a mellow vibe.

The only real let down is the average presentation (sans regalia more than peaches) – otherwise here's one sizzling rodent you need in your suburban pool Mrs. Green Genes...
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on 12 December 2008
Do not buy this..., 12 Dec 2008
By I Stoddart(Scotland) - See all my reviews

Speaking as a long-term FZ fan, I would advise everyone who knows the original genius of Hot Rats NOT to buy this. The remix has substantially altered the original tracks for the worse. Little Umbrellas and the Gumbo Variations have become sterile track overlays, and the zenith of Ian Underwood's marvellous sax solo on the original Gumbo is flatly edited into a modern(?)piece of layered desperation. Even though I am a substantial collector of CDs my advice would be to buy the vinyl rather than this 'empty pantomime'. I can only believe that Frank, if he was responsible for this, was too ill to realise what he was doing. A plea to the FZ estate - please allow us to have a digital version of the original, for Frank's sake...
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on 27 February 2008
I own the original vinyl, and I can confirm that it sounds a damn sight better. However, it is very immature to give this album one star because the mix isn't as good. The genius of Zappa's music is still self evident.

More a avant-garde jazz album than anything else, but still absolutely outstanding. Buy buy buy.
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