Saturday, March 12, 2016

Frank Zappa - 1969 - Hot Rats

Frank Zappa
Hot Rats 

Original analog version - 1969 Vinyl /2012 UMe CD version

01. Peaches en Regalia (3:39)
02. Willie the Pimp (9:23)
03. Son of Mr. Green Genes (8:57)
04. Little Umbrellas (3:09)
05. The Gumbo Variations (12:54)
06. It Must Be A Camel (5:17)

Total Time: 43:11

1987/1995 RYKO CD version

01. Peaches en Regalia (3:39)
02. Willie the Pimp (9:17)
03. Son of Mr. Green Genes (9:00)
04. Little Umbrellas (3:04)
05. The Gumbo Variations (16:57)
06. It Must Be A Camel (5:16)

Total Time: 47:05

- Frank Zappa / guitar, octave bass and percussion

- Ian Underwood / keyboards and winds
- Captain Beefheart / vocals
- Sugar Cane Harris / violin
- Jean-Luc Ponty / violin
- John Guerin / drums
- Paul Humphrey / drums
- Ron Selico / drums
- Maz Bennett / bass
- Shuggy Otis / bass

Hot Rats is often praised as Frank Zappa's shining achievement, and I can't say that I disagree with that statement. While I think that some of his other albums are equal to the high quality shown throughout this album, this is surely one of the highlights in his brilliant discography.

This album shows a departure from the avant-garde influenced psychedelic/experimental rock music that Frank Zappa had been known to play around this time. This album leaves most of the experimentation behind, and Zappa goes for making a pure jazz-rock album. The result is an almost completely flawless work of art, filled with excellent solos and groovy rhythms. This album is mostly dominated by Ian Underwood's windwoods and Frank Zappa's guitar heroics. While many people tend to criticize this album for being "just jamming", I heavily disagree. I think the album is filled with tasteful solos that are always fun and captivating. I guess it's just a matter of taste in the end.

The highlight of this entire album, for me at least, is the spectacular musicianship. Of course, the guitar playing from Frank Zappa is nothing less than brilliant, but all of the session musicians are fantastic as well. The rhythm section is superb in all of the songs, which is rare for an album mostly dominated by solos. The memorable melodies and riffs are the icing on the cake, and they really make for a spectacular album.


"Peaches en Regalia"- The first song on the album has always been my personal favorite from the album (though the whole album's great). Whereas most of the rest of the album is jazz-rock jam sessions, this song is structured beautifully with superb melodies. The woodwinds from Ian Underwood are undoubtedly the highlight of this track, aside from the beautiful songwriting. This is a great way to open up the album.

"Willie the Pimp"- The second song takes a rapid departure from the previous track, showing a riff-based bluesy hard rock song. This features Captain Beefheart's low vocals, and I couldn't imagine the song without him on vocals. The Captain doesn't do anything spectacular, but it really adds to the mood of the song. The song mostly builds off of a solitary violin riff, but it is far from a linear song. The guitar soloing from Zappa near the end is superb, and it never tires. The late 60's psych influence is obvious in this section. The song ends with a few measures of the opening riff.

"Son of Mr. Green Genes"- This song uses the same theme from "Mr. Green Genes" from Uncle Meat, and is one of my favorites from the album. The woodwinds throughout the song are the highlight, and give this song a very jazzy feel. The guitar solos are wonderfully crafted, and every instrument works perfectly in the context of the song. The drumming from Paul Humphrey and the bass playing from Max Bennett shouldn't go unnoticed, even though Zappa and Underwood take center stage on this song. The rhythm section is superb.

"Little Umbrellas"- This song is a jazzy instrumental, and I wouldn't even consider it jazz-rock. This is just a beautiful jazz piece with superb keyboard playing from Ian Underwood. The arrangements are extremely noteworthy.

"The Gumbo Variations"- The longest song on the album (almost 17 minutes) is excellent, though it takes some time to sink in. This is a psychedelic jazz-rock jam with some of the catchiest grooves and most interesting solos I've ever heard. The saxophone playing from Ian Underwood is one of the highlights of the entire album for me. He just does a superb job, and the rhythm section is always there to back him up. The drumming from Paul Humphrey is superb, and even though he has no solos, his playing is just as interesting as the people playing the solos. After Underwood's saxophone solo, Sugar Cane Harris has an equally excellent violin solo. Just listen to the rhythm section during this solo! It's fantastic! The flow of sections continues through Frank Zappa's solo that follows soon after. The excitement never shortens at all, and this song is captivating and catchy from beginning to end. Everything about this song is superb.

"It Must Be A Camel"- The final song is a soft jazz piece in the vein of "Little Umbrellas". I prefer this song slightly to the one I just mentioned. This is mostly focused around soothing piano, saxophone, and odd rhythms. This has the only sections of the album that even remotely show Zappa's avant side, though I wouldn't call this avant at all. This is a great way to end the album, as it is filled with interesting chord progressions and melodies.


Hot Rats is a superb album by Frank Zappa, and it's one of my favorites in his discography. If you're at all interested in hearing Frank Zappa, this is essential listening material. If you're not a jazz fan, don't be put off by the "jazz rock" label that this album often acquires. I don't consider myself a jazz fan, yet I adore this album.

This is the first Zappa album on which Dweezil has a credit. Both (he and the album) pretty much came into the world together. Also check out "The Story Of Willie The Pimp" on Zappa - Mystery Disc

For UK issues: First UK issues have the Reprise Tri-color labels (Pop Series) RSLP 6356, with the Pye distribution data eradicated by a black over-stamp [Feb 1970]. The 2nd issue has tan Reprise labels RSLP 6356 [Late 1970/71]. The 3rd issue has tan Reprise labels K 44078 [circa 1972]. The 4th has tan Reprise labels K 44078 [circa 1973], but now with a 'W' logo in radius text. (These are the 'key' changes, other variations may apply. The 'K' changes relate to Kinney acquisition but, under Law, were not applied in USA)

Many early USA (and international) vinyl releases continued to use 'legacy' artwork, irrespective of a history of Warner company changes and often continuing to bear the Reprise/WSeven Arts logo. Initial issues were on the Bizarre label (distributed by Warner/Reprise) and then phased into the (various) Reprise labels.

On the Zappa One Size Fits All back cover star map, there is a minor star titled "Hotratz" (situated above the major star "Pixies")

Big differences between the vinyl and CD versions. The CD is a drastic remix with some previously unheard material. The 1995 Ryko CD adds some extra cover/booklet artwork, but is otherwise identical to older discs (yes, including the gold CD). The vinyl mix belatedly re-emerged for a 2009 Classic Records LP reissue and, finally, on the 2012 UMe reissue.


Original vinyl (blue Bizarre RS6356 in the US, October 10 1969 (repressed 1973, as brown Reprise RS6356 (?)); Reprise RS6356 in Canada; 3-colour label Reprise RSLP 6356 in the UK, February 1970 (repressed in September with mustard label))
German RS6356 vinyl with one-colour label, believed to be from 1970; also with 2-colour label, believed to be very old
Original French vinyl (Reprise/Vouge SRV.6108, non-gatefold sleeve, with a black yellow banner on the cover saying "POP MUSIC" :)
French & German vinyl (WEA Reprise 44078, gatefold sleeve)
Spanish vinyl (Reprise HRES 291-35)
Greek vinyl (Reprise RS 0339, first in a single sleeve, later in a gatefold sleeve)
Argentine vinyl: Ratas Calientes (MusicHall 12.927 (mono) and 112.927 (stereo) (fold-out cover))
Mexican vinyl (Reprise/Gamma GX 01-366, no gatefold cover)
Brazilian vinyl (Reprise 84.002, gatefold sleeve, with non-gatefold "MOMENTOS HISTORICOS" re-issue in 1979 (Reprise / WEA Discos Ltda))
Australian vinyl (Reprise RS 6356, no gatefold cover, 1970)
New Zealand vinyl (Reprise RS 6356, 1970)
Israeli vinyl (Reprise RS 6356, no gatefold cover; black & white back cover with a little Hebrew print)
8-track (Warner/Reprise - at least some in yellow cartridges)
Reel-to-reel (Reprise 6356-B, 3 3/4 IPS)
Renumbered UK vinyl (Reprise K 44078, July 1971)
US vinyl repress (Reprise RS6356, 1973)
Double Dynamite - coupled with Chunga's Revenge (Reprise RRD 11707, South Africa, mid-1970s)
Art & Music Collection edition (Reprise REP 59 021, Germany 1976 and 1978 (re-issue))
Ratas Calientes re-issue Reprise 208744, Argentina, 1971 or earlier - Hot Rats on cover, Ratas Calientes on label)
Ratas Calientes re-issue (EMI 208.744, Argentina)
Uruguayan vinyl (Warner Brothers - record pressed in Uruguay, cover imported from the US)
The Old Masters vinyl (Barking Pumpkin BPR 8888-2, November 1986)
Original CD (Ryko RCD10066 in the US (imported into Australia by Festival Records and re-stickered Ryko D40725), Zappa Records CDZAP2 in the UK, September 1987; VACK 5027 in Japan; Spurk UL 98212 in Russia)
"Gold CD" (Ryko RCD10066, USA, June 1988)
IRS 970.702 CD?
Japanese picture CD (VACK 5237 - October 1996?)
Zappa Records cassette (TZAPPA2)
1995 CD (Ryko RCD 10508, May 2 1995; VACK 5102 in Japan, renumbered 5237 in 1998; also in a BMG Record Club version (1086396))
1995 cassette (Ryko RAC 10508, May 2 1995; also in a BMG Record Club version (1086396))
Japanese paper-sleeve CD (Ryko/VACK 1209, September 21 2001 - Bizarre inner sleeve)
Classic Records reissue (LP only; RS 6356-150G & 6356-200G, January 13 2009)
2012 UMe CD (Zappa Records ZR3841 July 31, 2012)

Original CD

"Son of Mr Green Genes" suffers the most - the drums are lost in a wash of cymbals. The "duelling saxes" are pushed way into the background.
"The Gumbo Variations" is about 5 minutes longer - good mix.
"It Must Be a Camel" - some additional tracks/instruments (recorded during the original sessions) have been mixed back in. Towards the end, a once clean guitar now has distortion. The part of the mini drum solo now has this ambience and reverb that wasn't on the LP. Not sure which I like better. [LEWIS SAUL: "There are major differences. The polyphony in many sections is radically different. The CD buries voices that are prominent in the LP, which yields a very, very different composition ...]
"Peaches en Regalia": I don't notice a huge difference between the two.
"Willie the Pimp": since I love this track so much (and have the LP version permanently etched in my brain), I was shocked and pissed that the guitar solo is re-edited and reconstructed in parts. My favorite riff of the entire solo isn't even on the CD! Score one for the LP.
"Little Umbrellas" has added harpsichord and flute. I like the starkness of just the bass and drums better on the LP.

1995 CD

The 1995 CD re-issue sported some new artwork (an inlay sheet behind the tray), described by Cal Schenkel as a "photo by CS of FZ & Miss Christine [of the GTOs] from a session at the Log Cabin, summer '68". Official Ryko statement: "New master. New timing sheet. Restored artwork. This is the 1987 remix."

2012 UMe CD
"Mastered 2008 by Bernie Grundman from FZ's original edited master." Yes, folks, finally: the vinyl mix reappears on CD. This is essential for those who just own the previous CDs. Sound quality has been getting raves so far.


  1. Ryko + 2012

  2. wow! thank you a lot for this bundle!!