Release Date: October 10, 1969
Label: Rykodisc
Length: 47:05 minutes

For some, Hot Rats is Zappa's only decent album. For others, its his most boring. It's safe to say that this is Zappa at his most conventional: the music here is entertainment rather than social commentary; mainly instrumental, save for Willie The Pimp, sung by Captain Beefheart.

Stylistically, all the tracks draw heavily on jazz, but all cross their jazz influences with an overriding rock feel. The result is a classic jazz-rock fusion album.

The tracklisting:

  1. Peaches En Regalia
  2. Willie The Pimp
  3. Son of Mr. Green Genes
  4. Little Umbrellas
  5. The Gumbo Variations
  6. It Must Be A Camel

Peaches En Regalia is inspired: one of Zappas most catchy, recognisable and enduring tunes, its almost worth the asking price alone. Willie The Pimp's dirty blues riffing sees Beefheart bellowing and screaming as only he can: Hot Meat! Hot Rats! Hot Cats! Hot Soots! before heading off into a guitar solo of awe-inspiring intensity.

Son of Mr. Green Genes is, to these ears, one of the slacker points on the album. Seeming overlong at nine minutes, the solos are rather uninspired and the grandiose ending is more tiresome than it is majestic.

Little Umbrellas is a pleasant enough interlude before the superb improvisation of The Gumbo Variations: near 17 minutes long, but always engrossing, the solos -- and particularly Ian Underwood going crazy on the sax -- maintain and build the tension wonderfully throughout. This highlights how good group improvisation can get: the rhythm section always sympathetic to the soloist, interacting well to form some tremendous build-ups, climaxes and breakdowns.

Finally, It Must Be A Camel's gently odd harmonies, shifting cross rhythms and frequent changes of mood and pace make for a strangely satisfying conclusion.

So, certainly a 'safe' if unrepresentative choice for the Zappa newcomer, and one that will remain a rewarding listen over the years. All in all, a classic.

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