[Review] Frank Zappa: Waka/Jawaka (1972)

Frank gets pushed from a stage and spends months at home pushing the envelope of musical smallmindedness.

Kronomyth 14.0: Didja get any ouija?

While Frank Zappa was convalescing from an assault on stage that resulted in a paralyzed arm and crushed larynx, he released two jazz-fusion albums with an updated version of The Mothers that now included Tony Duran on guitar, Erroneous (Alex Dmochowski) on bass, Jeff Simmons on guitar/vocals and a full horn section featuring Sal Marquez on trumpet. Containing a pair each of extended instrumentals and mutant blues songs, Waka/Jawaka is sometimes presented by critics as an extension of Hot Rats, a comparison likely occasioned by the album cover’s reference to the album in the illustration (suggested by Sal Marquez). In fact, I’ve done that myself. But what it really is, is a transitional record between Chunga’s Revenge and The Grand Wazoo.

The two songs align almost exactly with “Road Ladies” (“Your Mouth”) and “Rudy Wants To Buy Yez A Drink” (“It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal”) in terms of their approach and effect on the listener. The two extended instrumentals, “Big Swifty” and “Waka/Jawaka,” are the visions of things to come: surreal semi-classical jazz-fusion giants that amble preponderously in the ear canal for twelve minutes or a lifetime, depending.

Transitional records are arriving, they haven’t arrived. Waka/Jawaka doesn’t arrive at the genius of The Grand Wazoo. Among the great Dubyas (which would winclude Weeny, Wazoo and Weasels), Waka/Jawaka might be the least impressive. Or not. They’re all brilliant records, so it’s a little like picking a favorite Beethoven symphony. The ninth. Okay, so that was easier than I thought. But you get the point: you wouldn’t want only eight Beethoven symphonies, and you don’t want to eke out your miserable, crotch-kicking existence without Waka/Jawaka. Because, truly, nothing will re-inflate your balls like listening to an acid trip about a frog segue into the most beautiful pedal steel guitar solo you’ve ever heard and then careen into “Waka/Jawaka,” knowing that only a small percentage of the general population will ever share that joy with you.

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Original LP Version

A1. Big Swifty (17:26)
B1. Your Mouth (3:11)
B2. It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal (4:17)
B3. Waka/Jawaka (11:18)

All selections by Frank Zappa.

The Players

Frank Zappa (guitar, acoustic, percussion, electric bed-springs), George Duke (ring-modulated & echoplexed electric piano, tack piano), Aynsley Dunbar (drums, washboard, tambourine), Tony Duran (slide guitar, vocal), Erroneous (electric bass, fuzz bass, vocal), Sal Marquez (many trumpets, chimes, vocal, flugel horn) with Mike Altschul (baritone sax, piccolo, bass flute, bass clarinet, tenor sax on B1/B3), Bill Byers (trombone & baritone horn on B3), Janet Ferguson (vocal on B2), “Sneaky Pete” Kleinow (pedal steel solo on B2), Joel Peskin (tenor sax on B1), Chris Peterson (vocal on B1), Don Preston (piano & Mini-Moog on B3), Ken Shroyer (trombone & baritone horn on B3), Jeff Simmons (Hawaiian guitar & vocal on B2). Produced by Frank Zappa; engineered by Kerry McNabb

The Pictures

Cover illustration by Marvin Mattelson. Sink idea by Sal Marquez. Back cover photo by Philip Schwartz. Packaging by Cal Schenkel.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track on July 5, 1972 in the US (Bizarre, MS/M8 2094), the UK (Bizarre/Reprise, K44203), Germany (Reprise, REP 44 203) and Japan (Reprise, P-8277R).

  1. Re-issued on cassette in the US (Barking Pumpkin, D4 74215).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 1988 in the US and Japan (Rykodisc, RCD 10094).
  3. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1995 in the US (Rykodisc, RCD 10516).
  4. Re-issued on compact disc on October 24, 2001 in Japan (Rykodisc, VACK-1215).

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