[Review] The Mothers: The Grand Wazoo (1972)

Don’t like classical jazz/rock music? Blow it out your Wazoo.

Kronomyth 15.0: The tunes of Sue’s titties.

The last of the great instrumental burlesques, at least until Orchestral Favorites surfaced in 1979. The Grand Wazoo was recorded during Frank Zappa’s recovery from injuries sustained following an on-stage assault (so much for soothing the savage breast), thus entering into the top of two rather select musical subgroups: the recovery recordings (besting both Eno’s Discreet Music and Dylan’s The Basement Tapes, to name two) and program music dealing with the clash of different musical cultures (progeny of the classic cartoon, Music Land, that includes Patrick Morazeponymous effort and The Residents’ Tune of Two Cities).

Drawing musical dialogue from the classical and rock cousins of the jazz family, The Mothers make the sort of music that’ll just curl the toes of anyone who enjoyed the mock-classical adventures of Waka/Jawaka, Weasels and Burnt Weeny Sandwich. Zappa has proved adept at writing program music (Joe’s Garage, Thing-Fish), though The Grand Wazoo differs in its instrumental approach; only the opening “For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers)” features vocals, and it’s not empty praise to point out this might be the most perfect amalgam of vocal and instrumental music in all of Zappadom.

The natural and seemingly effortless melange of instruments inhabits a unique world where rock, jazz and orchestral sounds meet in the middle of a saucepan and dance to the hot whims of the master composer in convalescence. Yet Zappa is careful to make sure that each of the songs retains a distinct flavor, from the seamy tones of “The Grand Wazoo” to the comic “Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus” to the epic riff that underpins “Eat That Question” (one I’d put on a pedestal with the closing theme to Gentle Giant’s “Three Friends”). Anyway, I could go on for pages—I’m that enthusiastic about this album. If I had to pick a favorite from Frank Zappa, it’d be down to this and Hot Rats.

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Original LP Version

A1. For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers) (6:05)
A2. The Grand Wazoo (13:24)
B1. Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus (2:55)
B2. Eat That Question (6:41)
B3. Blessed Relief (8:00)

All selections written by Frank Zappa.

The Players

Mike Altshul, “Chunky,” George Duke, Earl Dumler, Aynsley Dunbar, Tony Duran, Erroneous, Alan Estes, Fred Jackson, Sal Marquez, Joanne Caldwell McNabb, Malcolm McNabb, Janet Neville-Ferguson, Tony “Bat Man” Ortega, Joel Peskin, Don Preston, Johnny Rotella, Bill Ryers, Ken Shroyer, Ernie Tack, Frank Zappa, Bob Zimmitti. Produced by Frank Zappa; engineered by Kerry McNabb; special technical assistance by Paul Hof.

The Pictures

Cover illustration by Cal Schenkel.

The Plastic

Released on elpee on November 27, 1972 in the US (Bizarre, MS 2093) and Argentina (Reprise, MH 14052) with gatefold cover.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Reprise, MS 2093) and the UK (Reprise, K 44209) with gatefold cover.
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 1986 in the US and Japan (Rykodisc, RCD 10026).
  3. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1995 in the US (Rykodisc, RCD 10517).
  4. Re-issued on compact disc in Japan (Rykodisc, VACK-1216).
  5. Re-issued on compact disc in 2012 in the US (Zappa, ZR 3849).

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