The Hot Rats Sessions (Reissue)
With Hot Rats, originally released in the fall of 1969, Frank Zappa showcased his talent by blasting through with incredible jazz-fusion-based gems. Hot Rats is the most essential Zappa record, with a rounded mix of both his technical abilities as a composer and soloist. The track listing is short and keeps the record totally focused. With his earlier work in the Mothers of Invention, his masterful fretwork would sometimes get lost in the vocal melodies.
Hot Rats was the first album to be recorded on a 16-track recorder, as the standard of the day was either a 4 or 8-track. This gave Zappa much more flexibility to layer and overdub music as he chose, and we can hear the evolution of the songs that eventually made the final cut. This made room for plenty of experimentation.
The Hot Rats Sessions, a massive six-disc collection released for the album’s 50th anniversary, brings you into the studio with Zappa. Literally every take of every song recorded for the album and more has been included on this mammoth release. The CDs themselves are even designed to look like the master tapes. The album, self-described as a “Movie For Your Ears”, is exactly what we are given. Hearing Zappa talk to the other musicians in between takes sounds as if he is directing a cinematic epic.
Hearing what would become “Peaches En Regalia” played as a classical piano piece on “Piano Music (Section 3)” is an absolute delight and really showcases the diversity in Zappa’s music.
Aside from the incredible look into the Hot Rats recording process, which has been beautifully remastered by Bob Ludwig, the packaging is also a triumph. Features incredible pictures from the studio as well as liner notes from Simpsons creator and Zappa mega-fan, Matt Groening. It even includes a Frank Zappa board game for Christ-sake! This collection was made by people who really know how to put together a box-set.
Where this release does fall short is by not including the original LP. These studio outtakes are certainly fascinating to listen to but they are only prototypes. While we’re certainly given lots of goodies in this package, it would only be recommended for Zappa freaks or serious record collectors.