Thursday, May 21, 2009

He got muddy water he one mojo filter

Yep I know you know that I love Mojo magazine but it really does have a terrific track record (puns intended) when it comes to fulfulling my musical needs. I'm currently reading a Mojo special on the year 1969. A fabulous year. I turned 12 in October 1969. I can remember going to a movie on my birthday and the trailer was for 'Woodstock'. Wow - I have no idea what the movie was but I sure remember that trailer!

In that month of October 1969 these landmark albums were released: Joni Mitchell "Clouds', The Kinks 'Arthur or the decline and fall of the British Empire', Led Zeppelin 'II', Free 'Free', Janis Joplin 'I Got Dem Ol' Kosmic Blues Again Mama', Grateful Dead 'Aoxomoxoa', Isaac Hayes 'Hot Buttered Soul', Frank Zappa 'Hot Rats', King Crimson 'In The Court of the Crimson King', and Pink Floyd 'Ummagumma'. I own seven of these landmarks and of the seven I listen to the Zappa and King Crimson albums the most these days. The Led Zep is pretty worn out coz I thrashed it in the seventies and I've been meaning to get it on CD so that I can avoid the scratched bits. Haven't yet though. I still listen to the other two because they still reveal things - yes - even 40 years later. The Zappa album is of course a classic - mostly instrumental, it begins with the very lyrical 'Peaches En Regalia'. At only about 3 minutes long it's a very succinct piece. Next track - 'Willie the Pimp' contains the only vocal on the album, It's by Captain Beefheart - one of my favourite singers (see earlier post on the 'Bongo Fury' album) and after he does his bit Zappa flies off with some superb guitar. 'Son of Mr Green Genes' continues the extended workout concept from 'Willie' - great ensemble playing and it sounds both sweet and weird. Somehow Zappa makes sense out of each musician playing different stuff. My favourite Zappa song ever is 'Big Swifty' and 'Son of..' reminds me a lot of 'Big Swifty' in places. 'Little Umbrellas' is largely a keyboard driven piece that provides some variety. Zappa called this album a 'movie for your ears' in the liner notes and that's surely true - especially with this track. Then it's into the spectacular 'Gumbo Variations'. At nearly 17 minutes long it's the epic of the bunch. Starts off with horns and guitar duelling, slides into a sax solo of a sort of cockeyed jazz noise persuasion, moves through a drum sax guitar interlocking jam session that is the antithesis of noodling. This is the sound of musicians going for it/ challenging the status quo and sparking off each other. Ian Underwood on sax is amazing here. After the sax bass drum section Sugarcane Harris arrives with his violin for a another series of peaks. Zappa is a fantastic guitarist and this album is known as one of his guitar heavy albums. Yet 'Gumbo Variations', the longest track, contains no flashy guitar solos! 'It Must Be A Camel' is the final piece of music on 'Hot Rats'. It contains more great horn work by Ian Underwood and great keyboards from Ian Underwood (the only Mother of Invention on display here).

It's an extraordinary album but what's even more extraordinary is that it's not even my favourite Zappa album (that would be 'Waka Jawaka/Hot Rats'. Home to 'Big Swifty' and others).

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