“Hot Rats” is the second solo album by Frank Zappa, an American musician, composer, singer-songwriter and bandleader, who was influenced by the 20th century contemporary music, including Igor Stravinsky, Anton Webern and Edgard Varese, and African-American music, such as doo-wop and R&B, and had a vast influence on many musicians with his hybrid music in a wide variety of styles, such as rock, pop, jazz, orchestral and musique concrète works, from the late 1960s into the early 1990s.
“Hot Rats” was recorded in 1969 and was released on Bizarre Records in the same year, after Zappa disbanded his band the Mothers of Invention.
The album is one of the pioneering masterpieces in the genre of jazz-rock/jazz fusion.
It was produced in collaboration between Zappa (guitar, octave bass, percussion) and multi-instrumentalist Ian Underwood (piano, organ, flute, clarinets, saxophones), who was a member of the Mothers.
It was one of the first albums to be recorded on 16-track recording equipment. This advanced technology at that time made it possible to add multiple horn and keyboard overdubs by Underwood.
The album was highly appreciated in Europe, especially in the UK, rather than in the US. It reached number 9 on the UK Albums Chart, and was voted Top Album in the international division of the 1970 “Melody Maker” Pop Poll.
It features melodic compositions with complex structures, elaborate arrangement, and jazzy improvisation. It also incorporated the elements of chamber music and blues rock.
It contains six tracks. Every track except “Willie the Pimp” is instrumental.
All tracks are composed, arranged, and produced by Zappa. He played guitar on all tracks.
“Peaches en Regalia” is a famous composition which is widely recognized as a jazz fusion standard. It features keyboards, flute, saxophone, clarinet by Underwood and bass by Shuggie Otis. It was released as a single in 1970, with “Little Umbrellas” as the B-side.
“Willie the Pimp” is a blues rock tune which features Captain Beefheart’s vocals with his gravelly voice, electric violin by Don “Sugarcane” Harris, and guitar solos by Zappa.
“Son of Mr. Green Genes” is an instrumental re-arrangement of the song “Mr. Green Genes” from the Mothers’ album “Uncle Meat” (1969). It features extended guitar solos by Zappa.
“Little Umbrellas” and “It Must Be a Camel” are melodic tunes which are similar in style to “Peaches en Regalia”. Both feature numerous keyboard and wind overdubs by Underwood. Jean-Luc Ponty plays violin on “It Must Be a Camel”.
“The Gumbo Variations” is a long (over 12 minutes) jam performance featuring a tenor saxophone solo by Underwood, an electric violin solo by Harris, and a guitar solo by Zappa. Underwood’s freaky and brutal tenor saxophone like free jazz is impressive.
The CD released by Rykodisc in 1987 is a remixed edition by Zappa.
In 2019, Zappa Records released “The Hot Rats Sessions”, a 50th anniversary 6 CD box set of music recorded during the sessions for the album.