The Mothers - The Grand Wazoo (1972), 7/10

One of my favorite fusion records and certainly the strangest. Zappa really shows his very specific brand of genius on The Grand Wazoo and it blends so perfectly with this arrangement style. I fully admit that the record's first impression caters to my personal taste quite a bit, but there are some undeniably perfect little moments on this record, and it is absolutely brimming with creativity. Especially tracks like "For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers)" and "Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus" are tinged with Zappa's unique touch blended with this big band aesthetic, while "Eat That Question" and "Blessed Relief" have their own flavor of cool fusion. "Blessed Relief" notably serves as a perfectly titled closer and one that makes you want to come back for more each listen with its variety and ethereal touch; the dreamy ending is like a perfect bow to tie off a such an experience. All of that praise aside, it does not quite reach the heights it could, hindered by a certain lack of timely grace or what I would call an empty narrative. There are unique sounds, certainly unique passages and exercises that create standout moments, but they can be lost in the mix of such verbose and far reaching individual songs; with the exception of “Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus” being a quick three minutes, the rest are six to thirteen minutes and do not gain much from their lack of brevity, expanding on concepts that are already matured much sooner in the song’s life than their end. It is a great fusion record, particularly in the greater context of the seventies and even among The Mothers’ illustrious career, but not something that can stand up to the best in the business, either in big band or jazz inspired rock music. The album has some verses of considerable effect that create a notable intensity, even a refinement at times, that complement the grandiose experience, resulting in something truly notable.