On the evening of December 10, 1971, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention had just encored with a performance of The Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" at London's Rainbow Theatre when a so-called fan jumped onto the stage and pushed the bandleader some twelve feet into the orchestra pit. With injuries to his face, head, ribs, arm, and leg, Zappa was lucky to survive. He was forced into a near-yearlong period of convalescence in a wheelchair and leg brace, but he didn't stop creating or recording. 1972 would turn out to be one of the most creatively fertile years of his career, and now, it's being chronicled by Zappa Records and UMe on a new 4-CD/1-Blu-ray box set. Waka/Wazoo, due on December 16 just in time for the final week of the holiday shopping season, marks 50 years since Zappa brought his dream of an "electric orchestra" to life. This set picks up from where the spring release of The Mothers 1971 left off.
While recovering, Zappa oversaw the release of Just Another Band from L.A., a live album recorded the previous summer in Los Angeles featuring the "Flo and Eddie" iteration of The Mothers. With the album bringing that musical chapter of his life to a close, he envisioned a new orchestra to bring his increasingly complex jazz fusion/modern classical compositions to life with the full-throttle volume and power of a rock show. While a few of his old friends joined the sessions (drummer Aynsley Dunbar, keyboardists George Duke and Don Preston, percussionist Alan Estes, guitarist Jeff Simmons), the lineup was largely populated by new recruits such as bassist Alex "Erroneous" Dmochowski, guitarist Tony Duran, percussionist Bob Zimmitti, and horn players Sal Marquez, Malcolm McNab, Kenny Shroyer, Earle Dumler, and Tony "Bat Man" Ortega.
Recording commenced with the group on April 10, 1972 at Paramount Studios, and by the end of the month, the prolific Zappa had enough material for two albums. Waka/Jawaka, released in July, featured smaller combinations of musicians (6-9 players) and served as a spiritual successor to 1969's Hot Rats. Just months later, in November, The Grand Wazoo would arrive - and it didn't skimp on the "grand." Its songs would feature between 8 and 20 players. Primarily instrumental jazz-fusion, both albums boasted appearances by big band and Broadway arranger Billy Byers; in addition to lending a rumored hand with the charts, he played the trombone solo on the epic title track of Wazoo.
In September, between the two release dates, Zappa and his full orchestra embarked on an eight-date tour. This "Mothers of Invention/Hot Rats/Grand Wazoo" tour debuted at the Hollywood Bowl on September 10 and made its way to Europe. Perhaps buckling under the immense expense of traveling with such a group, Zappa's next tour would offer a slimmed-down, 10-piece lineup. This unit was billed as The Mothers of Invention but has since been remembered as the "Petite Wazoo."
Waka/Wazoo promises a comprehensive chronicle of this era. The original Waka/Jawaka and Grand Wazoo albums are presented on the Blu-ray disc in three high-resolution formats: 48kHz/24-bit Dolby Atmos, 48kHz/24-bit Dolby TrueHD 5.1, and 96kHz/24-bit PCM Stereo. The first two CDs present unreleased takes of almost every track recorded during the albums' original sessions at Paramount Studios. The third disc premieres a set of demos for George Duke's solo material recorded at Paramount, with Zappa serving as producer and guitarist. While Duke would go on to re-record these tracks on his own albums, the Zappa versions have never been officially issued until now. This disc is rounded out by the "Grand Wazoo" live performance of "Approximate" from the Boston show of September 24, 1972, as originally mixed by Zappa at The Record Plant. (The full show was issued in 2007 as Wazoo and is not repeated here.) The fourth CD has the final full show of the "Petite Wazoo," from San Francisco's Winterland on December 15, 1972.
The box set has been curated and produced by Ahmet Zappa and Vaultmeister Joe Travers. It's housed in a clamshell box with a 44-page booklet featuring previously unpublished photos from the recording sessions, rehearsals, and tours, as well as new liner notes by Travers and historian Scott Parker. Craig Parker Adams at Winslow Ct. Studios and John Polito at Audio Mechanics have created the new stereo mixes from the original 1972 16-track and 4-track analog masters, with everything mastered by Polito. The Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital True HD 5.1 surround mixes have been created from the original multitracks by Erich Gobel and Karma Auger at Studio 1LA. The 96kHz 24-bit high-resolution stereo presentations of both albums were mastered in 2012 by Doug Sax with Robert Hadley and Sangwook "Sunny" Nam at The Mastering Lab. Both original albums will also be available for hi-res streaming.
Waka/Wazoo is available to pre-order now from Zappa's official store and uDiscovermusic.com. Amazon links will be forthcoming. An alternate take of The Grand Wazoo's "Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus" is currently streaming. If you're interested in the original albums only, Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo are also returning to vinyl in both 180-gram black vinyl and color vinyl editions. Zappa.com and uDiscovermusic.com will exclusively offer Waka/Jawaka on translucent green vinyl and The Grand Wazoo on brown marble vinyl, both with tip-on jackets and lithographs. They've been mastered from the analog tapes by Bernie Grundman and pressed at Optimal Media in Germany. You'll find the track listing and pre-order links for Waka/Wazoo below!
CD 1: Paramount Studios Recording Session Alternates and Outtakes
- Your Mouth (Take 1)
- Big Swifty (Alternate Take)
- Minimal Art (Eat That Question - Version 1, Take 2)
- Blessed Relief (Outtake Version)
- Think It Over (The Grand Wazoo) (Outtake Version)
- For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers) (Outtake Version)
- Waka/Jawaka (Outtake Version)
CD 2: Paramount Studios Recording Session Alternates and Outtakes (continued)
- Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus (Alternate Take)
- Eat That Question (Version 2, Alternate Take)
- Big Swifty (Alternate Mix)
- For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers) (Alternate Mix)
- It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal (Alternate Mix)
- Waka/Jawaka (Alternate Mix)
- Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus (Alternate Mix)
- Eat That Question (Alternate Mix)
George Duke Demos - The Master Versions
- For Love (I Come Your Friend)
- Psychosomatic Dung
- Uncle Remus (Instrumental)
George Duke Session Outtakes
- For Love (I Come Your Friend) (Basic Track, Take 1)
- Psychosomatic Dung (Basic Track, Take 2)
- Love (Basic Track, Take 1)
The Grand Wazoo - Live
- Approximate (Live - FZ Record Plant Mix)
10-Piece/Petite Wazoo - Live / Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, CA - 12-15-1972
- Winterland '72 Opening And Band Introductions
- Little Dots
CD 4: 10-Piece/Petite Wazoo - Live (continued)
Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, CA - 12-15-1972
- America Drinks
- Farther O'Blivion
- Cosmik Debris
- Chunga's Revenge
Blu-ray Audio Disc (48kHz 24-bit Dolby Atmos, 48kHz 24-bit Dolby TrueHD 5.1, 96kHz 24-bit PCM Stereo):
- Big Swifty
- Your Mouth
- It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal
- Waka / Jawaka
- The Grand Wazoo
- For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers)
- Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus
- Eat That Question
- Blessed Relief