Stuck in a wheelchair after being shoved offstage by a fan in London , Frank Zappa spent most of 1972 trying to recover from the various injuries: a broken rib, a fractured leg ( that would never heal correctly leading to chronic back pain for the rest of Zappa's life) and head wounds.
Waka/Jawaka , released July 5, 1972, sounds like a response to the many fusion excursions Miles Davis had been on recently. Maybe it's a bridge between Hot Rats and The Grand Wazoo which would be released just five months later. Zappa's fronting a "big band" with multiple horn players of which trumpeter Sal Marquez takes the most solos. There are two long cuts. Side One is take up by the 17-minute "Big Swifty". Side Two has two short cuts: "Your Mouth" and the country-tinged "It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal" featuring vocals from Marquez and Janet Ferguson. Zappa has crushed his larynx in the fall. When he finally did return to singing his voice would be much lower...almost a growl.
Rolling Stone critic Rob Houghton took his sweet time reviewing the album. In an October issue he finally wrote:
Maybe Frank Zappa is just getting mellow for the first time in his career. Or maybe it's just a phase. Either way, while Waka/Jawaka may lack the brilliance of Hot Rats, or the capacity for irritation that existed on some of the Mothers' material, it's a distinctive album. Which, in his case, is either a sign of maturity, or evidence of exhaustion.
I find myself listening repeatedly only to the title track. A foreshadow of much better things to come in December's Grand Wazoo.