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Zappa, Frank - Hot Rats - Nearly White Hot Stamper

The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.

Nearly White Hot Stamper

Frank Zappa
Hot Rats

Regular price
$599.99
Regular price
Sale price
$599.99
Unit price
per 
Availability
Sold out

Sonic Grade

Side One:

Side Two:

Vinyl Grade

Side One: Mint Minus Minus

Side Two: Mint Minus Minus

  • Hot Rats returns to the site for only the second time in years on this original Bizarre pressing with two killer Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides - just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • The overall sound here is musical, natural and balanced with an abundance of Tubey Magical that only these better early pressings can offer
  • If you know the album well, and I know it very well, having played it literally hundreds of times, the Classic is positively unlistenable and will never come close to big, rich analog sonics of the real deal we're offering here
  • 4 1/2 stars: "Hot Rats still sizzles; few albums originating on the rock side of jazz-rock fusion flowed so freely between both sides of the equation, or achieved such unwavering excitement and energy."

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These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top-quality sound that's often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers ("relative" meaning relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don't agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.


It takes us years to find copies that sound like this one. Bernie’s version for Classic beats a lot of copies out there, but it can’t hold a candle to this one.

I’ve been listening to Hot Rats since I was in high school. It’s still remarkably fresh and original, even now. This is not music for the faint of heart. Audiophiles who prefer a steady diet of Patricia Barber and her like will find little of interest here. But for those of you who want to explore something completely original and a bit “out there,” this should be right up your alley — and be sure to check out Waka Jawaka, too.

Reading in the liner notes today, I see that one of the engineers on this album is Jack Hunt, the famous half-speed mastering engineer who cut records for Mobile Fidelity and Direct Disc Labs. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

This vintage Bizarre pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to "see" the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It's what vintage all analog recordings are known for -- this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it -- not often, and certainly not always -- but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What The Best Sides Of Hot Rats Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1969
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Shootout Criteria

What are sonic qualities by which a record -- any record -- should be judged? Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, vocal presence, frequency extension (on both ends), transparency, spaciousness, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, three-dimensionality, and on and on down the list.

When we can get a number of these qualities to come together on the side we’re playing, we provisionally give it a ballpark Hot Stamper grade, a grade that is often revised during the shootout as we hear what the other copies are doing, both good and bad.

Once we’ve been through all the side ones, we play the best of the best against each other and arrive at a winner for that side. Other copies from earlier in the shootout will frequently have their grades raised or lowered based on how they sounded compared to the eventual shootout winner. If we’re not sure about any pressing, perhaps because we played it early on in the shootout before we had learned what to listen for, we take the time to play it again.

Repeat the process for side two and the shootout is officially over. All that’s left is to see how the sides of each pressing match up.

It may not be rocket science, but it’s a science of a kind, one with strict protocols that we’ve developed over the course of many years to insure that the results we arrive at are as accurate as we can make them.

The result of all our work speaks for itself, on this very record in fact. We guarantee you have never heard this music sound better than it does on our Hot Stamper pressing -- or your money back.

What We're Listening For On Hot Rats

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, lost in the mix. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.

Track Commentary

The Tracklist tab above will take you to a select song breakdown for each side, with plenty of What to Listen For advice. Other records with track breakdowns can be found here.

A Must Own Jazz-Rock Record

Hot Rats is a recording that belong in any serious Rock Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.

Side One

  • Peaches En Regalia
  • This track tends to be a bit dull and could use a little sweetening on the top end on almost any copy you find. 1 or 2 dB at 10k might just be what the doctor ordered.
  • Willie the Pimp
  • This is one of the two extended tracks on the album; the second track on each side is 'the long one,' and they both suffer from the same slight upper midrange boost. This song and "The Gumbo Variations" on side two are both difficult to turn up due to their tendency to be slightly aggressive.
  • Son Of Mr. Green Genes
  • One of the best sounding tracks on the album, and probably the best sound to be found on side one.

Side Two

  • Little Umbrellas
  • Possibly the best sounding song Zappa ever recorded. With the right pressing, the sound is perfection.
  • The Gumbo Variations
  • Again, a slight tendency towards the aggressive, but great music. If you like hard bop sax, this track is for you.
  • It Must Be A Camel
  • The second best sounding track on the album, and some of the best music Zappa ever recorded. You have to love all the Edgar Varese-inspired percussion.

AMG 4 1/2 Star Review

Aside from the experimental side project Lumpy Gravy, Hot Rats was the first album Frank Zappa recorded as a solo artist sans the Mothers, though he continued to employ previous musical collaborators, most notably multi-instrumentalist Ian Underwood. Other than another side project — the doo wop tribute Cruising With Ruben and the Jets — Hot Rats was also the first time Zappa focused his efforts in one general area, namely jazz-rock. The result is a classic of the genre.

Hot Rats’ genius lies in the way it fuses the compositional sophistication of jazz with rock’s down-and-dirty attitude — there’s a real looseness and grit to the three lengthy jams, and a surprising, wry elegance to the three shorter, tightly arranged numbers (particularly the sumptuous “Peaches en Regalia”). Perhaps the biggest revelation isn’t the straightforward presentation, or the intricately shifting instrumental voices in Zappa’s arrangements — it’s his own virtuosity on the electric guitar, recorded during extended improvisational workouts for the first time here. His wonderfully scuzzy, distorted tone is an especially good fit on “Willie the Pimp,” with its greasy blues riffs and guest vocalist Captain Beefheart’s Howlin’ Wolf theatrics.

Elsewhere, his skill as a melodist was in full flower, whether dominating an entire piece or providing a memorable theme as a jumping-off point. In addition to Underwood, the backing band featured contributions from Jean-Luc Ponty, Lowell George, and Don “Sugarcane” Harris, among others; still, Zappa is unquestionably the star of the show.

Hot Rats still sizzles; few albums originating on the rock side of jazz-rock fusion flowed so freely between both sides of the equation, or achieved such unwavering excitement and energy.