Frank Zappa - Little Dots (recorded Nov/Dec 1972, released Nov 2016)

Cosmic Debris   5:40
Little Dots Part 1 11:00
Little Dots Part 2 12:59
Rollo (includes Rollo, The Rollo Interior Area and Rollo Goes Out)   9:04
Kansas City Shuffle   6:46
Columbia S.C. Part 1   8:58
Columbia S.C. Part 2 16:40
Total Time:    1 Hour 11 minutes, 8 seconds

The flood of posthumous Zappa releases continued with three more albums coming out in November of 2016. As of this writing I haven't heard the other two yet, but while putting together an Amazon order last week that site helpfully suggested this album for the very reasonable price of $8.69, and I couldn't resist adding it to the order.

This disc is meant as a companion for the Imaginary Diseases album, which also documented the "Petite Wazoo" band live in concert. Why this second volume took over a decade to come out is anyone's guess. The CD starts off with a very early version of Cosmic Debris, which I'm guessing was included for historic reasons as it's not the strongest performance you'll ever hear of that song.

This disc sees the first official release of the Zappa composition Little Dots, although it seems almost insane that major unreleased FZ tunes are still being unearthed this long after his death. The liner notes booklet even includes a picture of the hand-written sheet music for the tune. Being completely unfamiliar with the piece, it's hard for me to say how much of its 24 minute length is composed and how much improvised. It's split into two parts which brings up a minor gripe I have about the disc - the slipcase that serves as the album's cover lists five tracks, but the disc itself splits the second and fifth songs into two parts, so after track 2 the disc no longer matches the printed track listing. A minor annoyance, but seems like that's something that shouldn't have been that hard to get right (especially since there are only five songs).

This album also sees yet another version of Rollo, with this one supposedly being the most complete one to date. It's split into three sections. The opening part features lyrics about a dog named Rollo and a guy named Rollo and Rollo's wife Swallow, who...well, you can guess what she does by her name. That part of the song was entirely new to my ears. The latter two parts should be pretty familiar by now to anyone who has made it this far into Frank's posthumous discography, although they also contain a fair amount of jamming.

The last half hour or so of the album features improvised jams. Kansas City Shuffle is just that, an improvised shuffle recorded at the Petite Wazoo's show in Kansas City. The Columbia S.C. track is interesting in that it features a drummer who wasn't part of the band. As the liner notes booklet relates, the regular drummer Jim Gordon (who was also in Derek and the Dominoes but who is probably most infamous for ending up in an insane asylum after murdering his mother) and trumpeter Gary Barone were arrested just before the show on drug charges. So Zappa asked Maury Baker who had drummed for the opener, Tim Buckley, if he could fill in. Baker didn't know the material, so the whole show was improvised. They did a remarkable job, as shown by the 25 minutes presented here. There's even a bit of steel drum worked into the mix. My favorite bit is in the second half where they flirt with the James Bond theme a couple times and even seem like they're going to go fully into it near the end.

The sound quality is...acceptable. Certainly better than most bootlegs, although slightly below "official release" quality, which is probably why Frank himself never released anything from this tour. But it's completely listenable and if you're interested at all in Zappa's big-band jazz period, this one's a must-hear.

Album Cover

Image of the Little Dots album cover