Frank Zappa - Imaginary Diseases (recorded 1972, released 2006)

Oddients   1:13
Rollo   3:21
Been to Kansas City in A Minor   10:15
Farther O'Blivion 16:02
D.C. Boogie 13:27
Imaginary Diseases   9:45
Montreal   9:11
Total Time: 63 min, 8 sec

This is possibly Zappa's best posthumous release yet, especially if you like the Wazoo-era, jazzy big-band music. This CD captures the "Petite Wazoo" band in concert.

It took me a while to put up a real write-up for this CD, because in a bout of drunken generosity at a music festival, I gave my copy away to the leader of a Swedish band called Beardfish. If you've never heard them, I highly recommend their second album, The Sane Day, which sounds like a weird mix of Zappa and early Genesis, plus other influences. I could tell from their performance that the bandmembers were Zappa fans, or at least the vocalist/keyboardist was. He snuck a couple Zappa melodies into the keyboard parts, and introduced one song with "As Frank Zappa would say, this is a hard one to play". The kicker though was the band's song "Igloo on Two", which sounds like a lost song from the Roxy and Elsewhere album. If you're looking for a good, Zappa-influenced album from a new band, try The Sane Day.

Anyway, after giving away my first copy, I finally got around to ordering a replacement. The thing that spurred me on was finding out that you no longer have to order it directly from the Zappa website - mainstream places like CD Universe and Amazon are now carrying it. I ordered my replacement copy from the former site, for about $5 less than I would have paid at the Zappa site, and had the album in my hands again within a week.

The disc is a live album, created from recordings of the "Petite Wazoo" band - the smaller touring ensemble that Zappa put together when it became apparent that touring with the full "Grand Wazoo" big-band would be prohibitively expensive. The sound quality is just slightly below "official release" quality, which is probably why Frank didn't include any of this material on the You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore series, but the CD still sounds very good. Certainly a lot better than the audience bootlegs that I've heard from this tour.

The opening track, Oddients sounds improvised, with Frank conducting the audience in a somewhat surreal, wordless sing-along. The disc then jumps to a live performance of Rollo, which is turning up a surprising number of times lately for a title that Zappa himself never officially released while he was alive. I've read that this is an abbreviated version of the song, and that a section with lyrics was, for reasons unknown, edited out. For those who have heard the Stage series, this version of Rollo is basically an instrumental version of the extra music that was tacked onto the end of the Don't Eat the Yellow Snow suite.

The other track that sounds largely composed is Farther O'Blivion which, despite the title, is not related to the Yellow Snow song Father O'Blivion. This track sounds like it was a collection of pieces that Zappa knew he wanted to use somewhere, but hadn't quite found a home for yet. There are bits of what would become The Adventures of Greggery Peccary and Be-Bop Tango, along with other recognizable melodies.

The rest of the album sounds like mostly improvised jams, some in a bluesy vein, others more jazzy. In the middle of D.C. Boogie, Frank polls the audience about how they would like the song to end: as a boogie, as a march, or as a dog food jingle, plus a couple other options. Boogie got the most votes, so boogie it is.

I really, really enjoy the music on this disc. I'm a little surprised that the album doesn't include more known "songs" like Cleetus Awreetus-Awrightus or Blessed Relief. Maybe those songs were never played (I'm not enough of a concert scholar to know). Or maybe the rumors are true and a second Imaginary Diseases volume will eventually see the light of day.

Anyway, if you've been put off by releases like Joe's Domage and Joe's Xmasage and never got around to ordering Imaginary Diseases, by all means leave this web page right now and go order it. It's probably the most worthwhile new album that's been released since Frank died. And since it's now available through mainstream sources, you have no excuse.

Album Cover

Image of the Imaginary Diseases album cover