Frank Zappa - Joe's Corsage (recorded 1964-5, released 2004)

"pretty pat"   0:32
Motherly Love   2:21
Plastic People   3:04
Anyway the Wind Blows   2:55
I Ain't Got No Heart   3:50
"the phone call"   0:33
My Babe (Hatfield/Medley)   3:33
Wedding Dress Song / Handsome Cabin Boy (Traditional)     1:03
Hitch Hike (Gaye/Paul/Stevenson)   2:54
I'm So Happy I Could Cry   2:43
Go Cry on Somebody Else's Shoulder   3:29
How Could I Be Such a Fool?   2:59
"we made our reputation doing it that way..."   5:33
Total Time: 35 min, 32 sec

The first of the "Joe's" series, which plans to make the occasional release of rarities from the vault of recordings that Zappa left behind when he died. There have been other grand plans that have come and gone since FZ's death, but this one seems to have at least gotten off the ground with two releases so far (this one and Joe's Domage. The albums in this series are put together by Joe Travers, the current "vaultmeister" who's in charge of searching through and digitally archiving the vast number of tapes that Zappa left in the vault.

Unfortunately the only way of obtaining the "Joe's" discs (at least for buyers in the U.S.) is to order them from the Zappa web site. Be prepared to wait a while for your order to be processed, and then wait a while longer for the overpriced shipping to finally get the disc to you.

Corsage is comprised of recordings from the very early Mothers of Invention band (before the release of Freak Out). The sound quality varies from nearly perfect to slightly rough, but considering the source is 40 year old tapes, it sounds surprisingly good. The first five tracks have the best sound quality, having been digitally remastered by Zappa himself in the late 80s. But even at the worst, the only problems are some nearly inaudible dropouts and some tape hiss, plus one section near the end of Hitch Hike where the left channel disappears for a second or two.

The three titles in quotes are interview clips of Zappa talking about the early days of the band - how they got their name, how Frank joined the band, their influences and early concerts, etc. Not counting those, there's only about 28 minutes of actual music on the CD, so it's a fairly short album.

Motherly Love is an early demo version that is fairly similar to the final released version, except that the lyrics name specific band members when boasting about how "nature's been good" to them. Plastic People is musically similar to Louie Louie, with the lyrics from the version on Absolutely Free although they add some goofy "wappa-doodee-wappa" vocal embellishments similar to the scatting weirdness on some of the early singles on the Cucamonga Years CD, plus an unexpected shout of "You're the freaks!".

I Ain't Got No Heart is very similar to previously released versions, but with a guitar solo in the middle (possibly Zappa, possibly Henry Vestine, I'm not sure which). I Ain't Got No Heart starts off with FZ saying "Sounds like a hit already", then launches into such a different beginning section that it's hardly recognizable as the song from Freak Out. It eventually settles into a more recognizable form, similar to the one on that album, and finally fades out with an extended repetition of a closing riff.

At this point we switch from early demos to a live performance circa late 1964 or early 1965. The band is made up of Zappa on guitar and vocals, Ray Collins on lead vocals, tambourine and harmonica, Roy Estrada on bass and vocals and Jimmy Carl Black on drums. This section of the album is a bit of a revelation, as it features two songs that have never been released under the Zappa name before (although both My Babe and Hitch Hike are cover songs). The music is fairly standard 60s bluesy bar band fare, played with an enthusiasm that makes the songs very catchy. The vocals are surprisingly good, leading me to wonder why Zappa didn't make more use of these sorts of vocal harmonies on the early Mothers albums. The version of Wedding Dress Song / Handsome Cabin Boy is just a short lead-in to Hitch Hike, but the arrangement is so different from the version on The Lost Episodes that I didn't even recognize it as the same song on my first listen.

The last section of the album features three more early demos. The first one, I'm So Happy I Could Cry, will sound very familiar to most Zappa fans, or at least the music will. It's a variation of Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance from We're Only in it For the Money, but with completely different lyrics. Believe it or not, it's a fairly sincere love song. Closing out the CD are demos of Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder and How Could I Be Such a Fool that are similar to the final released versions.

If you're a big fan of the early Mothers and/or want to hear how some of the songs on the early albums developed, then this disc is worth the price and the hassle of dealing with the Zappa Family Trust. If you're just getting started with Zappa or the Freak Out era doesn't do much for you, then you can probably skip this CD.

Album Cover

Image of the Joes's Corsage album cover