Frank Zappa - Joe's Domage (recorded 1972, released 2004)

When it's perfect...   3:18
The New Brown Clouds   2:44
Frog Song 17:23
It Just Might Be a One Shot Deal   1:57
The ending line...   3:12
Blessed Relief/The New Brown Clouds   5:03
It Ain't Real So What's the Deal 13:14
Think It Over (some)/Think It Over (some more)     5:20
Another Whole Melodic Section   1:53
When it feels natural...   1:27
 
Total Time: 55:29

The second installment of the "Joe's" series, which is dedicated to releasing obscurities and rarities from the massive vault of tapes that Zappa left behind when he died (for more details, see the review of Joe's Corsage). While that CD focused on the early Mothers of Invention, this disc takes a look behind the scenes at the Grand Wazoo era.

Domage has been the source of some debate on the alt.fan.frank-zappa newsgroup. Some posters are outraged at spending $13 (plus the hiked-up postage fee) for what amounts to a 55 minute low-fi "bootleg" tape of the Grand Wazoo band rehearsing. I can definitely see their point. The source of this recording seems to have been a low-budget tape recorder sitting in the rehearsal room and continuously recording. When the music gets loud (which is most of the time that the full band is playing, roughly correlating to the track titles in bold above), the volume overwhelms the recording device and the sound gets a bit distorted, especially in the lower ranges. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), this only affects about 15 minutes or so of the recording, since the majority of the disc consists of Zappa talking to band members, explaining how to play certain parts, etc. Plus "solo" bits where FZ plays a melody on his guitar and/or members of the band work on a particular line. Often the talking parts are too quiet to really make out much of what's being said. And the the end of the disc literally cuts off mid-sentence.

The other side of the argument for this disc is that if it turned up in bootleg trading circles, everyone would want a copy. Whether that justifies making it official release #73 and charging full price for it is a question that each listener (or those who pass on the album) will have to answer for themselves. Personally, I think Frank himself would probably be embarrassed if he knew this poor sounding practice session was being added to his official catalog. On the other hand, I bought it knowing full well what it was, so there's an audience for this sort of thing, even if it is only the hard-core Zappa fanatics.

Another feature of the release is that the liner notes include the lyrics to a song called Think it Over which was eventually overhauled into an instrumental and given a different title. The lyrics had been previously printed in Zappa's book Them or Us, but now we get to see them "in context", and even hear clips of the musicians learning how to sing them.

In the final analysis, I guess I fall in the camp that doesn't think this should have been an official release. I'm only a little put out about the cost (at least they're not charging $20 for it, and by ordering this and Joe's Corsage together the shipping was only $6, which is still too high for two CDs but oh well). Anyway, my misgiving about this disc is that it's now a part of the official Zappa catalog, which up until now didn't include anything nearly this shoddy sounding. A better choice might have been to offer it for download from the Zappa website for some nominal amount (like a buck or two). I'm glad to have had a chance to hear it, but I probably won't play it too many more times - only when I do my occasional Zappa marathons and listen to everything. Meanwhile I'll be hoping that the rest of the "Joe's" series comes up with something more interesting (and more listenable) than this.

Album Cover

Image of the Joes's Domage album cover