Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Joe's Menage: Rough but funky!

Some weeks ago we promised a review of the new Zappa CD, Joe’s Menage.

Well, here it is:

This odd release was recorded live at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, USA on November 1, 1975.

The disc starts off with two songs that we have heard several times before: Honey, Don't You Want A Man Like Me and The Illinois Enema Bandit.

The first song has one interesting detail about it that some fans may have overlooked: At this early stage the "hippie chords” (just after the lines “they saw a real hippie, who delivered their dinner”) were played in a different key, and also more bars of it, thus making it sounding like it’s the start of a now song.

The Illinois Enema Bandit starts off with a saxophone and guitar riff that is so ugly that it’s beautiful. Nonetheless Zappa seemed to have edited it out off the Zappa In New York version which was recorded a year later.
Carolina Hard-core Ecstasy...Frank's guitar intro sounds rough and not as "perfect" as on Bongo Fury. A hot guitar solo though...including Frank's Pippi Longstocking song quote (see elsewhere this blog).
Lonely Little Girl. I just can't get enough of this song with the tasty guitar intro. Why was the second half of this song left off the We're Only In It For The Money album?
Take You Clothes Off When You Dance...must be one of the earliest examples of rock artists picking up reggae elements. Great!
What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body? Something unexpected happens at the very end of this song. Some band member fucks up his or her part but Frank solves the problem with a "It Can't Happen Here" quote and quickly rips into...
Chunga's Revenge. Here is where we hear the "unknown" band member Norma Jean Bell...improvising on vocals and saxophone.
We also get to hear Frank announcing one of his own solos: “Ladies and gentlemen, I will now play a rhythm guitar solo". Very rare! Ain't it funky now! Overall this track is the highlight of the CD.
Terry Bozzio rounds things off with a drum solo. Here is actually the only part where I feel that the sound quality sucks. Distorted drums are no fun!
Zoot Allures is great but fades out in the middle of the song, probably because the sound engineer had to change the tape. Maybe they could have made a nice edit instead, but I guess the idea was to release this recording the way Frank edited it.
One could wonder whether this is a worthwile addition to your collection. Seven out of eight songs on this album also appears on FZ:OZ, but with way better sound. (Yep, this is a low budget recording, just two microphones hanging in the roof). But I still like to hear this disc through again and again. I guess I never get tired of hearing Bozzio's hard driving drumming along with Frank's guitar. And this set has more energy to it than FZ:OZ.
The package is also very nice with some neat pictures and the Danish fan Ole Lysgaard’s letter where he tells about his feelings when Frank put him down in an interview. Interesting to read how Frank reacted when Ole told him he was unfair. Moving!



Anonymous said...

Andrés keyboard part is also quite different then later versions"He was the playboy type, he smoked a pipe".

Anonymous said...

...That is to say specifically the part played behind the lyrics "He was the playboy type, he smoked a pipe"

Neb & Siggy said...

Hmm...Andre's clavinet sounds OK, but it almost sounds like he plays some wrong notes/chords on that organ.//Siggy

Anonymous said...

Yes it's right on the edge of harmonically outside and wrong. I wondered about that, but doubt Frank would just let the slide. I personally like the tension of having it in a related key