Joe’s Menage

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Released 26 September 2008

Recorded in concert at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA on 1 November 1975. The album first germinated when Frank gave fan Ole Lysgaard several cassette tapes, including this one, in 1978. In 2004, Lysgaard sent the tapes to Gail and she decided to release the 1975 music, which was restored and mastered by John Polito.

Tracklist

  1. Honey, Don’t You Want a Man Like Me? (3:57)
  2. The Illinois Enema Bandit (8:42)
  3. Carolina Hard-core Ecstasy (6:02)
  4. Lonely Little Girl (2:46)
  5. Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance (2:10)
  6. What’s The Ugliest Part of Your Body? (1:16)
  7. Chunga’s Revenge (14:18)
  8. Zoot Allures (6:41)

Players
FZ (guitar and vocals), Norma Jean Bell (alto saxophone and vocals), Napoleon Murphy Brock (tenor saxophone and vocals), Andre Lewis (keyboards and vocals), Roy Estrada (bass and vocals), Terry Bozzio (drums)

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7 Responses to “Joe’s Menage”

  1. Rick Wood says:

    A nice Zappa artifact, quite appropriately in the Joe’s series. Fine music, sound not as good as FZ/OZ.

    Several novel points of interest here. This is a good chunk of a live recording of the line-up including Norma Bell on alto sax, who had departed from the band by the time of FZ/OZ. It is the 1 November 1975 concert apparently not in previous circulation, and even in Greg Russo’s Cosmik Debris book the engagement is given as “Richmond Coliseum, Richmond, VA”. But apparently it was at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. The concert was definitely recorded at a college, as FZ speaks to the college students during The Illinois Enema Bandit. The band must have been tired, after two Halloween shows the previous evening at the Felt Forum in New York. But they sound energetic and on top of it.

    The sequence of songs here is one that was regularly played in this part of the tour. FZ plays guitar solos with aggressive, imaginative sounds throughout.

    “Honey Don’t You Want a Man Like Me” is introduced as a new song. It is fully formed vocally with Roy Estrada singing the “Betty” parts. FZ rattles off his own part of the lyrics somewhat mechanically.

    Roy Estrada put on a ski mask for a bandit imitation during the Illinois Enema Bandit segment, as documented by narration and in photos in the accompanying booklet. Norma Bell’s backup singing is very welcome in the choruses.

    The next three tunes from WOIIFTM are done much as on FZ/OZ, with a little more loopy guitar interjection. Nice Andre Lewis playing on “Take Your Clothes off”. On “What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body”, there is a band train wreck of some kind and FZ doesn’t complete the lyrics. But they rip on into Chunga’s Revenge.

    Chunga’s Revenge has the featured Norma Bell appearance, first with an improvised soul vocal section, then a skilled alto sax solo. Next a heatedly blown Andre Lewis Melodica-synth solo. FZ announces “I will now play a rhythm guitar solo” and proceeds to do a funky one before a quite wonderful Bozzio drum solo.

    Zoot Allures is beautifully played with all the integral feedback effects and sounds pretty good. It fades out midway through the solo and fades back in again with some novel variations, then acknowledgement of the band. Presumably an encore was played after this.

    Overall, the recording sounds slightly better one would expect, given the circumstances – direct to cassette with mics hanging down in an auditorium, monitored from the mixing board. The release was inspired by a cassette that Danish fan Ole Lysgaard sent back to the ZPZ. Despite a long paragraph of explanation from Gail Zappa in the liner notes, I cannot figure out whether this CD was made from Lysgaard’s tape (and thus a dub of a lost original), or whether the original cassette was subsequently found in the vault and used as source material for this CD. Lysgaard provides some interesting and totally understandable liner notes.

    The CD comes in a jewel case, with a nice glossy insert that opens up with photographs. Absent are the Norma and Frank ones in the Flash sequence on the zappa.com website, but there are some other good ones of this band in performance.

  2. Paul Sempschi says:

    What can I say about an official release that has average bootleg sound, a fade out during “Zoot” and at fewer than 50 minutes, isnt even a complete concert?

    Well, the band is tight. Very tight, IMHO and it shows on the Chunga and Zoot jams. Terry Bozzio’s solos and Norma + Nappy’s sax accompanyment really sweetened my experience with this concert. Frank is in good form all through the solos (I prefer his stacco distortion solos from the Wazoo-77 period, so this was a quite a treat for me). I also liked Zappa’s rhythm guitar back up throughout “Chunga”.

    And this is the best “Enema Bandit” I’ve ever heard, IMHO. Though keep in mind that this is a song that I loathe, it just seems so mechanical and not very engaging, like “Whipping Post”, “The Torture Never Stops” and “Bamboozled by Love” (these two are not on this release)- though, they were great vehicles for Zappa solos. The vamp and guitar solo over “Carolina” also shows Frank in great form.

    I agree with Rick, the shorter songs are quite mechanical run throughs and I didnt really find anything new or astounding about these four performances.

    I did enjoy listening to this cd. Though it helps matters that I did download it- and even if you remove Sloatman/Zappafan politics out of the equation, I still wouldnt recommend buying this cd for anymore than $5-10 US. The fact is, it’s very short and the audio quality is less than stellar. You probably know the back story about how this release came off of a tape Frank gave a fan, making it an ‘official bootleg’ IMHO.

    It also makes me wonder if “the vault is a myth”, as there surely should be some nuggets which could be added onto this release to supplement it AND to sweeten the deal: field recordings, some audio from rehersals OR better yet, release the November 22, 1975 show where “Black Napkins” was taken (and released on “Frank Zappa Plays the Music of Frank Zappa”, the same line up but superior sound quality). If the vault was as plentiful as Sloatman claims (over 200 releases), then she should just throw this one away: give it to the fans to entice them for a much more epic release: complete shows? Roxy? The Complete History and Improvisions of the Mothers of Invention 10 lp box set?

    But I digress and I shouldnt judge this album by what’s not on it. But, I cant stress enough, 45 minutes and C+ sound quality. It’s basically a great listen that makes me nostalgic for the Friday Boots downloads which used to be hosted by this wonderful website.

    As a release: 5/10
    As a performance 8/10.
    I’m giving it 6/10.

  3. E=Money says:

    IF you want that 10 LP box set DL it @ http://www.zappateers.com. And to correct you sir, the Wazoo period is from the early seventies not 77. And those “stacco” solos you speak of: I assume you mean staccato, are material similar to “Ship Ahoy” found in various shows from 1975 on. Or maybe you meant Stucco Homes from the SUAPYG series. Take Care

  4. Michael Pabst says:

    If you went to these shows and expected something like One Size Fits All, it must have been a big disappointment.

  5. epistrophy says:

    I guess by now we all expect that any new release in the “Joe’s…” series is to be treated with a certain amount of caution. This series is definitely aimed at providing a glimpse behind the scenes, rather than providing us with high-quality albums, and is therefore solely for the fans – most of whom seem to be underwhelmed by the undertaking.

    Joe’s Menage is a frustrating listening experience. Personally I find the performances here really great, far more engaging, inventive, energetic and entertaining than those to be found by pretty much the same band on FZ:OZ. The humour level is high, and most importantly FZ’s guitar playing is wonderful throughout. Terry Bozzio’s drumming is very high-energy, Napoleon Murphy Brock gives some of his best vocal performances here, Andre Lewis’s Melodica solo is wonderfully deranged -even Roy Estrada’s “high weaslings” seem somehow better on this release!

    You may look at the track listing and feel that you really have no room in your brain for yet more versions of some of these songs, but “Honey, Don’t You Want A Man Like Me?”, “The Illinois Enema Bandit” and “Carolina Hard Core Ecstasy” are really worth hearing, especially for FZ’s solos.

    So, why is it a frustrating listen? Firstly, the sound is blurry, to say the least. For example, if you buy this album based on the premise that you will hear Norma Bell for the duration, you will probably be disappointed. I could only make her out for a grand total of 2 minutes 30 seconds – during her solo spots on “Chunga’s Revenge”. But what a performer she is! I will never forget the first time I heard her opening note, and it never fails to impress during repeated listens. A truly unique moment in the Zappa catalog.

    One has to remember that this is a tape that FZ himself put together for a fan. This will give you a clue as to the great musical moments that it contains. But dodgy sound and a fade out/in during the middle of “Zoot Allures” are probably all that prevented these performances cropping up on a release during Frank’s lifetime. Frustrating.

  6. marco j says:

    This is my absolute favorite in the “Corsage” group of FZT releases. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much, and I have not been a particular fan of these ephemeral short-disc releases, but that was only until I gave this one a spin.

    At first look, the titles were the same-ol’, Same-ol’ tunes that seem to be the staples of just about every Frank concert ever played since this time, etc…so I probably expected the usual interpretations as well as “loose”-sounding Bozzio-era playing.

    This particular release was nothing of the sort. Unlike the reviewers above, I was more than pleased with the general sound quality of this recording, especially considering the source. The EQ was full, crisp and even all the way up the scale, and the low end was really full and punchy.

    The playing was remarkable tighter than I remember the band from this era cranking out. The vocal arrangments and harmonies downright surprised me throughout the entire CD. This band had really worked on some demanding and tight vocal punctuations to the arrangements!

    Again, I want to take a moment to praise the remarkable talents of bassist/vocalist Roy Estrada. From the first album “Freak Out!” and onward, Roy’s musicianship has always truly impressed me in every area: he plays creative and truly aggressive bass parts that really dig in and “go somewhere”, and his falsetto/vocal attributes are also downright amazing at times. Roy’s playing on Frank’s stuff, both with the MOI as well as Frank’s solo releases has always been extremely strong, and this CD is no exception.

    I loved the way this band handles the “We’re Only In It For the Money” selections, and I think this is a really solid musical set that rarely fails to engage the listener in the moment. It has the kind of live sound mix that really makes one feel like you are in the concert, not just listening to one of those “direct-through-the-board” sterile productions.

    Definitely worth more than a single listen….

  7. Thinman says:

    I would like to hear more from those earlier shows (fall 1975) by this lineup. Much much better than the later shows like on FZ:OZ

    Th.

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