Joe's Domage

Frank Zappa

Vaulternative, 2004

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


With Frank Zappa now gone from the planet for nearly 12 years, one has to wonder if the powers that be who hold the keys to Zappa's tape archives have finally hit the bottom of the barrel.

Joe's Domage, the second in a series of archival tapes put out by Joe Travers, features a 1972 rehearsal for a band that would never actually release a record with Zappa, but began to work on material that would become part of Zappa's catalog over the course of the next six to eight years. Recorded on a cheezoid cassette tape, this 50-minute release is nothing more than a rehearsal captured for historical purposes, but one has to ask whether this ever really should have been released.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The problem with this release isn't the music - rather, it's the lack of any complete songs, as the portions the band is working on are constantly started, stopped and re-started by Zappa as he teaches the songs to the group from his wheelchair. (This session was after Zappa had been thrown from the stage of the Rainbow Theater in London in 1971, and Zappa was still recovering from his injuries.) Yes, it's kind of interesting to hear the birth cries of a song like "Big Swifty," but it would have been more interesting to have heard the song performed in its entirety.

That is the intregal problem with Joe's Domage. It comes off almost as an official bootleg, allowing the listener to feel like they're in the studio learning the songs with Zappa and the band. Maybe for the drooling Zappa fan this is the next best thing to heaven, the best thing actually having had the chance to be in the studio with Zappa in the flesh. But this session is less about the creative side, and more about the mind-numbing repetitiveness of learning the material, which can sometimes almost be painful to be a part of. The few flashes of musical brilliance are few and far between.

This isn't to say that there is no more worthy material in Zappa's vaults that could be released - personally, I'd like to see more complete concert recordings hit the shelves, kind of like the Grateful Dead "Dick's Picks" series. But that doesn't seem to be forthcoming any time soon. While this session may have been a catalyst to albums like Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo, Joe's Domage is ample proof that the journey towards that catalyst can be a long one, indeed.

Rating: C-

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