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Frank Zappa - Joe's Garage, Acts I, II & III CD (album) cover

JOE'S GARAGE, ACTS I, II & III

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.64 | 124 ratings

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Evolver
Special Collaborator
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars It has always surprised me that so many people, usually not prog fans per se, but people that I know who are into some of the popular bands that we might consider prog, like Rush, Queensryche and such, know this album well, and consider it one of Frank Zappa's best. One even used to enjoy putting his speakers in his apartment window and blasting it out onto Broadway in Somerville Massachusetts. That's significant because this apartment was right above a store owned by the parents of Dale Bozzio, who appears on this album.

But the album, while not terrible (How could it be, with the great band Zappa assembled?) is nowhere near his best. It's an oddity in the Zappa catalog. Like the later "Thing Fish", this is a story told over a number of LPs, or in this case, compact disks. The narrative is disjointed, a story of Joe, a young guitar player, who meets up with a girl, Mary. Mary gets seduced away by a roadie for a passing band (maybe Toto), and Joe turns to gay robotic sex before getting thrown in prison, because for some inexplicable reason music is now illegal. Joe gets released from prison, but then resorts to playing guitar solos in his head. Along the way Zappa takes digs at authority, cult religion, and record company executives. Supposedly the story was inspired by the Iranian revolution, and some of the draconian laws that were instituted there at the time.

Confused? You should be. The narrative loosely ties the songs together, but just barely, and only if you don't think about it.

Some of the songs were older pieces Zappa used in other contexts. Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up was originally recorded for Jeff Simmons' solo album of the same name, and credited to Zappa under the pseudonym "La Marr Bruister". Stick It Out was part of the sofa routine played on tour during the Flo & Eddie years. And Dong Work For Yuda was originally written about John Smothers, that bald guy who protected Zappa on stage for most of the seventies and eighties. Look for the a capella version, it's much funnier.

The album contains a lot of filler, simple riffs for Ike Willis to sing over, or Frank to solo over. Surprisingly, one of his best solos is one of these. Watermelon In Easter Hay became one of the few songs Frank didn't want anyone else to play, as he held it so dear.

Most of the vocal songs are simple, but very well played tunes. The only really impressive composition comes in short bursts in Fembot In A Wet T-Shirt, Why Does It Hurt When I Pee? and Keep It Greasey.

This is by no means a great album, but it has some value. I wouldn't recommend this as a starter to a Zappa newbie, unless they really like sexual humor.

Evolver | 3/5 |

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