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Joe's Garage: Act 1, 2 & 3 ()

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Joe's Garage was originally released in 1979 in two separate parts; Act I came first, followed by a two-record set containing Acts II & III. Rykodisc's reissue puts all three acts together on two CDs. Joe's Garage is generally regarded as one of Zappa's finest post-'60s conceptual works, a sprawling, satirical rock opera about a totalitarian future in which music is outlawed to control the population. The narrative is long, winding, and occasionally loses focus; it was improvised in a weekend, some of it around previously existing songs, but Zappa manages to make most of it hang together. Acts II & III give off much the same feel, as Zappa relies heavily on what he termed "xenochrony" -- previously recorded guitar solos transferred onto new, rhythmically different backing tracks to produce random musical coincidences. Such an approach is guaranteed to produce some slow moments as well, but critics latched onto the work more for its conceptual substance. Joe's Garage satirizes social control mechanisms, consumerism, corporate abuses, gender politics, religion, and the rock & roll lifestyle; all these forces conspire against the title protagonist, an average young man who simply wants to play guitar and enjoy himself. Even though Zappa himself hated punk rock and even says so on the album, his ideas seemed to support punk's do-it-yourself challenge to the record industry and to social norms in general. Since this is 1979-era Zappa, there are liberal applications of his trademark scatological humor (the titles of "Catholic Girls," "Crew Slut," "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?," and "Keep It Greasey" are self-explanatory). Still, in spite of its flaws, Joe's Garage has enough substance to make it one of Zappa's most important '70s works and overall political statements, even if it's not focused enough to rank with his earliest Mothers of Invention masterpieces. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi Hide synopsis

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