This 1996 CD compilation was the first one put out privately by the Zappa family following Frank Zappa's death in 1993 from prostate cancer. The music includes three new versions of familiar Zappa works, followed bytheir better-known counterparts that have previously appeared on both LPs and CDs. As Dweezil Zappa explains in his liner notes, this previously unreleased excerpt from "Black Napkins" is not yet fully formed; oddly enough, like the version that follows from Zoot Allures, the Napoleon Murphy Brock sax solo has been edited out. The new version of the next instrumental, "Zoot Allures," fares better in comparison to the well-known take from the Zoot Allures CD, in spite of some distortion inadvertently added by the Tokyo PA system during its recording. "Merely a Blues in A" marks the initial release of a gritty blues likely improvised during a 1974 Paris concert. Finally, two versions of Zappa's sensational blues "Watermelon in Easter Hay" close the CD. The early 1978 concert version features a slightly faster tempo with minimal accompaniment by his band, although Zappa's solo ideas are already well conceived. Zappa's solo on the studio version, originally heard on the release Joe's Garage Acts 2 & 3, was taken from a concert recording and mixed with a sparse yet effective studio backing; it remains one of Zappa's most fascinating guitar solos. Unlike the posthumous new Zappa CDs that have appeared on Rykodisc after 1993, this one carries a rather high price tag, although it consists of only four new recordings among its seven tracks. The fancy package includes a removable stick-on moustache and goatee like the late composer's own facial hair. Zappa fans will likely enjoy this limited-edition CD, which is available exclusively through www.zappa.com, although they would have likely preferred all previously unreleased songs and alternate takes instead.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden