What would a trip through the Zappa archives be like? My vision is something akin to the scene from the end of the first Indiana Jones movie, with endless tape reels of Zappa's insane recording output spanning endlessly in some musky vault. Finer Moments, a two-disc set featuring unreleased material from the original Mothers of Invention lineup, is Zappa Records' latest attempt to make sense of this glut of unreleased material. Not that they try very hard: almost no recording dates are given, and the track selection is equally helter-skelter, careening from bozo Mozart sonatas and avant-garde noise to scratchy concert tapes. It makes for an interesting puzzle for Zappa-fanatics: an Uncle Meat outtake here, maybe a 1970 Berlin concert recording there? For everyone else, though, it's just goddamn puzzling. Of course, this is the Mothers of Invention we're talking about, a band musically accomplished and innovative enough to make a 17-min instrumental jam a valuable use of your time. (Thankfully, Moments offers two such workouts.) But while it may offer an intriguing journey through the zanier side of Zappa's enormous catalog, the haphazard nature of Finer Things gives the distinct impression that much of this material never left Zappa's studio during his lifetime for a reason.
★★ ½ (out of 5 stars)