Frank Zappa: Chunga's Revenge

By Mike Bourne

DownBeat, 29 April 1971

CHUNGA'S REVENGE – Bizarre/Reprise 2030: Transylvania Boogie; Road Ladies; Twenty Small Cigars; The Nancy & Mary Music; Tell Me You Love Me; Would You Go All the Way?; Chunga's Revenge; The Clap; Rudy Wants to Buy Yez a Drink; Sharleena.

Personnel: Frank Zappa, guitar, harpsichord, Condor, percussion, vocals; Ian Underwood, tenor, alto, keyboards, guitar; George Duke, trombone, keyboards, scat vocal; Sugar Cane Harris, organ (track 7); Jeff Simmons, bass, vocals, or Max Bennett, bass; Aynsley Dunbar, or John Guerin (track 3) drums; The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie, vocals; Eddie, guitar (track 9).

Rating: ★★★½

Zappa's least interesting record so far, Chunga's Revenge is nonetheless typically good. Perhaps I am only disappointed by the several dull moments, or at least by the poorer quality of recording than normally. Whatever, the date is the first recording of the new Mothers and overall is fine Zappa.

More rock-'n'-rolly than ever before, Tell Me You Love Me is the height of “heavy” genre cookers, in one sense a parody of the noisome Led Zeppelin style, yet a dynamite tune as well. But Transylvania Boogie and the title cut spot the Zappa wah-wah far better, as his performing on both tends more toward straightahead jamming than pursuit of bizarre melodic and rhythmic directions, as on many of his previous instrumental forays.

The two patter songs, Would You Go All the Way? and Rudy Wants to Buy Yez a Drink, are amusing as comedy, if not always musically engaging, although both feature quite superb funny vocals by the Phlorescent Leech & Eddie (Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman) with the always witty Zappa compositional quirks. However, Road Ladies is tiresome blues despite all the humor, just as the long improvisation, The Nancy & Mary Music, may have moved live (especially George Duke's joyful scats), but sounds comparatively less appealing on record.

Finally, Twenty Small Cigars and Sharleena are my favorites, the first a delicate waltz featuring Zappa guitar and harpsichord, the latter a sensual quasi-r&b ballad that becomes for once both rooty and contemporary, unlike the usual Ruben and the Jets sort of '50s r&b camp.

Chunga's Revenge is, as always, excellent music by Frank Zappa, in spite of my few crabbings.

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