Zappa - Beefheart - Mothers: Bongo Fury

By Joel Vance

Stereo Review, March 1976

ZAPPA-BEEFHEART-MOTHERS: Bongo Fury. Frank Zappa (guitar, vocals); Captain Beefheart (vocals, harmonica); George Duke (keyboards, vocals); Napoleon Murphy Brock (saxophone, vocals); Bruce Fowler (trombone); Tom Fowler (bass); Denny Walley (slide guitar, vocals); Terry Bozzio (drums); Chester Thompson (drums). Debra Kadabra; Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy; Sam with the Showing Scalp Flat Top; Poofter's Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead; 200 Years Old; Cucamonga; Advance Romance; Man with the Woman Head; Muffin Man. DISCREET DS 2234 $6.98.

Performance: Outstanding
Recording: Excellent

Frank Zappa's career is based on the old rule of successful preachers and comedians: expose the idiocies and corruptions of society without ever telling the audience, who agrees with you, that you are talking about them. Zappa appears to be convinced, with some justification, that the human race is a bunch of damnfools, the proof being that he has been suckering them all these years by letting them think that he is referring to some other race.

Musically, Zappa is an accomplished concocter of well-planned chaos, of which this album is a perfect example – perhaps the zenith of his anti-talents. The arrangements are carefully disruptive and meticulously confusing. It may even be art. If it is, then great credit must be given to Zappa's old friend and sometime enemy, Captain Beefheart. The wondrous Captain, of whom I am a devoted fan, has seldom been more overpowering. His vocals and recitations of his wayward poems propel the album through a display of anarchistic fireworks. The Captain's definition (if he has one) of anarchy is, I suspect, quite different from Zappa's. The Captain would probably see it as the ultimate color interplay of oils on the waters of freedom; Zappa would have it as a tidal wave that drowns all those damnfools. The difference between Zappa and Beefheart is clearly heard in the album. "Bongo Fury" is some kind of musical event.