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Frank Zappa - Chunga's Revenge CD (album) cover

CHUNGA'S REVENGE

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.40 | 305 ratings

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UMUR
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Chunga´s Revenge is the first solo album from Frank Zappa after the much praised Hot Rats album and if anyone had expected Zappa to continue that style they´d better think again. A few of the songs on Chunga´s Revenge does have similarities to Hot Rats but the overall feeling after listening to Chunga´s Revenge is very different to the feeling you have after listening to Hot Rats. Now I´m one of the few that doesn´t appreciate Hot Rats that much. I always felt it was highly overrated. It´s a good album but nothing more IMO. So I´m glad that Zappa went on to do other things instead of pursueing the mostly instrumental jazz/ rock style he played on Hot Rats.

The most important change in Zappa´s band since Hot Rats is the inclusion of former Turtles frontmen Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman who with their very distinct vocal style and humour brought a new dimension to Zappa´s music. Other notable musicians on Chunga´s Revenge is of course the omnipresent Ian Underwood who plays just about every instrument in the book, George Duke on electric piano, organ and trombone, Jeff Simmons on Bass and vocals and Aynsley Dunbar on drums. This lineup with a few addition and changes along the way played on the albums Chunga´s Revenge, Fillmore East, June 1971, 200 Motels and Just Another Band from L.A. Most of the recordings with this lineup is recorded live which is a wise move as there was a special chemistry between these guys that really showed on stage. On the personal level it was as it always was with Zappa´s bands. He was the boss and they were his employees which wasn´t always fun as he demanded the impossible from his musicians.

The album starts with Transylvania Boogie which is one of the songs that could have been on Hot Rats even though it´s a bit harder and not so jazzy. It´s a great vehicle for a good Zappa solo. Road Ladies is the first song with Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman on vocals. It´s Zappa that sings most of the song though. It´s a pretty basic blues composition with some great vocal harmonies and some nice blues licks from Zappa. Twenty Small Cigars is probably an outtake from the Hot Rats session as it has a cocktail jazzy sound that reminds me of Little Umbrellas from Hot Rats. I enjoy it but only because it is as short as it is. The Nancy & Mary Music is the most experimental song here and it mixes blues rock soloing and avant garde music. I didn´t use to like this song much but I´ve grown more and more happy about it in the last couple of years.

Tell Me You Love Me is a classic Frank Zappa rock song which he has played in various incarnations with different bands and I can´t say this original version is the most powerful one but it´s enjoyable. Again there are some cool vocal harmonies and high pitched vocals from Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman. Would You Go All The Way? might be the best display of Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman´s voices along a song like Rudy Wants To Buy Yez A... Those two songs remind me very much of some of the songs on 200 Motels. I like those types of songs but it´s an aquired taste if you like Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman´s voices. Chunga's Revenge is similar to Transylvania Boogie as it is also a vehicle for soloing. There is a beautiful theme in this song too though. The Clap is just a short avant garde drum solo while Sharleena is almost doo woop/ R´n´B style pop. There are some beautiful vocal harmonies in that one.

The musicianship is brilliant as usual in any Zappa related project. I know there are many people who dislike Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman but I have always found their presence in Zappa´s band refreshing and humourous. In addition to that Howard Kaylan is an outstanding singer who lifts many of the compositions he contributes to. Mark Volman might not be the best singer technically but his presence and charisma is just as important for this incarnation of Zappa´s band.

The production is not that good. It´s definitely one of the worst productions on a Zappa album. There is a big difference in sound between the songs on the album as some of them are recorded live and some of them are studio recordings. Twenty Small Cigars has totally different sound from the rest of the album as it was obviously recorded at the Hot Rats sessions. This means that the album isn´t very cohesive and therefore can seem a bit confusing.

I enjoy Chunga´s Revenge today but it wasn´t always so. It´s still not my favorite Zappa album and I would place it in the good Zappa albums section but not in the excellent or the essential section. This is one of the last Zappa albums you should purchase if you´re a new fan. I´ll rate it 3 stars.

UMUR | 3/5 |

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