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

CHUNGA'S REVENGE

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.38 | 220 ratings

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UMUR
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Chungaīs 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 theyīd better think again. A few of the songs on Chungaīs Revenge does have similarities to Hot Rats but the overall feeling after listening to Chungaīs Revenge is very different to the feeling you have after listening to Hot Rats. Now Iīm one of the few that doesnīt appreciate Hot Rats that much. I always felt it was highly overrated. Itīs a good album but nothing more IMO. So Iīm 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 Zappaīs 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 Zappaīs music. Other notable musicians on Chungaīs 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 Chungaīs 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 Zappaīs bands. He was the boss and they were his employees which wasnīt 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 itīs a bit harder and not so jazzy. Itīs a great vehicle for a good Zappa solo. Road Ladies is the first song with Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman on vocals. Itīs Zappa that sings most of the song though. Itīs 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 didnīt use to like this song much but Iīve 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 canīt say this original version is the most powerful one but itīs 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 Volmanīs 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 itīs an aquired taste if you like Howard Kaylan and Mark Volmanīs 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/ RīnīB 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 Zappaīs 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 Zappaīs band.

The production is not that good. Itīs 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 isnīt very cohesive and therefore can seem a bit confusing.

I enjoy Chungaīs Revenge today but it wasnīt always so. Itīs 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 youīre a new fan. Iīll rate it 3 stars.

UMUR | 3/5 |

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