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BONGO FURY

Frank Zappa

RIO/Avant-Prog


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Frank Zappa Bongo Fury album cover
3.52 | 159 ratings | 20 reviews | 24% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Live, released in 1975

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Debra Kadabra (3:54)
2. Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy (5:59)
3. Sam With the Showing Scalp Flat Top (2:51)
4. Poofter's Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead (3:03)
5. 200 Years Old (4:32)
6. Cucamonga (2:24)
7. Advance Romance (11:17)
8. Man With the Woman Head (1:28)
9. Muffin Man (5:30)

Total Time: 40:58

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Frank Zappa / guitar, keyboards, vocals
- George Duke / keyboards, vocals
- Bruce Fowler / trombone
- Chester Thompson / drums
- Tom Fowler / bass
- Captain Beefheart / harmonica, harp, vocals
- Terry Bozzio / drums
- Murphy Brock / saxophone, vocals
- Denny Walley / vocals, slide guitar

Releases information

1975 LP Discreet 2234 / 1995 CD Rykodisc #RCD10522

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FRANK ZAPPA Bongo Fury ratings distribution


3.52
(159 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(24%)
24%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(45%)
45%
Good, but non-essential (27%)
27%
Collectors/fans only (4%)
4%
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
1%

FRANK ZAPPA Bongo Fury reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Capn Beefheart is a clown! This is one of the funniest ZAPPA's albums: listen to Beefheart's voice! Unbelievable! "Bongo Fury" is a bit gross, not very subtle, but there are tons of instruments and the style is rather blues-western-rock-jazz with some experimental brass instruments. There are several speech intros and lots of harmonica too. I do not listen it for the musical performance or the complexity of the compositions. The sound could be cleaner.

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#29626) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Review by lor68
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars It witnesses the "Bongo Fury's Tour" in a remarkable way, but containing also some studio stuff... "Cucamonga" and "Muffin" are classic performances, instead the choir within "Carolina Hard Core Ecstasy", with his usual talented guitar and such a balanced use of the trombone as well, enrich this album. Sometimes it's bizarre from the point of view of the ironical lyrics, in other circumstamces is less inspiring, but at last the output is very interesting...

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Send comments to lor68 (BETA) | Report this review (#29627) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, April 23, 2004

Review by daveconn
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A cleverly staged train wreck between ZAPPA and Captain Beefheart that, despite the creative velocity of the pair at the time, wasn't the big bang some had hoped for. The disappointment of "Bongo Fury" might be that both artists weren't looking to do something new together, but simply do what they do together. There are songs that represent an even "Union" of sorts, where Beefheart takes the lead and ZAPPA's band lays down the groundwork: the twisted "Debra Kadabra", the sort-of-a-cowboy-song "Poofter's Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead" and "200 Years Old" (the last two forming a kind of a bicentennial medley). These may be a little grittier and bluesier than ZAPPA's usual work, but fans should eventually warm up to them. Beefheart also presents his greasy, look-what-I-found- under-the-refrigerator poetry on a pair of tracks: "Sam With The Showing Scalp Flat Top" (which introduces the ""Bongo Fury"" theme) and "Man With The Woman Head." Frank even answers in kind with his own story, "Muffin Man", that starts like a carbon copy of "Evelyn, A Modified Dog" before launching into a brilliant guitar solo. ZAPPA fans will take solace in the tracks that sound most like his usual work from this period: "Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy" (cut from the same cloth as "Camarillo Brillo") and "Advance Romance." However, those fans would do better to pick up Over-Nite Sensation, "Roxy & Elsewhere", "The Grand Wazoo", One Size Fits All. well, you get the point. For the best blending of Beefheart and ZAPPA, seek ye "Hot Rats". Two heads are better than one in the world of bongos, but in the live/studio world of "Bongo Fury" maybe not so much.

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Send comments to daveconn (BETA) | Report this review (#29629) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart (aka Don Van Vliet) had been friends since their early days at Antelope Valley High School (they became friends in 1958). Beefheart's entire career can be attributed to Zappa in two ways: the first is that Zappa essentially forced Beefheart into singing, and that Zappa produced Beefheart's "masterpiece" in Trout Mask Replica. In 1975, Frank Zappa decided to start another project with his old friend in Vliet and in that feeling came the Bongo Fury tour and this album. You'd expect from a Zappa/Beefheart collaboration that they'd do something totally out there, but this album is somewhat subdued from the crazy avant-garde stylings that we know both of these artists were capable of. What you'll find here is a more blues oriented affair with many vocal introductions and bits from Beefheart and Zappa as well as a more humorous approach, perhaps more humorous than Zappa at that time. What can be seen for certain, though, is that this would be Beefheart's last great album and his last true moment in the spotlight before leaving music all together.

From the get go in Debra Kadabra you can here the bluesier influence on the sound, as it is very raw and earthbound rather than over the top like we've come to know as Zappa's style (in a way, that is). Beefheart's jagged and rough vocals never sounded better and the backing band (which consisted of members such as George Duke and Terry Bozzio) is great at the more simplistic approach to the sound. Zappa's style on this album can be seen as a strict blues player, as well, providing the basic riffs and ideas for pieces before really going off on a tangent with his guitar solos. Carolina Hardcore Ecstacy is a bit of an anthem type piece with an epic chorus and some great vocals from Beefheart as well as a superb Zappa solo in the middle. Despite this being a live album, there are two studio tracks to be found in the middle with 200 Years Old and Cucamonga (a reference to a town where Zappa lived when he was a youth). Both tracks arent bad, but there's something left to be desired with them.

Advance Romance is the epic of the album, an 11 minute piece with a rollicking instrumental section and some great (I mean GREAT) Zappa soloing on top, as well as some great rhythmic work from Bozzio and Tom Fowler (who's one of the more underrated Zappa bassists, in my opinion). I forgot to mention that there are two Beefheart written compositions on this album, the first being Sam With the Showing Scalp Flat Top, which is more like a song that could be found on Trout Mask Replica. So what you should expect is zany blues riffing that is more atonal than anything and some wild vocals on top of it. The second is the prelude to the ending of the album, Man With the Woman Head. This piece is mainly a vocal monologue from Beefheart and ranges into the territory that Beefheart is known for (and very adept at, which is totally abstract). The album ends with the best song on the album (and a Zappa classic) in Muffin Man. The toy piano and the vocal introduction by Zappa (probably one of the best introductions of this nature he ever did) are coupled perfectly with the epic solo section, which takes up most of the track itself. It ends the album on a high note, because as I said, it is the best song on the album.

In the end, the final collaboration between the two long time friends Frank Zappa and Don Van Vliet would prove to be a strong effort, ranging into the repetoir and the skills of both musicians. That said, the two studio tracks are a bit of a disappointment, but they make up a small amount of the album. The rest, though, is pretty solid and fun material to listen to and if you're looking for a good mid-70s Zappa album, you can't go wrong with this one. 4/5.

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Send comments to Cygnus X-2 (BETA) | Report this review (#85901) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, August 06, 2006

Review by Slartibartfast
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars My very first Frank Zappa album.

Not sure what possessed me to buy the thing other than, liking the Zappa I had heard so far. I think if I had heard this one first, I might have passed. Got it with Selling England By The Pound. A bit of an odd couple, but maybe not so much so considering it was the first Genesis album where they snuck in some humor. Of course, as it almost always is on a typical Zappa album, Frank jam packs his albums with humor. Also, Chester Thompson is present on two songs, and he went on to do tours with Genesis.

This is not album I'd recommend to someone just beginning to explore his work. By that time I had a pretty well developed weird sense of humor, so this one didn't wind up on my shelf gathering dust. The somewhat raunchy lyrics (Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy) helped some, too, as I was pretty much your typical teenaged male. I'm not a big Captain Beefheart fan to this day, but I really the two "poems" Sam With the Showing Scalp Flat Top and Man With the Woman Head certainly cracked me up. Cucamonga is my favorite track despite it's short length.

Bottom line, Frank does a good live album and this one's no exception, though not my favorite.

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Send comments to Slartibartfast (BETA) | Report this review (#168297) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, April 21, 2008

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is one of Zappa's classics which was quite known by those who were there in the seventies. By that time, typical music were in the rock and progressive style especially symphonic. But this "Bongo Fury" offers something that goes beyond straight hard rock or progressive with Genesis, ELP, Yes, etc, performed live. You can find big names like George Duke, Terry Bozio, and Chester Thompson right here in this live recording.

The album starts with "Debra Kadabra" (3:54) which comprises raw guitar fills, and the way the music flows is quite hard to digest by those who have not been exposed to progressive music. The raw guitar work delivers excellent live nuance as it sounds quite wild. "Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy" (5:59) has blues style in its main ingredients and style with unique vocal, brass section, funny dialogue in the middle. "Sam With the Showing Scalp Flat Top" (2:51) sounds like a jazzy track and it's basically an acapella / narration with non-continuous music. "Poofter's Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead" (3:03) is really a great song with great arrangements combining banjo as one of the instruments and it sounds obviously nice. The band continues with "200 Years Old" (4:32) which is basically a blues song with nice harmonica and Zappa relaxing vocal. The guitar solo in the middle of the track is truly stunning and will definitely satisfy those who love blues.

"Cucamonga" (2:24) is a short track with good melody and unique piano work. "Advance Romance (11:17) starts nicely with guitar melody followed by vocal augmented with harmonica as it has some blues elements. The vocal of Zappa sounds excellent when he combines the singing style with something that sounds like in extreme style. The piano and guitar solo are both excellent. Even though the sound and style is probably representing the 70s, however, the structure and complexities are something that progressive music typically offers. If you like guitar solo in quite significant amount, this track is basically for you. This is one of my favorite. The live album is concluded with "Muffin Man" (5:30): another favorite of mine because it full exploration of electric guitar. If you like guitar solo, this is an excellent track, performed live!

Overall, this is a very good live album that I recommend to those who like classic rock, progressive rock or, in fact, blues music. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW (i-Rock! Music Community)

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#182176) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, September 11, 2008

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Great live album from mid 70-s Zappa's discography. Captain Beefheart is on vocals, and an fact this album should be named as "Zappa & Cpt. Beefheart". Musicians are great, including early keyboardist George Duke work ( plus Terry Bozzio and Chester Thompson on drums).

If you like early Zappa's works, full of black humour, freaky jokes, jazz-blues and early progressive rock - this album is for you. Even if it sounds easy accessible, regular ear will easily hear how complex the music is there! It's just a Frank's magic - he knew, how play great complex things in a easy manner!

Would you like this album, or not mostly depends on your taste. If you like early Frank's works and Cpt.Beefheart craziness, have nothing against early blues-based jazz-rock and blues rock, than you will like this work as well. Don't expect endless Frank's guitar soloing or long instrumental compositions though - search for them on other Frank's albums.

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#285761) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Review by tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I must confess that I don't really know that much about Captain Beefheart. I have a couple of his albums (as of this writing), but I rarely feel a desire to listen to Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), and as interesting as I find his reputed "masterpiece" Trout Mask Replica to be in theory, I've never actually managed to get through the entire thing in one sitting. I have read in a few places that the two albums Beefheart released before this live collaboration with Zappa are considered the weakest of his career, and that this was a generally low point for the Captain anyway and that I shouldn't judge him by this, but again, I don't know enough to confirm that for myself. All I know is that every time he sings or speaks on this album, my only desire is for him to SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP. From the first vocal lines of "Debra Kadabra," extending through the surrealistic "poetry" of "Sam with the Showing Scalp Flat Top" and "Man with the Woman Head," his spitting and grunting and "singing" show him doing everything he possibly can to render this album totally unlistenable.

It's amazing, then, that the rest of the album is good enough for me to give it a rating as high as I do. The Roxy band is still in prime form, but instead of continuing the exact same jazz-symph-rock motif of that album, the band takes a more blues-based approach here (not a bad thing for this group; "More Trouble Every Day" was amazing, after all). "Poofter's Froth Wyoming" is a neat little funny bluesy shuffle where Beefheart actually sounds passable in singing amusing lines about how, come 1976, people would be using the year (the 200th anniversary of the country, naturally) as an excuse to get people to buy lots of useless stuff (at least, that's how Frank introduces it). This breaks into the hardcore blues of "200 Years Old," with some terrific Beefheart harmonica and Zappa wailing on his guitar in a terrific gritty-yet-creative way.

Then, a couple of tracks later, we get an 11-minute bluesy wanking in "Advance Romance," which manages to rule due to everybody stretching themselves to make the sound as bizarre as possible without losing the "main" blues vibe. If you hate "generic" blues as a rule, this will probably drive you crazy at first; then again, if you don't notice after a while that this is some of the weirdest "generic" blues imaginable, you might be crazy already. And finally, the album ends on an extremely high note, as the "anthemic" "Muffin Man" throws in pseudo-vaudevillian keyboard lines under a fascinatingly bizarre Zappa monologue about the greatness of muffins ("...nothing so exalted on the face of God's grey earth as that prince of foods ... The Muffin!!!") that leads into a terrific grumbling riff augmented by some more great, great guitar lines.

Aside from the aforementioned Beefheart "vocal showcases," the album also contains a couple of decent low-key (and in the case of the former, occasionally beautiful) numbers, "Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy" and "Cucamonga," which aren't among Zappa's best work but hardly among his worst. So the ending breakdown is about 60% great, 25% ok and 15% unlistenable garbage, which translates to a "good but definitely not great" rating. It's recommendable overall, but definitely shouldn't be part of your initial wave of Zappa (or Beefheart, I'm betting) purchases.

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Send comments to tarkus1980 (BETA) | Report this review (#302188) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, October 04, 2010

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
3 stars One would think that an album pairing of Frank Zappa with his good friend Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) would be a work of brilliance. But on this album they appear to be together to have fun, not to create intense avant-garde art. The music on the album is primarily blues based. While there are some of those typical Zappa difficult to play flourishes, this is still one of his simpler albums. And a few of the songs, written to commemorate, ar make fun of, the United States bicentennial in 1976, are now very dated.

Nonetheless, this is a fun album. Beefheart's primary contribution, two bizarre pieces of poetry, are a riot. And Carolina Hard Core Ecstasy, along with Advance Romance are Zappa at his scatlological best. The closer, Muffin Man, became a favorite as a closer for Zappa's shows right through to the end.

If you are looking for pure Zappa or Beefheart, this isn't the place. But it is a good album.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#308900) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, November 08, 2010

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Bongo Fury" is a combined live and studio album by US experimental rock artist Frank Zappa. The original vinyl version was released in October 1975 by Discreet Records but "Bongo Fury" saw a CD re-release in 1995 through Rykodisc. "Bongo Fury" is the last Frank Zappa album where his band was listed as The Mothers.

The 7 live tracks on the album were recorded on May 20 & 21, 1975 at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas and features among others Frank Zappa´s old friend Captain Beefheart on harmonica, harp and vocals. The two studio tracks ( "200 Years Old" and "Cucamonga") were recording during the same January 1975 sessions that spawned most of the material that was used on "One Size Fits All (1975)" and "Studio Tan (1978)". The intro to "Muffin Man" is also a studio recording while the rest of the song is from the concert in Austin. The live tracks introduce new drummer Terry Bozzio while the two studio tracks feature Chester Thompson on drums.

The album features a rather mixed bag of songs. The opening avant garde rocker "Debra Kadabra" and the heavy closing track "Muffin Man" are the highlights here for me. The solo that closes the latter is fantastic IMO. Both "Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy" and "Advance Romance" are Zappa "classics", but while the vocal harmonies and the intricate details in the former and the guitar solo and the funny lyrics in the latter are pretty great, neither of those tracks are among my favorites by Zappa. The two prose readings "Sam With the Showing Scalp Flat Top" and "Man With the Woman Head" by Captain Beefheart are quite entertaining, but they are also quite short and I might not have enjoyed them had they been much longer. The rest of the songs are good but not excellent.

The musicianship is as always outstanding. The added raw vocals by Captain Beefheart is a real treat but the rest of the band are also extremely well playing. The album features both avant garde/ experimental rock and blues rock. Both styles are handled with ease by the band.

The production is organic and powerful, suiting the music well.

"Bongo Fury" is a good release by Frank Zappa and a few tracks even reach excellence, but overall it´s not among the best releases by Zappa IMO. A 3.5 star rating is warranted.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#428833) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, April 08, 2011

Review by stefro
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Featuring the grizzled lunacy of one Don Van Vliet, otherwise and more famously referred to as Captain Beefheart, this semi-live offering - which features a smattering of studio-recorded material for good measure - is most notable for featuring one of the most endearing Zappa compositions in the shape of the glorious 'Muffin Man', a deliciously(geddit?) crazy track that combines all the trademark Zappa ingredients to dazzling effect. Backed-up by Beefhearts croaky presence, 'Muffin Man' begins with a semi-creepy, semi-ludicrous, all-surreal monologue from Zappa(describing his love for muffins; 'that prince of foods!'), before breaking headlong into one of the music man's most indelible guitar solos. The live arena setting only adds to the whole epic scale of the event(what a concert it must have been...!), whilst Zappa's backing band The Mothers Of Invention can also be found in fine fettle. Beefheart contributes a couple of searing monologues of his own, including a raving rant about some genuinely bizarre goings-on in some seedy Hollywood restaurant, but the real treats here lie in the genial instrumental interplay that comes as standard with a Zappa/Mothers live release(the blues- inflected 11-minute rock-opera marathon 'Advanced Romance' is a prime example). 'Muffin Man' aside, 'Bongo Fury' does have other treats on offer, with the madcap 'Carolina Hard-Core Ecstacy' the pick of the rest, and the looning '200 Years Old' providing yet more comedy gold. However, the main reason for this album's existence is surely the final track, and no amount of instrumental verve, crazed drawling or surreal nonsense can detract(or even distract) from from the near-perfect strains of one of Zappa's finest compositions. As an album 'Bongo Fury' proves patchy at best - especially when compared to the great man's many crown jewels - but a mediocre Zappa album is still well worth the cash being asked. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2011

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Send comments to stefro (BETA) | Report this review (#537593) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Bongo Fury captures Zappa and the Mothers sliding into avant-blues territory with Captain Beefheart rounding out the crew. From the perspective of a fan of the mid-1970s incarnation of the Mothers, this is probably a lower priority that that lineup's studio albums or more essential live albums like You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Volume 2 or Roxy and Elsewhere; the fusion side of the band is toned down, and the Beefheart-less songs seem like off-cuts and rejects from meatier works, though that said Advance Romance is one awesome song.

The album is rather more of a success for Beefheart, who joined the Mothers for a tour after both the original Magic Band and the short-lived so-called "Tragic Band" disintegrated around him and his 1974 albums (Unconditionally Guaranteed /Bluejeans and Moonbeams) did terrible damage to his artistic credibility whilst utterly failing to win over the commercial audiences they were angling for. Bongo Fury, when it came out, was a timely reminder that despite all appearances Beefheart was still the troutmasked weirdo beloved by his fans. A couple of spoken word poetry pieces by Beefheart pad out the running time, but his true victories are the songs where he's backed by the Mothers, who adapt themselves to his style admirably - as on the opening Debra Kadabra.

On the whole, the album is probably too patchy to deserve a fourth star, but it comes exceptionally close - especially if you are a fan of both Zappa and Beefheart. For those only interested in one artist or the other, shave a star off the rating.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#542507) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Latest members reviews

4 stars Since I'm not a Captain Beefheart fan, I can't compare this to other albums that he has in his discography, and I know I have a hard time listening to an entire album of him by himself, but paired with Frank Zappa during a time ( out of several) when he was doing some great output, and the great ... (read more)

Report this review (#1298077) | Posted by TCat | Monday, October 27, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is a very solid rock-blues album played very well. The Captain Beefheart's voice is incredible and zappa's guitar is excellent. Maybe here you can find the best Zappa guitar solos (Muffin Man in primis, Carolina Hardcore and Advance Romance). I like this album so much because here you can fi ... (read more)

Report this review (#280253) | Posted by Roberto A. | Sunday, May 02, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I was feverishly sifting through final bins of a record store that was closing store and could find no Zappa, thus I asked the owner Hey Jeff! Have ye' got any Zappa? He replied No, I had some but I think its sold out and then it happened. Another customer reached into his stack and pulled out Bo ... (read more)

Report this review (#169893) | Posted by endlessepic | Monday, May 05, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars These guys man, both two juggernauts of the genre. It just so happened they were good friends with each other, and was thusly only a matter of time before they did an album together. The results? Eh, I wish I could say it had that Reese's cups hey you got chocolate in my peanut butter goodness t ... (read more)

Report this review (#159447) | Posted by cookieacquired | Monday, January 21, 2008 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Collaboration between Frank and Captain Beefheart Debra kadabra The playing is tight and rocking, but I realy loathe Beefheart´s vocals in some places. In fact, he just roars most of the time. The melody is not that great, either. 1.5 stars Carolina hardcore extasy Very melodic and also re ... (read more)

Report this review (#133523) | Posted by Peto | Friday, August 17, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Alright, I know that a Zappa/Beefheart duo could of sound more avant-garde and unique, but no, I think that they wanted to have a good time playing bluesy country set list. You'll surely enjoy the release a couple of times with his humoristic parts and weird musical passages. The highlight on her ... (read more)

Report this review (#81848) | Posted by Dr4Wazo | Friday, June 23, 2006 | Review Permanlink

3 stars What the hell? After all the insane experimental music these two clowns did in the 60s I was expecting something far more unlistenable than this. Maybe Beefheart went nuts during the concerts that much of this material came from and Zappa fearing zero sales of the album edited most of it out? ... (read more)

Report this review (#62318) | Posted by | Friday, December 30, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars A quite good live record together with Captain Beefheart. Beefheart is crazy and funny as usual but what really does this piece of music is the Zappas guitar playing. I especially like the soloing in "Muffin Man" as a grande finale of the record. ... (read more)

Report this review (#35662) | Posted by Frasse | Wednesday, June 08, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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