Review Summary: Flo and Eddie have arrived!Official Release #11
If memory serves, Chunga's Revenge is the album that follows Hot Rats and also a Zappa solo album and seems to take some example on its predecessor, because this album is much more instrumental compared to his other works before Rats. With a rather sober artwork, showing Franck in an soporific yawn, the main crime partners are Flo & Eddie, George Duke, Ian Underwood and drummer Ainsley Dunbar, but not yet in his best Jawaka/Wazoo form. There is a small text explaining the "camp fire in the forest" artwork gracing the album's inside and it relates loosely with some tracks of the album.
, is a great example of Frank's rocking best. Though every guitarist he worked with was an undisputed master, I still mostly prefer when Zappa plays; I have no idea why he's not as synonymous with the wah pedal as Hendrix or Clapton. It might just be me, but when I listen to it, my ears detect some Eastern influences towards the middle. Nonetheless, it is an excellent piece, especially because Frank himself does the playing here, as he does on most of the whole album.
, is next, and it is a semi-blues song about life on the road while touring. It has some awesome rave-ups in the beginning and towards the end of the middle. Also, the lyrics are quite funny, and sometimes true of real-life settings.
Twenty Small Cigars
, is another FZ solo, and 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 And Mary Music
, is the fourth track, and it is almost 10 minutes of the band just having some instrumental fun, the most experimental song here and it mixes blues rock soloing and avant garde music. Although Frank gets most of the spotlight again, Ian Underwood is the real hero of this song with his instrumental multi-tasking virtuosity.
Tell Me You Love Me
, is a really hard, deep guitar driven song projected by none other than everybody's friends Flo & Eddie. Most fans put down this song because of the singers, but actually this is some of their best work and Zappa's riffs are untouchable here. Furthermore, it's 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. Really one of the best on the album.
Would You Go All The Way"
, is where Flo & Eddie really come out of their shell and unleash their comic genius on the audience. Unfortunately, comic genius doesn't always translate into a great song.
, is probably the only piece on this album fit to name the album after. Another instrumental, this FZ solo is just absolutely smothered in wah-wah delight, making wah gods like Hendrix kiss the ground Zappa walks on. One of the finest solos I have ever heard.
, which is just a short avant garde drum solo.
Rudy Wants To Buy Yez A Drink
continues the Flo & Eddie traveling sideshow, and although there isn't really anything here of musical interest (albeit a few golden guitar moments), I find I enjoy this song, just for comedic values
concludes the album with a bouncy rhythm and blues sounding performance with spicy instrumental arrangements that can't really be mistaken for anything but the works of Frank Zappa himself. Although, this version is far more accessible, but if you prefer a lot of musicianship like myself I would recommend you check out the 12 minute version of "Sharleena" found on "The Lost Episodes' it features a ton of guitar genius.
All in all, Chunga's Revenge is an excellent rock album with some progressive leanings. Not the best, but a good representation of Frank's styles and an album of some significance in the history of Zappa. It is not overly complex. Instead it is a collection of quite easily enjoyable songs with great variation. I enjoy it for the most part. I think it is an excellent addition to my FZ vinyl collection, at least and one of the best from the Flo and Eddie period. If you want to find a starting point where the humor, irony and craziness is a bit subdued in favor of musical seriousness, without being boring, naturally, this might be a good place to start.