FRANK ZAPPA — Chunga's Revenge (review)

FRANK ZAPPA — Chunga's Revenge album cover Album · 1970 · Jazz Related Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
M.Neumann
Frank Zappa's 1970 album sounds at first like a mish-mash of outtakes from various unrelated sessions. But closer attention reveals at least some thematic unity, dealing more or less with the trials and tribulations of a working rock musician on the road. Included are some typically tongue-in-cheek songs about groupies, union representatives, venereal disease (a short instrumental called simply "The Clap", but coming from Frank Zappa the title could hardly refer to anything else), and a few sample concert performances, notably the classic Zappa guitar thrash of "Transylvania Boogie", one of his strongest album openers ever.

The title track is another highlight, presenting a loud instrumental jam led by Ian Underwood's wah-wah pedal sax solo, distorted enough to be mistaken for Zappa's electric guitar. Like much of the album it was presumably a genuine live recording, perhaps augmented with overdubs in the studio afterward (a peculiar Zappa habit). The CD notes are reticent on this point. If not actually live, the tapes were at least given a very convincing stage ambience: stadium reverb, occasional feedback, audience noise and so forth.

In keeping with Zappa's philosophy of 'conceptual continuity' the album holds some relation to his "200 Motels" film and soundtrack, possibly intended as a prelude to that notorious project, released the following year. If true, don't let it scare you off: "Chunga's Revenge" might be less focused than other Frank Zappa concept albums, but it covers a lot of contradicting stylistic territory in its all-too brief forty minutes, and thus can serve as a primer of sorts to Uncle Frank's musical trajectory in the early 1970s.
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