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 ·
Warthur
If you want to spark controversy amongst a group of Zappa fans, you can do it with three little words: "Flo and Eddie". Zappa's inclusion of Turtles refugees Mark Volman and Howard Kayman in his new Mothers lineup was a short-lived affair, beginning in 1970 and ending at the end of a disastrous 1971 tour which saw the infamous "smoke on the water" incident in Montreux and Zappa confined to a wheelchair after a nasty fall from a stage - both incidents caused by rowdy fans. But overshadowing both incidents in the minds of many Zappa afficionados is the stylistic shift seen during this era, and which is showcased on Chunga's Revenge, in which the comedic aspects of Zappa's work came to the fore.

It simply isn't correct to say that Zappa's sense of humour changed at this point - the original Mothers of Invention material was replete with jokes, of which many had a scatological or sexual basis and of which more than a few were pretty damn crude. However, the delivery with Flo and Eddie in the band does come across as more crass and abrasive than it was previously, and it is brought to the fore more often. On top of that, whilst the duo's vocal harmonies are truly wonderful (I think their performance on T.Rex's Electric Warrior album providing backing vocals was inspired), I've never felt that they were a natural fit for Zappa's sound.

Chunga's Revenge is the Flo and Eddie-era album on which their presence is felt the least, partially because the sense of humour is a bit more varied than the "all sex jokes all the time" concept of the Fillmore East live album, partially because the album includes a clutch of good but not great instrumentals - several of which are cast-offs from the Hot Rats sessions. It's an OK Zappa album, and of the Flo and Eddie tracks I do quite like Rudy Wants to Buy Yez a Drink and Would You Go All The Way, but when the album also includes half-baked ideas like Tell Me You Love Me and Sharleena I can't extend to more than three stars.
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