[Review] Frank Zappa: Chunga’s Revenge (1970)

The beginning of the Flo & Eddie experiment, in which the pair become the witting mouthpiece for Frank.

Kronomyth 10.0: The Yawn and the Restless.

Chunga’s Revenge finds Frank Zappa at a kind of existential crossroads. He had just re-tooled the band, adding Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (The Phlorescent Leech and Eddie), George Duke (displaying a heretofore hidden talent for the trombone) and Jeff Simmons. It was a crack outfit with the theatrically minded Flo and Eddie giving Zappa’s dark humor an added dimension that often felt like musical theatre (“Would You Go All The Way?,” “Rudy Wants To Buy Yez A Drink”).

From here on, you got one of several Zappa personalities: the funny, the fiery fretwork or the philharmaniacal monsters. Chunga’s Revenge has a little from columns A, B and C. There is the sense, however, that Zappa was becoming more of a rock and roll centrist, at least relative to earlier creations like Weasels and Weeny. “Transylvania Boogie” and “Road Ladies” are, at their core, blues-rock mutations, while “Sharleena” and “Tell Me You Love Me” are rock songs that could actually be played on the radio. It’s not to say that Zappa had sold out on Chunga’s Revenge (the album, for example, didn’t chart particularly well). It’s simply that you didn’t need a musical degree or a passing familiarity with Igor Stravinsky to appreciate it.

Throughout the 70s, most of the Zappa/Mothers albums would sound more or less like Chunga’s Revenge. Zappa released some fantastic albums during this period (The Grand Wazoo, Over-Nite Sensation), but the decade was largely an audible retreat from the longer compositional works of Lumpy Gravy and King Kong in favor of slightly more commercial fare. Maybe that’s exactly what you were waiting for, maybe not. I would tell you that the intimate reworking of “Twenty Small Cigars” is my favorite thing on here, but that would be a lie; it’s really “Rudy,” and therein lies the philosophical crisis that every Zappa fan would face from now on: Were we smarter than everyone else or just smartasses?

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Original LP Version

A1. Transylvania Boogie (5:01)
A2. Road Ladies (4:10)
A3. Twenty Small Cigars (2:17)
A4. The Nancy & Mary Music (9:27)
B1. Tell Me You Love Me (2:33)
B2. Would You Go All The Way? (2:29)
B3. Chunga’s Revenge (6:15)
B4. The Clap (1:23)
B5. Rudy Wants To Buy Yez A Drink (2:44)
B6. Sharleena (4:03)

All songs composed and arranged by Frank Zappa.

The Players

Frank Zappa (guitar, vocal, harpsichord, Condor, drum set, wood blocks, temple blocks, boo-bams, tom-toms, etc.), George Duke (organ, electric piano, vocal drum imitations, trombone), Aynsley Dunbar (drums, tambourine), The Phlorescent Leech and Eddie (vocals, rhythm guitar), Jeff Simmons (bass, vocal), Ian Underwood (organ, rhythm guitar, piano, electric piano, pipe organ, electric alto sax with wah-wah pedal, grand piano, tenor sax) with Max Bennett (bass), John Guerin (drums), Sugar Cane Harris (organ on B3). Produced by Frank Zappa; engineered by Dick Kunc, Stan Agol, Roy Baker, Bruce Margolis (A4).

The Pictures

Cover design & illustration by Cal Schenkel. Front cover photo by Phil Franks. Back cover photo by John Williams.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track on October 23, 1970 in the US and Canada (Bizarre/Reprise, MS/M8 2030), the UK (Bizarre, K 44020), France (Reprise, No 44 020), Germany (Reprise, REP 44 020), Greece (Reprise, RS 0353), Japan (Reprise, P-8045R) and New Zealand (Reprise, RS 2030) with gatefold cover and picture innersleeve; reached #119 on the US charts and #43 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Reprise, MS 2030), the UK (Reprise, RSLP 2030) and Germany (Reprise, RS 2030) with gatefold cover {tan steamboat label}. UK version available in original red cover and brown variation cover. [I’m still trying to sort out which are the original releases versus the early 70s reissues, so don’t take any of this as bible truth.]
  2. Re-issued on elpee in 1972 in Spain (Reprise, HRES 291-40) under the title La Venganza de Chunga.
  3. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1991 in the US (Rykodisc, RCD 10164).
  4. Re-issued on remastered compact disc on April 30, 195 in the US (Rykodisc, RCD 10511).
  5. Re-issued on limited edition (2,000 copies), remastered compact disc on march 20, 2002 in Japan (Rykodisc, VACK-1212).
  6. Re-issued on remastered compact disc on December 17, 2008 in Japan (Rykodisc, VACK-1333).
  7. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 2012 in Europe (Zappa).

1 thought on “[Review] Frank Zappa: Chunga’s Revenge (1970)

  1. Comment – this album has been made almost redundant by the releases of Funky Nothingness (source of all the studio instrumentals), Mothers 1970 (source of this particular “Sharleena”) and Road Tapes Vol. 3 (source of “Nancy & Mary”). The other vocal tunes might as well have been bonus tracks on the super-deluxe 200 Motels: missed opportunity.

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