Sunday, April 10, 2016

Frank Zappa - 1970 - Chunga's Revenge

Frank Zappa 
Chunga's Revenge

01. Transylvania Boogie (5:01)
02. Road Ladies (4:10)
03. Twenty Small Cigars (2:17)
04. The Nancy & Mary Music (9:27)
05. Tell Me You Love Me (2:33)
06. Would You Go All The Way? (2:29)
07. Chunga's Revenge (6:15)
08. The Clap (1:23)
09. Rudy Wants To Buy Yez A... (2:44)
10. Sharleena (4:03)

Initial gatefold covers of the UK vinyl release have an 'olive' color background for the 1st press. The back text panel is also this color. This was later replaced by a 'red' color background on vinyl & CD copies. The UK Olive sleeve spanned 1970 to 1971. The UK repress, in a Red sleeve, was in 1971; followed by a 'K' reissue and then a post 1972 'K' reissue with Warner logo on label radius for the UK. (This 'K' scenario is broadly echoed in Euro issues)

Some continuity;
The cover image of FZ yawning has become somewhat of an icon, despite coming to fruition by circumstance. It was shot at a conference center in a converted abbey in Sussex, UK, by photographer Phil Franks - who had spent the previous day at the home of 'Canterbury Scene' insider Lady June. A number of bands were at the center undergoing UK promotion by the newly-formed Kinney Group, including Dr. John, Canned Heat and FZ's line up for the Bath Concert, which included 1st appearances for Phlorescent Leech & Eddie & Aynsley Dunbar. FZ was also toting advance cover art for Weasels Ripped My Flesh.

During a break in marketing proceedings FZ slipped into the garden for quiet contemplation, where Franks managed to snap him in 'mid-yawn' as boredom set in. Shortly after, Franks met up with Miss Pamela & her 'Plaster-Caster' acquaintance Cynthia for a photo-shoot on their visit to London. Franks passed copies of FZ's pics to them and, when Miss Pamela attended the Bath Festival, FZ got to see them. Thus, after a deal was struck, the 'Yawn' photo graced the cover of "Chunga's Revenge".

- Frank Zappa / guitars, vocals
- Ian Underwood / piano, electric piano, organ, pipe organ, electric alto, sax with wah-wah pedal, tenor sax, rhythm guitar
- George Duke / electric piano, organ, trombone, vocal drum imitations
- Don Sugarcane Harris / organ
- Mark Volman, Howard Kaylan / vocals
- Jeff Simmons / bass, vocals
- Max Bennett / bass
- Aynsley Dunbar / drums, tambourine
- John Guerin / drums

"Chunga's Revenge", Zappa's third studio outing of the seventies, is the first album in which the wisecracking jokers from The Turtles known for real as Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman arrive on the scene. Most Zappa die-hards find the Flo & Eddie (back then known as "The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie", but later shortened) years as Zappa's weakest period, although I have other opinions. Now let's review shall we?

"Transylvania Boogie" is the first song off of the album, and it is a great instrumental, rock hard opener. 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). "Road Ladies" 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. The next song, "Twenty Small Cigars" is another FZ solo, but unlike most of his guitar work ("Transylvania Boogie" included), this song is just really forgettable. I find myself not even remembering this track even right after I listen to it. "The Nancy And Mary Music" is the fourth track, and it is almost 10 minutes of the band just having some instrumental fun. 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. 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. "Chunga's Revenge" 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. Unfortunately, this amazing solo is followed up by "The Clap", which is a short percussion experiment gone horribly wrong. This might be one of the worst songs on the album, and no, there is no relation to "The Yes Album" here. Haha. "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. "Sharleena" is a poor attempt at a love song/ballad-type-thing, and I really, really do not enjoy this song. 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 not found here.

Unfortunately, after all is said and done, this is a very erratic album. It mixes good songs with bad songs, serious songs with goof-offs, and masterful solos with novelty drum-banging. All of the comedy on this album really takes away from the genius Frank Zappa lays down on his solos. Flo & Eddie are in their tightest cage here, so if you can't handle them now do not even attempt any further albums from this period. Although Frank put down two of his greatest solos here ("Transylvania Boogie" and "Chunga's Revenge"), the novelty comedic songs such as "Would You Go All The Way" and "The Clap" take away from the essence a little bit. I highly recommend this album to anybody interest in hear some amazing fretwork on the guitar, but other than that, this is not an album for the weak-hearted or uptight.

What to Get: The 2012 CD.

Summary: Starting with the Old Masters LP in 1986, all versions of "Chunga's Revenge" released contained additional reverb; worse, the pre-2012 CDs also suffered from the "bad batch" audio problems, including a dodgy right channel. The 2012 UMe CD is dry, like the original LP.

ESSENTIAL VERSIONS FOR COMPLETISTS: The 2012 CD is like the LP. Those who pine for the additional reverb should track down the Old Masters LP, which contains the additional Zappa-added processing but lacks the pre-2012 CDs' audio problems.


Original US vinyl (Bizarre MS 2030, October 23 or November 1970, repressed in 1973; Reprise MS 2030 in Canada)
Original UK vinyl (Reprise RSLP 2030, October 23 or November 1970, originally with weird-coloured cover borders, repressed in 1971 with red)
Spanish vinyl: La Venganza de Chunga (Reprise HRES 291-40)
German vinyls (WEA Reprise 44020, Reprise RS 2030)
French vinyls (Reprise 44020, Reprise MS2030 (gatefold sleeve))
Greek vinyl (Reprise RS 0353, steamboat label, no picture of Zappa on back cover, track and personell lists only)
Japanese vinyl (Reprise P-8045R and/or P-008045R (promo))
Mexican vinyl: La Venganza de Chunga (Gamma GX 01-425)
Argentine vinyl: La Revancha de Chunga (MusicHall 12.976)
Chilean vinyl: La Revancha de Chunga (orange Reprise MS 2030, 1975)
Australian vinyl (Reprise MS 2030, 1971, high-gloss cover)
Cassette (Bizarre M 52030)
8-track (Bizarre M 82030)
Renumbered UK vinyl (Reprise K 44020, July 1971)
Double Dynamite - coupled with Hot Rats (Reprise RRD 11707, South Africa, mid-1970s)
The Old Masters vinyl (Barking Pumpkin BPR 8888-5, November 1986)
Original CD (Ryko RCD 10164 in the US, Zappa Records CDZAP23 in the UK, May 1990; VACK 5029 in Japan (MAY have been titled "Chunga's Revenge June 1971"); Ryko D30377 in Australia, 1990)
Russian CD (Spurk UL 98753, red disc)
1995 CD (Ryko RCD 10511, May 2 1995; VACK 5120 in Japan, renumbered 5255 in 1998)
Hungarian cassette (AUTO FOTO AMC 031, 1996 or 1997)
Japanese paper-sleeve CD (Ryko/VACK 1212, September 21 2001 - Bizarre inner sleeve; released with both red & "green" cover variants)
2012 UMe CD (Zappa Records ZR 3844 [U.S.] 0238442 [E.U.] August 31, 2012)

Original Vinyl
On the original LP, "The Nancy & Mary Music" is divided into three parts: 02:42, 04:11 and 02:37.


From Record Collector magazine #118, June 1989 (quoted by Mikael Agardsson):

The initial UK pressings of Chunga's Revenge was something of an oddity, having a green sleeve instead of the red one used for the US and elsewhere. The UK cover was reprinted in red shortly before the Kinney takeover in July 1971 but quite why the green sleeve was peculiar to Britain has never been fully explained.

The Old Masters LP

This is the first release to contain the added reverb that would later appear on all non-2012 CDs. It lacks the "bad batch" problems, however (which showed up circa 1989-1990).

Original CD

The CD has some sort of reverb added to Ian's sax solo on the song "Chunga's Revenge"
Chunga's Revenge is part of the "bad batch" of Zappa CDs, and the general consensus seems to be that it doesn't sound very good. It seems to have been spared the right-channel-drop-out problem, but that's also damning with faint praise. If you've never heard the vinyl, you might not object to the sound of the CD quite as much; just keep in mind that the monster reverb which reduces some tracks (Nancy and Mary Music) to absolutely mush is not present on the LP.

1995 CD

The 1995 CD re-issue sported some new artwork: an inlay sheet behind the tray, which Cal Schenkel identified as "floor-scrap from rejected cover idea prelim". Official Ryko statement: "New master. New timing sheet. Restored artwork." [full statement]

Sound-wise, it's likely the same as the older discs

2012 UMe CD

Original 1970 Analog Master. Mastered by Bob Ludwig, Gateway Mastering 2012. Reverts to the dry sound of the original LP and sounds absolutely splendid.

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