A classic Cal Schenkel cover surrounds one of the most listenable Zappa / Mothers records since the old days, but anyone coming to this set to hear Beefheart will be semi-disappointed. Semi because he does a lot of singing on Bongo Fury, but what he’s singing are the same old Zappa lyrics, which deal with the same old Zappa hang-ups. It’s a strange experience to listen to the album’s first cut, “Debra Kadabra,” and hear Beefheart singing like Beefheart, but realize a little way into the song that he’s singing what is essentially a continuation of that ridiculous schtick about the poncho. Beefheart singing about pimples? Shudder.
Zappa’s stuff here features good playing, little talking, and fine singing from his new band. No noise, in other words. But I am still tired of his sourness. But the good Cap gets two recitations, and they so outshine Zappa’s sour bullshit that if I were Zappa I’d have left them off the album. “Sam With the Showing Scalp Flat Top” and “Man With the Woman Head” show that Beefheart still has a lot of good material nobody’s heard. Maybe the next album from this collaboration will reverse itself and have as much Zappa on it as this one has Beefheart. Yeah – more Beefheart and I’ll keep the next album.