Bongo Fury captures Captain Beefheart aka Don Van Vliet with Frank Zappa during their brief reunion for a series of shows in the spring of 1975. This album is a pastiche of both live performances -- taken from two evenings at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, TX -- and studio recordings that were almost a year-and-a-half old. This is the last album to feature the highly technical jazz fusion of Mothers of Invention, whose roots can be traced back to 1973 circa Over-Nite Sensation. The live portions are highlighted by the latest addition to the band -- frenetic percussionist extraordinaire Terry "Ted" Bozzio, who would stay with Zappa for a majority of the '70s. Most Zappa enthusiasts either love or hate Bongo Fury. Much of the disparity has to do with the lack of the extended fusion-based instrumentals that had graced their predecessors One Size Fits All and Roxy & Elsewhere as much as it does with the inclusion of Captain Beefheart. Conversely, those consumers whose passions tend toward both Zappa and Captain Beefheart consider this disc as a mutual zenith. Either way, there is a little something for every element. The album plunges directly into the ballsy rocker "Debra Kadabra." Although the track is credited solely to Zappa, the schizophrenic animation given by Van Vliet is an inspired combination of singing and spoken word -- as might be delivered by an amphetamine-drenched preacher. Zappa and the Mothers give the multi-tempo song a full-throttled workout, which is met headlong with "Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy." This track comes from Zappa's long tradition of "tales from the road" involving various encounters with female enthusiasts. The song also includes some fiery fretwork from Zappa during the waning moments. Additional stellar guitar work can be found on "Advance Romance," as the best elements of this particular band occur here. The track grooves with a force similar to that of "Florentine Pogen" from One Size Fits All and contains a memorable Napoleon Murphy Brock vocal. The song also features the most extended instrumental interaction on Bongo Fury, running at over 11 minutes. Likewise, the two Captain Beefheart penned spoken-word selections, "Sam With the Showing Scalp Flat Top" and "Man With a Woman Head," are key entries into his anthology of surrealistic prose.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer