(out of a possible five)
The 1975 Bongo Fury tour was one of Frank's better and more interesting outings. For just
over a month, he took on the road with him a talented but eclectic group of musicians, a
diverse mix of old and new material, and one of his more free-spirited outlooks towards
live music. While the results were not always successful, the efforts were always valiant,
and when the elements gelled, the payoff was huge. Funny thing is, you would never know
any of this based on this album.
While this is not an outright bad album, it is incredibly disappointing when viewed as a
live document of the '75 Spring Tour. True, Frank's intentions were not directed towards
that end, but considering that this (along with an even more disappointing version of
"The Torture Never Stops") are all we have from this tour, then by default this
album quickly gets labeled as such.
Judging the album on its own merits, however, one cannot call this release a complete loss
(though thanks to the Stage series, this album has lost some of its appeal, IMO).
"Muffin Man" is, without a doubt, a bona-fide classic, and while we will always
feel that slight tinge of disappointment when the solo begins to fade, we love the track
nonetheless. "Poofters Froth Wyoming" is harmless fun, and "Debra
Kadabra" is deliciously weird, capturing the true essence of this tour.
"Carolina Hard-core Ecstasy" and "Advance Romance" receive much better
treatment on later releases, though the solo on the former track is pretty good. The rest
of the album is merely filler, with "Cucamonga" standing out simply for giving
title to the third part of the early '70's "Farther O'Blivion" instrumentals.
This album has its moments, and is definitely worth owning, if not for "Muffin
Man" alone (I say, refusing to acknowledge the existence of any compilations). If not
for my experience with live tapes, I would probably rate this album much higher, but when
listening to this, I can only imagine the possibilities. This could have been so much
THE LIVE EFFECT
Every song on this album was performed live at least once, though, in several
instances, quite unlike the way it is performed here.
DEBRA KADABRA- This was only performed live during the Spring '75 tour.
CAROLINA HARD-CORE ECSTASY- The main bass line from this song premiered during the Winter
'74 tour, when it was frequently used as the supporting vamp for Frank's "Dupree's
Paradise" solos. The song itself premiered on the Bongo Fury tour, and stuck around
through the Fall '75 tour (with one possible performance early in '76). The song was not
seen again until '84, when it returned sounding better than ever (YCDTOSA IV). Imagine the
'84 band doing that to a song.
SAM WITH THE SHOWING SCALP FLAT TOP- Only performed on the Bongo Fury tour. This
"song" worked much better in the live setting, where it would pop up in the most
random of places, maintaining the off-kilter pace of this tour's shows.
POOFTER'S FROTH WYOMING PLANS AHEAD- This was only performed on the Bongo Fury tour.
200 YEARS OLD- This was only performed once- on 11/26/74. This performance is awesome.
Frank hastily runs through the several lines of lyrics he has written, and then plays one
of the meanest guitar solos of the tour. So mean, it would be in trouble if it tried to
grow a moustache. Oblivious to the presence of the band, he just plays and plays and
plays. It is ugly, but it is good.
CUCAMONGA- This tune served as the coda to the '72/'73 instrumental known as "Farther
O'Blivion". This piece consisted of the Big Swifty portion of "Greggary
Peccary", the main theme from "The Bebop Tango", and then an instrumental
"Cucamonga". It was never performed live with lyrics.
ADVANCE ROMANCE- This song premiered on the Bongo Fury tour, and then continued to inhabit
set lists through the Fall '76 tour. It then took a much needed rest until '82 (YCDTOSA
V), and stuck around through '84 ('YCDTOSA III) and '88 (MAJNH). Wow, four live versions
of this sucker.
MAN WITH THE WOMAN HEAD- This was only performed live on this tour.
MUFFIN MAN- This song premiered on this tour as an instrumental, tearing out of
"Camarillo Brillo" and destroying everything in its path. It eventually acquired
lyrics (though there is a debate as to when it actually acquired lyrics; several people
who were at the Austin show in '75 remember the song as NOT having lyrics; yes, that was a
long time ago, but I do not think anyone would put it past Frank to overdub the vocal
parts on this performance), and established itself as THE encore for: Fall '75, Winter
'76, Fall '76, Winter '77, Fall '77, Winter '78, and Fall '78, before taking a much needed
rest. Then (no don't say it!) in reappeared in a reggae version, working its magic on the
'82 and '84 tours (YCDTOSA VI).
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