Funky Nothingness is Prime Frank Zappa

Especially if you’re a fan of that Hot Rats/Chunga’s Revenge era

Hot Rats-era Frank Zappa (Image: Zappa Family Trust)

For some, the generosity of the Zappa Family Trust has reached critical mass.

Yet where others might grimace at the idea of another collection of unreleased Frank to lighten their wallets, I say pick your battles but by all means don’t let that stop Ahmet and Diva from flooding the market with their dad’s genius. 

Funky Nothingness is an especially tasty treat for those FZ fans with a particular affinity for the Hot Rats/Chunga’s Revenge era. In fact, these sessions are considered to be the bridge connecting Rats and Chunga, 25 unreleased and incredibly rare tracks, recently unearthed from the Vault after more than five decades, recorded shortly after Zappa’s groundbreaking solo debut, Hot Rats, with several of the same musicians.

The sessions, which took place primarily in February and March 1970 at the newly opened Record Plant in Los Angeles, included the five-piece band of Mothers member Ian Underwood (keyboard, saxophone, rhythm guitar), violinist and vocalist Don “Sugarcane” Harris, Wrecking Crew bassist Max Bennett, drummer Aynsley Dunbar and Zappa on guitar, vocals and percussion as well as production duties. 

Frank Zappa Funky Nothingness, Zappa Records/UMe 2023

Together the group recorded hours’ worth of original material, including covers and extended improvisations that drew from Zappa’s R&B and blues roots, while blending influences of the emerging jazz fusion scene and groups like Santana and Return To Forever. Largely instrumental, these recordings showcased the guitarist’s virtuosity, while offering what could have easily been the sequel to Hot Rats, had it ever been released.

“Funky Nothingness, as an album, is special in that it features at least three written compositions, three cover versions and multiple instrumental jam-oriented segments, all previously unreleased,” explains longtime Zappa vaultmeister Joe Travers, who co-produced the set with Ahmet. “It’s very rare to find that amount of music from one set of sessions that has gone unheard for such a long period of time.”

An accompanying 28-page booklet includes photos from the recording sessions by photographer John Williams plus liner notes and an individual track-by-track by Travers. Disc 1 features Zappa’s vintage mixes alongside several modern mixes by Craig Parker Adams who also mixed the bonus material on Discs 2 and 3,  which includes multiple takes on such Disc 1 highlights as “Chunga’s Revenge,” “Twinkle Tits” and “The Clap.”. All audio was mastered by John Polito at Audio Mechanics. In all, the 25-track collection includes 23 unreleased tracks totaling nearly three and a half hours of never-before-heard music. 

“With archival releases from the vault, it is normal to find different arrangements of past tunes featured in live concerts and studio settings with other bands, but actual NEW compositions are few and far between, especially from within Zappa’s golden years of the ‘60s and ‘70s,” explains Travers. “Funky Nothingness delivers on all fronts, showcasing Zappa’s love for rhythm and blues, picking up where Hot Rats left off with extended instrumental work-outs fusing rock, jazz and classical elements into music that can only be described as ZAPPA. The guitar work and virtuoso musicianship are in full effect.”



Funky Nothingness (3CD/Digital)

CD 1: Funky Nothingness – The Album

  1. Funky Nothingness
  2. Tommy/Vincent Duo I
  3. Love Will Make Your Mind Go Wild
  4. I’m A Rollin’ Stone
  5. Chunga’s Revenge (Basement Version)
  6. Basement Jam
  7. Work With Me Annie / Annie Had A Baby
  8. Tommy/Vincent Duo II
  9. Sharleena (1970 Record Plant Mix)
  10. Khaki Sack
  11. Twinkle Tits


CD 2: Zappa/Hot Rats ’70 Session Masters and Bonus Nothingness

  1. Chunga’s Revenge (Take 5)
  2. Love Will Make Your Mind Go Wild (Take 4)
  3. Transylvania Boogie (Unedited Master)
  4. Sharleena (Unedited Master)
  5. Work With Me Annie/Annie Had A Baby (Alternate Edit)
  6. Twinkle Tits (Take 1, False Start)
  7. Twinkle Tits (Take 2)


CD 3: Zappa/Hot Rats ’70 Session Masters and Bonus Nothingness

  1. The Clap (Unedited Master-Part I)
  2. The Clap (Unedited Master-Part II)
  3. Tommy/Vincent Duo (Unedited Master)
  4. Chunga’s Revenge (Take 8)
  5. Halos and Arrows
  6. Moldred
  7. Fast Funky Nothingness




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Ron Hart

Ron Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Rock and Roll Globe. Reach him on Twitter @MisterTribune.

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