Saturday, April 29, 2006

Disco Delivery #17:
Tantra - Mother Africa (1981, Unidisc)

Tantra - Get Ready To Go
Tantra - Top Shot
Tantra - Side A Medley: (Su-Ku-Leu, Mother Africa, Hallelujah)

Some more Tantra, as promised last week.. This album was originally released in much of Europe by Philips, but licensed here in Canada to Unidisc. From what I've come across, Unidisc seemed to do that quite often, licensing in-demand product from Europe, sometimes before it reached the US (though not in this case). In the US, this album was released 1980 by the Importe/12 label on their 2 LP Tantra compilation called "The Double Album" combining the contents of this album with the "Hills of Katmandu" 12".

Continuing in the travelling theme, but without the dark, eerie sounds of "Hills of Katmandu," this LP opens with "Su-Ku-Leu" an intro track of spirited African chants, which segues into the sunny title track, "Mother Africa." The final part of the medley is another uplifting track, "Hallelujah, which, along with "Mother Africa" contain very prominent, soul-styled vocals which seem to contrast the relatively anonymous vocals on the flipside.. Side A as a whole seemed to have a brighter sound to it, from the title track to the closer, "Get Happy," which would seem to summarize things pretty well.

As opposed to side A, it's only on side B where things start to resemble the dark, menacing sound that began with "Hills.." In fact, side B doesn't really seem to have any connection to the "Mother Africa" concept on side A. Case in point being "Top Shot," one of my favourite Tantra tracks, opening with a crunchy electric guitar and subdued, yet eerie vocals and synth arrangements. There are even some light string arrangements on the track, as well as a prominent guitar and bass solo break in the middle of the song. The dark themes continue into the lyrics, though I can't make all of them out, they seem to contain references to both suicide and drug use if you can believe it..

Also on side B was the track "Get Ready To Go." One of my favourite things about this one are those dark, exotic synths that open the track. Also check out that great break two-thirds of the way through; great string and horn arrangements and a great bass. One other interesting thing about this song are the lyrics:

"As high as the Seagull that's far from land
the spirit that moves in the night
his muscles are bursting, his breath is long..
And there's no place to hide
the capture is near
like a light in my mind
the pain in my heart
never hears what they say..

A man should be born with the right to see
and not with his face to the wall..
You feel like a man that has lost his way..

As with some of the other lyrics on the album (like those in "Top Shot"), they're undeniably intriguing, yet completely perplexing. In other words, they're great, but just what the hell is it all supposed to mean (if anything at all)? I'm almost tempted to say it's another song about escapist drug use, but that would just be me guessing again. Given how esoteric and impenetrable some of them are, those lyrics almost bring much of the material into prog-rock territory. As the critic of critics, Robert Christgau says in his review, "...Travelogue esoterica, Africanisms to shame Brian Eno, guitarisms to shame Earl a whole side (or maybe two) of meaningless, enervating throb."

As mentioned last time, Tantra was a product of producer Celso Valli, who went under the alias Quelli Del Castello-La Drogueria di Drugolo. Valli would later go on to be a pretty prominent producer, arranger, conductor and musician working with the likes of Andrea Bocelli, Eros Ramazzotti, Laura Pausini and Filippa Giordano. Aside from Tantra, around this time he was also involved with other disco records like Azoto's "San Salvador" and Macho's second album, "Roll" (or "Macho II"), which also involved super-producers Jacques-Fred Petrus and Mauro Malavasi. Along with Petrus/Malavasi, Claudio Simonetti and La Bionda, Valli was probably one of the pioneers of "Italo Disco" before it was even branded as such..

After this LP, there was at least one more 12" of Tantra material; Importe/12 in the US released a collection in 1982 called "The Journey Continues" containing "The Ma-Cum-Ba Suite" and "The Tarot Suite," both of which I haven't heard yet. Also, as a commenter on my previous Tantra post had brought up, there was a Spanish Tantra 12" called "Tantra en Español," also on Importe/12 containing Spanish versions of "Hills of Katmandu" ("Las Colinas de Katmandu") and "Wishbone" ("Camino Al Destino"). With how sought after Tantra's material is these days, and the fact that all of it remains out of print, it's too bad no one's managed to do a comprehensive CD collection of their material yet. Apparently, in an interview with DJ Danny Howells (who included "Hills of Katmandu" in one of his compilations), it was mentioned that the present copyright holders are almost impossible to track down, which would probably explain why. In any case, enjoy these files for now; I hope to put up some more Tantra material in the future..




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