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Can - Tago Mago CD (album) cover





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siLLy puPPy
5 stars .




CAN was a band not bound to be bland but the German Krautrock band that should,

it didn't take too long to find sounds that were strong and they rocked them as hard as they could.

The wildly surreal was like taking a pill and the CAN was the band with a name,

that never sat still, the true anti-chill and the world would never be the same!

CAN - Tago Mago (1971)

When perusing the history of Germany's pioneering Krautrock bands it's almost a given that the Cologne based CAN will be perched at the top with the band's third album TAGO MAGO topping the list of not only Krautrock lists but the progressive rock album lists as well. The core quartet of two disciples of Karlheinz Stockhausen, Holger Czukay (bass, tape editing) and Irmin Schmidt (keyboards) found an unlikely chemistry with free jazz drummer Jaki Liebeszeit and guitarist Michael Karoli whose disparate musical resumes conspired to morph into a refreshing new explosive burst of creative uninhibitedness when the band was founded in 1968. Soon another unlikely candidate for lead vocalist joined the ranks as American soul and funk bro singer and poet Malcom Mooney joined the team for the band's first three recordings: "Monster Movie," "Soundtracks" and the archival release "Delayed."

Due to the bizarre direction of CAN's musical evolution, Mooney was suffering nervous breakdowns and was advised by his psychologist to run far away from the mind bending sounds that CAN was crafting. He agreed and parted ways and left a huge gap in the band's developing stylistic stamp on the German scene. Never afraid to explore new territories, the band not only reveled in musical unconventionalities but found Mooney's replacement by spontaneously inviting a Japanese busking musician named Damo Suzuki to join the band merely by hearing him perform while sitting at a street cafe in Munich. With Suzuki's Japanese eccentricities added to the lineup, CAN was poised to become one of the best known bands of the Krautrock era and would soon release a string of some of prog's most critically acclaimed and experimental albums of the entire 70s scene. The newly complete band headed off to a castle in Cologne to record the third album TAGO MAGO, named after a tiny island off the coast of Ibiza, Spain.

TAGO MAGO is an album of extremes. Originally released as a double LP in 1971 the album covered all grounds ranging from rhythmic funk infused rhythmic space rock to pure avant-garde noise fueled by insane jazz improvisation and hitherto unheard sounds emerging from the most sophisticated electronic tape editing techniques set to an album with the genre of rock music. TAGO MAGO was one of the most extreme albums of the era and remains so even within CAN's own long lasting career. To give the album some context, some band members were obsessed with occult themes and Aleister Crowley as if using sound to perform sonic rituals of sort along with a slew of ethnic influences such as Western African percussions and bizarre atmospheric hypnotic weirdness cohabiting with more digestible musical structures such as rock, funk and jazz.

The album begins rather innocently. Avant-funk for sure but easy enough to grasp hold of. "Paperhouse" starts off with some weird noisy reverberation but quickly snaps into a funky groove based melodic bluesy rock number that sounded somewhat like an intoxicated version of The Rolling Stones with a really adventurous keyboardist along for the ride! "Mushroom" starts to take on new personas where Suzuki finds a bit more room to shift his vocals around the more structured tight jam of the bass and drums however the guitar creates some trippy weirdness and it's easy to hear why TAGO MAGO has been cited as a major influence for post-punk and more adventurous alternative rock bands like Radiohead that would take the world by storm in the future. "Oh Yeah" begins with an explosive thunder and lightning storm but continues the hypnotic avant-funk based grooves and continues the tight jam with the keyboards offering the psychedelic freakery in the form of bizarre sounds emerging.

The original side 2 consisted solely of the 18 minute and a half monstrosity "Halleluhwah" which provided a bridge between the "normal" part of the album and the inter-dimensional freakery that followed. Beginning something like a mix of the proto-punk psychedelic nonchalantness of the Velvet Underground only with a more bluesy funk groove, the track finds the band slowly but surely escaping the gravitational pull of conventionality and culminates with the incessant drum bombast at full power and the melodic and atmospheric elements reaching full tempest-tossed furor. And then the acid kicks in. Yes, that's the only way one can describe TAGO MAGO. Sides 1 and 2 are like a ritualistic precursor that summons the entities from who knows where. In preparation the band seemingly took peyote, LSD, ample amounts of booze, cocaine and who knows what else. Somewhere during "Halleluhwah" the drugs kicked in but by the time TAGO MAGO reaches the 17 and a half minute "Aumgn," the band seemed to have astral planed on a true shamanic journey into a seemingly alternative universe where all the rules had been thrown on their head and all one can do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

"Aumgn" begins the psychic detachment from reality with a series of reverberating echoey sounds offering a multi-layered sonic structural approach that is freaky as hell yet retains just enough of the rest of the album's underpinnings to latch onto well at least after the proper training has been learned. Yes, this track retrains a latent rhythmic pulse of the avant-funk grooves however it has been buried underneath a parade of freaky ambient sounds, overlaying counterpoints, hypnotic weirdness and eerie vocal moaning as well as avant-garde violin scratches and a never ending supply of eldritch disconnect that will either make you have the worst trip of your life or find the true divine oneness with the universe. "Peking-O" continues the freakfest as the astral plane journey takes on a shamanic approach with ritualistic vocal styles that culminate in horror movie type screams to sinister organs fit for the best Satanic rituals for blood sacrifice parties. Like all good party hosts, after the seemingly never-ending freakery of the album's second half, the guests are comforted to the final "Bring Me Coffee Or Tea" which ushers everyone back to the real world before the psyche-splitting wild ride began. Damn. What did we just here?

TAGO MAGO is like an initiation into a strange cult. Instead of slapping you in the face with a strange new world, it gently nudges you in as it seduces your freewill to jump on the roller coaster that doesn't tell you that it's on its way to the caterpillar's party in Alice In Wonderland. To create such an experience like TAGO MAGO required the most dedicated team of musicians, editors and producers that were available in 1971 because the scope of the sounds and styles on this album are off-the-charts. This is an album that requires the proper time to fully digest as it is like soaking an entire mystery school's worth of occult knowledge in it's 73 minute plus playing time (true these days it could easily fit on one CD but feels like four albums really!) Personally i have only heard this on the remastered modern day editions but i find the production was literally off the chart for the time it was recorded. The sounds are so carefully crafted and woven into a psychedelic tapestry that it still comes off as fresh as it must have been nearly five decades ago. TAGO MAGO surely isn't the easiest listening experience for newbies to embark upon but sooner or later any serious stalwarts of progressive rock will find themselves at the gates of this sonic amusement park and have their s.h.i.t. freaked out big time and if they're lucky they'll come back for seconds!


siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |


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