Mandingo; Jungle Wedding (1973)

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Mandingo; Jungle Wedding (1973)

The original cover of Mandingo's album The Primeval Rhythm of Life was singularly unhelpful. It just had titles on the front, some brief liner notes which started "Thousand upon thousands of years ago Man discovered that hitting two sticks together again and again . . ." and a list of instruments played.

And you knew from the first track that this wasn't an African band.

The album was produced by Norman Newell and his assistent was Gil King, both names perhaps familiar to people who read the liner marginalia on albums out of EMI's London studios of the Sixties and Seventies.

The later and more dramatic cover (above) however adopted a faux Afro-exotica look and the music was more attuned to Ginger Baker's Airforce of a few years previous, but with much less authenticty.

It was however a pretty terrific soul-funk, Afro-electric album . . . and Mandingo was in fact the Geoff Love Orchestra.

Love had decided to ride the wave of Afican music (Osibisa were hot at the time and the adaptation of Alex Haley's novel Roots had been massive on television) and this was his impressive entry in the marketplace.

Oddly enough Love was mostly known for his MOR output and was the go-to guy when you wanted a soundtrack soundalike or themed album. (Westerns? Latin music? Geoff's your man!) But he also arranged World Without Love for Peter and Gordon and had an extensive calaogue of albums under his own name.

mrs_millsAt the other end of Love's considerable spectrum from exotic Afro beats (delivered on this album with thunderous drumming, rowdy horns, wah-wah and piercing guitars) was his work for extraordinarily popular Mrs Mills, the rinky-dink piano player who had albums with titles like All Time Party Dances and Other Favourites (on which she would play The Cokey Cokey, Happy Birthday, The Lambeth Walk and Camptown Races).

She was astonishingly popular and made dozens of albums.

And Geoff Love -- as well as Newell -- was on hand for most of them.

But under the name Mandingo, Love stepped well away from MOR and really let the players off the leash. Hard to pick the best track off the album, but this furious piece -- stick around for the free-form guitar at the end -- captures some of the incendiary Afro-funk mood.

If you see a copy of the Mandingo album in secondhand shops (in whichever cover) make sure you grab it.

A Mrs Mills album? Maybe not. 

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory use the RSS feed for daily updates, and check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults.

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