|Studio album by|
February 1971 at Schloss Nörvenich, near Cologne, Germany
Original UK cover and 40th anniversary edition
Tago Mago is the second album by the German krautrock band Can, originally released as a double LP in 1971. It was the band's second studio album and the first to feature Damo Suzuki after the 1970 departure of previous vocalist Malcolm Mooney. Recorded in a rented castle near Cologne, the album features long-form experimental tracks blending funk rhythms, avant-garde noise, jazz improvisation, and electronic tape editing techniques.
Tago Mago has been described as Can's best and most extreme record in sound and structure. The album has received much critical acclaim since its release and has been cited as an influence by various artists. Drowned in Sound called it "arguably the most influential rock album ever recorded."
Recording and production
After Malcolm Mooney left Can in 1970 the remaining members were left without a vocalist. Bassist Holger Czukay happened to meet Kenji "Damo" Suzuki when the latter was busking outside a cafe in Munich. He introduced himself as a member of an experimental rock band and invited Suzuki to join them. That evening, Suzuki performed with the band at the "Blow Up Club" and subsequently became a member of Can.
Tago Mago was recorded in 1971 by Czukay in Schloss Nörvenich, a castle near Cologne. Early in 1968 the band had been invited to stay there for a year without paying rent by the art collector Christoph Vohwinkel, who had rented the castle with the idea of transforming it into an art centre.
Recording took three months to complete, with sessions often lasting up to sixteen hours a day. Czukay would edit these long, disorganized jams into structured songs. Czukay used only two two-track tape recorders to capture the sessions. Because of the limits of two-track recording the group favoured the castle's high-ceilinged entrance hall, an architectural reverb chamber, using the natural acoustics and placing the microphones optimally relative to their instruments. Due to the intense reverberation, Czukay took advantage of the sonic bleed and limited the band to three microphones, shared between vocalist Damo Suzuki and drummer Jaki Liebezeit. Keyboardist Irmin Schmidt experimented with sine-wave generators and oscillators in place of typical synthesizers on "Aumgn".
This was the first of Can's albums to be made from not only regularly recorded music, but combined "in-between-recordings", where Czukay secretly recorded the musicians jamming during pre-production sessions. Additionally, Czukay captured in-between-recordings of the shouts of a child who mistakenly burst into the room during recording, as well as the howling from a dog belonging to Vohwinkel.
It was originally released as a double LP in 1971 by United Artists.
Julian Cope wrote in Krautrocksampler that Tago Mago "sounds only like itself, like no-one before or after", and described the lyrics as delving "below into the Unconscious". Dummy called it "a genre-defining work of psychedelic, experimental rock music." Critic Simon Reynolds described the record's sound as "shamanic avant-funk." Tago Mago finds Can changing to a jazzier and more experimental sound than previous recordings, with longer instrumental interludes and fewer vocals; this shift was caused by the dramatic difference between Suzuki and the band's more dominant ex-singer Mooney. On the album, Can took sonic inspiration from sources as diverse as jazz musicians such as Miles Davis and from electronic avant-garde music. The album was also inspired by the occultist Aleister Crowley, which is reflected through the dark sound of the album as well as being named after Illa de Tagomago, an island which features in the Crowley legend. Czukay reflects that the album was "an attempt in achieving a mystery musical world from light to darkness and return". The group has referred to the album as their "magic record". The tracks have been described as having an "air of mystery and forbidden secrets". Tago Mago is divided into two LPs, the first of which is more conventional and structured and the second more experimental and free-form.
"Paperhouse", the opening track, is one of the shorter songs on the album. Allmusic critic Ned Raggett depicted the song as "beginning with a low-key chime and beat, before amping up into a rumbling roll in the midsection, then calming down again before one last blast." "Mushroom" is the following track, which Leone noted as having a darker sound than the previous song. "Oh Yeah" and "Halleluhwah" contain the elements that have been referred to as Can's "trademark" sound: "Damo Suzuki's vocals, which shift from soft mumbles to aggressive outbursts without warning; Jaki Liebezeit's manic drumming; Holger Czukay's production manipulations (e.g. the backwards vocals and opening sound effects on 'Oh Yeah')." Both "Oh Yeah" and "Halleluhwah" use repetitive grooves.
The second LP features Can's more avant-garde efforts, with Roni Sarig, author of The Secret History of Rock calling it "as close as it ever got to avant-garde noise music." Featuring Holger Czukay’s tape and radio experiments, the tracks "Aumgn" and "Peking O" have led music critics to write that Tago Mago is Can's "most extreme record in terms of sound and structure." "Peking O" made early use of a drum machine, an Ace Tone Rhythm Ace, combined with acoustic drumming. "Aumgn" features keyboardist Irmin Schmidt chanting rather than Suzuki's vocals. The closing track, "Bring Me Coffee or Tea", was described by Raggett as a "coda to a landmark record."
The side-long track "Halleluhwah" was shortened from 18½ to 3½ minutes for the B-side of the single "Turtles Have Short Legs", a novelty song recorded during the Tago Mago sessions and released by Liberty Records in 1971. A different, 5½-minute shortened version of "Halleluhwah" would later appear on the compilation Cannibalism in 1978 while the single's A-side remained out-of-print until its inclusion on 1992's Cannibalism 2.
Reception, legacy and influence
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
10/10 (2011; 40th Anniversary Edition)
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Tago Mago has been critically acclaimed and is credited with pioneering various modern musical styles. Raggett called Tago Mago a "rarity of the early '70s, a double album without a wasted note". In the book Kraftwerk: Man, Machine and Music, Pascal Bussy described the double LP as "hugely influential". The album is listed in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die in which it stated, "Even after 30 years Tago Mago sounds refreshingly contemporary and gloriously extreme." Many critics, particularly in the UK, were eager to praise the album, and by the end of 1971 Can played their first show in the UK.
Various artists have cited Tago Mago as an influence on their work. John Lydon of the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd. called it "stunning" in his autobiography Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs. Bobby Gillespie of Jesus and Mary Chain and Primal Scream said "The music was like nothing I'd ever heard before, not American, not rock & roll but mysterious and European." Mark Hollis of Talk Talk made reference to Tago Mago as "an extremely important album" and an inspiration to his own Laughing Stock. Marc Bolan listed Suzuki's freeform lyricism as an inspiration. Jonny Greenwood and Thom Yorke of Radiohead cite the album as an early influence.
There have been attempts by several artists to play cover versions of songs from Tago Mago. The Flaming Lips album In a Priest Driven Ambulance contains a song called "Take Meta Mars", which was an attempt at covering the song "Mushroom". However, the band members had only heard the song once and didn't have a copy of it at the time, so the song is only similar-sounding and not a proper cover. The Jesus and Mary Chain have covered the song more faithfully to the original; it was performed live and included on the CD version of Barbed Wire Kisses. British band The Fall recorded a song indebted to the Tago Mago track "Oh Yeah" entitled "I Am Damo Suzuki", named after the Can singer, on their 1985 LP This Nation's Saving Grace. New York band The Mooney Suzuki were named after Can vocalists Malcolm Mooney and Damo Suzuki. Artists Emily Zuzik, Tim Lefebvre and Gary Novak recorded a cover of "Oh Yeah" with LA-based KNOWER for Zuzik's ep ANGELENOS also produced by Lefebvre.
Remix versions of several Tago Mago tracks by various artists are included on the album Sacrilege.
|2.||"Bring Me Coffee or Tea"||6:47|
40th Anniversary Edition
|7.||"Bring Me Coffee or Tea"||6:47|
|1.||"Mushroom (Live 1972)"||8:42|
|2.||"Spoon (Live 1972)"||29:55|
|3.||"Halleluhwah (Live 1972)"||9:12|
- Damo Suzuki – vocals
- Holger Czukay – bass, engineering, editing
- Michael Karoli – guitar, violin
- Jaki Liebezeit – drums, double bass, piano
- Irmin Schmidt – organ, electric piano, oscillators; vocals on "Aumgn"
- U. Eichberger – original artwork & design
- Andreas Torkler – design (2004 rerelease)
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- Official website
- Tago Mago at MusicBrainz
- Tago Mago (LP) at Discogs
- Tago Mago (Remastered SACD) at Discogs