Savage Rite





The way I see it, there is one oddity in every Mandingo song ever released: each of the songs could be subtitled as Music for Illusionists. You know, the magician enters the stage, and the drum roll rings when an especially exciting trick reaches its climax and so on. But Mandingo's music would be perfectly suitable for the events that happen in-between: the magician walking up and down, his helpers smiling and throwing kisses in the direction of the audience … it's just perfect show music that underscores the intervening spaces between the start of a trick and its end.


To be more precise, Savage Rite isn't your typical Exotica album, as it was released in 1975 when this kind of music already waned out of the collective mind and into oblivion. Instead of typical Exotica ingredients like mallet instruments or ukuleles, Savage Rite is definitely a Funk album by nature but denies the funky sleaziness and exchanges it with exciting compositions full of bongos and congas, at least one familiar element of Exotica songs. Savage Rite is the band's penultimate album and as such shows a degree of maturity and routine not to be found in, say, their first album Sacrifice in 1973. The songs were originally written by big writers like Brian Fahey and Mike Vickers, the latter of Manfred Mann Band-fame.


All songs are tuneful and oftentimes hectical, and thus Mandingo succeed in creating a plastic aura of a fake jungle which explains the concept of Exotica music in a nutshell. Every track has been produced and arranged by Norman Newell – the band members remain unknown, no further information is given. Savage Rite is easily available on iTunes, Amazon etc. in a version remastered in 1999. It is bundled with its predecessor Mandingo III, originally released in 1974. I will analyze 6 out of 10 tracks below.


Manhunter starts with dramatical strings and releases a short conga intro before loud brass sections and a cheesy electric guitar is added to the mix – hey, it's the 70's and should therefore be tolerated by the listener. However, the song works quite well as a starting point and opens the album with a blast, while its title evokes a feeling of being chased through the jungle. The follow-up, Wild Man, is a bit closer to my heart. It starts with a softly screeching electric guitar, an electric piano and gentle bongos, the latter getting more intense before the melody sets in, played by brass sections and accompanied by a guitar that is altered with a wah-wah pedal. The melody is played by trembling trumpets. I can't help but thinking again of an illusionist on stage shouting Showtime. After two minutes, the focus shifts to the percussion which is really going crazy now and which is supported by howling electric guitars.


Arachnid sets its focus differently, starting with a marimba and bongos and a crescendoing brass section with an added flanger effect – very cool! That said, an exotic flute is the epicenter of the tune, heavily improvising while being accompanied by the usual bongos. This is one of the stronger tracks because Mandingo don't try too hard to make the track overly melodious or necessarily gimmicky; instead, the frisky flute and the reduced usage of the brass ensemble plus, probably most important, the omission of the electric guitar likely make this song the most efficient one in regard to an exotic feeling.


King Of The Jungle is a sleazy song that dwadles along in a slow pace. The exotic flute is on here as well as the brass ensemble and an accompanying piano. The song ends with a crescendo of all instruments playing together, ending with reverberated brass blasts. The Man From Takoradi is a the perfect song for lovers of percussion-driven songs that neglect hummable melodies in favor of gripping staccato beats. All other instruments are reduced to a minimum, even the significant flute is curbed. Rebellion is another typical melodious, brass-laden song, fulfilling the trademark Mandingo standard by also adding a terrific percussion section on the second half of the song.


This is no quiet, soothing Exotica album. This is a dynamic, exciting and hectic Funk album with a delightful plethora of instruments that cause an opulence on every track with not a dull moment or sudden change of pace. In fact, the album is featuring such an overabundance of drums, flutes and guitars that one probably cannot feast on the whole album at a single time, depending on the mood and surroundings. Maybe not the perfect music for a quiet luau, but an excellent choice for a workout playlist or a torch-involving performance. I always have a few tracks of Savage Rite with me while I'm exercising – torch-less, naturally.


Exotica Review 012: Mandingo – Savage Rite (1975). Originally published on Dec. 18, 2011 at