Jai Uttal – Thunder Love

January 01, 1970

(Nutone Music)




A lot of the beauty and ecstatic excitement in Jai Uttal’s
music – traditional Indian call-and-response devotional chanting married to
rock, jazz and world-music instrumental exploration – becomes diminished when
he tries to add English-language lyrics and pop song-structure to the Sanskrit
mantras. That lessens Thunder Love, compared to great past work like Shiva
and Beggars and Saints.



His voice isn’t the problem; he exudes a bittersweet,
semi-regretful urgency reminiscent of Jack Bruce that works well with his
back-up singers. And, as on the previous albums by this American convert to
Indian spiritual music, his multi-instrumental playing is, well, divine,
especially on stringed instruments. But when expressed in English on songs like
“Bolo Ram (Let the Spirits Sing),” “Down on My Knees” and “Let Me Be the Sky,”
the religious sentiments seem shopworn and obvious, and the overall sound turns
into middle-of-the-road pop.



Uttal and his co-producer Ben Leinbach do revive things late
in the album with “Thunder Love Blues,” although it’s just a short track that
is somehow listed (on the advance CD) as almost nine minutes, and the rousing
“Om Shanti” which shakes and quakes like a joyous second coming. But there’s
not enough like this.



Standout Tracks: “Bhavani Shankara,” “Om Shanti” STEVEN ROSEN





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