Jagad Guru Chris Butler & Friends – Mantra Electric
Imagine if you will, Carlos Santana fronting Pink Floyd circa Wish You Were Here, with a dash of Camel and a little Popol Vuh for flavoring. Add some synth and smooth melodic vocal harmonies chanting devotion to Hare Krishna, and you’ve got the sound of Jagad Guru Chris Butler’s “Mantra Electric” double LP. Released in 1983 by Butler’s own Science of Identity Foundation, this Hawaiian guru managed to record one of the more enjoyable musical paeans to his God(s) from the era. While there are numerous websites with information and quotes from Butler, there seems to be very little information to be found about this album. According to a post on the Cult Education Forum, this was Butler’s second release, and a bit more upbeat than the first (titled Gentle Force), described as follows:
The operative words are GENTLE (deceptive) and FORCE (coercion). But to look at and listen to Siddha’s album you would just see it as new agey music made by this nice spiritual guy. At the time, Jagad Guru Chris Butler Siddhaswarupananda Paramahansa, founder of the Science of Identity cult, did not refer to himself as a pure devotee or messiah of nations – at least publicly yet. He had his senior followers spread that rumor for him very well. ACB was still “on the planet”
When the album came out Siddha ordered all of his followers to call the radio stations to request a song. This was to increase the air time and popularity of the music. Problem is that it wasn’t that popular of a style of music. The D.J. got really pissed one night and yelled at one of the girls calling saying he was sick of how Siddha got all these young girls to call for him and he flat refused to play anything because of that. Decades later Chris Butler still employs his followers in the same way to donate money to political campaigns or write letters to newspaper editors in attempts to change public policy.
Needless to say the album was a flop. It cost him more money to make than it ever made. The weirdest thing is that followers were not allowed to “enjoy” it’s music either. His own followers were told not to listen to it, but were allowed to play it for “new” people. Followers listened to it any way and there were a lot of bootleg copies. It was nice music, though Siddha’s voice was a bit thin and weak. He used good studio musicians in L.A. on a lot of tracks that were not followers.
His next album, ‘Mantra Electric’ came out in response to criticisms of the style of music from Gentle Force (not rocking enough) and from the Haribol community that the album was too secular in its lyrics, not enough chanting. This cassette was produced completely with follower musicians.
In addition to the cassette mentioned above, Mantra Electric was also released as a double LP in a gatefold sleeve. Songwriting and musician information is listed on each label of the LP, so we know that Butler handled lead vocals, with background vocals by Devavani dasi. Lead guitars were by Eddie Hansen and Harvey Mann, while the drums were by Glen Absolum, and synthesizers by Eddie Hansen. All songs were written by Butler & Hansen, except Nitai Gaur, by Butler and Mann. According to the liner notes inside the LP, “Simply by listening to these mantras we can gradually become purified and enlightened and begin to taste that happiness for which we are always searching.” With soaring guitar leads, synth soundscapes, gentle vocals, and eastern influences, Mantra Electric seems to fulfill that promise.