Monday, 25 February 2008

CD Review - Taj Mahal

Oooh So Good’n Blues/Recycling The Blues & Other Stuff

By M.D. Spenser

Taj Mahal is one of the great Blues revivalists. The two early ’70s albums collected here capture him in peak form, devoted to reviving – literally, giving new life to – country Blues.

Taj’s interests over a 40-year career have ranged from reggae to Hawaiian music, from West African to R&B – all in his own inimitable style. But underpinning his music at all times has been the Blues.

Mahal is the progenitor of a whole generation of Bluesmen, from Eric Bibb (right down to the hat) to Keb’ Mo’, Guy Davis, Corey Harris and Alvin Youngblood Hart. Those of us who love the Blues today owe him an immeasurable debt.

This CD is primarily acoustic – simple yet intense, traditional yet unmistakably Taj Mahal. On many tracks he is backed by the then-unknown Pointer Sisters – loosely and raucously, for example, on ‘Little Red Hen’, one of the originals that fit perfectly beside songs by Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon and Mississippi John Hurt.

Much of “Recycling The Blues,” the second album on this CD, is live. Few performers excite a crowd like Taj.

He opens by playing the conch, of all things. On the second track, he plays kalimba, an African thumb piano. Then on to the 12-bar Blues of ‘Bound to Love Me Some’. Then a tune on the banjo. He follows that with an a cappella gospel number that really gets the house rocking. Darn few people in this world can rock the house with just a voice, no instruments.

Purists have sometimes turned up their noses at him, but like the great Bluesmen before him, Mahal is an originator, an irrepressible creative force. Purists be damned, nobody does Blues better than Taj Mahal.

This is a fine place to start a Taj collection, and a welcome addition to an existing one. Highly recommended.

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