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Blues - Released August 17, 2012 | Columbia - Legacy

Distinctions Le top 6 JAZZ NEWS
In celebration of his 70th birthday, The Hidden Treasures of Taj Mahal 1969-1973 is the first of a series of volumes issued by Legacy that will eventually encompass his entire Columbia catalog. Hidden Treasures consists of a studio disc and a live one. The studio set contains a dozen tracks that were rejected from the final versions of Mahal's albums for various reasons, as well as alternate takes. All tracks are unreleased. The quality of the material can be slightly uneven, but that's to be expected (being rejects after all). That said, disc one is not without sufficient charm, and even revelatory moments. Its first four tracks feature Mahal and guitarist Jesse Ed Davis in the company of Jim Dickinson's Dixie Flyers. "Chainey Do" and the first of the two alternate takes of "Sweet Mama Janisse" are excellent showcases for Davis in the company of a stellar garage band. Other standouts on disc one include "You Ain't No Street Walker Mama, Honey But I Do Love the Way You Strut Your Stuff," with its studio intro where Mahal instructs the band on how to make it cook. And it does. The band includes a five-piece horn section that stars tuba masters Bob Stewart and Howard Johnson. Mahal's banjo playing works beautifully in the extended jam on "Shady Groove." "Butter" closes the disc and features Mahal fronting the band on harmonica, playing a sweet, instrumental version of "People Get Ready." Disc two, recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970, is worth the purchase price alone. Mahal plays his National Steel guitar and harmonica, and is backed by a band with the late, great Davis on lead guitar. This set reveals Mahal as a musical shaman early on. He was even then able to skip across centuries, traditions, forms, and singing, telling tales and jokes without hesitation or faltering. He fully inhabits each musical persona he takes on as his own, yet they are all part of a single but multi-limbed lineage in his musicology. The disc is by turns rousing, rocking, and intimate. Whether it's in the a cappella take on the traditional "Runnin' by the Riverside," a cover of the Band's "Bacon Fat," the funky, gritty, original blues of "Big Fat" and "Sweet Mama Janisse," or the definitive version of "Tomorrow May Not Be Your Day," this is all-killer, no-filler. Fans of Mahal's -- especially of his Columbia period -- will greet The Hidden Treasures of Taj Mahal 1969-1973 with cheers. ~ Thom Jurek
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Blues - Released May 5, 2017 | Concord Records, Inc. (UMG Account)

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If a decade separates Henry Saint Clair Fredericks alias Taj Mahal from Kevin Roosevelt Moore alias Keb' Mo', blues is the common thread that joins the lives of these two great musicians. But this blues is anything but monolithic, taking nourishment from soul as well as from rock'n'roll and world music. Taj Mahal and Keb' Mo' have united for the first time under the banner of TajMo to bring out this record. Mixing covers and original compositions and bringing in Bonnie Raitt, Joe Walsh, Sheila E. and Lizz Wright, the album offers two styles that mix together to give birth to a music striking the perfect balance between tradition and innovation. Here the soul is festive (That’s Who I Am), there the blues is pared-down (Diving Duck Blues) and a little further off there are Cajun flavours too (Squeeze Box). But it is the collaboration between the two men that makes TajMo really exhilarating. © CM/Qobuz
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Reggae - Released July 16, 2005 | Columbia - Legacy

The Essential Taj Mahal pulls together the bluesman's Columbia, Warner, Gramavision Private Music, and Hannibal labels' recordings, making it the first truly cross-licensed compilation of his work. Given the depth and breadth of this set (it covers four decades), the listener gets not only a cross-sectional view of the artist, but also his innovative and idiosyncratic journey through the blues: Mahal has not only kept the tradition alive, he's expanded it and deepened it, tracing its roots and developments through the course of American, Caribbean, and African cultures. While there is no unreleased material here, there doesn't need to be. The sheer adventure in these recordings reveals the wealth of the contribution Mahal has made not only to the blues, but to popular culture both present and past. This is a comp to own, to be moved by, and to ultimately enjoy. Columbia issued a three-CD set earlier, but there were things there that needed to be trimmed. This leaner and meaner version is superior. ~ Thom Jurek
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Blues - Released June 1, 1997 | Private Music

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Blues - Released May 5, 2017 | Concord Records, Inc. (UMG Account)

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Rock - Released June 10, 1999 | Columbia - Legacy

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Taj Mahal's debut album was a startling statement in its time and has held up remarkably well. Recorded in August of 1967, it was as hard and exciting a mix of old and new blues sounds as surfaced on record in a year when even a lot of veteran blues artists (mostly at the insistence of their record labels) started turning toward psychedelia. The guitar virtuosity, embodied in Taj Mahal's slide work (which had the subtlety of a classical performance), Jesse Ed Davis's lead playing, and rhythm work by Ry Cooder and Bill Boatman, is of the neatly stripped-down variety that was alien to most records aiming for popular appeal, and the singer himself approached the music with a startling mix of authenticity and youthful enthusiasm. The whole record is a strange and compelling amalgam of stylistic and technical achievements -- filled with blues influences of the 1930s and 1940s, but also making use of stereo sound separation and the best recording technology. The result was numbers like Sleepy John Estes' "Diving Duck Blues," with textures resembling the mix on the early Cream albums, while "The Celebrated Walkin' Blues" (even with Cooder's animated mandolin weaving its spell on one side of the stereo mix) has the sound of a late '40s Chess release by Muddy Waters. Blind Willie McTell ("Statesboro Blues") and Robert Johnson ("Dust My Broom") are also represented, in what had to be one of the most quietly, defiantly iconoclastic records of 1968. ~ Bruce Eder
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Rock - Released June 10, 1999 | Columbia - Legacy

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Blues - Released February 8, 1996 | Private Music

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Blues - Released December 5, 1990 | Columbia - Legacy

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Pop - Released January 1, 1969 | Columbia

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Rock - Released June 11, 1999 | Columbia - Legacy

Taj Mahal followed up Giant Step/De Ole Folks at Home (1969) with another double-LP concert platter whose title pretty much sums up the contents. The Real Thing (1971) is drawn from a mid-February run of shows at the Fillmore East in New York City where he, Spencer Davis, the Chambers Brothers, and Roberta Flack, among others, shared the bill. Mahal is supported by an interesting extended aggregate with a brass section consisting of Joseph Daley (tuba/horn/trombone), Bob Stewart (horn), and a pair of former Charles Mingus bandmembers, Earl McIntyre (horn) and Howard Johnson (horn). While at times they tend to overpower the usually intimate nature of the performances, that is certainly not the case for the majority of the arrangements. The opener, "Fishin' Blues," is a solo with Mahal accompanying himself on banjo. "Ain't Gwine to Whistle Dixie (Any Mo')" is significantly lengthened from the form found on Giant Step (1968) as it stretches nearly nine minutes and allows plenty of room for interaction, offering up a spirited fife interlude from Mahal. In addition to providing an overview from his back catalog, The Real Thing contains a few new compositions. The full ensemble gets a workout on the funky "Sweet Mama Janisse" and the toe-tappin' rural flavor of the instrumental "Tom and Sally Drake" is lightly augmented by a sole tuba -- presumably that of Johnson. Sleepy John Estes' "Diving Duck Blues" arguably submits the most successful incorporation of brass, sporting a driving, full-throttle rhythm and soulful interpretation. ~ Lindsay Planer
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Blues - Released July 11, 1989 | Columbia

In less than 24 months, Taj Mahal (guitars/vocals/banjo/harmonica) had issued the equivalent of four respective long players. The electric Giant Step (1968) was released alongside the acoustic and decidedly rural De Ole Folks at Home (1968). The nine cuts on Giant Step feature support from the instrumental trio of Jessie Ed Davis (guitar/keyboards), Gary Gilmore (bass) and Chuck Blackwell (drums). They back Taj Mahal on a wide selection of covers ranging from Carole King and Gerry Goffin's "Take a Giant Step" to the upbeat and soulful reading of the Huddie Ledbetter blues staple "Keep Your Hands off Her." The arrangements are unique and offer the artist's distinctive approach. Nowhere is this more evident than the practically jovial mid-tempo "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" or the freewheeling abandon that is brought to the 18-wheeler anthem "Six Days on the Road," recalling the version of "Ain't That a Lot of Love" from Taj Mahal's preceding effort Natch'l Blues (1968). Additionally, Blind Willie Johnson's "You're Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond" stands out with a strong and soaring gospel-flavoured score. Giant Step concludes with "Bacon Fat," a number attributed here via Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson of the Band. That said, it may be better-known from the man they called Mr. Rhythm, Andre Williams, whose scattered down-home spoken interludes punctuate his February 1957 Top 10 R&B hit -- which incidentally was created under the working title "Diddle, Diddle Womp, Womp." Parties searching for an apt introduction when discovering Taj Mahal's voluminous catalogue are encouraged to consider Giant Step as a highly recommended reference point. ~ Lindsay Planer
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Blues - Released September 21, 1998 | Columbia - Legacy

For being a nearly omnipresent figure, Taj Mahal has never quite gotten the respect he's deserved. At the beginning of his career, he earned a significant amount of attention, but as the years passed, he had woven himself into the fabric of blues culture so well that his presence was taken for granted. That is why the 1998 release of In Progress & in Motion: 1965-1998 was so welcome. Spanning three discs and over three decades, the box set accurately summarizes Mahal's career and makes a convincing case for his talents as a roots synthesist. Dedicated fans may notice a favorite or two missing, but they'll be pleased by the 15 unreleased tracks, including two songs intended for his debut album. There are a number of other rarities for the dedicated here, including several unheard live cuts, material from his early group the Rising Sons, and his entire contribution to the Rolling Stones' legendary Rock and Roll Circus. Even with this plethora of rarities, In Progress & in Motion is primarily for fans who want a solid, comprehensive summary of Mahal's achievements without delving into the particular records, especially since it chooses its songs judiciously, concentrating on his groundbreaking late-'60s/early-'70s work. Indeed, much of his post-Columbia/CBS recordings are quickly recounted on the third disc, but that isn't a problem -- the first two discs show how Mahal created his own sound; the third shows how he maintained it. By balancing the music this way, Mahal and his partner, Lawrence Cohn, have created a representative, enlightening retrospective that is appealing to casual and hardcore fans alike. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Blues - Released June 22, 2004 | Justin Time Records

"On the title track, Mahal emulates the terrifying voice of Howlin' Wolf."
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Blues - Released September 14, 1993 | Private Music

Taj Mahal has always been a more inclusive, eclectic musician than even some admirers understand; his work was never simply or totally blues, even though that strain was at the center and seldom far from anything he performed either. That's the case with this newest collection, a 12-song set that includes splendid covers of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf tunes, but also equally respectful, striking renditions of soul standards such as "Mockingbird," with special guest Etta James, and "That's How Strong My Love Is." There are also strong Mahal originals like "Blues Ain't Nothin'" and "Strut," with Mahal singing and playing in his wry, delicate, yet forceful way. ~ Ron Wynn
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Blues - Released April 5, 1999 | Private Music

Blue Light Boogie is a compilation drawn from Taj Mahal's work for the Private Music label during the '90s, specifically the albums Like Never Before (1991) and Dancing the Blues (1993); there's also an ample and varied helping of covers ranging from traditional, rural blues to rock & roll. It's sort of an odd tactic for a compilation, given that The Best of the Private Years, released a year later, doesn't duplicate any of this material; as a result, that supposedly balanced introduction ends up skewed away from Blue Light Boogie's sources, not featuring any songs from Like Never Before. Still, even if all of this is a ham-handed way for a record company to handle an artist's discography, Blue Light Boogie is overall a pretty decent sampler and an entertaining listen. Just don't expect an introduction to Mahal's '90s recordings that has any sense of completeness. ~ Steve Huey
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Film Soundtracks - Released August 24, 2016 | Columbia - Legacy

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On his first film score, Sounder, Taj Mahal mixes a handful of originals with fragmented sound effects and incidental passages. Certainly not an easy listen, this is one of his more indulgent studies. ~ All Music Guide
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Pop - Released June 16, 1992 | Columbia

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Blues - Released September 29, 2008 | Heads Up

The list of special guests who appear on Taj Mahal's Maestro is hardly what one would expect from a veteran bluesman. Among the special guests are Ziggy Marley, Los Lobos, Ben Harper, and African pop vocalist Angélique Kidjo -- not exactly a conventional blues lineup. But then, Mahal is hardly a conventional blues artist. He has been providing eclectic, far-reaching albums for a long time, and that spirit of adventure is alive and well on this 2008 release (which marks his 40th year as a recording artist -- Mahal provided his first album in 1968). No one expects Mahal's albums to be the work of a blues purist; in fact, Mahal (who plays guitar, harmonica, banjo, and ukulele on Maestro) is the opposite of a blues purist. While Maestro has its share of electric blues, the veteran singer also gets into everything from soul ("Further on Down the Road") and early R&B (Fats Domino's "Hello Josephine") to reggae ("Black Man, Brown Man," "Never Let You Go") and African pop ("Zanzibar"). The latter features Kidjo on lead vocals and Toumani Diabaté on the kora (a traditional African instrument), while Los Lobos appear on "Never Let You Go" and the humorous "TV Mama" (which is among the disc's straight-ahead blues offerings). Mahal, true to form, is all over the place stylistically on this 57-minute CD -- and yet, Maestro never sounds the least bit unfocused. Being eclectic comes naturally to Mahal, who sees to it that Maestro is a consistently engaging celebration of his 40th year as a recording artist. ~ Alex Henderson
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Blues - Released December 1, 1973 | Columbia - Legacy