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TAJ MAHAL

OOOH SO GOOD 'N BLUES / RECYCLING THE BLUES AND OTHER RELATED STUFF

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RAVEN (RVCD264)

OOOH SO GOOD'N BLUES-Buck Dancer's Choice, Little Red Hen, Oh Mama Don't You Know, Frankie And Albert, Rairoad Bill, Dust My Broom, Built For Comfort, Teacup's Jazzy Blues Tune. RECYCLING THE BLUES-Conch (introduction), Kalimba, Bound To Love Me Some, Ricochet, A Free Song, Corinna, Conch (close), Cakewalk Into Town, Sweet Home Chicago, Texas Woman Blues, Gitano Negro.

At last, here are two of Taj's most sought after albums available on one CD. These two, made in 1972 and 1973 were his seventh and eighth albums and while not for the blues purist, they're bluesy enough and infectious as hell!

For the most part OOOH SO GOOD'N BLUES is Taj Mahal on his own except for when the fabulous (unknown at this point) Pointer Sisters breeze in with their sassy vocals. Taj plays beautiful, movingly poignant, acoustic guitar on songs like "Oh Mama Don't You Know" and a perky finger picking style on the funky "Frankie And Albert" where the Pointers burst in on the last line of each verse. Their shriek, as Frankie shoots Albert, is one of the defining moments of music in the 70s (for me anyway...). The Pointers turn up again for a bit of seductive action on "Little Red Hen" - a rural farmyard idyll spoilt by the non-appearance of the rooster. On this one, Taj's country guitar is perked up by the pecking mandolin which potters around the tune Yank Rachell style.

Taj dusts off the National guitar to attack Robert Johnson's "Dust My Broom" giving the song the proper respect it deserves without frills or fancy footwork. The urban sound of the Chicago piano introduces "Built For Comfort" with a driving bass and over-dubbed harmonica, while Taj goes to town on the vocals injecting a fervour that suits the song right down to the bone. The album is wrapped up with "Teacup's Jazzy Blues" which has a Mingus style bass, gospel moans and scat from Taj. It's a strange and, at times, eerie little number that gets under your skin in a good way.

RECYCLING THE BLUES AND OTHER RELATED STUFF is an album of two halves. The first half was recorded live at Bill Graham's Winterland and it opens with a short burst on the African thumb piano before Taj sets up a boogie National guitar rhythm on the bopping "Bound To Love Me Some", a twelve bar blues that allows him to truly "holler like a mountain jack" and play the hell outta that guitar! "Richochet" is a heartening, attacking banjo tune that gets the whole place jumping and that's followed by "A Free Song" that starts out like a field holler but soon generates into a hand-clapping, foot-stomping gospel anthem.

A beautiful acoustic rendition of "Corrina" closes the live bit and we're straight into the ragtime funk of "Cakewalk Into Town" - a song that lumbers along nicely with slapping handclaps, fat chordings on the guitar and a heavy-duty tuba burping away happily while Taj delivers the vocals in a real low register. "Sweet Home Chicago" is another gem that The Pointer Sisters polish to perfection while Taj cranks out some divine licks on the National before they sashay into "Texas Woman Blues" featuring The Pointers cool harmonies wrapped around Taj's lazy vocals. Then the album finishes with a movingly delicate piece of acoustic guitar work on the gracious "Gitano Negro". It's a perfect way to round off this hidden gem of an album that received a five star review from Rolling Stone when it was first released.

Thirty-six years on and it still deserves five stars and more. Thanks Raven, for putting two great old favourites together. With music of this quality - it just can't fail.

 

Review Date: January 2009

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