Taj Mahal

The Hidden Treasures of Taj Mahal 1969-1973

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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.

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