Taj Mahal

Evolution (The Most Recent)

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Contrary to the intimations of the title, Evolution (The Most Recent) was a predictable continuation of the pleasing but sleepy groove that Mahal had fallen into by the mid-1970s, heavy on the Caribbean accents. The use of an almost disco-ish backing on "Sing a Happy Song" put him close to the sound coming out of Miami studios in the 1970s, though that's not a form for which he was well suited. Mahal made a diverse record, true. There was a venture into something approaching straight soul on "Lowdown Showdown," and "The Most Recent (Evolution) of Muthafusticus Modernusticus," in addition to giving space for lengthy jazzy brass solos, was a pretty solid bid for the record title least likely to be announced in full by an FM DJ in 1978. For all his flirtations with Caribbean rhythms, the songs that put those in the background and let his blues and R&B inclinations come to the fore were superior. He does quite a credible Howlin' Wolf imitation on "The Big Blues," while "Southbound with the Hammer Down" is a pretty reasonable facsimile of Dr. John. Mahal would have been wiser to sound like himself, though, and by this time his best qualities seemed in danger of drowning in a Caribbean sunset.

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