Sunday, April 1, 2012

Taj Mahal Music Keeps Me Together 1975

Digging deep into the back catalog, I dug out this gem a few days ago. I've got a list of disclaimers for this one: I'm not a real blues fan; I'm really not into the World music thing; I don't own any other Taj Mahal records, and I never have, and the guy has made over 30 records, and received Grammy awards in 1997 and 2000.

That said, I've always liked this unusual record. A blend of blues, pop, African, Jamaican, and Caribbean influences, the record is especially joyful, and clearly a product of its time.

Music Keeps Me Together is a jazzy, breezy, happy African and reggae-lite blend that starts things off in fine style. When I Feel The Sea Beneath My Soul is a lilting Caribbean instrumental followed by the jazzy flute-lead ballad Dear Ladies, which breaks into a quicker tempo and a hot lead guitar break near the end.The New Orleans feel of Aristocracy opens with a second line rhythm, spoken poetry reading followed by a faster, hot instrumental section. The walking blues of Further On Down The Road follows, with soul and Reggae vibes, and fabulous organ, sax, and Taj's fine vocal. Roll, Turn, Spin ends the first side, and it's a lovely, happy, joyous Caribbean instrumental featuring super guitar and sax leads.

Side Two is slightly less perfect, but only slightly. West Indian Revelation starts things off on a high note. A flute- and sax-lead reggae, including a great hook in the chorus, it's excellent. My Ancestors is a Reggae/Caribbean/African blend that never quite escapes its own inertia. Recovery comes quickly with Mahal's take on Chuck Berry's Brown-Eyed Handsome Man. Done in what sounds like a Bahamian style (yeah, I'm makin' this up), Taj sings beautifully, the song has a deep, laid-back groove, and the background chorus of female voices is stellar. The record ends with Why...And We Repeat Why?...And We Repeat!, a Brazilian-flavored, jazzy instrumental with killer sax and electric guitar leads that comes dangerously close to smooth jazz without quite crossing the line.  

A mid-seventies, bluesy, jazzy, reggae record with a few other flavors thrown in. An amazing band. Earl Lindo of reggae fame on keys, Larry MacDonald's percussion, and Rudy Costa's sax, carinet and flute all add significant depth, and Taj Mahal and Hoshal Wright play guitars that thrill.  

Is it great? Should you hear it? If you come across a nice, clean copy of the vinyl in a used shop, do not hesitate. There may be too much reggae for some, but the record is recorded beautifully, a little hot, a little up front, a little in your face, it jumps out of the stereo at you. It's good.

Reissued on CD in 2009, so it is available in that format, too.

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