Taj Mahal, The Hidden Treasures of Taj Mahal 1969-1973
A fresh point of entry into Taj Mahal's rootsy heyday
Some “official bootleg” compilations dispel the notion of being for completists only, and this is one of them. These early outtakes and live performances reveal a free-wheeling, unpredictable side to Taj Mahal and his music that doesn’t always shine through in the shorter, polished format of his late-’60s studio albums. That’s not to say that his self-titled 1968 debut is anything other than an essential classic of the period – bridging the gap, as it does, between the old-school delta blues canon and modern blues-rock – but you don’t need to know this to get a rise out of an unreleased gem like “Yan-Nah Mama-Loo,” with its sassy swamp-funk backbeat, or the bawdy 16-minute shuffle “You Ain’t No Streetwalker, Honey But I Do Love the Way You Strut Your Stuff.” The same holds true for the collection’s second disc – a live set, in its entirety, from an April 1970 appearance at London’s Royal Albert Hall. With a locked-tight band behind him that includes guitar hero Jesse Ed Davis, Mahal tears through the barrelhouse “Bacon Fat,” “Diving Duck Blues” and a hot-footed version of “Oh Susanna,” his voice soaring with a Redding-like energy. If you’re looking for a fresh point of entry into Taj Mahal’s rootsy heyday, you can’t do much better than this.