THE COMPLETE COLUMBIA ALBUMS COLLECTION will include the following titles, all originally released on Columbia Records: Taj Mahal (1968), The Natch'l Blues (1968), Giant Step/De Ole Folks At Home (double-CD, 1969), The Real Thing (live, 1971), Happy Just To Be Like I Am (1971), Recycling The Blues & Other Related Stuff (1972), Sounder (movie soundtrack, 1972), Oooh So Good 'N Blues (1973), Mo' Roots (1974), Music Keeps Me Together (1975), and Satisfied 'N Tickled Too (1976). Many of these titles have been out of print for decades and are being issued in the U.S. for the first time on CD.
In addition, the box includes two historic Columbia/Legacy archival releases. Rising Sons Featuring Taj Mahal And Ry Cooder was first issued in 1992 and features early group recordings of 1965-1966. Last year's Hidden Treasures features one CD of previously unreleased rarities alongside a second CD recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall on April 18, 1970, when the Taj Mahal group opened for fellow Columbia artists Johnny Winter and Santana.
As with previous volumes in Legacy's Complete Album Collections series, each of the discs in THE COMPLETE COLUMBIA ALBUMS COLLECTION is packaged in a replica mini-LP sleeve reproducing that LP's original front and back cover artwork. The accompanying booklet includes complete discographical information for each album, along with a liner notes essay written by blues and jazz and roots music commentator Miles Mellough. Mellough oversees the website http://birdswithbrokenwings2.blogspot.com and also penned the liners for last summer's Hidden Treasures.
The release of THE COMPLETE COLUMBIA ALBUMS COLLECTION coincides with Black History Month in February 2013. The release also finds the perennial road warrior, who celebrated his 70th birthday on May 17, 2012, in the midst of a busy tour schedule. Among his most recent gigs, he could be found aboard the Holland America Line's MS Nieuw Amsterdam from January 20-27, for the all-star "Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise," featuring Dion, Mavis Staples, Elvin Bishop with Mickey Thomas, Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Tab Benoit, Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers, and dozens more. (Please see upcoming tour dates below, or go to www.tajblues.com.)
Taj Mahal is nothing less than a force of nature whose global sensibility is without precedent or peer. He was not "ahead of his time" but rather of his time, an embodiment of the awakening world collective consciousness that has run from Selma and the first Be-In in San Francisco, all the way to Tahir Square and Occupy Wall Street. This is affirmed by David Rubinson, the former Columbia Records staff producer who produced Taj's first five albums.
"It has been my enormous fortune to have known, admired, enjoyed, revered, loved and survived with, my great friend Taj Mahal for damn near fifty years" says Rubinson. "As this amazing collection illustrates, he was one of the very first to embody and make manifest a truly universal global humanism, a world without borders, risen from a deep inquiry and understanding and love of human beings in all their shapes and forms and shades and sounds. Taj Mahal is not a curator or archaeologist, but the unique summation of a vast repository of human, African, and African-American experience. His uniqueness is matched by his universality."
Taj Mahal's life and times are well documented. Growing up in a musical family of South Carolina and West Indian heritage in Massachusetts, he fell under the folk and blues spell of the burgeoning Cambridge coffee house scene in the late 1950s and early '60s. His first lesson in guitar came from childhood neighbors from North Carolina. After graduating from U-Mass at Amherst, he headed west to pursue music. He was 23 years old when he recorded his first tentative album for Columbia Records in 1965, material which remained unissued for more than 25 years. By 1967, however, working with Columbia staff producer David Rubinson, his official self-titled debut LP was completed and released early the following year.
The landmark album, Taj Mahal introduced the band he'd been working with for some two years, featuring guitarists Jesse Ed Davis and Ry Cooder, bassist Gary Gilmore, and drummer Chuck Blackwell. The material was heavily drawn from his idol of the time, rediscovered Tennessee bluesman Sleepy John Estes ("Leaving Trunk," "Everybody's Got To Change Sometime," "Diving Duck Blues"), along with numbers from country bluesmen Robert Johnson ("Dust My Broom") and Sonny Boy Williamson ("Checkin' Up On My Baby"). There were also arrangements of "E Z Rider," "Walkin' Blues," and Blind Willie McTell's "Statesboro Blues."
The Natch'l Blues found Taj Mahal expanding his base and staking out the first soundings on his own turf. In addition to tributes to Otis Redding ("You Don't Miss Your Water") and Estes' long-time partner Yank Rachell ("She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule To Ride"), the album featured three originals by Taj ("I Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Steal My Jellyroll," "Going To Move Up To the Country, Paint My Mailbox Blue," "Done Changed My Way Of Living"), and a couple of arrangements of traditional folk-blues ("Corinna," "The Cuckoo"). When the album was reissued on CD in 2000, it included an alternate version of "The Cuckoo" and two songs that don't appear anywhere else in the Taj Mahal discography, "New Stranger Blues" and "Things Are Gonna Work Out Fine." The expanded edition tracklist is included in this box set.
Bursting with musical ideas, the next project with Rubinson was the ambitious double-LP of 1969, Giant Step/De Ole Folks at Home. A collection of nearly two dozen songs, it was Taj Mahal's first entry into the top 100 of the Billboard albums chart and stayed in print in the Columbia catalog for two decades. Meanwhile, over the course of the next two years the band morphed, as Ry Cooder and Jesse Ed Davis began solo recording careers. Taj Mahal established a partnership with jazz tuba virtuoso Howard Johnson (who became a cornerstone of his band) that was introduced on another double-LP, The Real Thing, recorded live at the Fillmore East in February 1971.
The Real Thing reprised many familiar numbers and audience favorites ("Fishin' Blues," "Ain't Gwine To Whistle Dixie (Any Mo')," "Going Up To the Country, Paint My Mailbox Blue," "Diving Duck Blues"), some of them in extended versions that gave Johnson's brass section plenty of room to stretch out. It also included enough new material to keep the program lively ("Sweet Mama Janisse," "Big Kneed Gal," Blind Willie Johnson's "You're Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond," "Tom and Sally Drake," "John, Ain't It Hard"). The penultimate jam occupied one full LP side, the 19-minute "You Ain't No Street Walker Mama, Honey But I Do Love the Way You Strut Your Stuff" (edited to 11:45 on CD). The 2000 reissue reinstated "She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule To Ride," which had been shelved due to time limitations of the double-LP, and that expanded edition is contained in this box set.
Taj Mahal's career blossomed over the next five years as his musical scope grew to encompass the blues of Chicago, Memphis and Detroit, and the rhythms of Jamaica and the West Indies. He began to produce his own albums for Columbia in 1972, and recorded the soundtrack to 20th Century-Fox's Sounder that same year. He parted ways with Columbia in 1976 and moved on to Warner Bros., Gramavision, Private Music, Hannibal, Rhino Kids, and Music Maker, to name a few, recording countless fascinating album projects and collaborations along the way.
"In hindsight," Mellough sums up, "we now know that Taj Mahal indeed was, and still is the real thing. More so, we also realize that he was a man very much ahead of his time, employing the entire spectrum of blue. Taj utilized indigo shades from all of the mighty river's feeders, deftly incorporating them into that voice he was so steadfastly sculpting back in those early years. Today, some four decades later, we should count our lucky stars that someone like Taj Mahal had the foresight, the degree of interest, and the love for the blues to dip his toes into the music's many streams and help keep them alive and flowing."
TAJ MAHAL – THE COMPLETE COLUMBIA ALBUMS COLLECTION
RISING SONS FEATURING TAJ MAHAL AND RY COODER (recorded 1965-66, originally issued 1992, as Columbia/Legacy 52828) Selections: 1. Statesboro Blues • 2. If The River Was Whiskey (Divin' Duck Blues) • 3. By And By (Poor Me) • 4. Candy Man • 5. 2:10 Train • 6. Let The Good Times Roll • 7. .44 Blues • 8. 11th Street Overcrossing • 9. Corrin, Corinna • 10. Tulsa County • 11. Walkin' Down The Line • 12. The Girl With Green Eyes • 13. Sunny's Dream • 14. Spanish Lace Blues • 15. The Devil's Got My Woman • 16. Take A Giant Step • 17. Flyin ' So High • 18. Dust My Broom • 19. Last Fair Deal Gone Down • 20. Baby, What You Want Me To Do? • 21. Statesboro Blues - version 2 • 22. I Got A Little.
TAJ MAHAL (originally issued 1968, as Columbia 9579) Selections: 1. Leaving Trunk • 2. Statesboro Blues • 3. Checkin' Up On My Baby • 4. Everybody's Got To Change Sometime • 5. E Z Rider • 6. Dust My Broom • 7. Diving Duck Blues • 8. The Celebrated Walkin' Blues.
THE NATCH'L BLUES (originally issued 1968, as Columbia 9698)
Selections: 1. Good Morning Miss Brown • 2. Corinna • 3. I Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Steal My Jellyroll • 4. Going Up To The Country, Paint My Mailbox Blue • 5. Done Changed My Way Of Living • 6. She Caught The Katy And Left Me A Mule To Ride • 7. The Cuckoo • 8. You Don't Miss Your Water ('Til Your Well Runs Dry) • 9. Ain't That A Lot Of Love • Bonus tracks: 10. The Cuckoo (alternate version) • 11. New Strange Blues • 12. Things Are Gonna Work Out Fine.
GIANT STEP/DE OLE FOLKS AT HOME (originally issued 1969, as Columbia GP 18) CD 1: GIANT STEP - Selections: 1. Ain't Gwine Whistle Dixie (Any Mo') • 2. Take A Giant Step • 3. Give Your Woman What She Wants (from the motion picture The April Fools) • 4. Good Morning Little Schoolgirl • 5. You're Going To Need Somebody On Your Bond • 6. Six Days On The Road • 7. Farther On Down The Road (You Will Accompany Me) • 8. Keep Your Hands Off Her • 9. Bacon Fat.
CD 2: DE OLE FOLKS AT HOME - Selections: 1. Linin' Track • 2. Country Blues #1 • 3. Wild Ox Moan • 4. Light Rain Blues • 5. A Little Soulful Tune • 6. Candy Man • 7. Cluck Old Hen • 8. Colored Aristocracy • 9. Blind Boy Rag • 10. Stagger Lee • 11. Cajun Tune • 12. Fishin' Blues • 13. Annie's Lover.
THE REAL THING (originally issued 1971, as Columbia 30619) Selections: 1. Fishin' Blues • 2. Ain't Gwine To Whistle Dixie (Any Mo') • 3. Sweet Mama Janisse • 4. Going Up To The Country, Paint My Mailbox Blue • 5. Big Kneed Gal • 6. You're Going To Need Somebody On Your Bond • 7. Tom And Sally Drake • 8. Diving Duck Blues • 9. John, Ain't It Hard • 10. You Ain't No Street Walker Mama, Honey But I Do Love The Way You Strut Your Stuff. (Recorded February 13, 1971 at the Fillmore East, New York.)
HAPPY JUST TO BE LIKE I AM (originally issued 1971, as Columbia 30619) Selections: 1. Happy Just To Be Like I Am • 2. Stealin' • 3. Oh Susanna • 4. Eighteen Hammers • 5. Tomorrow May Not Be Your Day • 6. Chevrolet • 7. West Indian Revelation • 8. Black Spirit Boogie.
RECYCLING THE BLUES & OTHER RELATED STUFF (originally issued 1972, as Columbia 31605) Selections: 1. Conch: Introduction • 2. Kalimba • 3. Bound To Love Me Some • 4. Ricochet • 5. A Free Song (Rise Up Children Shake The Devil Out Of Your Soul) • 6. Corinna • 7. Conch: Close • 8. Cakewalk Into Town • 9. Sweet Home Chicago • 10. Texas Woman Blues • 11. Gitano Negro.
SOUNDER Original Soundtrack Recording (originally issued 1972, as Columbia 31944) Selections: 1. Needed Time (Lightnin' Hopkins) • 2. Sounder Chase A Coon • 3. Needed Time (Hummin' And Pickin') • 4. Morning Work/n' Meat's On The Stove • 5. I'm Running And I'm Happy • 6. Speedball • 7. Goin' To The Country/Critters In The Woods • 8. Motherless Children (Hummin') • 9. Jailhouse Blues • 10. Just Workin' • 11. Harriet's Dance Song • 12. Two Spirits Reunited • 13. David Runs Again • 14. Curiosity Blues • 15. Someday Be A Change • 16. Horseshoes • 17. Cheraw • 18. David's Dream • 19. Needed Time - guitar • 20. Needed Time - banjo and handclapping.
OOOH SO GOOD 'N BLUES (originally issued 1973, as Columbia 32600)
Selections: 1. Buck Dancer's Choice • 2. Little Red Hen • 3. Oh Mama Don't You Know • 4. Frankie And Albert • 5. Railroad Bill • 6. Dust My Broom • 7. Built For Comfort • 8. Teacup's Jazzy Blues Tune. (Pointer Sisters – vocals, tracks 2, 4, 8)
MO' ROOTS (originally issued 1974, as Columbia 33051) Selections: 1. Johnny Too Bad • 2. Blackjack Davey • 3. Big Mama • 4. Cajun Waltz • 5. Slave Driver • 6. Why Did You Have To Desert Me? • 7. Desperate Lover • 8. Clara (St. Kitts Woman).
MUSIC KEEPS ME TOGETHER (originally issued 1975, as Columbia 33801) Selections: 1. Music Keeps Me Together • 2. When I Feel The Sea Beneath My Soul • 3. Dear Ladies • 4. Aristocracy • 5. Further On Down The Road • 6. Roll, Turn, Spin • 7. West Indian Revelation • 8. My Ancestors • 9. Brown-Eyed Handsome Man • 10. Why? . . . And We Repeat Why? . . . And We Repeat!
SATISFIED 'N TICKLED TOO (originally issued 1976, as Columbia 34103)
Selections: 1. Satisfied 'N Tickled Too • 2. New E-Z Rider Blues • 3. Black Man, Brown Man • 4. Baby Love • 5. Ain't Nobody's Business • 6. Misty Morning Ride • 7. Easy To Love • 8. Old Time Song - Old Time Love • 9. We Tune.
THE HIDDEN TREASURES OF TAJ MAHAL 1969-1973 (originally issued August 2012, as Columbia/Legacy 82876 82294 2) CD 1 - Selections: 1. Chainey Do • 2. Sweet Mama Janisse • 3. Yan-Nah Mama-Loo • 4. Tomorrow May Not Be Your Day • 5. I Pity The Poor Immigrant • 6. Jacob's Ladder • 7. Ain't Gwine Whistle Dixie (Any Mo') • 8. Sweet Mama Janisse • 9. You Ain't No Streetwalker Mama, Honey But I Do Love The Way You Strut Your Stuff • 10. Good Morning Little Schoolgirl • 11. Shady Grove • 12. Butter. (Tracks 1-4 recorded 1970; 5-6 recorded 1969; 7-9 recorded 1971; 10-12 recorded 1973).
CD 2 - LIVE AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL, APRIL 18, 1970 - Selections: 1. Runnin' By The Riverside • 2. John, Ain't It Hard • 3. Band Introduction • 4. Sweet Mama Janisse • 5. Big Fat • 6. Diving Duck Blues • 7. Checkin' Up On My Baby • 8. Oh Susanna • 9. Bacon Fat • 10. Tomorrow May Not Be Your Day.
TAJ MAHAL ON TOUR
Dec. 4-5 - San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
Dec. 6 - San Luis Obispo, CA @ Fremont Theatre
Dec. 8 - Napa, CA @ Uptown Theatre Napa
Dec. 9 - Grass Valley, CA @ The Center For The Arts
Jan. 20-27, 2013 - "Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise", Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Holland America Line
Jan. 30 - Saint Catharines, Ont., @ Sean O'Sullivan Theatre
Jan. 31 - Brampton, Ont. @ Rose Theatre Brampton
Feb. 1 - Burlington, Ont. @ Burlington Performing Arts Ctr.
April 17 - Mesa, AZ @ Mesa Arts Center
April 19 - Santa Barbara, CA @ Campbell Hall
April 21 - Redding, CA @ Cascade Theatre
April 23 - Eugene, OR @ Silva Concert Hall
April 27 - Calgary, Alb. @ MacEwan Conf. & Event Ctr.
April 28 - Edmonton, Alb. @ Winspear Centre
May 27 - Nashville, TN @ Centennial Park
Source: Legacy Recordings