Saturday, April 29, 2017

Blackstar 3: Wonder of the World

Damn you, amazon! You helped me focus me on my goal of catching up with the best music from the current decade with $5 mp3s by Kanye and Kendrick, only to pull me all the way back to the sixties.

Taj Mahal: The Best of… (2000)

But it does lead right back up to the present day since Taj is still out there playing shows.

An artist like Taj Mahal falls somewhere in between blues legends that you’d normally check out first if you wanted to explore that genre, and all the artists you already like in your favorite genre.  In other words, if you don’t know about him already, it might take some time before you check him out.

After all, the last thing I want is to get stuck in a banal genre exercise, especially from several decades ago. But I’m just making excuses because that’s what I did.

Anyway, amazon came to the rescue and gave me a cheap and efficient way of digging in. And I’m glad I did.

He starts out playing songs originally sung in the cotton fields, which might explain why I enjoyed it so much while planting the bulbs in my front yard! (Because those things are practically the same, right?)

So after I pulled my head out of my ass in that regard, I noted that this is where you will find the arrangement of “Statesboro Blues” that the Allmans used on Fillmore East. I love the Brothers but this is nearly a direct lift.

And “Leaving Trunk” has the guitar riff later used on “American Woman”.

If like me, you first heard “Take a Giant Step” done by the Monkees, you might not even recognize it here. His version came afterward, but he makes it all his own.

So in short order, he shot past the blues, and dipped into pop on his way to country and reggae, where he does a rocking “Six Days on the Road”, and a mournful “Johnny Too Bad”. And he keeps going from there.

The theme that runs consistently throughout this best-of is how Taj puts his personal stamp on songs both old and new.

So my fears of that banal genre exercise were completely unfounded, as we go from one wonderful song to another.

If you’re still not convinced, check out his funky “Oh, Susannah”, which says it all.


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