Re: [Harp-L] Taj Mahal & Ry Cooder in "Rising Sons" Band

While it´s easy to agree with Jim and Richard on the merits of Taj Mahal´s earlier stuff, I must confess I feel a little bit let down by him when it comes to what he´s done in later years -- especially in the harmonica department, where he appears to have de-volved. I read somewhere that he´s badly asthmatic and maybe that´s a reason?
  The easy handling of rhythm from the more acoustic records have gone a bit heavier and he´s been dancing perilously close to the "boogie"-abyss at times. (Nuttin  wrong w/ the boogie, but it can get rather heavy-handed.)

But then again he´s done quite a lot over the years, and maybe I´ve missed some great things from, say, the last two decades? Pointers welcome. (Involuntary joke: I know he did great things w/ the Pointer Sisters.)


Jim Fitting wrote:
 Mahal is an outstanding harmonica player; his version of Leaving Trunk 
recorded a couple years later with a lot of the same <personnel is 

Taj Mahal was one of my first and most important 
influences.  I studied his record "Giant Step" for years, and played 
"You Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond" and especially "Give Your Woman 
What She Wants" for years with different bands.  "She Caught the Katy" 
was a staple for bands in Boston when I was there in the 1970s, as was 
Taj's version of "Six Days on the Road."

Taj combined blues and 
60s R&B in a very convincing way.  His bands always had big groove 
going on, and he explored lots of different ensembles (remember the band
 with the tubas?).  Taj's harp playing was simple, direct, and full of 
surprises. He used different textures--single notes, chords, 
octaves--brilliantly, and his amped tone was big, not overly distorted. 
He didn't play a lot of notes, but everything had that big tone, and you
 never knew what he was going to do next.  The simplicity is reminiscent
 of Howlin' Wolf's harp playing, but he plays more like a horn section 
than Wolf did, and uses more of the harp. A lot of what I do with 
octaves now began with learning the stuff that Mahal did.

Step" is a brilliant record.  He gives you an LP's worth of deep roots, 
all the way back to the fields, often just him playing and singing, or 
even just singing.  Then he gives you another LP where he shows you 
those roots all amped-up, with sharp chunky rhythms everywhere and a lot
 of R&B shouting and tough harp playing.  This is Taj Mahal as 
Wilson Pickett, or rather what Picket would have sounded like if he was 
Taj Mahal.  

I'm reminded as well of the harp he supplied on 
Bonny Raitt's version of Mose Allison's "Everybody's Cryin' Mercy."  
It's got all the economy of his earlier work and then some, and it's 
equally surprising.  

What can I say?  Love Taj.  Everybody 
should hear him, and everybody should hear "Giant Step," which is 
certainly one of his greatest records, and a treasure trove of blues 

Regards, Richard Hunter

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