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Take a Giant Step with “Complete Columbia Albums” of Taj Mahal

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Taj Mahal - Complete Albums Collection CoverThe Complete Columbia Albums of Taj Mahal, by the numbers: 13 albums, 15 CDs, 170 tracks.  This all adds up to a mighty legacy worthy of the man’s namesake!  The former Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, Jr. made his name as a blues renaissance man at Columbia Records with a string of well-received albums released between 1968 and 1976, and the new Complete Albums box set due in stores tomorrow (February 5) collects them all under one roof for the first time, plus two archival compilations.

Now 70 years old and still active as both a touring and recording artist, Taj Mahal’s recordings for Columbia are the cornerstone of his career.  This expansive new box set from Legacy Recordings includes the albums Taj Mahal (1968), The Natch’l Blues (1968), Giant Step/De Ole Folks At Home (2 CDs, 1969), The Real Thing (live, 1971), Happy Just To Be Like I Am (1971), Recycling The Blues & Other Related Stuff (1972), Oooh So Good ’N Blues (1973), Mo’ Roots (1974), Music Keeps Me Together (1975), and Satisfied ’N Tickled Too (1976).  The box set also finds room for the 1972 film soundtrack Sounder, the 1992 anthology Rising Sons Featuring Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder, and the 2012 2-CD set Hidden Treasures.

Columbia was, of course, the label where two-time Grammy winner Taj Mahal got his start. Born in New York but raised in Massachusetts, the young artist relocated to California in 1964 and soon formed The Rising Sons with another up-and-coming talent, Ry Cooder. A club sensation, the Rising Sons managed to release one single on Columbia, though an album of unreleased material produced by Terry Melcher (The Byrds, Paul Revere and the Raiders) escaped from the vaults on the 1992 compilation included in this new box. The eclectic music of The Rising Sons anticipated the catholic approach Taj Mahal would take as a solo artist; the band’s repertoire included Bob Dylan (“Walkin’ Down the Line”), Blind Willie McTell (“Statesboro Blues”) and even Carole King and Gerry Goffin (“Take a Giant Step”).

Though the group soon disbanded, Columbia kept tabs on Taj Mahal, and released his self-titled solo debut in 1968. The blues-oriented set featured compositions from McTell, Robert Johnson and Sleepy John Estes, and featured Cooder on rhythm guitar. Taj played lead guitar, slide guitar and handled vocals. More albums followed, with 1969’s half-acoustic, half-electric Giant Step/De Old Folks at Home a particular milestone. The album took half of its title from the Goffin and King song that was becoming a Taj Mahal signature tune, and also included material from The Band’s Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson as well as Sonny Boy Williamson and Huddie Ledbetter on the electric side. The Giant Step side also featured one of Taj’s songs from the film The April Fools, likely the only movie in which his music shared the spotlight with that of Percy Faith, Burt Bacharach and Marvin Hamlisch!  The acoustic volume primarily consisted of traditionals.

After the jump: we bring you up to date on Taj’s career, plus we’ve got an order link, full track listing and discography for all 15 discs in the new box!

Taj Mahal - Albums ContentsTaj Mahal remained with Columbia Records until 1976, writing more of his own material but frequently spicing his albums with songs from other musicians ranging from Mississippi John Hurt to Bob Marley and Chuck Berry.  In 1976 he left Columbia for Warner Bros. Records, a sister label of Reprise Records, where old friend Ry Cooder had started his own solo career in 1970. Taj Mahal has always recorded on his own terms; between 1977 and 1987, there were no new solo albums.  Since his return to the studio, Mahal has recorded for labels such as Gramavision, Private Music and Rhino Kids, but his tenure at Columbia remains his most enduring and sustained body of work.

Each album in The Columbia Albums Collection is housed in a replica mini-LP sleeve, and many of the titles are making their U.S. CD debut.  (1968’s The Natch’l Blues includes the bonus tracks from the original CD issue.)  A booklet features full credits and discographical annotation for each album plus a new essay from Miles Mellough, who also authored the notes to Hidden Treasures last year.  Released to coincide with Black History Month, The Complete Columbia Albums Collection arrives in stores from Legacy Recordings on February 5 and can be ordered below!

Taj Mahal, The Complete Columbia Albums Collection (Columbia/Legacy 886979234420, 2013)

Rising Sons Featuring Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder (Columbia/Legacy 52828, 1992)

  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. Corrine, 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 (Columbia 9579, 1968)

  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 (Columbia 9698, 1968)

  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
  10. The Cuckoo (Alternate Version)
  11. New Strange Blues
  12. Things Are Gonna Work Out Fine

Tracks 10-12 are CD bonus tracks.

Giant Step/De Ole Folks at Home (Columbia GP 18, 1969)

CD 1: Giant Step

  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

  1. Linin’ Track
  2. Country Blues No. 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 (Columbia 30619, 1971)

  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 (Columbia 30619, 1971)

  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 and Other Related Stuff (Columbia 31605, 1972)

  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 (Columbia 31944, 1972)

  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 (Columbia 32600, 1973)

  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

Tracks 2, 4 & 8 feature vocals by The Pointer Sisters.

Mo’ Roots (Columbia 33051, 1974)

  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 (Columbia 33801, 1975)

  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 (Columbia 34103, 1976)

  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 (Columbia/Legacy 82876 82294 2, 2012)

CD 1 – Studio

  1. Chainey Do
  2. Sweet Mama Janisse (February 1970, Criteria Recording Studios)
  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 (January 1971, Bearsville Recording Studios, Woodstock, NY)
  9. You Ain’t No Streetwalker, Honey, But I Do Love the Way You Strut Your Stuff
  10. Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl
  11. Shady Grove
  12. Butter

CD 2 – Royal Albert Hall: April 18, 1970

  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

All tracks on CD 1 and CD 2 first released on this compilation.

Written by Joe Marchese

February 4, 2013 at 09:52

8 Responses

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  1. Joe
    Any info on remastering? Giant Step is badly in need of this

    Mike Williams

    February 4, 2013 at 10:01

    • I’ll see what I can find out, Mike! As many of these titles are new to U.S. CD, I’d suspect that those have indeed been remastered, but I will certainly confirm.

      Joe Marchese

      February 4, 2013 at 10:42

      • Thanks Joe – BTW – Taj’s work in Africa (Mkutano with the Culture Musical Club of Zanzibar – T & M -031) and his most recent new release on Heads Up (Maestro HUCD 3164 2008) have not diminished his musical contributions – both are excellent.

        Mike Williams

        February 4, 2013 at 10:58

  2. Ry Cooder’s contribution to the first Taj LP also included playing mandolin on “Walkin’ Blues” in addition to his rhythm guitar on 4 tracks. There’s a more complete list of personnel here:

    William Keats

    February 4, 2013 at 11:01

  3. I’m not sure that ANY title in this entire boxset series has ever been remastered. It has been confirmed that many have not. So I would not expect that any future boxes of this sort will be either.


    February 5, 2013 at 08:32

    • A number of the “Complete Albums” box sets HAVE included newly-remastered discs, usually those albums appearing on CD, or on CD in the U.S., for the first time (Earth, Wind and Fire; Blue Oyster Cult; Judas Priest; to name just a handful).

      Joe Marchese

      February 5, 2013 at 10:12

  4. Both Kevin and Joe have a point – the booklet in the Complete Boxed Set has the annotation “Mastered by Mark Wilder… and Vic Anesini” – and both “Taj Mahal” and “Giant Step” sound better than my old Edsel and Columbia versions of these CDs – whether true or the power of suggestion – only Mark or Vic can say for sure. BTW – there are 15 CDs in this set – including a whimsical 2CD take on Giant Step/De Ole Folks

    Mike Williams

    February 5, 2013 at 15:15

  5. And how many CD’s do these reissues REALLY require? Clearly you can fit at least 3 of most titles on 1 disc. Another major Sony gouge. “Giant Step” and “Ole Folks” used to be on 1 CD. No bonus cuts on 11 of the 12 original albums, which averaged a half hour, if that. Meanwhile, the European and collectors’ labels offer unprecedented value. CD’s of old material (at the old royalty rate) under an hour suck!

    mark schlesinger

    February 10, 2013 at 21:55

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