In celebration of his 70th birthday and nearly 50 years of performing and recording Henry St. Claire Fredericks…aka Taj Mahal has released the first album from a major catalog reissue project titled Hidden Treasures of Taj Mahal 1967-1973.
The remastered two-disc sonic portrait chronicles the early stirrings of Mahal’s solo career and features two CDs comprised entirely of unreleased finished material.
Ringing in at 12 tracks the first disc is a remarkable set of unreleased studio tracks several of which have impromptu vocal intros of Mahal coaching the band on the vibe and groove, and each is full of extended solo sections. The longest track, “You Ain’t No Street Walker Mama,” weighs in at just over sixteen minutes and runs like and unstoppable steam train featuring a full horn section and wild harmonica from Taj. Why these songs have been held back all these years is a mystery.
The second disc is a remixed concert recording that starts humbly with Mahal singing an a capella “Runnin by The Riverside,” then inviting his audience to join in with the music, sharing their feelings, clapping and singing and to leave the troubles of the day behind, a sentiment that continues to be his mantra to this day. Mahal then brings out his four piece backing band and commences to tear through a seven song set of super charged soul blues, including classics “Sweet Mama Janice,” “Checking Up On My Baby,” and “Tomorrow May Not Be Your Day.” The performance must have been in front of one the largest crowds Mahal has seen to that date as he remarks again and again at how humbled he was to be in the Royal Albert Hall with its layers and layers of people, but the genuine mastery that is Mahal shines through as he turns this massive space into a back porch party.
If Taj Mahal’ Hidden Treasures of Taj Mahal 1969-1973 is any indication of the gems that lie in the archives, music fans are in for a real treasure trove for many years to come.