Dancing the Blues
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Taj Mahal (full name: Henry Saint Clair Fredricks!) made this nostalgia trip with his fully-strutting R&B-flavoured band, which is probably the best way to catch him live, despite the popularity of his acoustic sets. Taj looks back to classic tunes by T-Bone Walker, Fats Domino, Percy Mayfield and Howlin' Wolf, his multi-instrumentalist abilities showcased, moving from the dangerous harmonica of his "Blues Ain't Nothin'" to the jazzy guitar strokes of "Strut", both self-penned in complementary style to their deservedly revered bedmates. He turns to piano, then organ for "Going To The River" and "Blue Light Boogie", while sometimes he "merely" sings, fully abandoned to a burred, soul-blues shout, leaving the flashy solos to guitarist Johnny Lee Schell, the Little Feat rhythm team or The Texacali Horns. The Charlie and Inez Foxx hit "Mockingbird" features an energetic vocal duet with Etta James, then Taj takes it down a notch, "That's How Strong My Love Is" paying tribute to Otis Redding. Perhaps this album is atypical for Mahal, but with its follow-up Phantom Blues (1996), it's the kind of high-energy show he's successfully treading the boards with nowadays. --Martin Longley.