Entertainment Weekly (9/8/00, p.89) - "...A breath of fresh air....kicked butt live at the Filmore East..." - Rating: B+
Living Blues (5-6/01, p.90) - "...Backed by a 4-piece band plus congas and a horn section...Taj takes his music in an expansive, jazz-influenced direction..."
Personnel: Taj Mahal (vocals, National steel guitar, 5-string guitar, harmonica, fife); John Hall (electric guitar); Howard Johnson (baritone saxophone, flugelhorn, tuba); Bob Stewart (trumpet, flugelhorn, tuba); Joseph Daley (valve trombone, tuba); Earle McIntyre (bass trombone, tuba); John Simon (piano, electric piano); Greg Thomas (drums); Kwasi "Rocky" DziDzournu (congas).
Producer: David Rubinson.
Reissue producer: Bob Irwin.
Recorded live at Fillmore East, New York, New York on February 13, 1971. Includes liner notes by Stanley Crouch.
Digitally remastered by Vic Anesini (Sony Music, New York, New York).
Taj Mahal's talent for bringing a mix-and-match sensibility to the raw materials of the blues is on full display on this 1971 live recording. In addition to his ease with solo country blues (the opener here, the traditional "Fishin' Blues," is a great example), Taj Mahal has a backing band that includes electric guitar, piano, bass, drums, a conga player, and a full brass section. Rather than "corrupting" the blues, Taj Mahal manages to draw a straight line through 20th-century music, incorporating parade themes, jazz, R&B, rock, and funk, while throwing some curveballs along the way (note his use of the six-holed fife on "Ain't Gwine to Whistle Dixie [Any Mo']").
The overall vibe of THE REAL THING is that of a good-time party, both uptown and downtown, backwoods and sophisticated. "Tom and Sally Drake," which features a duet between banjo and tuba, draws these two worlds together most explicitly. Taj Mahal's folk roots are evident throughout (especially on conversational story-songs, including "Big Kneed Gal"), but the band pulls out all the stops on driving boogie grooves like "Diving Duck Blues." Remastered sound, vintage photos, and liner notes by Stanley Crouch complete this fine package.