Taj Mahal is a extraordinary musician. His music flows between blues, boogie-woogie, rock and roll, country all mixed up with musical bits from the Carribean, American South, West Africa, Hawaii, New Orleans, and even Appalachia. He has played with Eric Clapton, Bonnie Rait, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan among others (rather, they played with him!). He has even sung the Top Ten list on the Late Show with Dave Letterman.
Taj Mahal mixes guitar-based blues with dobro, organ, kazoos, even tubas. He often gets pigeon-holed as a blues player, but he is so much more. His music swings, it rocks, it cries, it weeps, it marches.
On this release, “Lovin in My Baby’s Eyes” washes the listener with melancholy memories; “Senor Blues” swings along the Mexico border; Hank Williams’s “Mind Your Own Business” stamps through a New Orleans street party; and “Hoochi Coochi Coo” makes me get out my saddle shoes and bop across the living room (you don’t really want to see that). He even turns the children’s song “Mockingbird” into a sultry and funky dance. On this collection he does it all.
The Best of the Private Years is a collection of Taj Mahal’s recordings on the Private Music label, which is a subsidiary of Windham Hill. If you are a Taj Mahal fan, this CD probably won’t really add to your collection, as most “Best Of” CDs don’t. But if you want to listen to what Taj Mahal has been doing over the late 1990s (that would be about the last one-eighth of his career, mind you), this collection will give you a taste. All of the tracks on this collection have appeared elsewhere, so there are no surprises. If this master of, well, almost everything, is new to you, try this CD. It might just wet your appetite for more. And if you don’t go buy this CD, go buy another one. Taj Mahal simply cannot disappoint you. I think it is a law.