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Giant Step

Taj Mahal

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Album Review

In less than 24 months, Taj Mahal (guitars/vocals/banjo/harmonica) had issued the equivalent of four respective long players. The electric Giant Step (1968) was released alongside the acoustic and decidedly rural De Ole Folks at Home (1968). The nine cuts on Giant Step feature support from the instrumental trio of Jessie Ed Davis (guitar/keyboards), Gary Gilmore (bass) and Chuck Blackwell (drums). They back Taj Mahal on a wide selection of covers ranging from Carole King and Gerry Goffin's "Take A Giant Step" to the upbeat and soulful reading of the Huddie Ledbetter blues staple "Keep Your Hands off Her"." The arrangements are unique and offer the artist's distinctive approach. Nowhere is this more evident than the practically jovial mid-tempo "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" or the freewheeling abandon that is brought to the 18-wheeler anthem "Six Days On The Road," recalling the version of "Ain't That A Lot Of Love" from Taj Mahal's preceding effort Natch'l Blues (1968). Additionally, Blind Willie Johnson's "You're Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond" stands out with a strong and soaring gospel-flavoured score. Giant Step concludes with "Bacon Fat," a number attributed here via Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson of the Band. That said, it may be better-known from the man they called Mr. Rhythm, Andre Williams, whose scattered down-home spoken interludes punctuate his February '57 Top 10 R&B hit — which incidentally was created under the working title "Diddle, Diddle Womp, Womp." Enthusiasts should note that while specious fidelity accompanied seminal pressings of De Ole Folks At Home — the previously mentioned 'unplugged' counterpart to Giant Step — the sound on the CD has been significantly improved. Parties searching for an apt introduction when discovering Taj Mahal's voluminous catalogue are encouraged to consider Giant Step as a highly recommended reference point.

Biography

Born: 17 May 1942 in New York, NY

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the most prominent figures in late 20th century blues, singer/multi-instrumentalist Taj Mahal played an enormous role in revitalizing and preserving traditional acoustic blues. Not content to stay within that realm, Mahal soon broadened his approach, taking a musicologist's interest in a multitude of folk and roots music from around the world — reggae and other Caribbean folk, jazz, gospel, R&B, zydeco, various West African styles, Latin, even Hawaiian. The African-derived heritage...
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