fri 18/08/2017

CD: Taj Mahal and Keb' Mo' - TajMo | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Taj Mahal and Keb' Mo' - TajMo

CD: Taj Mahal and Keb' Mo' - TajMo

Blues veterans asleep on the job

Flimsy, hokey and predictable, this is an album that grows off you
Apparently a historic collaboration

Fellow defenders of the Delta tradition Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ have never recorded together before. Billed as a “historic collaboration”, this album features appearances from starry performers including Bonnie Raitt, and excellent young jazz singer Lizz Wright. After a couple of listens, however, fans will be dismayed at the misuse of the term “historic”. An opportunity was missed to do something original.  

This is very easy to listen to. Everyone is, in a technical sense, on good musical form, and the recording is lustrous and full-bodied. Both musicians tip a hat at the blues tradition with a gravelly vocal style and plenty of slide guitar, but beyond that, this is really roots-infused pop. “Soul” is a meandering musical tour round Africa, pleasant but inconclusive, while the final track, “Waiting For The World To Change”, is a bit political, in laid-back, saloon-bar fashion. “Om Sweet Om“ has an exquisite performance by Wright. Beyond that the songs are mainly venerable covers – though for reasons that fans may, or may not, want to ponder, Taj and Keb’ appear to have the horn.

First there’s “She Knows How To Rock Me”, then (an original, though very similar in style) “Shake Me In Your Arms”, both ripe with innuendo. We should be delighted that Keb’ and Taj - combined age 140 - have such successful and vigorous love lives, but unless I’m misreading their audience, it’s less certain that they want to hear so much about it. Flimsy, hokey and predictable, this is an album that grows off you, as the initial lustre fades to reveal its emptiness beneath.

The pubescent mood climaxes, as it were, in a gratuitous cover of The Who’s “Squeeze Box”, about a woman with an accordion on her chest that hilariously “goes in and out and in and out”, causing her husband to get “no sleep at night”. Inexplicably, it made the Top 10 in 1976, despite having the aesthetic of bus-shelter entertainment for 14-year-olds. The recording life of this tedious smut-fest, meanwhile – a song Pete Townsend was rightfully ashamed of – should have begun and ended with Austin Powers. It’s mystifying that they couldn’t have found anything better.

@matthewwrighter

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