Friday, March 11, 2011

Michael Fremer Album Review

The Natch'l Blues

Taj Mahal

Columbia/Pure Pleasure CS 9698 180g LP
Produced by: David Rubinson
Engineered by: N/A
Mixed by: N/A
Mastered by: Ray Staff at Air Mastering



Taj's Second Album With Bonus Tracks
by Michael Fremer
February 01, 2011

Henry Saint Clair Fredericks A/K/A Taj Mahal grew up in Harlem, spent time as a teenager on a Massachusetts dairy farm, attended U of M, gigged around and finally headed west and built a musical career first in Los Angeles and later in the Bay area. The life influences come through in his music: a mix of urban and country blues mixed with world music.

Taj's first break came when he joined with Ry Cooder and formed The Rising Sons. The group signed with Columbia records and recorded a Terry Melcher-produced album that was never released. It's since come out on Sony/Legacy. Sundazed issued it on vinyl. Taj stayed with Columbia and issued a dozen albums before leaving for Warner Brothers.

This was the second one and it's among his strongest in my opinion. This reissue adds three bonus tracks: an alternate version of "The Cuckoo" (guess which is better?) and "New Stranger Blues" and "Things Are Gonna Work Out Fine."

The album grooves in an upbeat country/blues mood until a Memphis stew version of William Bell's "You Don't Miss Your Water ('Til Your Well Runs Dry)" where Taj digs into Otis Redding and an anonymous brass and reed section adds the Stax/Volt juice. The original ends with a smoking "Gimme Some Lovin'"-like version of the oft covered "A Lot of Love."

In addition to Taj on harp and National Steel guitar the excellent backing band includes Jesse Ed Davis on guitar and pian, Gary Gilmore on bass and Chuck Blackwell on drums. Al Kooper is on piano and Earl Palmer plays drums on unspecified tracks but I'd say Palmer plays on "A Lot of Love."

This reissue tacks on the two bonus tracks to flesh out what was a relatively short but pleasingly compact and self contained album. The bonus tracks sound like demo/jams. They're superfluous but don't hurt and if you don't like them you can always lift the stylus after "A Lot of Love."

The upbeat performances are crisp and infectious, the backing band rocks and the recording quality is high. Producer David Rubinson rarely disappointed during this era.

The original 1A pressing I have here is somewhat cleaner and more immediate sounding, but the vinyl is noisier.

The cover art changed at some point in this release's history. The original has the artwork in a white border signed by the artist with 1/25 between the work's title (Taj) and the artist's name. There was probably some permission and/or licensing issue.

This is a fine reissue of a worthy album, though you might easily find a clean original on line or at your favorite used LP emporium

Thanks to Michael over at for the exclusive rights to reprint this material. Stop by for more reviews and features.

©2011 & Michael Fremer - - All rights reserved

Reprinted by Permission

Vinyl Record News & Music Notes

Arctic Monkeys Announce Fourth Album Details

Arctic Monkeys will release their fourth album, entitled 'Suck It and See' on Monday 6th June 2011. The album will be released in the US on Tuesday June 7, 2011. 'Suck It And See' features 12 new Arctic Monkeys songs and was produced by James Ford at Sound City Studios in Los Angeles.

The album will be available on CD, vinyl and via digital download. The tracklisting for 'Suck It And See':

01. She's Thunderstorms
02. Black Treacle
03. Brick by Brick
04. The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala
05. Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair
06. Library Pictures
07. All My Own Stunts
08. Reckless Serenade
09. Piledriver Waltz
10. Love is a Laserquest
11. Suck It and See
12. That's Where You're Wrong


Sundazed March 2011 New Releases

Artist: Sir Douglas Quintet
Title: The Mono Singles ’68–’72 2-LP Set and Compact Disc
2 LP Set 5338
Compact Disc: SC 11218


Texas-bred singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Doug Sahm was one of the most important musicians ever to emerge from the Lone Star state, and an inspiration to multiple generations of roots-conscious rock ’n’ rollers. Sahm did much of his most beloved work as leader of the seminal Sir Douglas Quintet, the audaciously eclectic band that first burst onto the national scene in 1965. With trusty sidekick Augie Meyers providing distinctive support on the Vox organ, the Quintet delivered an infectious, eclectic mix that encompassed Tex-Mex border pop, raw garage-rock, hipster honky-tonk, horn-driven R&B and more.

The Sir Douglas Quintet’s most productive and influential period was its late-’60s/early-’70s stint with Mercury Records and its sister labels Smash and Philips. That period saw the SDQ relocate from Texas to San Francisco and record some of their most enduring and adventurous music. And that music never sounded better than on the mono mixes that graced the singles that the band released during that period, which are collected on this deluxe set.

The Mono Singles’ 22 songs include the band’s 1969 signature smash “Mendocino,” along with such Sahm standards as “At the Crossroads,” “Dynamite Woman,” “Nuevo Laredo,” “Texas Me,” “And It Didn’t Even Bring Me Down,” “Michoacan” and his heartfelt rendition of Freddy Fender’s “Wasted Days, Wasted Nights,” plus a selection of rare non-album B-sides. The collection also features Sahm’s historic Nashville recording “Be Real,” which he released under the pseudonym “Wayne Douglas” in an attempt to break into the conservative mainstream country market.

This unique collection has been sourced from the original analog mono masters. This high-definition vinyl 2-LP and compact disc sets come with extensive liner notes and lavish artwork. With these classic tracks now on vinyl and CD, Doug Sahm’s rootsy rock ’n’ roll spirit shines brighter than ever!

1. Are Inlaws Really Outlaws
2. Sell A Song
3. Mendocino
4. I Wanna Be Your Mama Again
5. And It Didn't Even Bring Me Down
6. Lawd, I'm Just A Country Boy In This Great Big Freaky City
7. Dynamite Woman
8. Too Many Dociled Minds
9. At The Crossroads
10. Texas Me
11. Nuevo Laredo
12. I Don't Want To Go Home
13. Be Real
14. I Don't Want To Go Home
15. What About Tomorrow
16. (I Found Love) A Nice Song
17. Catch The Man On The Rise
18. Pretty Flower
19. Me And My Destiny
20. Wasted Days, Wasted Nights
21. Michoacan
22. Westside Blues Again

Artist: Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs
Title: The MGM Singles - 2-LP Set and Compact Disc
2 LP Set 5339 - Includes four extra tracks not on the CD.
Compact Disc: SC 11219


These days, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs are best remembered for such infectious ’60s hits as “Wooly Bully” and “Lil’ Red Riding Hood,” and for the sartorial splendor of turbaned frontman/organist Sam the Sham (née Domingo Samudio) and his bandmates. But the one-of-a-kind Memphis-by-way-of-Texas quintet produced a large and highly original body of R&B/blues/Tex-Mex/garage tunes that established them as one of the greatest singles bands of the 1960s. While the band’s wacky humor and flamboyant visual image may have threatened to brand them as a novelty act, their raw exuberance, rootsy grit and playfully subversive streak made it clear that Sam and his Pharaohs were the genuine article.

Throughout the second half of the ’60s, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs turned out a lengthy string of killer seven-inchers. Many of those singles boasted non-album B-sides that were as memorable as their better-known A-sides. Now, for the first time ever, Sundazed Music has gathered both sides of every one of the band’s original MGM Records singles on this lovingly packaged 2-LP collection. The sizzling set includes such immortal Pharaohs classics as “Wooly Bully,” “Lil’ Red Riding Hood,” “Ju Ju Hand,” “Ring Dang Doo,” “Red Hot,” “The Hair on My Chinny Chin Chin,” “How Do You Catch a Girl” and “(I’m in With) The Out Crowd,” along with an amazing assortment of rare non-album B-sides, solo efforts and side projects. These long-out-of-print gems have been sourced from the original MGM masters and sound better than ever!!!

1. Wooly Bully
2. Ain’t Gonna Move
3. Ju Ju Hand
4. Big City Lights
5. Ring Dang Doo
6. Don’t Try It
7. Red Hot
8. A Long Long Way
9. Li’l Red Riding Hood
10. Love Me Like Before
11. The Hair On My Chinny Chin Chin
12. (I’m In With) The Out Crowd
13. (Hey There) Big Bad Wolf (The Sham-ettes)*
14. I’d Rather Have You (The Sham-ettes)*
15. How Do You Catch A Girl
16. The Love You Left Behind
17. Oh That’s Good, No That’s Bad
18. Take What You Can Get
19. Black Sheep
20. My Day’s Gonna Come
21. You’re Welcome Back (The Sham-ettes)*
22. He’ll Come Back (The Sham-ettes)*
23. Banned In Boston
24. Money’s My Problem
25. Yakety Yak (The Sam the Sham Revue)
26. Let Our Love Light Shine (The Sam the Sham Revue)
27. Old MacDonald Had A Boogaloo Farm
28. I Never Had No One
29. I Couldn’t Spell !!*@!
30. The Down Home Strut
31. Fate (Sam the Sham)
32. Oh Lo (Sam the Sham)

* LP Only Tracks

Order Them Here:


and in music history for the day:

In 1968, the Otis Redding single “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” went gold in the U.S. three months after the singer was killed in a plane crash.

Winners at the 1970 Grammy Awards included Joe South for Song of the Year with “Games People Play.” Crosby Stills & Nash won Best New Artist, and The 5th Dimension got Record of the Year with “Aquarius’”/ “Let The Sun Shine In.”

In 1971, Jim Morrison arrived in Paris, booking into the Hotel George V. The following week he moved into an apartment at 17 Rue Beautreillis where he lived in until his death on 3 July.

In 1972, Harry Nilsson was at #1 on the U.K. singles chart with his version of the Pete Ham-Tom Evans composition, “Without You.” First recorded by Badfinger in 1970, the song was also a #1 for Mariah Carey in 1994.

In 1978, Meat Loaf's "Bat Out Of Hell" album began a 416 week run on the UK chart and would go on to sell over 2 million copies.

Janet Jackson signed a deal with Virgin Records in 1991 for 2 albums worth $50 million.

In 1993, Eric Clapton hit number 1 in the US with his "Unplugged" album that had been in the Top Ten for six months. The additional attention created by his six Grammys at the annual awards ceremony pushed sales of his live album even higher. "Unplugged" beat out "Achtung Baby", "The Beauty and The Beast" soundtrack and albums by Annie Lennox and kd lang for album of the year.

In 1996, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr turned down a $225 million offer to do a reunion tour. Good, it wouldn't have been the same....

In 2000, KISS began their "Farewell Tour."  They are still at it!

In 2004, Edmund Sylvers, the lead singer of the Sylvers on their 1975, number one hit, "Boogie Fever", died after a ten month battle with cancer. He was just 47 years old.

Birthday wishes to Mark Stein of Vanilla Fudge (1947), George Kooymans of Golden Earring (1948)