15CDs, and all presented in original artwork mini cardboard sleeves (including the gate-folds). The actual box itself is sturdy enough and includes a 32 page booklet that covers all the relevant information about the music on all the discs.
Disc 1 is credited to
RISING SONS featuring TAJ MAHAL and RY COODER
This album contains music recorded circa 1965/66, and some of it is very good indeed. Some tracks may not reach the same heights as others but from a nostalgic point of view it is all interesting, especially hearing all those recordings that were aimed, without success, at the (mid-sixties) American Pop market all those years ago.
Following on from Disc 1 there is an amazing run of essential and delightful (Blues/Roots based) albums, that no one should be without, starting with
TAJ MAHAL (self titled)
THE NATCH'L BLUES
This is the only original album in the Box that has additional bonus tracks tagged on at the end, and they are all very worthy additions.
DE OLE FOLKS AT HOME
(includes one short track I can live without)
THE REAL THING (Live at The Fillmore East)
This is the first time on CD that all the music on the original double LP edition has been issued.
HAPPY JUST TO BE LIKE I AM
An unmissable album! I had been hoping to pick up a copy of this superb record before I discovered how rare and expensive it was. Finding it included here made purchase of this box an easy decision.
RECYCLING THE BLUES AND OTHER RELATED STUFF
Essential live & studio recordings that feature back up vocals from the Pointer Sisters on a couple of tracks.
"SOUNDER" (Original Soundtrack Recording) Released in 1972, this is without doubt the most obscure disc in this box and it's the only one here on the Columbia Masterworks label. Amazingly the price of this as a stand alone CD would cost you more than the entire box!
OOOH SO GOOD 'N BLUES (Disc 10) continues the consecutive run of wonderful addictive Blues based recordings. Three tracks feature the Pointer Sisters on vocal back up.
A Jamaican influenced recording that features The Wailers Aston 'Family Man' Barrett (on ska piano). Family Man is also given remixing credits (along with Bob Marley) on Taj Mahal's outstanding version of Bob Marley's Wailers classic 'Slave Driver'. Other Reggae songs covered here are The Slickers 'Johnny Too Bad' & Bob Andy's 'Desperate Lover'.
MUSIC KEEPS ME TOGETHER
This is another hard to find album I have always rated very highly, with it's inventive blend of Roots, Blues, Jazz & Soul vibes, and it's another title that further convinced me I just had to get hold of this collection.
SATISFIED 'N TICKLED TOO
The title track on this final album for Columbia is very memorable. The overall sound features more Soul Music than any previous recordings. It's not a bad album, but the general change of style brought to an end to what was a very remarkable run of very enjoyable, mainly Blues based albums.
THE HIDDEN TREASURES OF TAJ MAHAL (1969-1973)
More fine, earlier period Blues music on this double disc.
The first CD is a compilation of previously unreleased tracks, and there are some very essential ones included. Mixed in with these we are treated to a number of very interesting alternate takes of previously released recordings. It makes a change hearing these previously unreleased recordings compiled this way rather have them as 'bonus' tracks tagged onto original albums.
LIVE AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL April 18, 1970
The second Hidden Treasure disc is a live recording of Taj solo, and Taj with his band. The music is all wonderful, but is slightly marred by some concert hall echo picked up by the mics. This minor issue can be easily rectified by turning the volume up (or down!) a bit more usual.
The box set was produced by Jerry Rappaport & mastered by Mark Wilder & Vic Anesini. With the exception of the Royal Albert Hall echo all discs sound as good as you could wish them to be.
Not having any of these albums previously on CD has given me much better value for money and more musical listening pleasure than I expected.
I thoroughly recommend this box to anyone interested in any of Taj Mahal's Columbia recordings, or anyone curious enough about them to go as far as checking the reviews.