I Erasure have announced their latest round of live dates (too late for inclusion in our ‘Book Now‘ section). They‘re playing the Playhouse. Edinburgh on 29 and 30 June and 1 July next year. Seems a long time to wait. but knowing the extravagance of their live shows. it'll probably be worth it. Tickets. priced £17.50and£15are available from the Playhouse in Edinburgh. Just The Ticket in Glasgow. One Up in Aberdeen and all Scottish TOCTA agents. or by post from PO Box 77. Edinburgh. Cheques should be made payable to Regular Music (include SAE and 70p booking fee per ticket and state which night you want to go).

I The Groovy Little Numbershave split up. although frontman Joe and guitarist Mark have recorded a track. ‘I Can't Help lt'. which may be coming out as a single soon , as both Creation and Fire are fairly impressed with it. Reports in Melody Maker that the group had already signed to Creation were premature. Afterthe disintegration of the band. which ‘wasn‘t working out too well.‘ according to their manager Billy Budis. Joe took the idea into his head to carry on under the name Superstar. which may well happen ifhe‘s not talked out of it. One thing that is certain isthat it will sound similar to the Groovy Little Numbers but ‘more powerful. more heavy-duty".

l 4A0 Records wave a tear-sodan hanky at The Cocteau Twins. who have upped sticks from the company to an undisclosed new label. by releasing a limited edition boxed set of all their EPs to date on Mon 4. Gathering together the EPs Lullabies. Sunburst AndSnowblind. The Spangle Maker, Aikea-Guinea. Tiny Dynamlne, Echoes In A Shallow Bay. Lo ve‘s Easy Tears and leeblink Luck . it also includes a bonus disc with tracks that have only appeared on compilations. A mere 5000 of these luxury items Lwill be issued in Europe.

28 The List 25 October - 7 November 1991


Messin’ with the blues

Joe Alexander explores the roots of unconventional blues giantTaj Mahal.

Ta j Mahal has one of those voices that is instantly recognisable in any context. Deep, rich, and with just a hint of a growl in the deepest register, it has been a familiar feature of the blues and folk scene since the 1960s, but we have not heard too much of the singer on this side of the water in the last decade or so. That is no indication of a falling away, however. The singer, songwriter, guitarist and pianist has been beavering away pretty much as usual all that time, and puts his apparent lack of activity down to the random time-lapse syndrome which affects the release of records in Europe by artists who don’t fall into the storming-the-pop-charts bracket.

In an attempt to address that problem, the singer has pitched his latest album (he has over twenty to his credit) at a wider audience, and he is quite open about that fact. Like Never Before is on BMG’s Private Music label, ensuring the kind of distribution denied to his 1987 offering Taj on Gramavision. and features name guests galore. including Hall & Oates, The Pointer Sisters. Dr John. David Lindley and Hiram Bullock. as well as his own excellent band.

‘I had been working away a long time. and didn‘t seem to be getting the returns for what I put in.‘ the singer admits, ‘so I decided to take a little time and study the business more closely, trying to see ifthere was something in my own attitudes that was causing me not to communicate with people on a broader scale. I think this record will dothaL’

That emphasis was obvious enough from the opening bars of the Womack & Womack-like ‘Don’t Call Us‘. but changes ofemphasis are as natural as breathing to Taj Mahal, a name he adopted over 35 years ago as a signal that ‘this guy had something different going on’. While rooted firmly in the blues, he has always brought an eclectic and highly idiosyncratic bent to his explorations of what he calls Pan-African music.

He began playing in public in the early 605, but was ‘involved with music as far back as I can remember‘. His mother and father were musicians, and he picked up the dual

The voice of la] Mahal: deep. tic. with a hint of agrowl

influences ofCaribbean music (his father is West Indian) and the American South. After college, he headed out to the West Coast. and joined one of the most famous unrecorded bands in history. The Rising Sons, with Ry Cooder.

‘Ry was a few years younger than me, but he already had the music down,‘ Taj recalls. but the band were a little too far ahead of the blues boom of the late 605, and although they signed to Columbia, their projected album was never released. Undeterred, the singer continued his exploration of blues and ethnic music as a solo artist.

‘One ofthe things that was real important for me was to learn how to play as an individual player. That always interested me, and it connected back to the traditions of the Griots and my African ancestors. I still do a solo blues set as a warm-up to the band concert, and ifl had

never done more than play solo in this life. that would have been fine

with me.’

Taj Mahal's particular take on the blues became an increasingly elastic

one. On De Old Folks At Home.

issued as a double album with the classic Giant Step in 1969. he sang

traditional southern songs in a

movingly straight-forward fashion.

but elsewhere he introduced all

manner ofvariations on the theme. including reggae in another classic

set, Mo' Roots(1974). ‘l was brought up with an

understanding of black music forms of all kinds, and it seemed natural to me to expand my music to include African forms like reggae and salsa. or take an old traditional blues tune and give it a kind of Latin feel, and suddenly it sounds like a brand new song. It wasn‘t only musical, though. I saw it as an opening up to the world

at large. because we are all