In Progress & In Motion: 1965-1998

by: Taj Mahal

For being a nearly omnipresent figure, Taj Mahal has never quite gotten the respect he's deserved. At the beginning of his career, he earned a significant amount of attention, but as the years passed, he had woven himself into the fabric of blues culture so well that his presence was taken for granted. That is why the 1998 release of In Progress & in Motion: 1965-1998 was so welcome. Spanning three discs and over three decades, the box set accurately summarizes Mahal's career and makes a convincing case for his talents as a roots synthesist. Dedicated fans may notice a favorite or two missing, but they'll be pleased by the 15 unreleased tracks, including two songs intended for his debut album. There are a number of other rarities for the dedicated here, including several unheard live cuts, material from his early group the Rising Sons, and his entire contribution to the Rolling Stones' legendary Rock and Roll Circus. Even with this plethora of rarities, In Progress & in Motion is primarily for fans who want a solid, comprehensive summary of Mahal's achievements without delving into the particular records, especially since it chooses its songs judiciously, concentrating on his groundbreaking late-'60s/early-'70s work. Indeed, much of his post-Columbia/CBS recordings are quickly recounted on the third disc, but that isn't a problem -- the first two discs show how Mahal created his own sound; the third shows how he maintained it. By balancing the music this way, Mahal and his partner, Lawrence Cohn, have created a representative, enlightening retrospective that is appealing to casual and hardcore fans alike. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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