Segment 54

Recently I’ve noticed that whenever I play something by Taj Mahal, I also tend to play something by Ry Cooder, and vice versa. Of course that’s not really surprising, given their tendency to swim in the same musical waters, much of which flowed out of the pre-war acoustic blues styles of the Mississippi Delta. And that probably goes a long way towards explaining how the two of them ended up in a group called The Rising Sons in the mid 60’s. In any event, today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl features both Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder, but not in The Rising Sons. Instead we’ll hear a couple from their solo albums, Recycling the Blues and Other Related Stuff and Paradise and Lunch. Add to that, one each from two other artists who specialize in early Americana, and all the sudden we’ve got a four-song set of what we might call alt folk country blues or dust bowl roots music. The middle of this set consists of “Ophelia” by The Band, Taj Mahal’s “Cakewalk Into Town,” “Jesus on the Mainline” from Ry Cooder, and Bonnie Raitt doing Mose Allison’s “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy,” from her album Takin’ My Time which features a lot of great guest musicians, including Taj Mahal.

And while those four songs make a fine set, it’s a short one. So I had to add a few more tracks. And while you might expect the Van Morrison at the end of the set, what you might not expect is the British invasion at the beginning that serves as the unlikely intro for the whole alt ethnic Americana slide on the national steel-bodied guitar extravaganza that follows. But such are the pleasures of the Way Back Studios. See, the horns at the start of The Band’s “Ophelia” have always reminded me of some horns at the end of a Beatles track. So I dropped the needle until I found what I was looking for. And that’s how we ended up with the late sixties psychedelic moment that kick starts the whole thing. In any event, these artists have been going in and out of style but they’re guaranteed to turn your dial. So may I introduce to you the act you’ve known for all these years. Here’s Traffic.

Traffic Heaven is in Your Mind
Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Band Ophelia
Taj Mahal Cake Walk Into Town
Ry Cooder Jesus on the Mainline
Bonnie Raitt Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy
Van Morrison Purple Heather

The way I see it, if you produce a single great album, you’re an artistic success.  I don’t just mean something popular but something that even decades later people agreed was important, something that helped define an era, something that was original.  So consider the fact that between 1968 and 1972, Van Morrison produced five albums in a row that are still considered seminal records of the period.  Astral Weeks, Moondance, His Band and the Street Choir, Tupelo Honey, and Saint Dominick’s Preview.  You can’t name many rock artists who have five great albums in their entire catalogue, let alone five in a row.  The Beatles, the Stones, Dylan.  After that list gets short.  We just heard Purple Heather from Van’s Hard Nose the Highway, the record that got lost in the wake of the five that preceeded it.

Earlier in the set we went proto alt country with Bonnie Raitt, the Band, Taj Mahal, and Ry Cooder doing the traditional Jesus on the Mainline from his album Paradise and Lunch.  As it happens, Ry Cooder once formed a group called The Rising Sons with none other than Taj Mahal who we heard recycling the blues and other related stuff like Cakewalk Into Town.  The Band’s Ophelia came from the horns of the Lonely Hearts Club Band that itself came out of one from Traffic that was far out enough that it could have been on Magical Mystery Tour.  Well like they said, heaven is in your mind when you’re in the Way Back Studios.  Thanks for tuning us in, I’m Bill Fitzhugh, back next week with another batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl in the Deep Tracks, XM 40.

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