Taj Mahal – Giant Step / De Ole Folks at Home

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Giant Step / De Ole Folks at Home

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  • KILLER sound throughout with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on sides two, three and four, and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first side
  • On the acoustic side the harmonics of the stringed instruments — banjo and guitar — ring out clearly and naturally
  • Two complete LPs worth of material: the first electric, the second acoustic, something for everybody — it even includes the Monkees hit “Take A Giant Step” if you can believe it
  • 4 Stars: “Parties searching for an apt introduction when discovering Taj Mahal’s voluminous catalog are encouraged to consider Giant Step as a highly recommended reference point.”

The best copies are not hard to spot. They have the richest, breathiest, most present vocals, surrounded in the most space. The balance between the guitar, bass and drums on the electric side is correct. On the acoustic side the harmonics of the stringed instruments — banjo and guitar — ring out clearly and naturally.

A sweeter midrange, with less grit and spit on the vocals, was especially welcome and helped propel three of these sides right into the final round of the shootout, with side three eventually coming out on top.

This vintage Columbia 360 pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What amazing sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1969
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We Listen For on Giant Step / De Ole Folks at Home

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One (Giant Step)

Ain’t Gwine Whistle Dixie Anymo’ 
Take A Giant Step 
Give Your Woman What She Wants 
Good Morning Little School Girl 
You’re Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond

Side Two (Giant Step)

Six Days On The Road 
Farther On Down The Road (You Will Accompany Me) 
Keep Your Hands Off Her 
Bacon Fat

Side One (De Ole Folks at Home)

Linin’ Track 
Country Blues #1 
Wild Ox Moan 
Light Rain Blues 
A Little Soulful Tune 
Candy Man 
Cluck Old Hen

Side wo (De Ole Folks at Home)

Colored Aristocracy 
Blind Boy Rag 
Stagger Lee 
Cajun Tune 
Fishin’ Blues 
Annie’s Lover

AMG  Review

In less than 24 months, Taj Mahal (guitars/vocals/banjo/harmonica) had issued the equivalent of four respective long players. The electric Giant Step (1968) was released alongside the acoustic and decidedly rural De Ole Folks at Home (1968). The nine cuts on Giant Step feature support from the instrumental trio of Jessie Ed Davis (guitar/keyboards), Gary Gilmore (bass) and Chuck Blackwell (drums).

They back Taj Mahal on a wide selection of covers ranging from Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s “Take A Giant Step” to the upbeat and soulful reading of the Huddie Ledbetter blues staple “Keep Your Hands off Her”.”

The arrangements are unique and offer the artist’s distinctive approach.

Parties searching for an apt introduction when discovering Taj Mahal’s voluminous catalog are encouraged to consider Giant Step as a highly recommended reference point.