Evolution (The Most Recent) (Warner Brothers BSK. 3094).The cover of Taj Mahal's newest record features him standing on a rock in a prehistoric setting, dressed in a flowered shirt and baggy pants, posed as a sort of funky, soul relative of Cro-Magnon man. The record, like its cover, is a collection of the old and the new -- in this case, elements of black music that are blended into a musical style that is electric as well as entertaining.
Taj Mahal has, for ten years (at least on record), pursued a style of music that includes the various cultural elements of black music -- African, Caribbean and American. On this record, there are examples of reggae ("Queen Bee"), African Highlife music ("Highnite") and salsa ("Salsa de Laventille"). "The Big Blues" features a raspy-voiced, delta bluesman Taj Mahal, while "Sing A Happy Song" has him sounding like the newest disco king. American soul music is represented with the Memphis-Stax sound of "Lowdown Showdown" and the electric, funky "Why You do Me This Way." The exotic imagery of "The Most Recent (Evolution) of Muthafusticus Mocernusticus" is the result of an imaginative combination of steep drums, kalimbas ans saxophones in a jazz background that successfully employs African, Caribbean and American styles.
PFM: Jet Lag (Asylum 7E-1101). PFM is an Italian rock group. Its members do not sing lusty, romantic ballads nor are they Latin caricatures of an American group, singing "Johnny B. Goode" with a northern Italian accent. They are a group of technically sophisticated and inventive musicians who combine elements of British and American jazz and rock to produce music that is a sensitive and imaginative blending of various styles.
Their newest record opens with a solo guitar composition, "Peninsula," that sounds vaguely like the American guitarist, Ralph Towner. Franco Mussida, the guitarist, lacks the technical ability of Towner, but he has a strong sense of melody and form that makes the piece an effective musical statement. The title cut draws heavily on British rock in the vocal sections and American jazz rock in the improvisational playing. elements of King Crimson and Chick Corea's Return to Forever are employed in this piece, but PFM adds a softness and lyricism that gives this music a distinct character and that maintains PFM's individuality.
The derivative nature of PFM's music is a logical result for musicians who are attempting to play within a style of music that is foreign to their background. That their music is creatively successful attests to the vitality of the musical styles and to the musicianship of the group.