Paul Horn’s Inside the Taj Mahal from 1968 is considered to be the second New Age music album released, after Tony Scott’s Music for Zen Meditation and other Joys (1964). Inside is a breathtakingly beautiful album which still feels different and mystical. There must be a million meditation albums on the market, but they are all mere copies compared to Paul Horn’s Inside the Taj Mahal. This is the original.
The story behind this album is exciting: Paul Horn was born in New York in 1930. He studied flute and clarinet at the Oberlin Conservatory and Manhattan School of Music. In the late 1950s he established himself as an artist and played with Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and others. In 1968 he visited India, and stayed with the Beatles (!!) at Rishikesh. On 25 April 1968 he smuggled a tape recorder into the Taj Mahal and made the recording for Inside.
The album starts with the song Prologue. Paul Horn says: Soundroll 66 and tells that the recording is made inside the dome of the Taj Mahal. The first notes of the flute are careful, almost inaudible, yet on their sound you can sense the enormity of the dome. The Indian chanting may seem a bit harsh at first, but once you are used to them they sound amazing.
A good place to start this musical journey through the Taj Mahal is the song Unity, where Paul’s flute and the chanting almost ingage in a “conversation”. On the track Akasha Paul is using silence to build an anticipation, and when the first notes of the flute are heard they sound truly divine and mystical. It is like they are created by the void inside the massive structure. The most beautiful piece on the album is Seah Jahan. It is just as magic as the place the album is recorded.
The cover artwork is interesting. The first release was called Inside, with a picture of Paul and the name just above the eye. It is like he is saying that the big mystery is not to be found in distant, mystical places – of which Taj Mahal is an example of – but inside us all. It is also a proof that he was not trying to market the album on the late 1960s newfound love for the East and its culture. That the album ended up selling 1 million copies is a proof of its quality, not that there was an established market for such albums on the time of its release. Later albums though had the Taj Mahal on their covers.
In conclusion: Inside the Taj Mahal is a bold, magnificent and in every way unique album. It paved the way for New Age music genre as we know it. It was also the first installment in Paul’s Inside series. Later albums are Inside the Great Pyramid (1976), Inside the Cathedral (1983) and Inside the Taj Mahal, Volume 2 (1989).
Score: 100/100. See how I rate music here.
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