Mighty Baby were a British rock group that existed from 1969 to 1971 and released only two albums, but the band’s reputation has grown exponentially in the intervening years. Nowadays, Mighty Baby is sometimes compared to The Grateful Dead. Although the two long players the group produced — 1969’s self-titled debut and 1971’s A Jug of Love — hint at the band’s potential, live recordings of Mighty Baby are rare. Tasting The Life includes the most complete live set in existence, opening for British prog-rock also-rans Quintessence in 1971. It’s as crucial a historical document as it is an enjoyable listen for fans of expansive classic rock.
In 1971, archival-quality portable recording devices weren’t available to the average concertgoer. As such, Tasting The Life is a low-quality affair by contemporary standards. However, the passion of the playing transcends the admitted technical limitations of the recording. My ears adjusted after a few minutes of listening to the tinny sound, and I was able to enjoy the music. Sticklers for fidelity may not be able to overcome the sonic shortcomings of Tasting The Life, but that would be their loss.
Opener “Egyptian Tomb” is a relaxed but compelling introductory jam. A few more serviceable tracks intervene before Mighty Baby launches into the main event with “India,” a 20-minute-plus flute-driven epic that comes off like an earthier Jethro Tull, but without any of that group’s occasionally bombastic baggage. “India” is a song to get lost in, transmitted not just from the historical past but from another universe entirely. The live set concludes with “Going Down To Mongoli,” a relatively brief rocker that shows a tighter, bluesier side of Mighty Baby.
Tasting The Life includes two bonus tracks, both recorded live at Glastonbury in 1971. “Lazy Days” is a poor-quality, truncated take on the Flying Burrito Brothers classic, but “A Blanket In My Muesli” is a gem. Pushing the 15-minute mark, the track is a constantly evolving jam in the classic sense, but it never digresses into indulgence, recalling the taut live workouts of Cream. It is with this track and “India” that the enthusiasm Mighty Baby has enjoyed from devoted students of obscure progressive rock for years is most obvious.