Released on LP in 1966, Cecil Taylor's Student Studies is an anomaly from his other recordings of the era. Not purely improvised, Taylor uses arranged sections and built-in segments for thematic and improvisational space. His meditations on short tonal studies and propulsive bursts of energy became signifiers of his later music. The band here, including Jimmy Lyons, bassist Alan Silva, and drummer Andrew Cyrille, registered with Taylor's fluid disciplinary approach to atonalism and dissonance, and found room to actually swing in. In fact, the influences Taylor spoke of most often during the era – Ellington, Bud Powell, and Mingus, can be traced here, if not heard outright.
Although the vast majority of Rolling Stones songs from the Mick Taylor era sported Jagger/Richard writing credits, there's no denying that Taylor provided an extra creative spark for the band – as the Stones never truly scaled the same heights as Sticky Fingers or Exile on Main St. again. And the same (albeit less surprisingly) could be said for Taylor after he went his merry way from Stones land. But Taylor remains one heck of a blues-rock guitar player to this day, as evidenced by 2003's 14 Below. Originally issued in 1995 as Live at 14 Below: Coastin' Home, the re-release features the same exact track listing but a different album cover. No matter. Taylor's playing is still exceptional, especially on readings of the Stones' "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'" and Willie Dixon's "You Shook Me" (both of which are ten-minute-plus jam fests). If you've lost track of Taylor since the early '70s, 14 Below will prove that arguably the finest lead guitarist to pass through the Stones' ranks has still got what it takes.
Mick Taylor's self-titled debut album is rather different than one would imagine for an ex-Rolling Stone and former Bluesbreaker. As to whether this is due to the conformist sound of the lighter numbers ("Leather Jacket," "Baby I Want You," etc.) or the fact that his singing voice is so much more average than Jagger or Mayall's is debatable. In any case, Mick Taylor is an undeniably attractive and often surprising album. The highlight and thrust of the album is Taylor's astounding guitar playing. His fusion of blues and rock styles, and, of course, his slide guitar work, is constantly impressive. "Slow Blues," "Giddy-Up," and "Spanish/A Minor" feature some particularly gob-smacking guitar solos. Lyrically, Mick Taylor is a little lightweight, but at worst competent. Similarly, some of the music is at times cheesy, attempting to blend in with the sound of the time. Nevertheless, Mick Taylor's first attempt at a solo recording is a fine effort and one that improves with time.