While most of the local clubs have chosen to book known quantities for their New Year''s Eve parties, Sandy Shore Productions is bringing a near-legend in the roots/blues genre to town. With upbeat, fusion-rock band Mumbo Gumbo and pop singer Pete Bellasco also performing throughout the evening, Taj Mahal and his Phantom Blues Band will headline the bash on Thursday night at the Embassy Suites.

"We wanted to bring in a legend for New Year''s Eve," says party producer Sandy Shore, "we wanted to create the biggest party of the decade. Last year, we got at least a hundred phone calls from people who were bored, or who wanted an alternative to First Night. So we put in a bid for Taj Mahal last January. We were listening to the people."

The venerated Mahal has recorded 37 albums since he first took to the stage in the early ''60s. Although Mahal''s music careens from traditional blues to Caribbean to Hawaiian to folk rock, his gravel-paved vocals make his music easily identifiable. His 1997 album release, Se¤or Blues, was a Grammy winner for Best Contemporary Blues album.

"He really spans the ages," says Shore. "This summer, he opened up for the Dave Matthews Band and he has a lot of new fans as well as folks who have been listening to his music since the very beginning."

Mahal will be doing two 45+ minute sets of music for the evening, at 9pm and 10:30pm. When Mahal isn''t on stage, New York singer/songwriter Pete Bellasco takes the stage. While Shore describes his music as a sort of R&B/Motown sound, Bellasco says his music "sounds like the soundtrack to a Quentin Tarantino movie."

Rocking in 1999 will be the eclectic, seven-piece roots/fusion band Mumbo Gumbo, who take the stage at 11:30pm. This is one of those groups that nearly defies easy labels. They themselves describe it as "California Swamp...Indigo Girls meet The Neville Brothers." With lead vocals provided by Chris Webster and Tracy Walton, the band has developed a following that cuts across genres.

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According to Shore, once partygoers enter the hotel, it will be difficult to recognize the Embassy Suites with decorations, additional dance floors and dining stations. At midnight, 1,999 balloons--many filled with cash, prizes or gift certificates--will drop 12 stories.

And food''s included in the entry price, too. Look for peel-and-eat shrimp, cracked crab, oysters, ribs...

"In keeping with the American theme, we wanted to keep it very caloric," says Shore, who also notes that rides home in luxury shuttles will be provided to revelers between midnight and 2am.

Taj Mahal, Mumbo Gumbo, Thursday, 8pm. The Embassy Suites, Canyon Del Rey and Del Monte boulevards, Seaside, $99. 649-1223. cw

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