Hugh Masekela

20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection

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Hugh Masekela recorded for a series of American labels between the mid-'60s and mid-'70s: Mercury; MGM; Decca's Uni subsidiary; and his own Chisa label, distributed first by Motown and then by Blue Thumb. All of those labels have since been incorporated within the major label Universal, and Universal's reissue arm, Hip-O, is responsible for this collection, part of the discount-priced best-of series 20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection. Masekela scored a surprise number one hit in 1968 with the instrumental "Grazing in the Grass," and that, of course, leads off the album. Although he turned out to be essentially a one-hit wonder, two of his other singles chart entries, a cover of Jimmy Webb's Fifth Dimension hit "Up, Up and Away" and the original composition "Riot," are also included. The rest of the 64-minute disc contains key album tracks from the pop chart LPs Hugh Masekela's Latest, Hugh Masekela Is Alive and Well at the Whiskey, The Promise of a Future, Masekela, and I Am Not Afraid. In addition to his treatments of American pop songs ("You Keep Me Hangin' On"), Masekela ranges from contemporary jazz styles to traditional South African sounds. The album is a good sampler of his work during his most popular period as a recording artist, 1966-1974.

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