Various Artists

46664, Pt. 1: African Prayer (Nelson Mandela AIDS Concert)

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Part one of a three-disc overview of the November 29, 2003, benefit concert for Nelson Mandela's AIDS awareness campaign named 46664 after Mandela's prisoner number, Nelson Mandela AIDS Concert: African Prayer draws its highlights from the most unexpected places. The Cape Town, South Africa, crowd is exuberant enough to bring out the best of both Beyoncé and Yusuf Islam -- the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens -- and some live vamping on Paul Oakenfold's "Starry Eyed Surprise" makes the overexposed song sound new again. Whistles and air horns interfere with a poignant set from Baaba Maal, and Peter Gabriel offers two songs over 20 minutes in the same fist-in-the-air closing medley he's closed his shows with for years. All the serious numbers on African Prayer could have come off much better if the surrounding light pop had more conviction behind it. Putting together comps of grandiose and diverse concerts can't be easy, and it looks like at least one volume of the 46664 series had to be disjointed.

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