Collectables Records' discount-priced two-fer CD reissue of the 1965 RCA Victor LP An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba and the 1966 album The Magic of Makeba puts together the last two of the six discs featuring Makeba that RCA released, and since they followed each other sequentially, it's an appropriate pairing chronologically. Stylistically, there is less reason for the combination. With An Evening, RCA seems to have been engaging in deliberate subterfuge to sell a commercially risky project. You'd think from the title that the album was a collection of live duet performances by Harry Belafonte and Makeba. It's no such thing. Rather, it is a studio album of 12 tracks, five by Belafonte, five by Makeba, and only two duets, and the songs are all South African traditional tunes sung in tribal languages like Xhosa and Zulu. Makeba had always mixed a heavy complement of her native music into her shows and records, but this album was the first in which she was involved to go all the way in that direction. Both singers acquit themselves well, sometimes performing with a choir that will remind listeners of the reissue of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Just don't expect what the title implies. The Magic of Makeba goes off in the opposite direction. Near the end of her RCA contract, Makeba reversed the usual balance of pop to native music on her discs and made a record consisting mostly of mainstream pop sung in English with a standard Western string orchestra. She hedged her bets by recording songs written by friends such as her bass player, William Salter, but this is the least South African of her RCA albums and makes an odd juxtaposition with the entirely South African music of the earlier album on the CD.
An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba/The Magic of Makeba
An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba/The Magic of Makeba Review
by William Ruhlmann