Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Ladysmith Black Mambazo & Friends

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AllMusic Review by

This two-disc set is both a good introduction to Ladysmith Black Mambazo and conversely an unbalanced one. Founded in the 1960s by Joseph Shabalala (who continues to lead the group), the South African a cappella gospel ensemble has been delighting audiences all over the world for some 50 years now as a primary act, but Ladysmith Black Mambazo's public profile rests more on their collaborations with other performers, most notably Paul Simon, whose Graceland album, which prominently featured their backup vocals, was most people's real introduction to the group. Which is why this fun set is unbalanced -- it collects 30 of those collaborations done over the years with the likes of Simon, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Sarah McLachlan, Taj Mahal, and a host of others, and while there's no denying it all adds up to a great and joyful listen, it only tells one part of the Ladysmith Black Mambazo story, delightful as that part is. Highlights include "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" from Simon's Graceland (there's also a version of the song here done with Melissa Etheridge and Joe McBride), a wonderful take on Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang" by the late Lou Rawls, and an equally wonderful version of Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions' "People Get Ready" from Phoebe Snow, but every track has the kind of bright spiritual soul that Ladysmith Black Mambazo bring to everything they do.

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