This discount-priced two-fer CD combines Miriam Makeba's self-titled debut album, first released in 1960, with her third LP, The World of Miriam Makeba, which appeared originally in 1963. (Both of these albums were on RCA Victor and have been leased from BMG Special Products; in between came 1962's The Many Voices of Miriam Makeba, on Kapp Records, now in the catalog of Universal.) Makeba, who had escaped South African apartheid to develop a career as a nightclub singer, brought a great deal of her homeland to her repertoire, though she also sang in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, and drew on songs from all over the world. Especially on the songs from her first album (tracks one through 14), you can hear RCA, using Harry Belafonte's producer, conductor, and backup singers, and bringing in such guests as the Chad Mitchell Trio, trying to develop a distaff version of Belafonte, someone just exotic enough to give Western listeners the flavor of a foreign culture, but not so much as to make them feel disoriented. The World of Miriam Makeba has even more of a pop feel, courtesy of a production by Hugo & Luigi. But, although the music may be culturally compromised, there is still enough of Makeba's own authenticity to keep things from turning into either a tourist venture or an academic discourse. Beyond anything else, she is a wonderful and versatile singer, whether she is singing in English or her native Xhosa and, despite the early-'60s folk touches, these albums have aged remarkably well.
Miriam Makeba/The World of Miriam Makeba
Miriam Makeba/The World of Miriam Makeba Review
by William Ruhlmann