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Ladysmith Black Mambazo at their best yet
on February 14, 2006
This album proves it - Ladysmith Black Mambazo are (if not one of) the best African group of all time and listening to this album has been a very pleasant experience.
New recordings of classic Mambazo hits are contained here, featuring collaborations with familiar names Sarah McLachlan (on "Homeless", which originally appeared on the 1986 album "Graceland" with Paul Simon), Melissa Etheridge (on "Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes", again from "Graceland"), Natalie Merchant (on "Rain, Rain Beautiful Rain", a track that originally appeared on the 1979 release "Ezinkulu" and the Grammy-winning 1987 "Shaka Zulu") as well as many faces from South Africa.
Zap Mama, headed by Marie Daulne, joins in on the group's "Hello My Baby", which originally appeared alongside "Rain" on "Ezinkulu" in 1979, a horde of artists including Vusi Mahlasela, Hugh Masekela and Lucky Dube appear on the anthem "Shosholoza", Taj Mahal and his wonderful electric guitar appear on Solomon Linda's "Mbube" and we have many other songs as well; "Inkanyezi Nezazi (Star and the Wiseman)", "How Long?", "Long Walk to Freedom" (originally recorded in 2000) and the South African national anthem "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" (God Bless Africa) - not forgetting the first song that the group's leader/founder Joseph Shabalala ever wrote: "Nomathemba". This version of the tune, written in 1966 and made into a Broadway stageplay in 1995, is especially haunting yet soothing.
There is not one dull moment on the album as the harmonies of Mambazo continue to entertain. Noteworthy are the "playing about" sounds on the end of "How Long?", which includes the group 'practicing' in a 'fun' way, there is also the track "Thula Thula", a brand new song that includes only the soft tenor voice of Joseph Shabalala, who displays the sadness yet joyfulness of his country's music. At the end of the track he shouts "Did you record that?" to the sound engineer before bursting into laughter!
Released to coincide with the group's 20th anniversary in the international arena and also the group's landmark 45th anniversary together as a group, "Long Walk to Freedom" is a wonderful addition to any Mambazo fans' collection. It is also a wonderful chance for new fans to discover what Paul Simon felt when he first heard the group. Isicathamiya (or "Mbube") fans will also love this release, which includes two music videos, 18 photographs (1979-2006), a biography and release information.
Classic Mambazo at their best yet - I thoroughly recommend it.