22 September 2005

Ladysmith Black Mambazo Thrills...and Chills

LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO: LIVE AT MONTREUX (Eagle Records) buy CD/DVD & hear samples
LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO: THE CHILLOUT SESSIONS (Rasa)
buy CD & hear samples

The Zulu-gospel-rooted South African group needs no introduction, not since Paul Simon's Graceland and their own albums catapulted them into mainstream musical consciousness. These two new offerings, however, will appeal to dramatically different audiences. The first is classic LBM, recorded live at the 1987, 1989, and 2000 Montreux Jazz Festivals. Their powerful voices ring out in glorious harmony, the sound crisp and clear for a live festival recording. A welcome addition to the collection of any Ladysmith Black Mambazo fan.

While LBM has had successful musical collaborations with artists including Dolly Parton, Desree, and Kermit the Frog, The Chillout Sessions leaves me rather, er..., cold. The electronic music is tastefully done, sure. But the music tends to dilute the power of those wonderful vocal harmonies and strip them of emotional intensity. Maybe that's the intention of "chillout", but who wants music that's a pale remix of the original? This one is okay as soft background music, but for the real deal, go for Live at Montreux or LBM's other vocal-only albums.
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