My attempt to blog all of the entries from the book 1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die
Brief Background: After being exiled from South Africa for both her anti-apartheid stance and spending time on American soil Makeba recorded this 1960 debut record for RCA Victor which was released in May of the same year.
What I liked: I’m not somebody that is usually going to enjoy an album done in the native Xhosa language and Makeba really took me by surprise here. Her voice is amazing, especially were it is backed by the bass voices of The Belafonte Folk Singers. The songs that stuck out for me were “The Retreat Song”, “The Click Song (with a great introduction by Makeba explaining the name)”, and “Mbube” which was the initial name of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” done in it’s original style (1939 by Solomon Linda and The Evening Birds). Makeba also does a pretty good version of “House of the Rising Sun” in English.
What I Didn’t Like: The songs on the second half of the album then to drag and seem less inspired. Not surprisingly, these tend to be folk songs done in English and just don’t have the power of her songs in Xhosa. The oddest song on this album has to be “One More Dance”. The premise of the song is that the narrators husband is getting progressively ill and she should go home to see him. Instead she stays and wants one more dance. The part of the person informing her of her husband’s position is done be Charles Colman and this is the odd part. I believe Colman is supposed to sound as though he’s crying for the ill husband in the song, but it really sounds like he’s laughing. Or maybe he’s supposed to me laughing…. in which case this is a pretty sinister song. Check it out and let me know what you think.
My Overall Thoughts: It’s a good album, but not perfect. It would have been great if it had been done fully in Makeba’s native language.
Do I agree or disagree with the writers as to this being an album you must listen to? I agree that this album should be here. In the past, some of the world music on this list has seemed really obscure. This album had some popularity in the U.S. and Makeba’s Anti-Apartheid stance gives it a great back story (Thanks again Wikipedia!).
Rating (Out of 5): 4
Amazon Review (Out of 5):5
Is this my first time hearing this album? Yes (24/29)
Percentage of Albums that are new to me: 83%