Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Shaka Zulu

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  • Insanely good sound throughout for this Grammy-winning record from 1987 with each side earning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it
  • This White Hot copy will show you just how good this Grammy winning record was supposed to sound
  • “In the wake of their participation on his Graceland album, Paul Simon produced this Ladysmith album, their most accessible work for Western ears, which is pristinely recorded and sung partially in English.” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars

This Hot Stamper will show you just how good this Grammy winning record was supposed to sound, but for some reason (or reasons) never did, a story that anyone on this site is all too familiar with. In many ways this is actually a honest-to-goodness Demo Disc, with amazingly big, open, three-dimensional, clear and transparent sound. Both sides here probably show you what Roy Halee was hearing on the tape when he was mixing the album.

It may not be perfect, but it’s a whole lot better that the vast majority of records made in 1987, that I can tell you with no shortage of confidence.

What amazing sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1987
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We Listen For on Shaka Zulu

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Unomathemba
Hello My Baby
At Golgotha
King of Kings
The Earth Never Gets Satisfied

Side Two

How Long?
Home of the Heroes
These Are the Guys
Rain, Rain, Beautiful Rain
Who Were You Talking To?

AMG  Review

In the wake of their participation on his Graceland album, Paul Simon produced this Ladysmith album, their most accessible work for Western ears, which is pristinely recorded and sung partially in English.

Wikipedia

Shaka Zulu is a 1987 album by South African a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Following the collaboration on Paul Simon’s 1986 album Graceland which brought the group to international prominence, Shaka Zulu (produced by Simon) marked the band’s first genuine international hit, securing them an American audience which would be built upon by the successes of Journey of Dreams (1988) and Two Worlds, One Heart (1990). Shaka Zulu was a collection of newly recorded versions of older Mambazo hits, such as “Unomathemba”, “Hello My Baby” and “Lomhlaba Kawunoni”.

Shaka Zulu won a Grammy in 1988 for Best Traditional Folk Recording.

The album was also featured in Robert Dimery’s 2006 musical reference book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

In his consumer guide for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau felt the album had a “generalized gospel yearning”, and a lyric sheet and songs in English that would appeal to Americans.

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