Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Razor and Tie
The world became aware of Ladysmith Black Mambazo via Paul Simon on his Graceland album in 1986, although they had existed in South Africa since the mid-1960s. Their work on Simon's "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes," among others, introduced the soft-spoken harmonies of this all-male singing group, and from then on, LBM have enjoyed worldwide acclaim for their distinctive vocal style and ancient African themes.
And Friends assembles work they did with various artists such as Simon, Sarah McLachlan, the English Chamber Orchestra, and others. The two-disc collection has its bright spots -- a great "People Get Ready" with Phoebe Snow, the Staple Singers classic "I'll Take You There" with The Golden Gospel Singers, and more, but overall the album is marred when the group is relegated to a mere background vocal role. There's no reason Josh Groban is involved -- his "Weeping" shows just how limited his voice is -- and the world wasn't pining for a remake of "Diamonds" with Melissa Etheridge or Dolly Parton's overwrought take on Dylan's "Knocking on Heaven's Door." For the true Ladysmith Black Mambazo experience, pick up their well-received 2011 disc Songs from a Zulu Farm, or any of their older stuff, and leave this Glee-like misuse of their heavenly voices on the shelf.