“Miriam Makeba” by Miriam Makeba - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1960Album Chart of the Decade: 1960s1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die external-link.png

TJR says

Debut album from the 28-year-old Johannesburg lass who, somehow, had the guile and the talent to break free, go see the world, and spread some African gospel. She landed in the United States, where Apartheid wasn’t quite so bad, and, with the help from Harry Belafonte, was able to record and release her first ever album of works. “The Retreat Song” kicks-off which, as the liner notes tell, is a Xosa warrior’s song of defeat; literally a call to “take to the cliffs”. A happy song melodically, it is ironically almost humorous in treatment. The spirited, soulful timbre of the leading lady is apparent from the word go. As is her native clicking tongue! “The Click song” is another early album highlight – despite the attempts of the Harry Belafonte singers to sanitize the backing vocals for the home audience. You’d think they were auditioning for a role in a western movie. Thankfully, Miriam’s great vocal performance rises above it. To be fair to the Belfaonte singers, they are better on “Olilili”, a gospel-tinged A capella lullaby lament sung by Miriam as mother comforting child; they have been deserted by the husband and father. Closing Side 1, Miriam pays homage to Solomon Linda’s immortal “Mbube” (“Lion”) and in doing so points a sign to her own roots. “Mbube” was the original term used for Zulu a cappella singing, which, traditionally, was sung loudly and powerfully; as it is here by both Miriam and her male backing singers, the Chad Mitchell Trio. After the greatness of “Mbube”, side 2 opens with the lightweight fluff of “Naughty Little Flea”. It’s almost criminal. Side 2 is rather unadventurous on the whole, saved at the very death by the album’s most African-sounding piece, “Iya Guduza”, hands-down the highlight of the entire set. All three voices are those of Miss Makeba and the album liner notes speculate that perhaps this was the first multi-tracked vocal in Zulu. The story is a light-hearted account of a ne'er-do-well husband who hides until his wife leaves for work, then searches the house for drinking money. Credit goes to jazz-hound Perry Lopez for having a good go on some African rhythm guitar. It’s a pity Team Makeba never felt inclined to do that more often…

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [02:34] 7.2.png Miriam Makeba - The Retreat Song (Miriam Makeba) Africana
A2 [02:45] 4.7.png Miriam Makeba - Suliram (Indonesian Lullaby) (Traditional) Pop Ballad
A3 [02:09] 7.0.png Miriam Makeba - The Click Song (Miriam Makeba, Rufus Khoza, Ronnie Majola Sehume, Nathan Mdedle, Joseph Mogotsi) Africana
A4 [01:16] 5.0.png Miriam Makeba - Umhome (Miriam Makeba) Africana
A5 [02:31] 6.7.png Miriam Makeba - Olilili (Alan Silinga) Africana
A6 [02:07] 5.7.png Miriam Makeba - Lakutshn, Ilanga [1960 version] (Mackay Davashe, Tom Glazer) Pop Ballad
A7 [03:17] 7.5.png Miriam Makeba with The Chad Mitchell Trio - Mbube (Solomon Linda) Africana
B1 [03:45] 4.0.png Miriam Makeba - The Naughty Little Flea (Norman Thomas) Caribbean
B2 [02:29] 4.8.png Miriam Makeba - Where Does It Lead (Gwen Davis) Songwriter
B3 [02:37] 5.1.png Miriam Makeba - Nomeva (Miriam Makeba) Pop
B4 [01:57] 5.6.png Miriam Makeba - House Of The Rising Sun (Traditional) Songwriter
B5 [02:30] 6.8.png Miriam Makeba - Saduva [1960 version] (Miriam Makeba) Africana
B6 [02:40] 5.3.png Miriam Makeba with Charles Colman - One More Dance (Charles Carl Carter) Folk
B7 [02:05] 8.5.png Miriam Makeba - Iya Guduza [album version '60] (Miriam Makeba) Africana

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