“The Queens” by The Queens - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1977Album Chart of the Decade: 1970s

TJR says

Following a slew of singles for Cambridge Matiwane at Satbel in the preceding few years, Mahlathini and The Queens were on the move again in 1977, joining with producer Piet Ntuli (despite the fact he had been a slippery character in past dealings) at EMI, with the recordings being issued on the Yashingoma imprint. Their split from Rupert Bopape some five years earlier turned out to have a silver lining of sorts; fans of South African jive could now enjoy the output from both of the rival camps of the Mahotella Queens (often with groaner Mbazo) and The Queens (often with groaner Mahlathini). The output from the latter pairing in ’77 was incredible, with enough material for at least two known LPs, “Wavutha Umlilo” (billed to Mahalthini and The Queens) and this self-titled set, a compilation which rounded up 12 single sides, all of which were recorded and issued in 1977. Talk about a hit factory! On this set, The Queens are: Mildred Mangxola (writes 2), Isabel Maseko (writes 1), Agnes Mhlauli (writes 2), Thoko Nontsontwa (writes 1), Belinda Sithole (writes 1) and Paulina Zulu. Alas, we are missing one on the LP cover, what a shame.

There’s some truly fantastic material here – the album is at its best when it gets down to hard-and-fast, no-nonsense mbaqanga business, and those Queens just do their glorious thing, harmonizing with great imagination and sweetness. Predictably, the deviations into western soul fail to impress half as much, and there are four such numbers peppered throughout. The melodic and fast-paced “Ikhubalo” (“Magic”), penned by Mildred, is an early favourite, and this sets off an exhilarating run which includes “Uzenzile” (penned by and featuring the great Mahlathini who almost breaks into a Swiss yodel!), and the classic “Keba Bone” which completely delights my soul with that spongy rhythm which just gets me bouncing every time, no matter whether I’m seated or standing. Everything comes together perfectly here – guitars, bass, drums and harmonies, it’s quite the thriller. I hate to be bigging up Mahlathini on a Queens LP, but a special mention must be made of another of his compositions, “Sukuma Ndoda”, which fires up side 2 towards the end of the set, although the groaner himself is conspicuous by his absence in the performance. In my final analysis, the Queens ‘cede to the Mahotella Queens in the great LP battle of the year, but they put up a great fight. If I were a South African music fan in ’77 I’d have been very much looking forward to the ongoing tussle for supremacy…

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [02:36] 7.7.png The Queens - Izinyoni (Belinda Sithole) Africana
A2 [02:30] 6.2.png Mildred Mangxola and The Queens - Bo Ntate (Michael Nyembe) Soul
A3 [02:58] 5.8.png The Queens - Ndiphuthe Somandla (Agnes Mhlauli) Soul
A4 [02:45] 8.1.png The Queens - Ikhubalo (Mildred Mangxola) Africana
A5 [02:42] 8.0.png The Queens - Uzenzile (Simon Nkabinde) Africana
A6 [02:35] 9.1.png The Queens - Keba Bone (Michael Nyembe) Africana
B1 [02:40] 6.6.png The Queens - Uthando Luphelile (Isabel Maseko) Soul Ballad
B2 [02:44] 5.8.png Mildred Mangxola and The Queens - Bakgotsi Baka (Michael Nyembe) Soul
B3 [02:43] 5.5.png The Queens - Ndiphilise Nkosi Yami (Agnes Mhlauli) Soul
B4 [02:51] 8.1.png The Queens - Izintsika (Mildred Mangxola) Africana
B5 [02:37] 8.4.png The Queens - Sukuma Ndoda (Simon Nkabinde) Africana
B6 [02:18] 7.6.png The Queens - Umakhelwane (Thoko Nontsonto) Africana
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