Album reviews: Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Mike G - Reverb

Album reviews: Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Mike G

Ladysmith Black Mambazo, “And Friends,”(Listen 2/ Razor and Tie)

Who wouldn’t want to collaborate with Ladysmith Black Mambazo? This South African choir, founded in 1961, perfected a vocal blend as warm and enfolding as a down comforter and as brotherly as a team hug. The choir also offers the potential of perfectly terraced dynamics. And for Western ears, the Zulu traditions that Lady- smith draws on are reminiscent of gospel and doo-wop.

Ever since Paul Simon brought Ladysmith to world attention by writing songs on the 1986 “Graceland” album with its leader, Joseph Shabalala, the group has welcomed other partnerships. “And Friends” collects 30 of them on two CDs, including two tracks from “Graceland.” Ladysmith always stands ready to join a hymn — “Amazing Grace/Nearer, My God, to Thee” with Emmylou Harris. But the resulting anthology spans from sublime to tacky.

The wiser collaborators move toward Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s turf of a cappella vocals and South African rhythms. In “Rain Rain Beautiful Rain,” written by Shabalala, Natalie Merchant joins the a cappella blend like an honored guest. –Jon Pareles, The New York Times

Mike G, “Award Tour EP” (Mike G)

Odd Future, hip-hop’s quirkiest, most testosteronal ensemble, has more solo shots than it does group efforts, with critics focused on hearty vocalist Frank Ocean and producer/ MC/ provocateur Tyler, the Creator. But now it’s time for other Odd-balls to start showing off.

Before dropping his full-length “Gold,” rapper Mike G (cousin to G-Funk’s Warren G) releases the humbly mumbling “Award Tour” with production from several Odd Future-ists. Unlike his collective, Mike goes for laid-back grooves and moods sketched in few words. “Chanel” makes him into a romantic hero through its Euro-disco ambience. Like his work within Odd Future, Mike sounds too content to blend into the background, with wifty free associations that often miss the mark.

Syd the Kyd (the beat-making girl of the group) and Matt Martians hit the mark and then some. They forge their own jiving, jazzy target and pummel it. –A.D. Amorosi, The Philadelphia Inquirer

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