Recording

BLAIR’S DVD WATCH: Five Music DVDs for Last Minute Holiday Shoppers!

12/16/2008 11:19 AM Eastern

Ladysmith Black Mambazo: Live! (Heads Up)

It’s been more than 20 years since the extraordinary South African a capella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo burst onto the international music scene through their work on Paul Simon’s groundbreaking Graceland album and the accompanying tour. Since then they’ve put out more than 20 albums, and this marks their fifth concert video. There have been personnel changes through the years, but Joseph Shabalala is still the charismatic front man, good naturedly explaining the songs, which helps when there’s such a language barrier. Their songs sound fairly similar one to the other to my ears—nine guys singing soaring harmonies with an African gospel feel—but their synchronized movements give them a strong visual appeal, which makes them a good DVD group. This concert from the University of Akron (Ohio) sounds terrific, and there’s certainly no faulting the performances, but it looks a little flat and one dimensional because of the muted theatrical lighting and uninteresting background. On one song, too, the sync was off, which was distracting. Still, there’s plenty to enjoy here, including, predictably, a fine workout on the Graceland standout “Homeless.” “Rain Rain Beautiful Rain” also has that transcendent quality unique to this group.

Producers: The group, Mitch Goldstein, Todd W. Brown. Director: Todd W. Brown. Recording and mixing: Martin Walters.

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