When I heard the very first notes of the very first song on Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Friends, which is "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" with Dolly Parton, chills went up and down my spine. I knew I was in for something special.
Like many people, I first heard this South African a cappella group on Paul Simon's CD Graceland. My favorite song from that CD (and one of my favorite songs ever), "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes," is here in two versions: one with Paul Simon and one with Melissa Etheridge and Joe McBride. Among the other great musicians Ladysmith Black Mambazo sing with on this CD are Josh Grobin, Emmylou Harris, the late Lou Rawls, Sarah McLachlan, Taj Mahal,and Phoebe Snow, plus many others for a total of 30 amazing tracks.
But no matter who is singing along, Ladysmith Black Mambazo make every single song special with their multilayered, uplifting, and enthralling harmonies. The positive power of their music soothes any troubled soul, provides a wonderful background to any activity, and is just a pure delight that enters the ears and goes straight to the soul.
Aside from "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and "Dimaonds on the Soles of Her Shoes," other instant favorites from the first disc are "Homeless" with Paul Simon (there's also a version on Disc 2 with Sarah McLachlan); "Chain Gang" with Lou Rawls; "Bread of Heaven (Wales Forever)" with the Michael Ball Male Voice Choir and Wales Squad Choir; and the transcendent "Amazing Grace/Nearer My God To Thee" with Emmylou Harris.
On Disc 2, standouts include "People Get Ready" with Phoebe Snow, "Paradise Road" with Jannie Moolman, "River of Dreams" with Bill Champlin, and "I'll Take You There" with the Golden Gospel Singers.