Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- An outstanding copy of this Grammy-winning record from 1987 with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
- In many ways this is actually a honest-to-goodness Demo Disc, with amazingly big, open, three-dimensional, clear, transparent sound
- 4 1/2 stars: "In the wake of their participation on his Graceland album, Paul Simon produced this Ladysmith album, their most accessible work for Western ears, which is pristinely recorded and sung partially in English."
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This outstanding pressing will show you just how good this Grammy winning record was supposed to sound, but for some reason (or reasons) never did, a story that anyone on this site is all too familiar with. Both sides here probably show you what Roy Halee was hearing on the tape when he was mixing the album.
It may not be perfect, but it's a whole lot better than the vast majority of records made in 1987, that I can tell you with no shortage of confidence.
This vintage Warner Brothers pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to "see" the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It's what vintage all analog recordings are known for -- this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it -- not often, and certainly not always -- but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the best sides of Shaka Zulu have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes even as late as 1987
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
What We Listen For on Shaka Zulu
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, lost in the mix. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
Hello My Baby
King of Kings
The Earth Never Gets Satisfied
Home of the Heroes
These Are the Guys
Rain, Rain, Beautiful Rain
Who Were You Talking To?
In the wake of their participation on his Graceland album, Paul Simon produced this Ladysmith album, their most accessible work for Western ears, which is pristinely recorded and sung partially in English.
Shaka Zulu is a 1987 album by South African a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Following the collaboration on Paul Simon's 1986 album Graceland which brought the group to international prominence, Shaka Zulu (produced by Simon) marked the band's first genuine international hit, securing them an American audience which would be built upon by the successes of Journey of Dreams (1988) and Two Worlds, One Heart (1990). Shaka Zulu was a collection of newly recorded versions of older Mambazo hits, such as "Unomathemba", "Hello My Baby" and "Lomhlaba Kawunoni".
Shaka Zulu won a Grammy in 1988 for Best Traditional Folk Recording.
The album was also featured in Robert Dimery's 2006 musical reference book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
In his consumer guide for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau felt the album had a "generalized gospel yearning", and a lyric sheet and songs in English that would appeal to Americans.
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