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RECORD RACK

* * * * Great Balls of Fire * * * Good Vibrations * * Maybe Baby * Running on Empty : : SIMONIZED ZULU

May 10, 1987|CHRIS WILLMAN

* * * "SHAKA ZULU." Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Warner Bros. Ironically enough, a traditionally oriented 10-man troupe from South Africa that sings a cappella has recently become one of that country's most prominent musical exports, surpassing the many African groups that incorporate far more Western musical style into their sounds. The reason, of course, is that Paul Simon introduced Ladysmith to the world last year with a gorgeous collaborative track called "Homeless," as well as taking the show-stealing troupe out on tour earlier this year.

Now Simon has produced Ladysmith's first American major-label effort, but it's no more Westernized--in fact, the album sounds virtually identical to its hard-to-find predecessors, except that the group sings in English on four of the tracks. There are gospel songs and love songs, and translation of the Zulu for the six non-English songs is provided on the inner sleeve.

But poetic as the lyrical achievements may be, the rich vocal sounds--which run the gamut from lulling tribal folk to something approaching the sound of anguished doo-wop--are lovely enough to require no literal comprehension.

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