Artist: Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Considering that they are widely considered Africa's musical ambassadors, Ladysmith Black Mambazo's decision to create a concept album that paired their characteristic mbube sound with American spiritual music is not a total surprise. HEAVENLY does mark a significant departure for the singing troupe, however. Unlike their previous outings, which were based around the polyphonic vocal harmonies of the group, this album features the use of backing instrumentation (percussion, piano, strings, brass and organ). The repertoire highlights a mix of English-language gospel classics and pop tunes, including: "People Get Ready" and "Oh Happy Day," as well as covers of Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang" and Billy Joel's "River of Dreams." Another first is the use of guest vocalists, including Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton and Phoebe Snow. Ultimately, the album is a very invigorating fusion of American and African spiritual styles that will likely find appeal with fans of gospel music.