477

Hugh Masekela: Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela

Eric J. Iannelli By

Sign in to view read count
Still Grazing is a retrospective. Like all retrospectives that lack any kind of bonus material (even the token unreleased alternate take or live recording), it raises the question of just whom it is for. Fans of the South African trumpeter/flugelhorn player/vocalist/songwriter will already have most or all of these eleven songs, compiled from six albums released between 1966 and 1974 ("a formative stretch of a long career," notes the cover blurb). And because it's being issued in conjunction with an eponymous autobiography, one would think that existing Masekela fans are the intended audience and therefore the ones to please.

Those same fans have been disappointed at least once before, namely with Grazing in the Grass: The Best of Hugh Masekela. Released on Sony in 2001, that particular best-of omitted the chart hits—and don't these in the minds of most listeners constitute "the best" of an artist's career?—"Up, Up, and Away," "Puffin' on down the Track," and "Riot." Many of the better-known songs that Grazing in the Grass did include were contemporary remakes, presumably due to licensing issues. So why, when Universal (which owns Verve, which owns Blue Thumb) has the rights to the songs so glaringly absent from the Sony best-of, did they fail to include two of them on their own retrospective? This, it seems, is just another instance of the major labels' girth coming between them and their listeners.

Musically speaking, Still Grazing is strong; but then, in making a case for Masekela's career, it ought to be. It starts off with "Child of the Earth," something of an acquired taste when it comes to vocals, and it features the vibrant "Ha Lese Le Di Khanna" and the noteworthy cover of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Felicidade," all from The Emancipation of Hugh Masekela (1966). There is, of course, "Grazing in the Grass," and the equally rousing "Up, Up, and Away." Recorded in the early 1970s, "Languta," "Been Such a Long Time Gone" and "Stimela (Coal Train)" draw on reggae as much as jazz and Masekela's characteristic musical flavorings of the townships. Thus Masekela's growth is in evidence, although the disc's twenty unused minutes could easily have been filled to provide a more complete view. Together "Puffin' on down the Track" and "Riot" total under five minutes.

Producer Stewart Levine's brief liner notes are decent at covering the basics of Masekela's career and Levine's own role in it, but they add little that is intelligent or new to the picture. I suppose its purpose is to pique enough curiosity to send listeners out to the area bookstore to pick up the album's print companion. But Still Grazing is better suited to the newcomer, and it is unlikely that newcomers will want to read Masekela's 400-page life story after hearing a few tunes from an eight-year span of his career. As it stands, this disc is of no value to collectors and limited use to Masekela neophytes.

Visit Blue Thumb Records online or browse Douglas Payne's comprehensive Hugh Masekela discography .


Track Listing: 1. Child of the Earth; 2. Ha Lese le Di Khanna; 3. Felicidade; 4. Up, Up, and Away; 5. Bajabula Bonke (The Healing Song); 6. Grazing in the Grass; 7. Gold; 8. Mace and Grenades; 9. Languta; 10. Been Such a Long Time Gone; 11. Stimela (Coal Train)

Personnel: Hugh Masekela (trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals); Cecil Barnard, Charlie Smalls, Bill Henderson, Joe Sample (piano); Richard Neesai Botchway, Bruce Langhorne, Arthur Adams (guitar); Henry Franklin, John Cartwright (bass); Bishop James Morton, Big Black (conga); Alexander Abreu (tenor sax, soprano sax); Wilton Felder (tenor sax); Wayne Henderson (trombone); Isaak Asante (percussion, vocals, talking drum); Nat Leepuma Hammond (flute, conga, vocals); Chuck Carter, Stix Hooper (drums); Samuel Nortey (percussion, vocals, shekere); Stanley Kwesi Todd (bass, vocals); Acheampong Welbeck (drums, bells, calabash)

Title: Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Blue Thumb Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Heart Knows CD/LP/Track Review Heart Knows
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 22, 2017
Read Jersey CD/LP/Track Review Jersey
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 22, 2017
Read Wobbly Danse Flower CD/LP/Track Review Wobbly Danse Flower
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 22, 2017
Read Carry Fire CD/LP/Track Review Carry Fire
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: September 22, 2017
Read A Night Walking Through Mirrors CD/LP/Track Review A Night Walking Through Mirrors
by Barry Witherden
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Jondo CD/LP/Track Review Jondo
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 21, 2017
Read "The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture" CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "Peace" CD/LP/Track Review Peace
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 18, 2017
Read "Blue Canvas" CD/LP/Track Review Blue Canvas
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 4, 2017
Read "Masters Of War" CD/LP/Track Review Masters Of War
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 29, 2017
Read "Coalesce" CD/LP/Track Review Coalesce
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: March 27, 2017
Read "Petite Afrique" CD/LP/Track Review Petite Afrique
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 29, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.