Miriam Makeba - Miriam Makeba (1961), 4/10

Miriam Makeba’s self-titled album feels much more like raw potential and talent than a fully realized sound. There are moments of truly moving vocal performances, but the album is also filled with odd genre-blending and songs limited by compromise. The opening track is perhaps the strongest, showing a unique energy that is not quite matched by the rest. “Mbube” is a nice refreshing change featuring the Chad Mitchell Trio’s backing chants that add a nice atmosphere I find myself longing for in other tracks. Although the pleasant and innocent little tale told in “The Naughty Little Flea” is just as charming and fun and shows Makeba’s strength in dynamics and storytelling just before a drawling remainder apart from the strange “One More Dance” and “Iya Guduza” as the closer. Apart from the distastefully possessed performance from Charles Coleman in “One More Dance” there is not a significantly weak track. Honestly, what the hell is this man doing other than spoiling the song? Her rendition of “House of the Rising Sun” is also a refreshing one and presents her grace and character in full effect. Makeba’s performances are full of intricacy and warmth, but the album comes and goes without much of a sustained impact because of a lack of intentional direction. The best songs are great, while the rest are frustratingly ordinary considering Makeba’s talent and capacity for elevating her country’s music and her brave vocalizing against apartheid. She would thankfully make more focused and dignified music in later years.