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Miriam Makeba: Reflections

After a four-year drought, the singularly magnificent Miriam Makeba is back with the multihued, multilingual Reflections (Heads Up). Timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of apartheid’s end in her native South Africa (from which the courageous freedom fighter remained exiled from 1963 to 1990), the album provides, as the title suggests, a backward tour through five decades of Makeba magic. Residing alongside sprightly reinterpretations of such signature hits as “Pata, Pata” and “The Click Song” are such varied surprises as “Mas Que Nada,” earthier than the famous Sergio Mendes-Lani Hall treatment but every bit as exquisite, Jorge Ben’s pounding, infectious bossa nova “Xica da Silva” and the grandly rich “Comme Une Symphonie d’Amour” sung in flawless French. There’s a double nod to Makeba’s ex-husband, Hugh Masekela, with his gloriously celebratory “African Convention” and the hauntingly dreamy “Where Are You Going?” Elsewhere she offsets the pop buoyancy of Van Morrison’s “I Shall Sing” with the powerful anti-drug anthem “Quit It,” gently investigates the romantic delicacy of “Love Tastes Like Strawberries” and teams with co-producer Nelson Lumumba Lee (whose dusky baritone recalls Johnny Hartman) on the fun-filled, call-and-response “I’m in Love With Spring,” written by her former bass player William Salter. Through it all she proves, at age 72, that the well-earned soubriquet “Empress of African Song” is still firmly hers.

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