Saturday, 5 November 2016

A Tribute to Henry Sithole and Bunny Luthuli: The Drive (1977)

A special recording. Besides being comprised of some outstanding funk-fusion meets early disco numbers featuring Bheki Mseleku and the rest of this talented band, these are the last recordings with the core band intact, made only two weeks before Henry Sithole and Bunny Luthuli were killed in a car crash.

Plenty has been written on this blog and elsewhere on this fine band. If you use the "search" function in the right-hand column you will find links to much more info and earlier albums.

Before "The Drive", the Sithole brothers formed the brass core of the Heshoo Beshoo group. Luthuli played with Almon's Jazz 8. After The Drive, various members went on to form Sakhile, and also Spirits Rejoice. And of course, there is the stellar rise to international fame of Bheki Mseleku.

The liner notes tell us that The Drive were on the brink of an "overseas tour" breakthrough.

"Right at the peak of their dazzling career when plans were laid to take the group overseas to engagements that would pace the way for international success - a fatal car accident claimed the live of the two who had worked so hard to achieve this these goals. Bunny Luthuli was married only a few months before his death. Henry Sithole leaves a wife and four children."

"Join us in remembering these two outstanding musicians through their music in this recording - made only two short weeks before their tragic death."

Like a number of other Drive albums, there is no record of who the musicians were. When the band formed in 1971, Duke Makasi and Mike Makhalamele were early members. Kaya Mahlangu, Sipho Gumede and Jabu Nkosi also spent time as members. As far as I can make out though, from around 1975 through to 1977 the band was pretty stable member-wise. One album that does list and picture the band members is the 1975 album "Can You feel It?".  Based on this, my guess is as follows: The lead female vocalist featured is almost certainly Mavis Maseko.

Henry Sithole - Band leader: Alto Sax
Stanley Sithole - Tenor and baritone sax
David Sithole - Trumpet
Bunny Luthuli - Guitar
Bheki Mseleku - Synthesiser, hammond piano and electric organ
Nelson Magwaza - Drums, percussion and congas
Tony Sauli - bass

Discography
Slow Drive to Soweto (c1971, AYL 1009)
The Sky's The Limit (1975, RCL 1201)
Can You Feel It (1975, RCL 1202)
Drive Live (1975, RCL 1203)
Coming To The End of This (1976, RCL 1208)
Zone 6 (1976, RCL 1215)
A Tribute to Henry Sithole and Bunny Luthuli (1977, RCL 1216)
Lets Cool it (1980, BL271)

Tracks:
1. Mama We (Henry Sithole) 6.07
2. Sala Ngoxolo (Henry Sithole) 2.57
3. Let's Have a Ball (Bunny Luthuli) 8.36
4. Thando's Mood (Bunny Luthuli) 16.24

Download link here.

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