One of the few popular songs from my childhood that has left an impression on me to this day, Shambala has been one of those rare musical enigmas ... a catchy tune that charted in the same year under two separate performers. In 1973, it charted Number 66 for B.W. Stevenson and, a few weeks later, Number 3 for Three Dog Night.
B.W. Stevenson's version is not quite as slickly produced as Three Dog Night's. It definitely has a country twang to it. It starts a half step lower then, in the last verse, it augments up a half step into a key we more recognize. And instead of "ooo", he gives us "yay-ee". But, in its own right, it is a strong recording. Take a listen for yourself.
As mentioned already, the song broke the Top 100 twice in the same year by two different performers. Still despite its popularity, it rarely has been covered since 1973. Usually songs that prove to be so infectious will be recorded many times over. Perhaps it is because Three Dog Night's recording is viewed as the de facto version. Perhaps it is because the subject matter, of one's journey to enlightenment, hasn't necessarily been culturally relevant since the early 1970's. Perhaps it is because the song is so goddamned difficult to sing!
Whatever the reason, the Three Dog Night recording is the most prevalent and the one that comes to mind.
In my scouring of the Internets, I have found another version. This one was recorded in 2002 by the a capella singing group Rockapella on their album Smilin'. It is familiar insomuch as it's "Shambala". (I mean, really, how much can you change a song before you irreparably "re-imagine" it into something completely different and new?) Rockapella's interpretation, in my opinion, embodies in tone and execution how I imagine a path to spiritual growth would be. (As a "Recovering Baptist", I haven't devoted much time to growing spiritually in a long while so I don't really know what it would be like. But that's a post for another day ... perhaps.)
As much as I still love the Three Dog Night version and as much as it will always hold a dear place in my heart, I have to admit that Rockapella's version has become my favorite version of this song.
What say you?